Dear Horror Community,
For better or worse, despite certain details, we are cut from the same cloth. Whether our favorite flavor is Cult, Horror, Exploitation or any number of sub-genres, we all somehow fit into this strange collective widely referred to as “The Horror Community”.
Nostalgia binds most of us. An appreciation of certain films that often don’t hold up aesthetically compared to the gloss of 21st Century cinema, but have a “spirit” that modern-day mainstream Hollywood can never capture. And while we disagree on the details (like which are classics vs. which are shit), we honor the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity it took to bring us films like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, the first “Evil Dead”, and so on. We appreciate this spirit *so much* that we can get excited for a re-telling of an old story, just for the opportunity to see *some* incarnation of our favorite characters on the silver screen once again.
Remakes aren’t all bad, nor are pointless sequels. We crave *more* of our favorite characters, so we get more. And we gladly pay big corporate executives to repackage old stories that tickle our nostalgic center. Sometimes we enjoy the experience and sometimes we hate it, but again… It just feels good to have Freddy Krueger in the mainstream public consciousness again. Even if it isn’t our beloved Robert Englund, it’s an opportunity to have the excitement of a new Nightmare On Elm Street in multiplexes. Take that, mainstream America!
I have no problem with any of that. At all.
The problem I have is that the independent genre scene: The place where the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Evil Dead” films came from is being grossly neglected today. Hideously. And I mean *by us*, not Mainstream audiences.
I am part of a Horror Community that will spend their entire paycheck on Friday the 13th memorabilia (which is cool for its nostalgia, and supports a 30-year-old corporate conglomerate movie franchise), but will wait three weeks after its release to pick up a film like “Father’s Day” if they ever attempt to pay for it at all (an example I choose because of the ungodly amount of praise it got from the press and audiences alike).
I ask, I’m nosey, and let me tell you: Indie genre films don’t sell for dick. Not even the really, really good ones.
Love it or hate it, Human Centipede probably gets more mainstream lip service than any indie genre film of its kind. Everything that could possibly go right for an independent genre film happened for that movie: Catchy title, powerful distributor, joke references on mainstream shows, and a presence in which almost every American with a TV or internet connection knows that there is a movie called “Human Centipede”. Imagine how many MORE casual viewers picked that title up from recognition / curiosity vs. the most popular indie genre film behind it. The gap is undoubtedly massive.
Here’s the kicker: Since it has been released, Human Centipede has not even made $3 million over the course of its life. That sounds big to you and I, but that is the fucking CEILING! That is the top of the mountain. At best, in today’s market, an independent genre film *could make* in the range of 1/6 of the budget of a low-end Hollywood movie (the “low budget” Hollywood film, DRIVE cost $13 million to make). And that is only if *everything* goes right for you.
The only other film with half a hope of getting *a fraction* of that hype currently in the scene is the Soska Sisters’ “American Mary”, which in all honesty, the press parade focuses way more on the filmmakers than their films at this point in their careers. Note that this is not a slam on the Soskas, I’m just saying that they are more famous than their films are at this moment, which I don’t think is very debatable.
By the way, the limited theatrical run of “Human Centipede 2″ grossed just over $120,000. Yep. Thousand. Obviously, this is a “limited” theatrical run, but as sparse as the audience is for these movies, it would be financially inept to push for anything more. Whether you like this one or not, that’s a scary number given its marquee value at the time.
Wanna know how much the “Fright Night” remake made? $18 million, just in theaters.
Nightmare on Elm Street remake? $63 million, just in fucking American theaters.
Again, mainstream audiences play a role, but NO FUCKING WAY do these Hollywood horror remakes go that far without a huge percentage of “The Horror Community” supporting them. “The Horror Community” IS the target audience for these films. Only a fraction of mainstream audiences that aren’t horror nuts even see horror films in theaters. There is no way to collect the data, but you know as well as I do, the bulk of those figures, *particularly* the NOES remake, had way more to do with legitimate horror fans showing up than the average film goer.
And I stress again: I don’t have a problem with anyone supporting Hollywood’s mission to make as much money as it can off of 30 year-old stories that everyone already knows. Have a blast!
My issue is that amidst all this nostalgic appreciation, we are neglecting *the future*! No matter how committed of an artist you are, you have to make money in a $5 per gallon of gas world. If spending anywhere from 3 months to 3 years on a film will never be able to pay you any money (and typically COST you shit tons of money), then it eventually becomes impossible to make them. People have bills, cars, kids, mortgages, and all this other shit in-between that costs money. And as much as you appreciate their films, your appreciation is not paying their bills.
While a proficient independent film producer would likely never be pocketing millions on a single film or even five films combined, there has to be a middle-ground where he or she can make enough to say “I have a job. I am a filmmaker.” Money won’t be steady, just like any other self-employment arrangement, but they can concentrate on creating the next “Leatherface”, “Ash”, “Freddy”, etc. vs. concentrating on a bullshit day job they are overqualified for.
This would benefit audiences exponentially. Not only would the quality of independent genre films improve dramatically across the board, but Indies don’t have to go through all the bureaucratic nonsense that Hollywood does. Mainstream cinema has *so many* constraints preventing it from getting anywhere near certain expressions of speech, violence, and sexuality, while independents have ZERO boundaries. Of course, 90% of independents choose not to even consider this and create films that bind themselves to this imaginary box anyway, but that is a rant for another occasion.
I’m not asking you to buy less Hollywood. I’m telling you that we *need* to buy more Independent. At least, if there is any independent stuff that you love or have ever loved. If one of the two have to suffer out of your budget, the independents need it infinitely worse than Hollywood does. We are the reason there is not another Astron-6 feature in production, we are the reason the “Frankenstein Created Bikers” (sequel to “Dear God No!”) is not rolling this very minute. There’s not enough money there for investors to get involved, and we are where the money comes from. We, as an audience, as a horror community are the *root* of the problem.
We don’t gush over “Dear God No!” nearly as much as we do over a 2 minute teaser for a god damn Evil Dead remake. Or “Father’s Day”, or the HC films, or “Deadgirl”, or “American Mary”, or name your favorite fucking indie genre film from the last five years, and you probably didn’t publicly masturbate to it half as much as you did your favorite upcoming mainstream Hollywood flick.
You may not like the independent films I cited in this article, and that’s totally fair. I didn’t like all the indies I cited, either. But each one of them has taken a uniquely different approach to their stories that would have NEVER come from mainstream Hollywood. You may not like this crop, but what are we going to cheat ourselves out of in the future, by not making a point to especially nurture great independent genre flicks when they come along?
It is WAY too passive in this day and age to simply post “Go see ‘Durper Durp’, a great movie made by great people.” on Twitter and Facebook, and call that support. BUY their shit, WEAR their apparel, be a god damn FANATIC, because accomplishing a flawed, but awesome film on less than $100k will always be more impressive and heroic than a mediocre Hollywood flick that LITERALLY cost more than 200x that to produce.
Think about how fucking mindblowing that math is before you go.
P.S. As tempting as it is to blame a flawed distribution model, the fault still lies with us. While shitty distro deals play their part, they only exist because there isn’t a strong enough market for these films to negotiate with any leverage. Trust me, as mean and evil as you think they are, most of the distros are struggling to survive too. Almost none survive solely on the release of new independent genre films. They are surviving by putting out the latest re-packaged “Ultimate Edition” Blu-Ray of the movie you’ve already seen 6,000 times. Which you are infinitely more likely to buy than a cool looking indie that you’ve never heard of.
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