Here is an interesting, somewhat scholarly look at the current state of the horror film genre, for better or worse.
It’s worth reading the whole thing, so I won’t excerpt it. Basically, writer David Church looks at how horror films in recent years have become more and more homogenized products – remakes and sequels pumped out with modern technology to make them appealing to contemporary audiences – when the nature of effective horror is to be shocking and disturbing – which is hard to do when all the rough edges are smoothed over to make the films appealing to as wide and audience as possible. In contrast to this trend, he sees a counter trend of films that embrace old-fashioned exploitation as a postive virtue, movies like SAW and WOLF CREEK and HOSTEL.
My only complaint – one I’ve made before – is that when trying to assess trends (especially box office trends) for the genre, the matter of definition plays havoc. Journalists can talk all they want about horror falling in and out of fashion, but the truth is audiences are always willing to pay money to be scared. It’s just that sometimes the scary films are designated as “thrillers” (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) or “science fiction” (WAR OF THE WORLDS).
Although he does mention the debate about SILENCE OF THE LAMB’S designation as horror or thriller, Church doesn’t really deal with this issue as a whole and falls a tiny bit into the trap of seeing trends that support his theories, whether or not the box office tallies really conform or not. He’s on surer ground dealing with aesthetics, and you’ll find the piece a fascinating read.