“A future where horror films bypass the big screen altogether is a frightening prospect indeed.”
That’s how I ended my 2015 article on horror films’ perceived unpopularity. At the time, it seemed like Australia was doomed to DVD-only releases of most horror films, with distributors and cinema programmers alike lamenting the genre’s dismal reputation with Aussie cinemagoers.
Two years later, that future has thankfully not come to pass. 2017 has seen horror films dominate the box office locally, doing almost as well as they have in the US. Itis the ninth highest-grossing film of the year (so far), outperforming the latest iterations of the Transformers, Planet of the Apes and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. It’s joined by the likes of Annabelle: Creation, Get Out and Split, all earning serious coin in our neck of the woods.
On the face of it, it seems like I overstated Australian distributors’ reluctance to release horror movies, and local cinemas’ reluctance to program them. Or, maybe, the genre is simply trending upwards. But is Australian audience’s disinterest in horror films a myth? A folk tale, reinforced by mediocre marketing? A lie uncovered by the spectacular success of It, which suggests that audiences will turn up in droves if there’s a big marketing push (and, sure, a recognisable property)? Or is there some skerrick of truth behind our nation’s apparent scorn of scary movies? And — perhaps most importantly — how does this bode for the future of horror filmmaking, particularly locally?