Does Horror cinema encourage the opposite of toxic fandom?

I’ve been listening to a lot of film podcasts recently – don’t worry, I’m not considering starting up my own, nobody needs that.

Hearing filmmakers and fans discuss their favourite movies and themes is always good fun, but the disparity between the types of enthusiasm shown towards different genres is really interesting to me – specifically, the passion of horror fans, which seems to be a more positive experience than fans of other genres.

Let me show my working…

To my mind, there are two kinds of movie enthusiasts – those who are so tribally passionate they’ll rage against anything that isn’t exactly what they want it to be, and those who are so unabashedly passionate about a genre they’ll celebrate every new entry.

A recent and well-documented example of the first group would be the thousands of ‘fans’ who mounted a social media campaign forcing Warner Brothers to spend something like $70m on Zack Snyder’s Justice League, extending the original movie by about two hours so they could watch it in 4:3 on their home screens.

That’s a passion that has, effectively, changed the way cinema works forever, and there are already follow-up campaigns being pitched for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad and returning Ben Affleck to Batman’s cowl.

Going back a little further, there’s also the unfortunate and unforgiveable treatment of Kelly Marie Tran in the fallout from Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi which led to her withdrawing from social media and being sidelined in JJ Abrams’ The Rise Of Skywalker – a case of a small but loud section of the internet being so unhappy that they were surprised by a film, they forced a massive and – in my opinion – badly mishandled course correction, which must have had a huge and terrible effect on the actress and everyone involved in Episode 8.

Last year also saw the backlash to the unusual design of Sonic The Hedgehog following the first trailer. That mockery led filmmakers to completely change his appearance prior to release, another expensive move.

But I want to celebrate what I consider to be an altogether more healthy attitude to cinema.

The other group, which have been popping up in some of the podcasts I’ve listened to, would be represented by fans of the Horror genre.

Whether talking about a slasher movie or a portmanteau film, a genre classic or some disposable cash-in on a popular franchise, it really feels like horror fans have a “let’s give it a go” attitude, and rarely write off a project without seeing it.

Even then, whether they like or dislike a film, there usually seems to be an attempt to find positive aspects of it, rather than a simple love/hate relationship.

Perhaps it’s because Horror movies are designed to toy with our nerves, titillate our fight/flight responses and appeal to our primal instincts more than any other genre. That’s why Horror movies play differently with audiences than they do alone at home – think about the time you had a shared experience in a movie theatre, enjoyed the tension and release of a Horror movie before heading out into the light and laughing about the jump scares that caught you off-guard.

Now compare that to the very different experience of switching off the TV and realising your security light has just flicked on outside and you can’t remember if you locked the door.

We’ve all had that ‘oh, shit’ moment at 3am after watching a scary film when something in the house creaks, and suddenly you can’t sleep anymore… right?

That’s a universality that has no equal in any other genre – you don’t see fans taking to the internet to demand longer cuts of romantic comedies, even though I’m certain there are viewers out there who will happily watch whatever light-hearted romcom comes their way and are happy to enthuse over them with fellow fans.

I could be wrong of course, and there’s a very real possibility that a significant factor in the difference is down to which side of the Atlantic the fans are from.

I’d be keen to hear anyone’s thoughts on any other genres which encourage fans to be quite so welcoming.

For me, I’m happy to rewatch The Thing for the umpteenth time and join in with or listen to a chat about it, and although I’m far from the most die-hard fan of Horror films, I’d much rather have a discussion than an argument.

3 thoughts on “Does Horror cinema encourage the opposite of toxic fandom?

Add yours

  1. 100% agree with your thoughts here. I have a love/hate relationship with horror (I love watching them but hate being scared) and there’s a wonderful passion when I talk to other horror fans about our thoughts, feelings and reactions. I think because it is more of a physical reaction than you get from other genres perhaps (you can cry, laugh, and need a new pair of pants all from a horror film), which is why I’m always happy to give remakes, rehashes, sequels etc. in the genre a go…you can take it with a pinch of salt or be scared into sleepless nights.

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    1. Ah, thanks Vik – I’ve discovered since publishing this there are certain Horror fans who consider themselves ‘gatekeepers’, defining who can like what, and that’s a real shame, but I think there seems to be a general appreciation of the overall genre that’s common amongst horror fans. As I said though, could be wrong, but it’s interesting to hear more.

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