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21st Century Horror: In Trivial Pursuit of a New Kind of Terror

To stop the horror industry becoming bloated with endless remakes, copies and sequels, I think it’s high time for a new angle, a shiny new concept, time to conjure up a fresh batch of hell.

Late at night an unlit deserted street is molested by a cold icy wind as it scoops up leaves from the gutters and sporadically hammers them, brown and red, into the faded grey brickwork of it€™s adorning buildings. The pitch black is broken as something orange and yellow glimmers and dances against the colourless cobblestones. A dull light is radiating from the downstairs of one the terraced houses. Barely visible through a frost bitten windowpane, a group of people are sitting around gathering warmth from a crackling fireplace. Emanating from its hearth is a dim flickering iridescent light, illuminating their figures, fighting against the inky blackness of the cold October night, casting distorted twisted trembling shadows on the walls as they sit and listen to each other spin yarns about the macabre, morose and supernatural qualities of the surrounding area, talking of the Ghosts, ghouls and gremlins that occupy it in their minds at dead of night. Their audience held stiff in a rigid display of dismay, concern, and torment, hanging on the storytellers every word awaiting the final gruesome act. The narrator lets a sly smile creep across his face as the reactions of his colleagues show tell tale signs that his ghastly tale is having its desired effect. These being the meek and humble word of mouth beginnings of the Horror genre, which, since its first inception has made us face many shocking sickening fears, in the hope of scaring the bejesus out of us, to produce that rush of adrenaline that only being truly petrified can. Alas, not much has changed over the years, the Horror stories/fairy tales told around that fireplace are the very same ones from which tropes & traits have been derived and subsequently absorbed by the Horror film genre. They started by showing us menacing stick-on-bolt-and-fur monsters in Frankenstein (1931) & The Wolf Man (1941), through to the 50€™s when the space race brought images of alien invasions, tinfoil and ray guns to our cinema screens in A Thing From Another World (1951). In the 60€™s, audiences were given the first apocalyptic zombie fantasies of a young George Romero, delivering the gruesome white contact lensed, corn syrup filled, Night of the Living Dead (1968). Possession and evil occults plagued the 70€™s cinema. Spewing snarling and spinning heads, causing many a upset stomach in The Exorcist (1973), and the 80€™s was spent dreaming up deadly nightmares within nightmares, leaving cinema goers checking under the sheets for Freddie Kruger€™s claws in A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). Celluloid slashed its way into the 90€™s with a manic masked murderer asking €œwhat€™s your favorite scary movie€ in the self-deprecating Scream (1996), and eventually got up close and personal, chaining the audience down and torturing them with the sadistic Saw in (2004). By using the same fairytales as a starting point, these films have essentially taken advantage of the same phobias and have exploited them to their maximum and infinite possibilities. This way we€™re not going to making any leeway with Horror concepts, we€™re just trudging over the same old ground. Whether it is a fear of spiders (Arachnophobia), dead bodies (necrophobia) or thunder and lighting (Brontophobia), the record these days seems to be on repeat with successful horror films falling victim of the following 3 evils: 1) Repackaged carbon copies created by studios looking to cash in on the hype:- I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) was practically Scream 1.2. It came out less then a year after Scream was released, with the same nubile clueless young adults, an alternative black caped jaded murderer with a different pointy serrated weapon, which, resulted in same predicable bloody mess when combined together. 2) Bad franchise reboots of cult horror classics. Usually a vehicle for suitably shoddy Z list want-to-be actors/actresses, such as Paris Hilton taking a steel pole to her face in Jaume Collet-Serra€™s gory but ultimately thoughtless adaption of House of Wax (2005). 3) Or alternatively they can just keep going! Even long after they have killed off the main antagonist. Saw€™s gruesome Heath Robinson machine loving baddy, Jigsaw, dies in Saw 3 (2006) but continued tormenting people with his contraptions so long after death that the franchise managed to squeeze out 4 more sequels (Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI & Saw 3D). To stop the horror industry becoming bloated with endless remakes, copies and sequels, I think it€™s high time for a new angle, a shiny new concept, time to conjure up a fresh batch of hell. We have to move away from zombies, cannibals, werewolves, torture, ghosts, zombies, effeminate vampires, inventive sadists, demons, curses, zombies, vicious animals, nubile scantly clad teenagers in the woods, haunted houses and, did I mention the zombies? We need something that has not been done before, a pièce de résistance! It got me thinking. What if horror films were based on some of the more, shall we say, wacky phobias? Something like the Sci-fi channel€™s cult hit Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes (Ntomataphobia) or even Samuel L. Jackson€™s supercilious thriller Snakes On A Plane (Pteromechanophidiophobia). Think of the films that Hollywood could technically start making if they dipped deeper into the deluded deranged waters of the misty secluded creek of extreme phobias. For example, a dystopian future where the only sustenance left is peanut butter would leave an arachibutyrophobic (acutely, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of ones mouth) oozing with fear. Place a chorophobic (a fear of dancing) in to the spandexed tyranny of High School the Musical, then combine this with ephebiphobia (a fear of teenagers) and you have your next hack and slash film, with a twist (and shout). Parachute a sufferer of Papaphobia (fear of the pope) into the Vatican and you have a biblical Blair Witch Project with pointy hats. Pit bromhidrosiphobics (fear of body odour) against ablutophobics (fear of Bathing) then you have a conflict as brutal and horrifying as Battle Royal only this time the weapons are sponges, soap and shower caps. I think you will agree I have tapped into an untapped utopia of sheer adrenaline filled terror fests. Unless, of course you suffer from hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (a fear of long words) then you probably didn€™t make it through this article.
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An affable but bumbling young chap, currently residing in the West Midlands. With an informal or unsophisticated style of writing musing on film, music, life and other such curios oddities.