I have grown up as a horror fan, reveling in the fear of childhood monsters and allowing the likes of Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and Dario Argento to play in to my fears on a psychological and physical level. I allowed the creations of Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, Stan Winston and Roy Ward Baker to haunt my nightmares. These artists helped shaped who I was, allowing myself to become intrigued by the dark side of humanity and ask the "whys" and "hows" of how the human psyche worked.
I owe a lot to the horror veterans, which is why it hurts so much to see where horror is now. It is something that has not stood the test of time, allowing itself to fall into trends of faux-dramas like "Hereditary" and "Us" or gore for the sake of gore like "Terrifier." So, when you cannot turn to your fears, where do you turn? Hand-in-hand with horror came my love for comedy, from love letters to high school like, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to 1990s staples like, "Billy Madison" and beyond, comedy has always seemed to hold its ground because it has been able to adapt to the trends far better than horror.
Where we used to have villains we remembered like Jason, Freddy, Leatherface, Pinhead et cetera, horror's iconicity has dwindled. Do not get me wrong, horror is more successful than comedy when it comes to making a return on its budget. Looking at Box Office Mojo, it is a rarity that horror movies do not make back their budget, and more, within the first weekend of release. According to the site, "Pet Sematary" surpassed its $21 million budget by three thousand on its opening weekend. The issue with horror, though, is it often does not have life past the first or second viewing. Most movies fall flat or are easily forgettable. The villains do not haunt us anymore. With the exception of "IT," I cannot think of a modern horror villain that has stuck with me, and I cannot think of a single horror movie I have brought home with me, one that has caused me to double check my doors and windows and stare at the shadows on the wall.
Comedy can often pull in the big bucks, as well. If we look at 2018's "Blockers," Box Office Mojo shows it almost made its budget back opening weekend and went on to nearly triple during its theatrical run. The genre does well for itself, but unless you staple a big name to it, blowing past the budget is not a common occurrence. While comedic flicks may struggle to make the big bucks every now and again, they, more often than not, tend to stick around in memories longer than horror flicks do, pulling for second viewings with parties, text threads and social media clips over the one-and-done stylings of horror. Movies, like the ones mentioned above, stick around because they are quotable, and once you have seen them, the scenes stay with you. My favorite comedy of 2018 was "Blockers," a film I expected to despise but came out with my sides split and a smile on my face. My friends and I still quote the film back and forth, but I saw "Pet Sematary" two weeks ago and could not drop a single line from the movie or reference a scene that was original or thoroughly enjoyable.
Film is magical. With an average of 588 people to a film crew, according to film researcher Stephen Follows, it is basically just one big magic show. Where horror used to succeed in mixing up these magic tricks, they fail to deliver contemporarily, often showing the same trick over and over. Sadly, they already got your money. Go see the sequel in six months. Comedy is much the same way, generally utilizing the rule of threes to control the audience, but it feels, while horror has the same number of tricks, comedies generally tend to know how to spread them out, making scenes and dialogue stick with you. I will admit some comedies take it too far, as we probably did not need two "Hangover" sequels which retold the story of the first. However, more often than not, the films deliver. There is a reason the mid-2000's Judd Apatow renaissance stands so strongly today. It may be because the films are genuinely funny. They relate to you in some way, or you can at least say you know somebody like the main character. There is relation there. Horror tries this and generally comes out with cardboard, two-dimensional characters that you may be able to relate to, but you do not care about.
In the argument of comedy and horror, it is hard for me to choose a winner. If we are looking at the overall timeline, horror has inspired me more, but the genre has not been able to adequately survive by being itself. It needs to transform and drain from other genres to survive, and while this is not necessarily a bad thing, it fails to do it well. Comedy thrives, and while I do not watch as many, the ones I do watch are memorable and allow for laughs in the future. It spreads from the screen to the people around me, and that is what really matters when it comes to art. It gives you something you can relate to, remember and enjoy with others. That is the reason standup comedy thrives so well, going out and watching someone on stage entertain you or even sitting in your room watching your favorite comedian kill it for the eighteenth time. It is lasting. It is pure. It is daring. It is the magic trick that lands.