Horror films scare audiences with fear of predictabilty

Arizona summer heats up the Valley, but the box office remains ice cold for the horror movie industry, as scary films fail to live up to their first appearance on the big screen.

Last year, moviegoers with a soft side for fright were delighted by edge-of-your seat thrillers like "The Conjuring" and "Mama," both snagging the No. 1 spot at the box office.

However, 2014 has unfortunately seen less success when it comes to spooking audiences. Almost halfway through the year, a horror film has yet to hit No. 1.

Critics are baffled, with 2013 being such a successful year. Movie specialist Scott Mendelson believes it’s because audiences are getting burnt out of the same old story, and viewers are seeking for an invigorating new plot.

Jeff Bock of Exhibitor Relations agrees, telling USA Today:

"Horror is the most cyclical genre in Hollywood. Once something hits big, it doesn't take studios long to jump on the trend and really start churning them out."

While I’m not a huge horror movie fan, I don’t need to hit the big screen to see the same stereotypical story with a limited goal of just scaring the heck out of audiences. These movies sometimes lack plot or character development in their attempt to get a few chills.

Another flaw we tend to see in horror films, and many other genres of film, is the repetition of a story line once an audience has deemed it successful. How many Paranormal Activity titles are there now?

"Horror movies are like roller coasters: After the first ride, it's not as thrilling. You have to build your coaster bigger and faster. That's what movies are facing: finding that new surprise." Eduardo Sánchez, co-director of the original 1999 "The Blair Witch Project," told USA Today.

This is a very general statement, because some plots can grow from film to film.

Personally, I was a huge fan of "The Purge," when it first came out in 2013 for a few reasons. While the actual plot wasn't all that great, the concept was original, and its relatability to modern-day society was definitely well thought out.

The sequel, "The Purge: Anarchy," was released in theaters in mid-July and has improved from the first movie greatly. The first film primarily focused on one family’s experience with the purge, a 12-hour excursion where all crime is legal in the nation without the aid of authorities or medical assistance.

The sequel explores the free-for-all evening from the point-of-view of several citizens caught in the middle of the violent activity. Here’s an example of a movie franchise that took critiques from its first film, which had a concept that provoked many, and worked them in to make their next attempt better.

While the notion of a violent “purge” makes no sense from a legal point-of-view, it’s a fascinating concept that this sequel uses at its fullest advantage. "The Purge: Anarchy" brought in $29.8 million and landed a spot at No. 2 at the box office, trailing behind "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes."

While coming in almost $4 million behind its opening weekend last year, which surprised the box office with a $34 million start for a completely original screenplay, "The Purge: Anarchy’s" success looks promising.

Movies suffer from cookie-cutter plots, characters and scare factors, but films like "The Purge" push the boundaries of originality. Sometimes, the first try isn’t the best, but growing from a nice effort is much more appreciated than a repeated “sure-fire” screenplay.


Reach the columnist at rsmouse@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @BeccaSmouse

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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