I’m certain to have mentioned this before, but I’m a big fan of horror movies.
Even if a horror movie turns out to be bad (and unfortunately, many of them are), they can still be a lot of fun.
It’s always been interesting to see how each movie presents its scares, or rather, what it thinks its audience should be afraid of, and how subtler, more universal fears have slowly been edged out of the box office by gore and sudden images or noises to make people jump.
To exchange a tense foreboding, something that may not work universally, on startle tactics that have repeatedly proven effective.
If you compare The Exorcist or Halloween to something like Unfriended or Slenderman, the difference in quality is almost night and day. Older films are generally more concerned with building up their characters and plot - and that all-important tension.
Most modern movies are filled with unlikable characters, with the barest example of a plot used to justify their grizzly murders. Cheap, computer-generated effects make it easier than ever to produce a horror movie without spending a lot of money, but over time films have become about those effects.
It could be argued that, more than any other genre, studios know the kind of audience that’s interested in horror movies, so they target their efforts at them.
A select few films like The Conjuring aside, modern horror films don’t have much to aspire to, because the expectations of the audience - and maybe even the genre itself - works against them. It’s perhaps the single genre where the balancing act between art and commerce is hardly a consideration.
People want a date night movie or some cheap thrills.
They’re looking for a disposable experience.
And maybe that’s why horror has come to feel so disposable as a genre.
A series of short-term successes never intended to be anything more.
There are occasions where pursuing short-term success is advantageous. Without the raising of venture capital, there would be no Uber or Asana, businesses that have rapidly grown and become successful.
However, long-term efforts are almost unilaterally better to pursue; everyone loves a Cinderella story, but in the short-term the risks match the rewards. For every slim margin of success, the rest of the pie is the threat of failure.
On the other hand, a bootstrapped company like BaseCamp may not be as big or as powerful as its contemporaries, but it has built a dedicated fanbase and earned millions of dollars over more than fifteen years.
Obviously, no movie franchise should be made to stretch over fifteen years, but there’s a reason that films like Star Wars have become the massive cult hits they are today, why people still look back fondly on Rosemary’s Baby and Jaws and The Shining.
You want your product to earn a profit.
That’s the entire point of being in business.
But when you set out specifically to release something to make money, you’re hurting your product, yourself, and your industry.
You may be able to string together a series of short-term successes, much as horror movies do for studios.
But no company is immune from failures.