While indie studios such as A24 continue to drive the controversially named ‘elevated horror’ genre with modern classics such as Hereditary and The VVitch, major Hollywood studios such as Universal and Blumhouse continue to produce franchise movies often to the dismay of both fans and critics.
They’re certainly not the greatest measurement when it comes to critical approval, but Rotten Tomatoes audience scores suggest that horror-going viewers prefer original content to that of franchises.
Ari Aster’s Hereditary scored a fresh audience score of 70 per cent, in comparison to Halloween Ends at a rotten 57 per cent.
Similarly, the remake of Child’s Play received a 57 per cent audience score in comparison to 72 per cent for Robert Egger’s The Lighthouse.
Yet, studios continue to churn out heartless re-imaginings and reboots of classic horror which fail to meet the standards of the originals.
Original films vs disappointing sequels
Halloween (2018) was praised for being a great return-to-form for the Halloween franchise after Rob Zombie’s remakes and some critically condemned sequels like, Halloween: Resurrection.
It managed to capture at least some of what made Carpenter’s original such a masterpiece and kept things simple with Laurie preparing to face off against Michael.
However, 2022’s Halloween Ends is very widely criticised for being unfocused & a poor end to the franchise legacy.
It focuses primarily on a new character, Corey, and features very little of Michael Myers. Considering it was advertised as the climax to the Myers Saga, it did not manage to provide a fitting conclusion for fans.
It did gross $105 million against a $33 million budget which aren’t shabby box office numbers, but it was the lowest grossing of the three legacy sequels suggesting audience interest may have waned, especially when the 2018 sequel is the highest-grossing slasher of all time.
Another prime example of a poor legacy sequel is the critically decimated Texas Chainsaw Massacre from 2022.
The film debuted at number two on Netflix’s global charts during its release week and was viewed by subscribers for 29.2 million hours, but it gained exceptionally poor reviews which a 31 per cent critic score and a 25 per cent audience score.
Fans described the film as having, “absolutely zero suspense” and a “completely nonsensical plot”, while others called it a “legitimate insult to the classic!”
Creatures of habit
It may come as no surprise but even if modern horror reboots are viewed poorly, so long as they make money Hollywood doesn’t care.
A survey published by Morning Consult in 2021 showed that 53 per cent of American audiences preferred prequels and sequels, while 47 per cent would rather watch a brand-new film.
Studios will continue to make the same sort of film so long as audiences continue to watch – there is no need for quality when your film is going to be a guaranteed success regardless.
The only way to change the quality of mainstream horror would be to collectively say ‘no’ to franchises and seek out more creative content. But that’s easier said than done.
Filmmakers know that we are creatures of habit and we love seeing our favourite characters return to take down the baddie one more time but what if they made more new, intriguing characters that stand alongside the old – not as a replacement – but creating a new era of Horror icons so that Jason, Freddie and Michael can finally be laid to rest once and for all?
Films like Happy Death Day and Totally Killer prove that there is still a desire from audiences for fresh new villains and final girls and both were well received films as a whole.
Happy Death Day especially was a huge success, enough to warrant Blumhouse greenlighting a sequel, which unsurprisingly, didn’t do as well as the first, critically or for the box office.
It can be seen then that audiences react more favorably to original or relatively original content, as opposed to legacy sequels and it’s about time Hollywood takes a risk – the response may just surprise them.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures