If you had plans to see a new release in theatres this weekend, you may need to re-evaluate them. It appears that Hollywood studios have been scared away by Halloween.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, box office traffic is expected to fall tremendously on Friday, as no new films will be released.
Instead, the North American box office will be dominated by independent thrillers and horrors such as Nightcrawler, Horns, and the 10-year re-release of Saw. These skin-crawling films follow last week’s box-office winner, Ouija, a Halloween-timed film based on the Hasbro board game that supposedly allows players to communicate with spirits.
Releasing horror films around Halloween is far from a new concept. But what is it about Halloween horror releases that make people pay to sit in a large darkened room full of eerie sounds and strangers?
“I think that cinema is all about heightened emotions,” said Adam Nayman, a Ryerson professor and film critic for Cinemascope. “I think that’s one of the underlying sort of goals of both making and experiencing art.”
Nayman referenced the story of the Lumiere brothers’ 1896 film L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, a silent, black-and-white documentary that shows a train pulling into a station. The film reportedly made early cinema audiences think the train was actually coming off the screen. It’s an early example of how cinema can feel lifelike – and consequently scary – to its audience, transcending what’s on screen into a sense of reality.
“That story’s maybe a bit apocryphal and not true, but it speaks to the idea that films can feel dangerous, or that it can feel like the things happening on screen aren’t safely contained,” he said. “In some of the best horror films, I think that’s the way the movies work.”
But as time passes with hundreds of horror films released throughout the years, Nayman said that, to an extent, audiences have become somewhat more jaded when it comes to horror. He said it’s partially due to living in the postmodernist age and partly due to the idea that audiences have seen it all in horror before.
It’s this theory that Wes Craven based his innovative Scream franchise upon – where each of the movie’s characters suddenly realize they are in the middle of situations straight out of the horror movies they have seen before.
“I think Scream is pretty good, but I think 20 years of films learning that lesson and teaching it over and over again has really sort of diminished the audience’s capacity to take real scares and real horror,” said Nayman.
Although it’s been over 30 years since original horror franchise staples Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street were released, and since the effects and gore in each film have dated tremendously, Nayman said that Hollywood’s continuous failed attempts to reboot the ‘80s franchises shows how influential they continue to be in pop culture and how effective some of the originals are at scaring audiences today.
“Wes Craven’s first Nightmare on Elm Street is a creepy movie, especially the idea of teenagers being attacked by their dreams, which people have pointed out is kind of what movies are and what movies do to people, the idea that you’re immersed in this reality but you can’t really control it or what it’s doing to you,” said Nayman.
“The Friday the 13th remake sucked, The Nightmare on Elm Street remake sucked, I think Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies are kind of okay but redundant, so if anything, this proves that the originals, despite being kind of cheesy and dated, still have power and popularity.”
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