Written by: John Edward Betancourt
What a great time it is to be a horror fan. How can it not be? A zombie apocalypse themed television show is at the top of the ratings and it doesn't end there. With a ghost story recently dominating opening weekend at the theaters with The Conjuring, horror has finally found its niche in the mainstream.
In fact the whole reason I sat down to write this article, is because I just recently watched a television advertisement for Sprint featuring a zombie. Granted there have been plenty of living dead themed commercials as of late but this one caught me off guard while watching preseason football because it's a corpse asking about unlimited data plans. I mean, that's how far horror has now snuck into our daily lives.
Which brought a question to my mind, how long can this renaissance last? I mean, don't get me wrong, I remember having to spend time educating others on who George Romero and Dario Argento are when it came to discussions of horror back in the day, so to see horror everywhere I turn is a welcome change, but how long will it be able to sustain this runaway popularity? The answer I discovered years ago in a little documentary called The American Nightmare.
This gem premiered on IFC back in 2000 and chronicled the last time that horror was prevalent in our society, the late 60's and 70's. Now one thing any horror fan needs to do is watch this documentary. It chronicles the greats and does it with class, giving you an incredible behind the scenes understanding of what went into some of our favorite horror films.
But more importantly, it points out why horror was popular then and why horror is popular now...the state of society. Think about it, we had civil rights battles and unrest and distrust in the government back in the 60's and 70's and a seemingly endless war all leading to a fear of the unknown. While these points make for a tasty documentary, all of it resonates today, especially when you think about horror in the 80's and 90's.
A lot of the social unrest disappeared in those decades and really so did horror. Those movies were still being made, but they were often relegated to home video and loved by only the most hardcore of fans. Now, while it's great to see a documentary about a golden era of horror, let's face it, the genre was not as popular as it is now, and let's also face facts, the unease we face in the world is much larger than it was back then.
Civil rights battles are back in a big way, distrust of our government is at an all time high, and if you don't believe me...just look at the approval polls for Congress, war is still a concern and well we are most certainly afraid of the unknown once again courtesy of 9/11. All these things prove The American Nightmare 100% correct. Horror wasn't big again right away, but four years after our nation was attacked, George Romero made his first zombie movie in twenty years. The fact of the matter is, horror is healthy during darker times in our lives. It allows us to experience terror and despair until the end credits roll and we feel safe once again.
So here we are, horror is all around us in pop culture and while there are some incredible underlying reasons why we have allowed it, I welcome it and fully understand that it likely won't last forever. Someday the economy will recover, and the bad guys will disappear for a little while and life will go back to normal and likely horror returns to its cavern, waiting in the shadows for the next inevitable shift in the world where it is needed to provide us with scare therapy once again.