I've currently got my fingers crossed tight for Insidious, the latest collaboration between director James Wan and writer/actor Leigh Whannell, that opens in theaters tomorrow. So far I haven't been a fan of, well, anything that the pair have done (although I've liked aspects of all their films - especially 2007's Death Sentence - none of them have been entirely satisfying to me) but Insidious looks like a promising spook show.
Thinking about how much I'm rooting for Insidious makes me think about the long slump that the horror genre has been suffering through lately. It's not as bad as the Great Horror Drought of the '90s but it's still bad. We're going into April now and I can only give a legitimate rave about one film so far this year - the grittily atmospheric, period-set shocker Black Death. It's not a real robust time for horror as the most intriguing new stuff - films like The Woman, Hobo with a Shotgun, I Saw the Devil, and Rubber - is frustratingly relegated to limited release (although I believe Rubber is coming to VOD soon, thankfully).
As far as wide releases go, though, it's rough. I reviewed the exorcism misfire The Rite back when it came out in January but haven't done the same for other recent theatrical offerings like Season of the Witch, The Roommate, Drive Angry 3-D, Red Riding Hood, and Battle: LA because, well, none of them seemed worth the effort. I didn't bitterly hate all of them (except for Battle: LA, a film I believe is capable of inflicting brain damage) but I sure didn't love any of them (surprisingly, of the bunch, I enjoyed Red Riding Hood the most - it was overripe and silly but fun). Bad movies aren't limited to the horror genre, of course - it's a poor time right now for movies in general - but as horror is where my main interest lies, it's hard waiting for the tide to turn. Especially when last year was so weak itself, I had to struggle to find five films for a Best Of list.
Will Insidious be the film to turn things around? Here's hoping. A few weeks later, on April 15th, Scream 4 will also have a chance to give the genre a boost. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there is a Scream 4, though, so I have given much thought to its box office prospects or how I feel about that franchise's return.
Horror had been so hot in the previous decade that a drop-off was inevitable. By 2010, the torture-porn fad had petered out, all the A-class picks for remakes were used up (except for those that no one was fool enough to attempt, like Platinum Dunes' aborted Birds remake) and the only successful new franchise was Paranormal Activity. While last year had its share of hits - like Paranormal Activity 2, Devil, The Last Exorcism, and Black Swan (though many would categorize that as drama) - it still felt like the genre had lost its momentum.
There's a serious case of fright fatigue going on that I'm feeling myself and if Insidious can't cure it in audiences this weekend, I hope it can at least cure it in me.