Are we in a new war against horror?

Scary movies have always had their critics and naysayers, but the genre itself has actually had a
wealth of mainstream critical and commercial success in recent years. Despite this, a recent string of
events definitely seems to indicate that we may slowly be entering a new era in which Horror
content is much more censored and tame. Here are a few things I’ve noticed over the past few
months that have got me worried about the future of Horror.

DASHCAM: too offensive?
One of the main inspirations behind this article was the recent news that Vue cinema in the UK have
refused to screen the new Blumhouse found footage horror movie, ‘DASHCAM’. Initial speculation is
that the cinema chain found a test screening of the film to be too extreme and offensive for general
audiences. Whilst this will undoubtedly make for some good marketing, as it appears the cast and
crew are wearing this as a badge of honour, I do find something slightly worrying about Vue’s
decision to control what people can or can’t watch.
Since I first started writing this piece, Vue have clarified their comments, re-stating that their
decision to cancel screenings of the film was informed purely by the commercial conditions not
being viable. Whether this is down to the content within the film, the 18 BBFC rating making it more
of a gamble to screen, or to make room for more showings of more mainstream films, is unclear, but
the final result is still pretty sad.

From what I’ve observed, season four of Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ has earned big praise from
people in the Horror fandom, especially for its homages to ‘Hellraiser’ and ‘A Nightmare on Elm
Street’. However, there has definitely been backlash from some fans of the show who weren’t
prepared for the dark turns this season takes.
In all fairness, the success of ‘Stranger Things’ has been a result of its wide appeal. The show’s
creators have even said that originally there was intended to be more Horror, gore, and bad
language in the first season, but decided to tone it down by the time it ended up shooting. That said,
the show has always proudly been a homage to 80’s Horror, and I think criticising the Horror
element for being too scary is unfair. Ultimately, I just think the show is trying to mature along with
its audience and simply getting darker as it nears its final story arc. There can be no light without
darkness, and I think the show does a great job of balancing the two.
An article in The Independent, titled “There’s one massive problem with Stranger Things 4 – it’s too
scary”, states that the show has lost some appeal due to its cheap shocks and gore, and uses the
word “scary” as if it’s a dirty term and shouldn’t be present in entertainment. We’ll see if the
creators respond to this backlash by toning down the Horror in the fifth and final season of the show
which, in my opinion, would be a massive shame.

Comic book fans were over the moon when Sam Raimi was announced to be directing the next
‘Doctor Strange’ film, with many hoping that he would bring back that signature Raimi charm from
his ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy. However, the director is no stranger to controversy, and was even trialled
for obscenity back in the 1980’s, over the graphic content in ‘The Evil Dead’, and in 2002 the BBFC
resorted to creating a brand-new classification called ‘12A’, because, despite the film’s massive
appeal to kids, the content was considered to potentially be too much for younger children.
The MCU has been considered by some frustrated movie goers as becoming increasingly stale and a
bit tame, hence the excitement for Raimi to do something bold and new. It was no surprise that the
director brought some of his signature Horror style to the film as it was a perfect fit for a character
that leans so heavily into the occult. Despite this, there are a number of recent articles and
comments from upset parents calling the film “too scary”, with people suggesting it may be inflicting
trauma on our youth. Whilst the film has grossed a lot of money, hype and box office numbers are
definitely lower than some of Marvel’s previous films, which begs the question; will the MCU
continue to experiment, or will they potentially go back on themselves and return to a more
sanitised format?

POPPY PLAYTIME: fear and misinformation.
‘Poppy Playtime’ is a recent indie Horror game, developed by MOB Games studio. The game has
reached an immense level of popularity, due in part to the viral playthroughs of YouTube gamers
such as Markiplier and Jacksepticeye. The game takes place in an abandoned toy factory and the
player has to avoid vengeful toys that will try and kill you. This is comparable to games like ‘Bendy
and the Ink Machine’ and ‘Five Nights at Freddy’s’; Horror games that weren’t necessarily created
for children, but definitely can be considered gateway horror due to the childish nature of the
setting, mixed with a lack of violence and gore, in favour of funhouse scares.

In recent years, there does seem to be an attempt to try and sanitise all mainstream media to be
appropriate for everyone, despite different people having different tastes. I think my main fear in all
of this is that mainstream Horror content may end up being censored and neutered to appease the
masses and make for a more comfortable viewing experience. This may seem like a good business
decision, but it will likely just frustrate people who love horror, whilst still not likely to appeal to
those who hate the genre in the first place, making it essentially a pointless exercise.

Written by Jack Berry