Review Index

The New Horror Fan

If horror movies have changed over the years--and few would disagree on that point, I think--then so have the fans. I’m not talking about those "fans" who line up for mainstream fare like JEEPERS CREEPERS or the obnoxious SCREAM sequels (judging from those films’ massive box-office takes, most everybody seems to be doing so, and true horror fans tend to be far more exclusive, even cultish, in their tastes). And I’m certainly not referring to the old horror fans. Yes, my use of "old" means exactly what you think it does: the folks—the old folks, of course!—who always complain about the gore quotient in today’s horror movies and tout all things old and in black and white (this applies to old fans of all movie genres, certainly, but let’s stick to horror).

     I’m referring to the new horror fans. This breed—you’re probably one yourself—tends to be young, male, reasonably well-educated, and voraciously committed to, even obsessed with, horror movies.

     Who else, after all, would shell out upwards of 20 bucks for a foreign language, subtitle-free, tenth generation bootleg of a movie simply for a few extra seconds of gore you can’t see in the MPAA-approved version? It’s horror videos that almost single-handedly fuel the bootleg market--sure, European auteurs such as Werner Herzog and Jean-Luc Godard are popular with "alternative video" outfits like Video Search of Miami and Shocking Videos, but the films of Lucio Fulci (THE BEYOND, ZOMBIE) and Jess Franco (FACELESS) remain the prime draws.

     Speaking of Herzog, Godard and their ilk, I believe horror fans have taken the place of the cineastes that so avidly flocked to foreign films in the 60’s and 70’s. While the average horror fan would likely turn his nose up at the above-named arthouse filmmakers, he can give you a rundown of auteurist tendencies in the films of George Romero that would put Andre Bazin (the French critic who first coined the phrase) to shame. And that rundown would most likely include Romero-helmed stinkers like THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and THE DARK HALF—whatever else they might be, new horror fans are loyal to a fault.

     Once again: I’m talking about the new horror fan. In other words, I don’t mean readers of Famous Monsters of Movieland.

     While there may be some Forrest Ackerman fans amongst today’s horror buffs—and he does seem like a nice enough guy, I guess—I don’t know any of ‘em. Old-school horror manuals tout the quiet and stately (read: boring) black and white scare films of Val Lewton (the original CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE), but the new horror fan’s Gods are guys like Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN), filmmakers who ain’t exactly known for their restraint.

     Wait a minute. How exactly do I know all this? And just what is the point I’m trying to make? The answer to the first question should be obvious: I am a card-carrying "New Horror Fan" (even if I do like Werner Herzog movies). As for the second question…well, a little more elaboration is required. Bare with me.

     Being a new horror fan, I did sit through THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and THE DARK HALF (and I’m not happy about it!), and even Carpenter’s ghastly MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (though I’m apparently the only one who bothered to do so). I’ve also purchased more than my share of bootleg videos. And yes, I far prefer THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE…and furthermore, I’d much rather watch Paul Schrader’s sexy, vibrant remake of CAT PEOPLE than the dull original (for that matter, I also like Carpenter’s THING remake lots more than the original film, which I find about as exiting as MY DINNER WITH ANDRE on downers).

     But about that point I was trying to make. I’m speaking to old horror fans out there when I say please, knock off the "too much gore" and "quiet horror" bullshit! Gore in a movie does NOT signal the end of cinema as we know it. Remakes CAN equal and even top the original film (the recent PLANET OF THE APES and THE HAUNTING remakes notwithstanding), and just because a movie is in black and white does NOT make it a masterpiece!

     Uh oh. In defending modern horror flicks and their fans, I’m starting to sound just like you old horror fans. Oh well…why don’t we all agree to disagree? I mean…can’t we all just get along?

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