Wednesday, April 06, 2005

DVD horror...

I'm interested enough in movies and TV and such that I often find marketing concepts interesting, certainly of more interest than the personal lives or generally sophomoric utterances of those who make them.

Since the success of The Sixth Sense, there has been a trend towards PG-13 horror movies. Many have been made, and quite a few of them, including a string of remakes of Asian films, have made a lot of money. Of the rest, many have been modestly successful (helped by often humble production budgets), while only a comparative handful has outright bombed. Wes Craven's recent Cursed is an example of the latter group.

Personally, I prefer this situation. I've always liked my horror films creepy rather than gory, and while the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, content restrictions quite often force 'artists' (craftsmen might be a more precise term) to work a little harder.

One item of note is that the PG-13 horrors have apparently been drawing a much stronger female audience. Indeed, a recent USA Today article claims that modern horror films are often drawing an audience that is 60% female; a startling turnaround for what has historically been a ‘male’ genre. Thus less graphic horror movies draw a stronger female demographic, while a stronger female demographic pushes studios to offer less graphic horror movies.

Women tend to shy away from markedly gruesome films, and by reducing the gore factor, horror has become much more attractive to young woman. At the least, it allows boyfriends to push horror films with more success. At best, with many horror films featuring female leads (The Ring, The Grudge, The Others), women and girls are actually seeking the films out on their own.

However, there's no doubt that this trend ill-serves those who do like their horror with a bucketful of guts. And while Hollywood isn't always as smart as you'd expect gigantic corporations to be, they've hit on a pretty decent marketing concept recently, which is to draw in large mainstream theatrical audiences with PG-13 horror, and then serve the more bloodthirsty hardcore audience sector by releasing bloodier cuts of the films on DVD.

This adds to the commercial appeal of horror films on home video and the rental market, which have always been strong in any case. (Horror and comedies being the 'fallback' genres for when groups of people hit the video rental stores.) For many horror films, the theatrical release largely is meant to serve as advertising for the eventual DVD and video release, where the real money will be made. This explains too why so many films of this sort hit the video shelves within a once unheard of three months; it's to strike while memories of the theatrical ad campaigns are still warm.

Thus even films that lose money theatrically have a pretty good shot of going into the black in the auxiliary markets. And those films that are already profitable rake in even more loot. Harder and/or extended cuts thus make the films attractive to those who may have considered them too wimpy to draw them to theaters, and also offer something new to folks who have already seen them but would consider giving them a second look at home.

(The downside to this is that it further promulgates the idea that there is no longer a ‘definitive’ cut of any film. However, while that notion is irksome to film buffs like myself, the fact is that the horse is out of the barn and there’s pretty much nothing to be done about it.)

Amongst recent films getting these sorts of DVD releases, there’s Cursed (the harder cut will be the one to feature a commentary by Craven and writer Kevin Williamson, both of who disagreed with Miramax’s decision to cut the film down to a PG-13); The Grudge, which will feature a cut seven minutes longer than the theatrical version and apparently ‘unrated’; and a similarly unrated version of Darkness. Look for this to become a standard situation.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

Interesting that the recent Dawn of the Dead remake was heavy on the gore, but seemed to take place from Sarah Polley's viewpoint--maybe the two streams can merge successfully.


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