So we find ourselves plugging away into 2019 and in the world of horror cinema the prospects of this year being a banner year for the genre are quickly diminishing. I personally blame abandoned resolutions and corporate greed. A tell-tale sign of this inevitable bubble burst can be found in the actions of one: Metro Goldwyn Mayer. In an effort to cash in on our nostalgic tendencies, MGM chose to infiltrate the oversaturated killer doll market by highjacking a franchise that they abandoned three decades ago. While the Spielberg Esque trailer, marketing campaign, and the casting of Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Rec) have captured the interest of many fans, I still won’t be able to shake that feeling of being exploited when I inevitably purchase a theater ticket. The order of the day seems to be sequels, expanded universes, and reboots… On the horizon is a bummer for anyone whose allegiances lie with hockey masks and coeds. For years major studios kept their Horror franchises under the stairs like a disregarded step child. I'd hate to be so pessimistic about the current landscape, but what made the 80s such a remembered decade in Horror was the common practice for big name studios to throw money at franchises, washing their hands of the project until distribution time. A bygone era when executive meddling amounted to “add 3 more to the body count.” Now an unimaginable terror has descended upon us all. Those same studios are paying more attention to our beloved genre, and regretfully our dollars made this happen.
That is not to say Hollywood has produced only misses. In recent memory films like Get Out and A Quiet Place have obviously scored a direct hit with audiences. These films ushered in the the new era of comedy personalities tackling horror, and they’re familiarity with set up and punchline is lending itself to the genre in a fresh and inventive way. However these films were in the minority…. and disabled. The lion’s share of the big studio faire has been disappointing at best.
So where is a VHS era fan to turn in 2019?
Those seeking refuge from the current cineplex offerings, look no further than watch parties. Amongst the advertising algorithms and politically polarizing posts on social media; small, dedicated, and organized groups of horror aficionados are creating clandestine screenings. Hosted online, these virtual communal viewings of trash cinema, with live commentary can be unearthed with minimal effort. Directly under the flicker of the film real, raw, unedited conversations sometimes scream across your screen with a feverish vigor. A multitude of rarely seen titles populate some of the better groups. On the widely used facebook, a faceless gestapo police force regularly shuts down these Watch Parties, but a few squeak by, which forces my hand in not revealing my source for online entertainment. But trust me when i say…. They are out there and there is an illicit thrill in attending, no matter how small. These screenings can become highly addictive. Speaking from personal experience, my significant other has put a limit on the nights that I partake. Like a drunk trying the time honored but rarely successful “cutting back” method. I reached out to a few proponents of these enigmas of the information age.
“Watch parties are a way for fans of movies to enjoy the comfort of watching from home while still sharing the communal experience of the theater. Friends introduce one another to films and shorts that they were perhaps unaware of and new and lasting friendships are formed irrespective of the individuals relative geography”
Watch Party Enthusiast
“In a time when stuff is so easily available online, and places like Netflix, with full seasons dropping all at once for whenever you feel like viewing them, it really tends to make the whole experience of watching a new show there feel much more impersonal.
At the end of the day, they are just plain fun. It’s also been a cool way to bring attention to a lot more of the obscure, forgotten classics that people may have not heard of or just never got around to watching on their own”
Renegade Internet Projectionist
For the jaded horror fan, the one who is positive that “nothing good happens after 1989,” can I interest you in some indie horror? While my opinion isn’t exactly objective when it comes to the subject. I do have my allegiances and they do run deep. I still believe that the world of independent filmmaking is an under-appreciated and uniquely entertaining experience. Admittedly the landscape can be difficult to navigate, with everyone and their fucked up cousin now able to make films, some freshman efforts can be hard to watch. Patience is the hot ticket word when diving into this renaissance in horror. Companies like Scream Team Releasing tirelessly comb through the sands of indy horror, and only the best left in the sifter go to print. But companies like Scream Team can only do so much. It takes a real effort and commitment on the part of the viewer to uncover the next generation of Wes Cravens and Tobe Hoopers. To embrace indie horror is to take on a responsibility as an audience. To scrutinize and endorse these film makers in the direction you want the genre to go. A few names to watch include Brooklyn Ewing(She Was So Pretty), Richard Stringham(Close Calls), and the deadly duo Zane Hershberger and Justin Seamen(The Barn, 10/31).
The last but most powerful means for weathering the modern hollywood horror boom is conventions. There is a stigma that surrounds horror cons: that attendees live in their mom’s basement, write fan fiction, and fantasize about PJ Soles. While this is all true the people I’ve met while promoting CCH at conventions have been some of the most interesting conversationalists on the subject of horror films I’ve ever encountered. Besting even the discussions found in the snack bar at my local drive-in. In convention halls, hotels, and sometimes even parks Cons serve as sort of a touchstone for only the most passionate of fans. A right of passage in the community. To meet and interact with celebrities you grew up watching can be surreal. Vendors selling everything from authentic vintage posters (12 Guage Gore) to Custom made jewelry(Mockingbird Lane Artistries) line the grounds. If you haven’t I highly recommend making the trip to a convention in your area, just make sure you hit up the ATM first. Living Dead Weekend and GrossFest both in the western PA area come highly recommended.