SUPERNATURAL HORROR IN THE 21ST CENTURY – OBSERVING GENERIC TRANSFORMATIONS AND THE EMERGENCE OF “MELO-HORROR”
Horror is one of cinema’s oldest and most enduring genres; whereas others have fluctuated in popularity and prominence, horror has continued to remain prolific and relevant in an increasingly competitive market. This is no doubt due in part to its ability to transform and diverge into a multitude of distinct forms, with many sub-genres and cycles of films associated with the term ‘horror’. Indeed, what one considers horrific is incredibly subjective and given horror’s lengthy cinematic career has resulted in a collection of films which are as distinct from one another as horror can be considered from other genres. However, surges in the popularity of are thought to share links with responses to specific cultural anxieties, reflected in the rise and decline of particular sub-genres and themes (Cherry, B., 2009). As such, horror films tend to be temporal products, reflective of the time and place of their production and can be considered “barometers of the cultural moment” (Cherry, 2009., p.11). In the 21st century, the supernatural horror film is one of the most prevalent and popular sub-genres associated with the horror genre. Films such as The Blair Witch Project (Sanchez, E., 1999), The Grudge (Shimizu, T., 2004) and The Ring (Verbinski, G., 2002) were both critical and financial successes and managed to reinvigorate a genre which had fallen largely into stagnation and self-parody. This initial surge has been continued over the last decade by franchises like Insidious (2010-18) and Paranormal Activity (2007-15), to name but a few in an overwhelming mass of supernatural horror. By analysing a selection of contemporary supernatural horror films, it is my aim to observe the generic transformations at play in the modern horror landscape, determine their shared characteristics, and present a case that they might be considered indicative of a new sub-genre of horror, which I shall refer to as “melo-horror”.