King: "Go Small for Big Scares"

When he that is nameth Stephen King, speaketh unto us about that which is horrifying... well, we should probably listen. I mean, the man has written some pretty scary books, amirite?

So when I saw the headline, on the master's latest EW column ("Why Big Studio Releases are Rare to Scare"), I sat forward in my seat and made sure to pay rapt attention. His premise, it turned out, is pretty simple: big budgets and big scares are rarely to be found in the same film. This is something that we've talked about on the podcast, among other BGH-related places, but King does an admirable job of nailing down something that is tough to nail down, particularly in a short magazine column. Here's the money-quote:

...but horror is not spectacle, and never will be. Horror is an unknown actress, perhaps the girl next door, cowering in a cabin with a knife in her hands we know she'll never be able to use. Horror is the scene in The Strangers where Liv Tyler tries to hide beneath the bed...and discovers she can't fit there.

A little later in the piece, King also had me laughing out loud with this snippet, describing how true horrors need little in the way of explanation: "A monster from outer space? Its planet exploded, of course (and the poor misunderstood thing probably needs a juicy Earth woman to make sexy with)."

The central premise here is really just a pretense to discuss the relatively amazing success of "The Strangers" in the context of the run up to the "X-Files" movie, which King hints will likely be a disappointment. If I'm to quibble with his reasoning though (and why write this post if not to quibble), I'd have to point out a couple of things.

First, "The X-Files" isn't just a horror movie; it's also a massive entertainment franchise, with legions of fans and peripheral products coming out of every orifice. "The X-Files," when examined as a franchise, also shouldn't really be considered straight horror: there's elements of sci-fi, espionage, and other fun stuff. And finally, Twentieth Century Fox, which King points out has produced two of this summer's big budget horror offerings ("The Happening" is the other), is not marketing "The X-Files" as a horror movie so much as it's marketing it as an event film, just the type of blockbuster that King is contrasting horror with in the column.

None of this negates King's main point that big budgets may be antithetical to good horror, but "X-Files" isn't the best example (or necessarily the fairest). I've been trying to think about big(ger) budget films that I found particularly scary, and it's true that there aren't many. Personally though, I don't believe that a big budget absolutely guarantees a poor horror film. I feel that in the right director's hands, no film's quality is truly determined by budget. Of course, I don't think that King would necessarily disagree, but that's a slightly more nuanced point than he likely had the space to make.

One last, unrelated point: if you do a Google search on King (as I did to get the ever-so-cute picture above), you'll see that StephenKing.com is called "The Official Stephen King Web Presence." I just thought that was way sweeter than saying "official website." Of course, on the site itself it just says website, so maybe that decision was just some crafty search engine optimization.

Jon Schnaars

Writer/Podcast Co-Host/Business Guy

If you have questions about doing business with BGH, this is the man to speak with. Jon also enjoys the fancier things, like monocles and silent-era horror films.

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