Cannes, France: Cannes is not all glitz and glamour. For many film buyers and sellers, the blood and guts of the festival is—blood and guts.
In Cannes’ frenetic film market, industry players wheel and deal over movies with titles like Motor Home Massacre and Cadaverella, feeding an insatiable global appetite for shocks and schlock.
It’s not just the niche distributors—almost everyone seems to have a horror movie or two on offer, with titles ranging from Loch Ness Terror (She’s Back ... and She’s Hungry) to“Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.
“There’s been a revolution in horror,” Richard Walker of Los Angeles-based horror and sci-fi producer Night Light Films said 18 May 2007.
This once-disreputable genre has gone mainstream, even highbrow. Quentin Tarantino’s stalker-on-wheels saga Death Proof— an homage to 1970s B-movie kitsch— is in the running for Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d’Or, competing against arthouse films and socially conscious dramas.
Independent studio Lionsgate Films has had huge box-office success in the past few years with low-budget horror films such as Saw—which spawned two sequels—and Hostel. Lionsgate’s Cannes catalog continues the trend with titles including Midnight Meat Train,The Burrowers and the inevitable Saw-!V
Other studios have followed suit—hardly surprising given the potential rewards. The relentlessly graphic Hostel cost less than US$5 million to make but took more than US$80 million at the global box office.
“Years ago, you couldn’t sell horror movies. Nobody was interested,” said Scott J. Jones, president of Los Angeles-based sales agent Artist View Entertainment. “Now it’s a very strong genre.”
Horror’s new popularity is no surprise to Darrin Ramage, president of producer-distributor Brain Damage Films. His Cannes market stall is festooned with posters for“Swamp Zombies,Death Factory and other blood-drenched features.
“All genres are cyclical,” Ramage said. “Four years ago, action was huge—you’d walk through the aisles of the (festival palace) and all you saw was posters for action movies. I’ve been in the business so long I’ve seen the up and down of horror three times.”
There are questions about whether tragic real-life events might lessen the public’s appetite for gore. Debate about the effects of violent movies was reopened by pictures of student gunman Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 33 people at Virginia Tech university last month, adopting poses reminiscent of the violent—and Cannes prize-winning—South Korean film Oldboy.
Lionsgate attracted some criticism with a series of graphic ads for Hostel: Part II,”whose plot metes out gruesome fates to college students, but still plans to release the film next month.
If anything, there are signs the horror market may be saturated. Some distributors say they are finding it hard going at Cannes this year.