Though it has only been in theaters for five days now (and only opened in fourth place with less than $9 million including Thursday night screenings), The Witch has already generated a lot of discussion about the horror genre and horror fans. Noting that many viewers hissed their displeasure at the screen when the end credits rolled (something that happened at this writer’s screening), Jason Coffman writes that responses like that reinforce the belief that horror fans are simpletons only interested in gore and sex.
Two Indiewire writers devoted a lot of space to discussing whether or not it lives up to the hype, its place in horror, audience reaction, and the genre in general. All of the writers mention other titles like It Follows and The Babadook, and both pieces seem to suggest that we should consider “real” horror to be those more artistic, more critically acclaimed titles. “True” horror fans should champion them and demand more movies like them. Booing movies like them means you lack sophistication and only care about graphic carnage and T&A.
I love The Witch, It Follows, and The Babadook, but that all sounds like elitist nonsense. First of all, horror fans come in all shapes and sizes (which is just as true for other genres). Some people are crazy for blood and guts. Some prefer slasher movies or zombie flicks. Others like ghost stories. A lot of people like more mainstream, PG-13 fare (as evidenced by the decent box office returns for The Forest and The Boy). Some people like foreign horror. Many people like all of the above. Horror fans don’t fall into two categories: gore lovers or champions of indie films.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with not liking slow, moody movies like The Witch. I know people who would hate it and I’d never recommend it to them, but they would insist that they love scary movies. They are not wrong or “phony” horror fans. They simply have different preferences when it comes to the genre. Liking Sinister 2 or The Lazarus Effect doesn’t mean they don’t like scary movies. There is no litmus test here.
Sometimes people forget that everyone has different taste. I hate Insidious and The Strangers and Hostel. However, I certainly don’t look down upon or question people who feel differently. Not to mention that sometimes it’s not a matter of not liking something as much as it’s a matter of feeling disappointed due to hype or expectations. Some viewers like Crimson Peak or The Babadook, but (depending on the movie) they feel that it either fell short of their expectations or isn’t as terrifying as some people led them to believe it would be. Different strokes and all that.
You shouldn’t have your horror credentials questioned or ridiculed if you don’t like The Witch or It Follows. There’s nothing wrong with being more excited about Amityville: The Awakening than the latest indie darling. I wish the horror genre commanded more respect, but in the grand scheme of things, one’s love for the genre shouldn’t be determined by what other people think of it. Not to mention that a horror movie could win Best Picture and some people would still dismiss the genre. Horror should be inclusive and make room for as many fans as possible. Let’s avoid being divisive and stigmatizing those who don’t like the same things we do. We are a community of misfits, after all.