The State of Horror: The Twilight Conundrum

This is the second in a series of monthly editorials. In addition to this particular month's topic, I'll be discussing the horror film releases for this month, as well as DVD's and whatever else is happening in the genre right now.

THE TWILIGHT CONUNDRUM
Ever since last Fall when the marketing for Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's young adult series "Twilight" began its main marketing push, I've been in a bit of a conundrum as far as coverage of this film goes. I didn't know much about the series at first, but a little research told me pretty quickly that it was not something I thought our readers would be interested in. Here's a short synopsis, from an IMDB user:

A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire.

Woof. There's at least three words in there that will send a cringe down the spine of the majority of horror fans. What do I mean by "majority"? Well, although I happen to know plenty of fine young women who enjoy a good horror film, the demographics at a horror convention tell you pretty quickly who the die-hard genre fans really are. They're mostly male, and run anywhere from 14 to 50. When you think of things that excite these fans, "Vampires" may very well be on the list. "Teen romance" however, is most definitely not. Start to describe your vampires as "sparkly", and you pretty much send any horror fan into incoherent rants about how Anne Rice ruined vampire stories forever.

THE GAMEPLAN

I figured at first that I could just ignore all of this Twilight stuff. I figured the movie would come out in November and do its business, and then we could all move along and be no worse for wear. I also figured, foolishly, that my contemporaries in this horror web game would do their best to ignore the film, since we essentially are sharing the same audience and they would certainly not be happy with all the coverage. I was wrong.

The coverage on the "major" horror sites started early and turned into a deluge of studio-pleasing dreck faster than I had ever imagined. Even worse, it was clear that the idea of "Twilight" had sent some of the sites and their writers into an existential crisis of epic proportions. I won't name names or link links, because Mark tells me that I have to start being more diplomatic, but it seems that there were a few different schools of thought when it came to "Twilight" coverage, each more misguided than the next.

The first school is what I would call the "800 pound Gorilla" theory. Clearly self conscious about spending all of this digital space covering a thinly veiled abstinence allegory marketed towards teen girls, this writer set out with each post to beat the reader over the head about how there were "vampires" in the story. That, in an oddly kindergarten-logic sort of way, meant that it was a horror film and justified their coverage. Reading the comments on these posts was especially amusing, since the site's regulars were clearly not buying into what they were selling.

Next up, we had the "waambulance" approach. Cover the hell out of every "scoop" that comes your way, but in the process make it a point to whine endlessly about "stupid Twilight fans" or "this Vampire love story crap". The irony in this approach of course is that the writer is acting like they have no choice in the matter. Last time I checked, free will is still alive and kicking. The idea of whether or not anyone in the horror community has a "choice" about what they cover is a subject I'll have to save for another day.

Last up, and surprisingly the least offensive approach on my list, is the "fuck it" approach. This is the straight forward, no nonsense way of approaching "Twilight". If you were choosing to be scathing in your criticism, this could very well be called "selling out". As time went on though, I realized that this is somehow the most genuine approach to this film. No over-justifying, no grade school whining, just quiet, subdued defeat.

A layman might be wondering why it would be so important for these sites to cover "Twilight" in the first place. They might not admit this to you, but I can tell you exactly why. It's called Google my friends. You see, those staunch supporters and daily visitors may be the bread and butter for a site like theirs (as well as ours), but in order to rise to the level of success that some of these guys have had, you have to know how to play the game. There is a large, increasingly terrifying fanbase out there for "Twilight", and the moment the promotion for the movie started going, you can guarantee that they were lighting up Google looking for any and everything they could find on it. When they then ended up on one of the sites we're talking about, the ad impressions from those visits put money straight into the pockets of the people in charge of them.

Now don't get me wrong, if it's one thing my experience in this business has taught me, it's that even the biggest of bigwigs are not raking in the dough. At the end of the day it's a mere pittance compared to the amount of hours it takes to build, maintain and foster a well-made horror website. And contrary to what you might think, I'm not even necessarily making judgements on the sites for covering "Twilight". I just wish, as I'm sure many of you do, that they would be up-front and honest about it. Admit to us why you're doing it, instead of hiding behind flimsy justifications and histrionics. Admit that in order to maintain your status of power over the horror community, sometimes you have to bow to studio demands, or even more important, the demands of our dark overlord Google. Is it too much to ask for just a little honesty?

REPENTANCE

There is also counter-argument here, about opening up the horror community in a "big-tent" like fashion. Perhaps we do have regular visitors who are fans of "Twilight". If you're a fan of "Twilight" and you're reading this right now, know that I have nothing against you or your tastes.

What you have to understand is, horror fans are very protective of their genre. To most of us it is as precious as our friends and family. And most of us, like all red blooded American males, love movies with R ratings and risky subject matter. From day one horror was meant to be a transgressive genre, not the genre of abstinence parables and "sparkly" vampires. So yes, we get defensive about things like "Twilight", and PG-13 ratings. But hang around this site for a while and you might understand why. Horror, for better or worse, is a deathly serious business to us.

So let's take an informal poll in the comments. If you are a fan of "Twilight", please leave a comment on this page and let us know about it. And to anyone who isn't, please be respectful to them if they do. I'm still deciding whether or not we will be covering the sequel when it comes out next Fall. I would honestly prefer our loyal readers dictate that more than any Google results. So if you've enjoyed the site enough to stick around and register, please let us know in the comments.

THE HORROR OF APRIL: PRETTY BARREN

Unless one of the studios makes a major last second decision, there will be no new theatrical horror for you to check out in April. That's sort of a bummer, but just take into account that May will see the release of Sam Raimi's long awaited return to horror "Drag Me To Hell". So, I think you guys can handle the wait.

In the meantime, there's a plethora of very key DVD releases to tide you over. These include "Donkey Punch", "Vinyan", "Splinter", "The Burrowers", "Laid To Rest", and the long awaited release of the french film "Martyrs". More info on these releases can be found in Casey's upcoming DVD reports.

So, who will I alienate next month? You'll just have to wait to find out. In the mean time, thanks for reading this month's "State of Horror", and thanks for being a fan.

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