The past few years have seen a bit of a boom in art-house horror flicks, the three most prominent being The Babadook, It Follows, and The Witch. And while they’re very clearly different films, these three supernatural tales have at least one thing in common: very disparate and impassioned reactions from audiences. Daily Grindhouse and Medium contributor Jason Coffman posted an excellent piece over the weekend discussing horror cinema, the notion of gatekeeping, and the audience’s quest for new and interesting scares. Barbara Crampton—star of Re-Animator and From Beyond—commented on the piece, and if that doesn’t lend credence, than nothing will.
In his article, Coffman expertly articulates the need for films like The Witch “in a film landscape where studio horror has become increasingly dependent on cheap ‘found footage’ productions, sequels, and the odd film based on a board game.” While careful not to fall into the same gatekeeping trap that he is criticizing in the piece (he acknowledges that anyone is entitled to their own opinion), Coffman brings to light that the dissenters of films such as The Witch, describing the film as “not scary” or being pretentious films for posers, are actually hindering horror cinema from being accepted as a true art form.
“Critics and cinephiles in general tend to dismiss genre cinema wholesale, and genre fans as well,” Coffman articulates, “and seeing members of the community react to these films with such violent negativity only reinforces their image of the ‘horror fan’ as a slack-jawed dullard whose only interests are sex and gore.”
Coffman acknowledges that horror is a wide reaching genre that contains not only populist fare such Friday The 13th and Saw films, but also artier films like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. The point of the piece isn’t to state that one is better than the other, just different. As he puts it, “There is an audience for thoughtful, intelligent genre films, and it is up to us to make it known that we are here and that we are looking for films that expand the definitions and push the boundaries of genre cinema.”