One of the things that makes it so easy to be a horror fan is the fact that the genre is infinitely larger than most people even realize. It’s often referred to as something small and defined by its limitations, but in reality it encompasses more than action, more than comedy and more than even science fiction. Horror can cross-pollinate with any genre and each of those types of horror is like a Russian doll leading to only more and more obscure niche sub-genres. This is how you get from revenge features like I Spit On Your Grave to supernatural revenge fare like Pumpkinhead. Or how you get from animal attack movies to weird genetic hybrid animal-monster movies like Carnosaur, Relic and Peter Benchley’s Creature. That’s the beauty of the horror genre. No matter how obscure your topic is, you can probably find at least a dozen films that fit into it. Having said that, there are some sub-genres we just don’t see anymore. Some of them only had a few good years of success, while others simply couldn’t adapt to our current climate of found footage fare. Regardless, the following are lost, obscure sub-genres we’d like to see make a comeback.
Killer Toy Movies
This one should just be obvious. We used to have so many. While Full Moon is (barely) out there trying to keep them alive, even they have moved on for the most part. Gone are the days of Child’s Play being a powerhouse franchise, not to mention everything that followed it. Puppet Master, Dolly Dearest, Demonic Toys, Blood Dolls, even pre-Child’s Play entries like Dolls and Trilogy of Terror. We don’t see anything like this anymore. Annabelle was an attempt to bring it back that didn’t ultimately work and there’s been nothing in the way of a relevant follow-up.
This may or may not be a term I just coined. Regardless, Monstersploitation in my eyes refers to those movies that did their best to cram every monster they could conceive of into a single film. The Monster Squad and Waxwork did it best. Waxwork II put in a valiant effort. Obviously, this is something that dates back to the Universal days of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. The 1997 remake of House of Frankenstein was barely a blip on the radar, so the last really big one we had was Van Helsing, which was an obvious train wreck. This type of thing never really disappeared from kiddie and comedy fare, from The Munsters all the way down to Hotel Transylvania, but in the overall scope of horror it is sorely missed.
I know, I know, after Twilight who could possibly want more of this? But I had at least hoped that the silver lining of the whole Twilight thing would be that we would get more of this very specific type. I’m talking about coming of age comedies that are about teenagers and also about vampires. The John Hughes vampire movies, if you will. Pictures like Fright Night, The Lost Boys and even My Best Friend is a Vampire. Sadly, if these didn’t come on the heels of Twilight, they probably missed their window of opportunity. What we got instead were two DTV sequels to Lost Boys and two remakes of Fright Night.
We used to see kids’ horror all the time, especially in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. While there have been some valiant efforts recently to recapture the magic of those days in projects like Coraline and ParaNorman, but nothing seems to stick. If anything could bring back kids’ horror on the level we used to see it, it would have to be the recent success of Goosebumps which—just as a film—embodies everything I used to love about those features.
I don’t care how out of date they are, I’ll never get enough of rubber monsters. I’ll be disappointed if there aren’t any in the upcoming Alien prequels and sequels because that’s part of what made me love Alien in the first place. From Pumpkinhead to Project: Metalbeast, I love the good and the bad as long as the creature at least has a unique design. Sadly, for low-budget flicks they’re on the more costly end because these creatures take a lot of work to make and maintain. So we probably won’t be seeing something like Cellar Dweller for a while and if we do, it will be a Cellar Dweller found footage reboot.
As far as niche sub-genres go, this is one of the biggest. Splatter comedies make up some of the most beloved horror movies of all time, from Braindead to Evil Dead 2. So where are they? Why did they go away? Is it just because Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi moved onto huge studio projects? The last attempt we really had to make a film of this type was the accidental slasher comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, but there’s been virtually nothing since.
Of niche sub-genres, this one is easily one of the closest to my heart. When Gremlins came out, there was a huge, genre-wide attempt to recapture it. None of the films that followed were nearly as successful, but I didn’t care. I loved every one of them. From Critters to The Gate to Ghoulies. All of them are so much fun to me, and it’s a shame we don’t see more of them these days.
How’s that for obscure and specific? I was petrified of trolls because of the things I saw in my youth, namely Troll and Ernest Scared Stupid. For whatever reason, the Norse monsters really had a profound effect on me. They’re tailor-made for horror because they’re impish, hairy little monsters that prey on children. “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” was possibly the first horror story I ever heard. Other than the two listed above, we haven’t had too many troll-centric horrors. Maybe Cat’s Eye and the very obscure DTV Grim, but all we’ve seen in recent years is Trollhunter, which catered more toward found footage and kaiju fans. Here’s hoping this and the others mentioned above will make a comeback!