Horror from the Ooze: An 80s Horror Fan Re-evaluates Her Life Decisions

I’ve been lied to. Maybe by myself, maybe by the media, maybe even by fellow horror fans. But firmly cemented in my mind, until my recent viewing of Dracula II: Ascension (2003, directed by Patrick Lussier), was the idea that movies made from the early 2000s were all pretty much worthless.

I remember seeing a very much hyped Darkness Falls when it was released, and afterward thinking it was a harbinger for the end of the horror genre. Quickly buttressing this was the vapid Wrong Turn, Underworld (thus begetting my intense hatred for CGI), Scary Movie 3, and the blasphemous Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. As the movies were released, they validated my growing disdain for where the horror genre was headed. For the first 8 or 9 years of 2000, although I would begrudgingly watch most of these major sequels, remakes, franchises and CGI nightmares in order to keep my horror club card up-to-date, I knew I should never expect anything more than to be greasing the wheel of these great machines that aim to make as much money as possible from the masochistic horror fandom. Psychologists call this ‘learned helplessness.’ My reprieve came from watching my beloved ’70s-’80s-early ’90s films, foreign and independent films.

The seed of my hate for most horror from the ’00s (and how do you even say ’00s out loud? Can I pronounced that as “Ooze”?) was planted when the world was ushered into the DVD world, marking the end of the VHS era. I still remember going into a video rental section of my local grocery store in the early 90s and spending hours picking out a horror movie for the night, drooling over the dusty covers of Tales from the Crypt, The Girl in Room 2A, etc.  Ten years later, the exciting hunt through rows of horror VHS tapes went way, and was replaced with homogeneity; walls of every rental store lined with the exact same straight-to-DVD releases and knock-offs with similar names of every recent popular film. I negotiated with the manager of Hollywood Video to sell me the horror VHS section before they destroyed all their stock and went straight to DVD. By the end of the first decade, the internet killed the video store in my town altogether. What was once a warm ceremony of finding an ’80s diamond in the rough became a cold, transactional click of a mouse on a Netflix queue. A service which, admittedly, I’ve used since 2008 (you can only rage against the machine for so long before you realize you currently live in a small town with no options to rent movies, and by the time I moved to a bigger city, I had already drunk the kool-aid).

For me, all this got mixed in a swirling cesspit of ‘us vs them’ mentality. VHS vs DVD. Later, DVD vs Internet. ’80s-’95 classics vs modern crap. Original vs Remake. Old school horror fans vs those people who claim to ‘love scary movies’ and then name Halloween remake as their favorite. Sadako vs fucking Samara. And so on. TL;DR – I’ve hated 80% of all horror from the early 2000s because that time period killed my childhood via the eradication of VHS first and then the rental store, because that was the beginning of popular use of CGI over old school special FX, and because the movies being made were for the obvious purpose of making money (ie sequels, franchises and unimaginative remakes).

Now I must re-think everything. After watching Dracula II: Ascension, a sequel to the mildly popular Dracula 2000, I was shocked at how much I screamed ‘yeah!’ at the screen. It was thoroughly enjoyable. And as I was enjoying it, I was equally dismayed at how much I had disregarded it as just another money-grabbing film fart. Even the group shot on the DVD cover was formulaic for that time, signifying a turd. Now, I understand that even though Dracula II turned out to be an enjoyable film, that does not suddenly mean that all 2000 films are enjoyable. I get it. But you must understand – my level of enjoyment for this film blew my mind. It’s like an evangelical nut publicly raging against homosexuality for a decade and suddenly finding himself turned on by his beefcake neighbor – the implications are jarring. It made me realize how many other films I have casually dismissed without a second glance.

Is my shift in perception for 2000s films just part of a natural cycle? I can watch any ’80s and early ’90s film, low-rated or panned, and find something enjoyable about it. The nostalgia factor weighs heavily here – the synth pop, the big bangs, the neon colors, the make-up and special fx, the yearning of a simpler time. If the film is rated low, there is a good chance that the film is dripping with camp and kitsch. As an avid VHS collector, I can watch and re-watch a grainy copy of Nightmare Weekend (1986 – the best year of horror) with fervent vigor. I also dismiss an IMDb rating of 2 for that film because most people just don’t get it.

However, with films from the early 2000s, if I saw a film rated low, I would mentally shelve it into the typical twenty-oughts trash category. For the longest time, I’ve trusted the ratings, I’ve trusted the first lines of critic’s reviews dumping on the films, and I’ve trusted my longstanding hatred of cheaply made moneygrabs and sequels and remakes and CGI. I came to rely on other people to tell me if it was worth my time. These people get it.

But… do they?

There are tons of people that discuss/swap/collect 80s horror films and call themselves horror aficionados because of this (myself included), but there isn’t really a support group for those people that are into ’00s films – that I know of – and so the only thing I can safely go by determining the popularity of these films is by their online ratings.

Dracula II popped up on my instant watch Netflix with a rating of a 1 star. I realize I may be assigning too much importance to Dracula II: Ascension if it’s making me re-define my horror snobbery as horror myopia, but the best horror movies are the ones that make you fall down on your ass and turn you back into a fan rather than a reviewer looking for abnegation. And Dracula II is just the figurehead of something I’m trying to work out myself: my growing affection for “terrible” ’00 films. Here are a few more examples: [all ratings from IMDb at the time of this writing]: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is rated a 4, American Psycho II: All American Girl is a 3.9, Feardotcom (which I actually LOVE) is a 3.3, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary 4.3, The Mangler Reborn 3.1, It Waits 3.7, Cemetery Gates 3.5, Mad Cowgirl 4.9, The Gravedancers 5.6, Sublime 5.3, Wind Chill 5.9, Storm Warning 5.9, Long Weekend (remake) 5.2, Hatchet 5.7, Dread 5.7. Mutants 5.6

I wonder if my watching these films is now tinged with a freshly brewed nostalgia that has been fermenting inside me without my even knowing it – that may even culminate in the next twenty years into a rabid love of the time period like that which I have for the ’80s-’95. By the year 2035, is it possible…. will all films from the early 2000s be considered cult classics? Will it foster coveted DVD swaps, midnight digital showings at the cool theater in town? Will old folks who were in their late teens/early twenties at the time make the ‘new generation’ jealous, regaling them with tales of how they saw Cherry Falls in the theater way back when? This dystopian epoch is surely on our doorstep.

An ’80s Horror Geek’s Quick Guide to Y2K film appreciation: Don’t put any weight into the critic’s reviews written at the time of release they should be seen as a curious snapshot of the millennial zeitgeist to hate everything. Also, don’t measure your enjoyment of ’00 films based on what you know and love about ’80s films. They are two different animals. Example: while 80s films are more care-free and filled with unsuspecting victims, ’00 films seem to be filled with anxious and cynical characters who are expecting the worst.

Now onto the review of the movie that can never measure up to the hype I’ve just created for it

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