Horrors! It's a weekend with not one but two new slasher movies, and neither one of 'em got a preview look from critics. Anyone surprised? ---
We've been down this road before in this space: Movie studios are in the money-making business, and it doesn't necessarily make good economic sense to give critics a chance to sharpen their own implements of pain at the expense of a genre with a built-in audience that doesn't care about critics' opinions. Halloween II and The Final Destination are part of established franchises. What should we expect?
The problem, I'd argue, is largely one of critics' own making. New York magazine's David Edelstein makes the case for enthusiastic anticipation of both of today's new horror releases, but he's probably on an island when it comes to such unabashed affection for genre thrills. Draw a Venn diagram of "horror movie fans" and "film critics," and you're likely not to see a lot of overlap.
And that's a damned shame. Sure, slasher horror can often be a lazy cash-printing endeavor for studios and incompetent filmmakers, and the torture-porn likes of Saw and Hostel understandably make the squeamish wary. But it's too easy to forget that over the years, some talented filmmakers have been able to do amazing things with primal terror: Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Brian DePalma, even Halloween II's own Rob Zombie. Film writers need to be able to separate wheat from chaff in all genres -- horror and teen sex comedy just as much as Oscar-bait bio-pic and literary adaptation. When we all start unstuffing our shirts and grooving to what is good in movies with bloody mayhem, maybe then the horror audience will start to trust us again. And when the audience cares, the studios will, too.