Horror Show

The horror film history narrative runs something like this: although there had been some scary movies in the silent era, the term “horror” was first used to describe Universal’s 1931 release of Dracula and Frankenstein.  Some other studios got in on the action and creature features were a staple of US cinema until the fifties when they began to peter out.  By that point a UK horror industry took off, largely due to Hammer Studios.  While these Hammer offerings often remade the standard creature features, they also branched out into less commonly explored areas such as films set in contemporary times focused on the occult.  This phase faded in the sixties just as “modern horror” was taking off with classics like The Night of the Living Dead and Rosemary’s Baby.  Modern horror quickly grew.  Further divisions can of course be made, and the modern period has gone through several transformations as well.  It’s a rich coffer.

There’s a real problem with this, however, for those who might’ve missed a decade or two somewhere in there.  Many of the UK films are still not available in the US for anything like a fair price.  Part of the reason for this is copyright law, but another is apparently the ignoring of demand.  I saw maybe one Hammer film (on TV) growing up.  Saturday afternoon fair was more often American B movies like Zontar the Thing from Venus.  I’ve got a hankering to watch some of those Hammer films, but even in the 2020s they’re difficult to find.  Even with the internet.  Often the DVDs are (because of differing copyright laws) coded so they can’t be viewed in North America.  You can buy a player to see them, but when you think of the inevitability of streaming it hardly seems worth the cost.

Streaming might be the solution, but much of the Hammer oeuvre doesn’t stream in the US, at least not that I’ve found.  If I’m wrong please let me know in the comments!  You see, I spend time reading about horror and when you do this recommendations often arise.  Some Hammer classics are as expensive as the academic books that discuss them.  Is it possible to be a horror connoisseur?   And can you truly be a connoisseur without sampling what’s on offer overseas?  We tend to forget that the world is culturally divided by copyright laws.  If nobody’s watching the movie anymore what’s the harm in making it free?  If people do want to see it, why not sell it to them at industry standard price?  Even trying to watch horror, it seems, has become a horror show.

Photo by Michael Mouritz on Unsplash

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