The Problem with Horror

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Clients come to me and Starlight Runner all the time with problems regarding their horror franchise. It used to connect with audiences, so why isn’t it doing so now? Why is the main character so popular but the series dragging? Why can’t we seem to re-invigorate the story world? It’s a constant refrain, one that provides no easy answer. At the base of things, transmedia has a problem depicting horror.

This isn’t for lack of effort or appreciation. Hell, I love horror. I just want to make that absolutely clear from the beginning. The Thing is one of my favorite films ever, as are 28 Days Later, The Exorcist, Evil Dead, and too many others to mention. Cthulhu-style insanity-terror creeps under my skin and refuses to let go. I’m even working on a horror project myself, so feel free to hold my feet to the fire when it comes out. Understand that my discussion below is not meant to be a criticism of the form. There’s nothing wrong with horror as a genre.

Unless you happen to be a premarital-sex-loving, pot-smoking teenager who works at a summer camp. 

Unless you happen to be a premarital-sex-loving, pot-smoking teenager who works at a summer camp.

What I’m going to talk about here is why horror doesn’t always translate in a transmedia sense, both from a franchise perspective and as a stand-alone story across multiple media platforms. Characters from horror? They thrive in popular culture long after their initial depiction. Creators of horror? They can be rock gods. But long-form series? Those are much rarer in the grand scheme of things, and those that exist tend to tone down their straight-up scares fairly quickly or go straight for camp.

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A Very Steele Look at Aliens and Isolation

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When last we met (many, many moons ago), our talk about passive and active media led to quite a lot of attention. I got record-high viewership totals. My blog got bandied about on the interwebz like a rain-slicked football at a Pop Warner football game. For a split second, I even began to trend. It was heady to receive this attention, and it brought in a lot of work, hence my absence on ye ol’ blogosphere.

But enough about me. Well, no… keep it up with the laudations…

But enough about me. Well, no… keep it up with the laudations…

I did receive a few questions about it all, naturally. People were genuinely interested in talking about some of the more detailed aspects of my missive, which generally fell into the following categories.

  • Can you talk about the franchises you worked on in the past? Alas no.
  • Will you give me writing lessons? If you’re willing to pay.
  • Are you trying to imitate Abe Lincoln? You tell me.

AbeLincoln

So I decided to give you guys a peek into what I mean about the usage of storytelling between platforms. Let’s look at this from a franchise perspective so that the themes are congruent, the characters are similar, and it’s reasonably well known enough for a broad audience to understand.

I’ll save my Farscape fanfiction for another day.

I’ll save my Farscape fanfiction for another day.

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Be Users, Not Consumers

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People always complain about the youngest generation, but I actually love the Pluralists. These are the kids who were born near or after 2001, the peeps who have never known a world without the internet, who have grown up post-9/11, who have the information of our entire history at their fingertips.

When they’re not posting image macros, that is.

When they’re not posting image macros, that is.

I mean, let’s just look at the Pluralists as a whole. They:

  • Are the most published generation in history
  • Follow the breadcrumbs laid out to them by companies and their peers
  • Reward authenticity and quality above all
  • Have grown up in a multimedia atmosphere
  • Understand how to utilize interactivity, intuitively
  • Celebrate an infinite amount of diversity

That’s a pretty accomplished list for me! There’s just one small issue…

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The Muppets Most Branded

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I’m struggling with this one, and not because of my feelings on this one particular film in general. I honestly don’t care what the reviews say. I don’t care who knows it. The Muppets Most Wanted was a fantastic movie and my movie of the year so far.

I mean, I’m not the most impartial of judges. I own three versions of Muppets from Space (DVD, VHS, and download). I hit up Muppets 3D, regardless of lines, as my first (and last) ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I’ve gotten into arguments about whether Charles Dickens would have approved of a muppet-led version of his Christmas story (in short, I don’t care what Mr. Dickens thinks). Some people are into Star Trek. Others worship at the blood-drenched altar of Joss Whedon. Give me Gonzo and a camera crew and I’ll conquer the world.

Bow, mortals.

Bow, mortals.

But is this because I have been so brainwashed by Kermit, Ms. Piggy, Fozzie, et al that I’m willing to allow myself to be sucked in? And does it even matter if I’m having a good time?

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Brooklyn and Basketball and Branding

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ESPN has an interesting article about the branding of the Brooklyn Nets. Or rather, the BROOKLYN Nets. In this, their second year across the Hudson and East Rivers, New York City’s other NBA team continues to focus on its locale rather than its nickname as the source of its branding. Why? Well, it shouldn’t come as any surprise, but people like identifying with Brooklyn.

People used to live in Brooklyn because it was affordable. Now they pay for the privilege.

People used to live in Brooklyn because it was affordable. Now they pay for the privilege.

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