After seeing over 100 horror films, I would call myself an avid horror fan. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) to I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) to The Human Centipede (2009), I have seen a plethora of horror films from all the horror sub-genres: psychological, science fiction, slasher, splatter, etc. Yet, if you were to ask me what my favorite horror films are, you might be surprised to learn that my favorites are primarily 21st century films.
Today’s latter millennials grew up during the era of horror movie remakes. As a result, my love for horror is perpetually deemed “fake” by adults who deeply question how I could like today’s horror films and not the classics. Adults have ridiculed my so-called “interest” in horror and doubted my appreciation for the genre since I did not see those classics that shaped the genre into what it is today. Why is it that this does not apply to other genres? If someone loves comedies, nobody says to them, “Seriously? You like the movie The Hangover (2009)? What about The Nutty Professor (1963)?” If somebody loves romances, nobody says to them, “Seriously? You like The Notebook (2004)? What about Sleepless in Seattle (1993)?” If someone loves romance films, classic romance films would certainly be suggested to them; however, nobody would seriously doubt their interest in the genre if they hadn’t seen them.
After being a horror fan for years, during my sophomore year of college, I took a class called “The American Horror Film,” a class that felt custom made for me. We watched horror films in chronological order starting with Dracula (1931) and Cat People (1942), through Psycho (1960) and Halloween (1978), all the way up to The Ring (2002) and The Conjuring (2013). For the first time, I was able to appreciate the history of the genre. I was able to see the beginnings of horror and how the genre has expanded and developed. I was able to see the transformation of body horror. I was able to see how the historical moment affected how films were made.
Everyone who loves this genre has a unique story that makes them the fanatic that they are. This film class gave me insights about individuals’ horror preferences. Everyone remembers the first horror film that made them scream, the first horror film that haunted them at night, and the first horror film that left them thinking (maybe the same for some). For my friends who were in the class who had never seen a horror film, they will remember the horror classics that we watched in the class (since they saw these before watching current horror films). Someone who grew up watching the classics with their family might have a deeper appreciation for the classics they grew up with and be disinterested when today’s films attempt to recreate their childhood horrors. Someone who grew up in the 21st century and discovered their love of horror on their own, however, might have different views.
It is difficult to compare originals and remakes. I certainly understand why the majority of horror fans prefers originals. (I cannot even bear the thought of remakes of the Saw series.) However, today’s horror films are being made with updated technology and effects. It is impossible to compare a 21st century high definition horror film—with the right lighting, the right sound and special effects, and the right point of view shots—to a classic horror film that relies more on the imagination and contains more psychological horror. The horror genre is the bravest of them all. Nobody would ever dare to recreate classics of other genres such as When Harry Met Sally (1989), The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Sound of Music (1965), and Casablanca (1942). Yet, horror classics are frequently remade because individuals have unique visions and interpretations of the originals. Today’s horror films push viewers steps further—maybe even steps too far—to make them horrified, disgusted and sometimes even nauseated. Today’s horror films cause some viewers to be jaded and seemingly not empathetic, even desensitized. And while classic horror film lovers might claim that recent horror is thus inferior, I choose to appreciate and love the direction the genre is taking while still paying homage to the classics that started it all.
So why is it that I prefer remakes to originals? It is not necessarily that I like the remakes more or think they are better quality films. I can agree with almost all horror fans that originals are generally superior to remakes from an artistic standpoint. I can appreciate the history of horror. However, most people watch horror films for the thrill. And after being jaded by today’s horror films, if I am in the mood to watch a film for the thrill, rush, and excitement of the genre, I will hands down pick a remake or newer horror film. But, if I am in the mood to remember the foundation of the genre I have come to love and appreciate, I will hands down pick a classic.
Rachel Sholder is a senior at Lehigh University majoring in Mathematics with a Probability and Statistics Concentration. She is a horror movie fanatic whose favorites films include Saw, Silence of the Lambs, Scream, Orphan, Basic Instinct, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween.