The first decade of the 21st century has been many things to many people, but a wellspring of horror films it is most certainly not. We've gotten some solid zombie flicks, no question, and television is bubbling over with monsters of all kinds. In the cinematic world though, our ghouls and ghosts are largely passed over. All we've really gotten for awhile is remakes, watered-down PG-13 fluff, and torture porn. Ugh.
Of course, I'm exaggerating to make a point. Yes, we've gotten plenty of other great genre films in the past 10 years, and I'm sure all of you could name a few without much trouble. Still, this feels like a rather anemic time for horror. TV excepted, there have been relatively few offerings for gorehounds recently. We can stretch the definition a little, call something "a fantasy film with horror elements" to fill in the gap, but it doesn't help much. This isn't anything new, of course. Movies are like the tide: there's an ebb and flow to people's tastes. This especially rings true for genre work. Slasher films and ghost stories will disappear for a few years, then make a comeback based on the strength of one impressive effort (you think there'd be Insidious without Paranormal Activity? Pfft).
Like I said, it's not as dire as I'm making it out to be, really. There have been dozens of great horror films since we ushered in the year 2000, and it'd be pointless to list them all here. But again, how are we defining things in terms of taste and cinematic fads? Every decade since the advent of the motion picture has had obvious trends in its films, particularly in genres and sub-genres like horror and science fiction. Public perception, political discourse, and predictions about the future have flavored our favorite movies for as long as we can remember. The 30s and 40s had those famous Universal Monsters, the paranoia of the 50s gave us all those alien and radioactive beast flicks, the 60s and 70s responded to civilian strife with dark and gritty grindhouse fare, and the excess of the 80s brought buckets of blood and over-the-top antics in the growing world of horror-comedy. In the 90s, things got quiet, save for the occasional Scream. And ever since, we've had pockets of excellent horror, spread far apart. In terms of regular theatrical releases, the 00's legacy will be... remakes and the Saw franchise. Shame.
In the world of Video-On-Demand, well, that's a different story. Never before have we had such an abundance of new films. On the other hand, the average quality is questionable at best. It's the theatrical outings that people remember, as well as the movies that define a generation. Horror will be back in form soon, I have little doubt about that. We just have to wait it out until this time of leanness has passed.
This post had been in rough draft for awhile. Thanks to Brian Collins at Badass Digest for writing the same thing in a much more coherent style for his Terror Tuesday. Read Brian's post here.