The American Film Market (AFM) highlighted the increasing diversity and creative richness of the horror genre, as buyers snapped up original and ingenious movies from around the world.
Genre is no longer a dirty word. At AFM, some of the most exciting films in the marketplace were horror movies, several demonstrating daring in their storytelling, ingenuity in their execution and resourcefulness in their production.
A-list buyers looking for genre movies with commercial value were pouncing on low budget English and non-English language titles in an effort to capture the next Paranormal Activity. Indeed several of the new wave are mock documentaries (or moc-docs as they are dubbed) which blend hand-held DV footage with state of the art special effects.
Magnolia Pictures wrapped up a multitude of deals on Norway’s The Troll Hunter, a hand-held style record of the search for giant trolls by a bunch of students. Prior to the market Universal snapped up most of continental Europe on the film after a sensational sneak screening at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, in September. Among the new buyers were Momentum in the UK, Twin in Japan and Madman in Australia.
Meanwhile, one of the discoveries at the Sitges Fantasy Film Festival last month was Fernando Barreda Luna’s Atrocious from Mexico. Another moc-doc about two kids with a fascination for urban legends who discover strange goings-on in their family summer house, the film was sold by Celluloid Nightmares to Revolver in the UK, Senator in Germany and Wild Side in France.
Celluloid also sold Dennis Gansel’s German vampire movie We Are The Night widely – to Metropolitan in France, Vertigo in Spain and Film Depot in Russia among others. Gansel’s follow up to The Wave is about a young woman initiated into a trio of vampires. Like Atrocious, We Are The Night was one of the hits of Sitges.
Elle Driver was touting The Silent House, a US remake of the Uruguayan horror film which is 80 minutes of real time following a woman who revisits her family’s isolated summer house and discovers she is not alone. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who had a hit with verite chiller Open Water, are directing and Elizabeth Olsen (the twins’ younger sister) will star.
Horror was abundant in the deal stories coming out of the AFM, but the variety of horror was striking. Anchor Bay snapped up English-language territories to Moonstone’s reboot of The Howling; Fortissimo launched sales on Takashi Shimizu’s intriguing The Rabbit Horror about a young boy’s toy animal which comes alive to terrorise him; and Jinga was stirring up controversy and deals – including a US sale to Invincible Pictures – on the endlessly notorious A Serbian Film.
The horror explosion emerged from market needs. Expensive dramas with name actors are out of fashion because they don’t make financial sense for buyers. Horror is the one genre for which audiences have a limitless appetite. Good horror has a place in theatres and, more importantly, a vibrant life on ancillaries.
Out of that commercial imperative, the genre has blossomed creatively. Matt Reeves, who took the moc-doc to new levels with Cloverfield, did a superb job remaking Let The Right One In as Let Me In, while one of my personal favourites was Red, White And Blue, a Texas-set film by UK director Simon Rumley which was as dramatically satisfying and thought-provoking as it was horrifying.
The horror renaissance has also cast a spotlight on fantasy and horror film festivals which are now routinely throwing up major acquisition titles; Sitges, Fantastic Fest, FrightFest in London and PiFan in Puchon, Korea, which also has its own production market, are among them.
The Saw franchise may be coming to a close, but the future for horror films is filled with creative – and commercial - riches.