Mike Flanagan‘s adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game was released to rave reviews a couple of weeks ago, and I had the opportunity to speak with its producer Trevor Macy about the film, as well as the current state of the horror genre. If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware that our beloved horror genre is usually viewed as less than other genres. As someone who frequently works with horror films (Macy produced Flanagan’s Oculus, Hush and Before I Wake, as well as 2008’s The Strangers), I was intrigued by his insight on the genre from an industry perspective.
First thing’s first though, I had to ask Flanagan about his remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer, a property I am particularly fond of. He sadly replied that he has not heard anything about since turning in the script years ago. I lamented the waning popularity of slasher films, my personal favorite sub-genre of horror film. Macy jumped into the conversation with this little nugget of insight:
“It’s out of vogue right now but the horror pendulum always swings. It won’t be out of vogue forever. It’s always about a decent filmmaker getting hold of the right piece of material at the right time. Someone asked me the other day why horror is so hot right now and I was like ‘Look, when I made The Strangers everybody was saying ‘Horror is dead forever! No one is ever going to want to see a scary movie again!’ And that film almost didn’t make it to theaters but the distributor changed their mind and it was hugely successful. Everybody writes about how horror is in or horror is out, but it seems to be genre-specific. You don’t see that being written about the action or sci-fi genres.”
Diving into that topic, I was compelled to bring up the everlasting debate about what qualifies as horror. It’s gotten so bad that some people are saying that It, a movie about a demon clown murdering children, isn’t a horror movie. What is the issue with the horror genre? Why are people so afraid to use it?
“Horror fans use the “H-word” proudly,” Macy said, “but more often than not when I’m talking to people inside the industry I say it’s a scary movie rather than specify horror or thriller or supernatural or paranormal or whatever it is because people have this thing in their head that horror is less, but it’s not less!”
It’s odd that studios and people within the film industry have such an aversion to calling something a horror film. After all, most horror films can be made on a modest budget and easily break even during their opening weekend (or, if you’re It, earn double their production budget in their opening weekend). Contrary to Macy’s statement, this need to call a “high quality” film something other than horror bleeds into the horror community as well. More often than not, a film that is well-regarded will be described as a psychological thriller, or something similar as opposed to a horror film. Former BD writer Jonathan Barkan wrote about this very topic two years ago, and it’s sort depressing that it is still a battle that is being fought. Everyone seems to be on the same page about Gerald’s Game though. Flanagan, who was also present during this interview (you can read my piece on him here), chimed in:
“It’s funny because my feeling on [Gerald’s Game] is that it isn’t really a horror movie. It was horrific but it was not a horror movie. I thought most of the pushback would come from genre enthusiasts and critics on the genre sites, but as we’ve talked to people who have watched the movie they’re like ‘This is absolutely a horror movie!’ I’m really pleasantly surprised to see it being embraced like that because that’s just not what I expected.”
Gerald’s Game is currently streaming on Netflix.