With the current PG-13 Hollywood trend – could this be the final curtain for the Horror genre?!
Ok, tell me the truth. Is it only me?
Everyone who knows me will tell you I’m a massive horror movie fan. There’s nothing better than sitting in the dark and having the life scared out of you. Your every fear presented to you on screen, your nightmares come to life before your eyes. It’s something that you just can’t beat. Ok, by the end credits, you leave the theatre or turn the lights on in your living room and return to normality, relieved that it was only a movie but for that small piece of time, you’re in someone else’s hands with no way of escape as the darkness draws you in. It is really enjoyable.
Back when I was a kid, classic black and white horror films like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and even King Kong were not allowed to be shown on TV before 9pm at night. They were still rated ‘X’ or R Rated to our American friends. It seems hilarious now that they were relegated to late-night viewing as almost all of them are now rated PG, downrated for a family audience. Back then though, they were thought of being far too frightening for anyone under the age of 18. It came to pass in England that many horror films that received an ‘X’ rating or later when the classification was updated, an ’18’ rating were destined to get a lower classification over the years. ‘Psycho‘ was rated as adults only. Now it’s rated for teenagers! The first six ‘Friday The 13th‘ films got an ’18’ rating. Now they are allowed to be seen by people of 15 years and over. Even the classic ‘Halloween‘ has been downrated from its strict adults-only classification. Horror slowly started to become more acceptable for young adults but at least they had an age bar, preventing underage persons from seeing them and allowing them to be experienced by a more mature audience.
And what do see week in, week out at the multiplexes now? The PG-13 rated horror film!
What? Are you kidding me? PG-13 rated horror? Who in the correct frame of mind would EVER condone a watered-down scary story? The moneymen at the studios, that’s who. We do get to see PROPER horror movies every now and again, like last years reboot of ‘Halloween‘ and ‘Brightburn‘ for example but most of what hits the screens nowadays is a truncated and pointless kids films masquerading as a horror movie.
Let’s go back in time a small while. 1979 saw the release of one of John Carpenter’s finest ever offerings, ‘The Fog‘. A ghost tale of the finest quality, it had genuine chills and scares and used the imagery it contained to an almost perfect end. The terror built up until it reached a final crescendo and made us believe it was all over and everyone was going to be ok, only to pull the rug out from under our feet at its climax. We skip forward again to 2005 and the film gets a remake. And what does it aim for and get? That’s right, a PG-13. Out of the window goes genuine chills and scares, out goes the horror the name is renowned for, what we get is a poor, family horror film that even Tom and Jerry cartoons could beat in the scare stakes.
The Japanese horror franchise ‘The Ring’ is another example. The original films were a masterclass in scary horror. They put the viewer through the wringer (no pun intended) and left the audience in no doubt they had the c**p scared out of them. And then Hollywood came calling to remake the films. I will admit that one of the scares in the U.S remake did genuinely make me jump but what rating were they? PG-13 once again. Goodbye decent horror, hello kiddie fare.
This Christmas sees the release of the third version of ‘Black Christmas‘. The original 1974 version is probably one of the best scarers ever created. The tale of an escaped maniac hiding in the attic of a Girls sorority led the way for films like ‘Halloween‘ to be made. The film was chilling and terrifying in its own right and the murder of the first victim lives long in the memory, suffocated by a clear plastic bag and her body left to rock back and forth in a rocking chair in the attic, the bag still over her face. She is never found by the end credits, left to sit staring out unseeingly from the rocking chair as the film ends. And the film doesn’t come close to having a nice resolution. A pure horror classic. And this year’s new remake? PG-13! You have got to be kidding me. The first remake went the correct route and went for an R rating even though it wasn’t very good but It knew where the strengths of such a film would lie. This new version has watered down everything that made the other two versions acceptable for an audience. And Why? Money, pure and simple. It makes me want to throw my hands up in frustration.
There are some horror films that have dropped into the PG-13 rating bracket that is scary enough for an audience and fit the category pretty well. The double whammy of ‘Happy Death Day‘ and ‘Happy Death Day 2U‘ come to mind alongside ‘Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark‘. They fit the PG-13 rating well but had the foresight to have enough scares and horror to please the masses. But these are the exceptions to the rule. The recent ‘Countdown‘ had the chance to join the small list of the lower rating horror successes but ended up being as scary as an episode of ‘Lassie‘. And becomes another part of the rule that studios have made today. The more low budget, PG-13 rated horror films get made, the more a true horror fan like myself despairs.
The more cash these toothless, scare-free abominations make, the more Hollywood will churn them out. Yes, Paramount did the same thing with the ‘Friday The 13th‘ series as did New Line Cinema with the ‘Nightmare On Elm Street‘ films and the late Mustapha Akkad with the later ‘Halloween‘ sequels but at least they had the foresight to keep the horror levels high and stay within the adults-only ratings. These days, profit comes before giving the audience what they want in a horror film. And sadly, I can see the day coming when horror is so diluted and dumbed down that the glory days will be long gone and all we will see is PG-13 rated fare. When, not if that day finally comes, then I believe Hollywood should dig the grave for it personally and bury the genre. Why not? They are already trying to bury it now. And that fact is more horrifying than any film could ever be.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Indiana Jones and Horror movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!