The Slasher Genre in 1989: When the Bubble Bursts.
As my bank account can attest, economics is not my forte; the stock market even less so.
My (decidedly less profitable) forte is horror movies, particularly the slasher genre.
As I publish this story, the news is filled with phrases like “shorting,” “stock-market,” and “bubble.” The “Redditers vs. Hedge-Funds” fight is filling column inches, newsfeeds, and cable hours.
As I learn about this fight, my mind wanders to a different fight which took place in years 1988 and 1989: Freddy vs. Jason vs. Michael Myers.
Perhaps the right word isn’t “fight.” Perhaps the right word is “bubble.” And perhaps, as many are predicting the current Reddit induced Gamestop Bubble is destined to burst, so to in 1989 were these “franchise-players” destined to burst.
In economics, a “bubble” is “a situation in which asset prices appear to be based on implausible or inconsistent views about the future.” While often referenced in economic terms, any situation based on implausible ideas or which is unsustainable in nature is a situation existing within a “bubble.” (Wikipedia).
In 1988 and 1989, the A Nightmare on Elm Street (“NOES”), Halloween, and Friday the 13th (“F13”) franchise release schedules’ were:
- Nightmare on Elm Street Part IV: The Dream Master
- Halloween Part IV: The Return of Michael Myers
- Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood
- Nightmare on Elm Street Part V: The Dream Child
- Halloween Part V: The Revenge of Michael Myers
- Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason takes Manhattan
If any release schedule appears implausible or unsustainable, six franchise movies in two years would be it.
I suppose implausible is not the appropriate word, since it is a release schedule plausible enough to have actually happened; but unsustainable?
Each of these movies have attached to them multiple supporting media, such as commentaries, special features, documentaries, written articles, and “special editions” containing all of the above.
All of this supporting media repeats a similar theme: the challenges of producing sequels within such a short period of time.
On many of the commentary tracks and special editions which I reviewed, writers, directors, and actors discuss the pressures of writing, directing, and acting in a film scheduled for release within a few months (if not weeks) of the start of production.
These challenges include scripts being changed daily, adding scenes the day-off, and beginning production without knowing how the film would end.
The physical toll on cast & crew of a rushed shooting schedule is discussed, with one actor stating that the reason these films so often hire younger actors is because they can better handle the stresses of the production.
On the “Nightmare Series Encyclopedia” New Line founder Robert Shaye noted that the reason he hired NOES 4 director Renny Harlin because of his youth and large size, meaning he could handle the physical and emotional toll of the production schedule.
Meanwhile, on the consumer end, the quick succession of releases also fatigued audiences.
This fatigue is most evident in the NOES franchise. From it’s inception in 1984, each NOES film from the first to the fourth (released 1988) made significantly more money domestically than the last-until 1989’s Dream Child, the lowest grossing NOES film.
While NOES is the most obvious example of audience fatigue, each of the 1989 releases fared poorly in both the box-office and with critics; none grossed anywhere near the same as the most popular of the franchises and none have achieved a score of over 50% on the “tomatometer.”
The bubble had burst, and the studios took notice. After 1989/1989’s rushed production and release schedule, studios waited two years (NOES), four years (F13), and six years (Halloween) before releasing the next film in their respective franchises.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see the bubble forming and subsequently bursting; however, how this bubble affected the on-screen product is a more nuanced question.
This is where I have to admit my bias: I love these films (all of them). You can probably guess my bias based on the picture I chose for this story (which is also my facebook profile pic).
NOES 4 and 5 represent not only my favourite’s within the NOES franchise but also two of my faviourite all-time films. I love the characters, the stories, the writing, and the production (rushed and all). Each of these films (all six of them) have entertained me, scared me, and even comforted me with the familiarity reserved for old friends.
Perhaps my love of these films is despite the problems discussed above, but I suspect the opposite is actually true. To me, the problems (if that is the right word) of an unsustainable production and release schedule translates onto the screen as inventiveness, comradery, and even fun.
While on screen the characters are battling their respective monster’s, behind-the-scenes cast & crew are battling production chaos, script re-writes, and time constraints. The latter bleeds into the former, and produces performances and characters that feel if authentic and fun-they represent worlds in which I would want to live (if only to try the fries at the “Crave-Inn”).
I am sure my bank account would be much healthier if discussions about shorting-stocks and market bubbles sent me to a broker and not my DVD collection, but that is a discussion for another day.
On this day, I am happy that I am able to turn off the news and watch some excellent films-even if they were released in a bubble.