I love getting excited for movies, I love when horror flicks become popular and impact the cultural zeitgeist. That’s something that should always be celebrated. It’s a good thing when a horror feature breaks through to the mainstream and hits the ground running. But there are times when the hype can get so real that it almost feels suffocating.
While I try to give everything the benefit of the doubt at this point, I’ll admit that when I was younger I easily dismissed movies that were “too popular.” In fact, I’ve only started getting over that in more recent years. There was something about a film that was oversaturated to the point where it almost makes you not want to see it.
To some degree, it’s unfair. It’s all great press and I think independent horror would love to have the problem of being oversaturated. A film should always be taken on its own merits.
But these movies have been so hugely hyped—whether on release or in decades following their release—that it’s almost impossible to separate the stories from that climate.
Freddy vs. Jason
My God, what a time to be alive, when this movie was coming out. If you were a fan of these two franchises, it was amazing to see the trailers and all of the intense promo stuff and to know that this historic matchup would finally be making it to the big screen. But it’s also impossible for a something to live up to that kind of hype. I think it absolutely delivers on the fight, but people expected the best thing from either franchise, and it wasn’t that.
The Sixth Sense is still a good movie. It’s still exceptionally well made. The problem is that so much of it hinges on that first viewing. Once the rug’s pulled out from under you and all of the surprises are ruined, it’s harder to rewatch. As strong as it is, the magic just isn’t there when going back and revisiting it now. Still an astonishingly good directorial debut and the two lead performances are dynamite.
For the most part, nobody actually believed that Paranormal Activity was real. But there was still an insane amount of hype surrounding it. And this was one of the few times that I actually got completely swept up in it. It felt like the little no-budget movie that could and it was also really, really scary the first time. At the end, the theater turned out all the lights for a full ten seconds, just letting the audience stew in our own fear. It was great. But once it kept churning out sequels, it sort of lost the charm. The first one was such a novelty that it proved tough to recreate.
This was another one that I loved when it first came out and then became immediately dismissive of as soon as it became a franchise. And I don’t know why, but it took me years to get over that. It’s so hard to separate from its sequels, it’s become a modern equivalent to Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th in that regard. But the first one really is an impressive indie thriller that’s smartly contained and so, so tense. Plus, that score.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Hailed as one of the biggest classics in genre history, Texas Chain Saw Massacre is different from anything else on the list. This hype was built over decades and it’s all part of an amazing phenomena were tons of people believe things about it that are completely different from what it actually is. It’s called the goriest movie ever made, the most brutal movie ever made, based on a horrific true crime—and of course it’s none of those things. But that also makes it hard to watch for the first time when it’s not anything like what you’ve been told.
Being the most hyped horror film in history, The Exorcist is virtually impossible to watch with fresh eyes. There’s no escaping it in pop culture. No one getting into the genre hasn’t had it shoved down their throat that this is the scariest movie of all time. There’s no way for any feature to live up to that kind of hype and so I think The Exorcist suffers in that respect. Very few people who see it for the first time now seem to like it, because they’ve had it built up as something more than just a motion picture. When we hear about it, we hear about stories of people passing out in the theater, people so terrified that they were hospitalized. It’s impossible to separate that from the film itself.
The Blair Witch Project
No horror movie has ever dealt with as much insane, manic buzz surrounding it than The Blair Witch Project. It was everywhere. It was a cultural phenomenon. And everyone believed it. Even though we shouldn’t have. Even though the actors were out there promoting the it. It looked real. It was small-scale found footage film on a platform that kind of film had never had before. People wanted to believe it was real and that was one of the key factors in its success. It took years, as a viewer, to be able to separate it from that hype and watch it on its own merits.