Stephen King Explains What Ruins Most Horrors: 'Tiresome and Cumbersome'

Stephen King Explains What Ruins Most Horrors: 'Tiresome and Cumbersome'
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The King of Horror gets real on why Hollywood can’t make truly great scary movies.

While a world-famous book author, Stephen King is no stranger to movies: after all, his works have been adapted for the screen more than any other living writer’s. The King of Horror knows his way around both mediums, and most importantly, he knows exactly what makes a great horror story — and consequently, what ruins it.

That’s why when asked about the sad state of Hollywood’s horror-making, King didn’t hesitate for a second before giving the fullest and snarkiest answer to that problem.

Hollywood Doesn’t Understand Horror

In 2019, Stephen King wrote a column for EW addressing this exact issue: Hollywood’s inability to work wonders with his favorite genre. One of the reasons most studios and directors can’t create truly gripping and compelling horror movies, according to the celebrated author, is their obsession with going big and fancy.

“Horror is an intimate experience… Horror is not spectacle, and never will be. Horror is an unknown actress, perhaps the girl next door, cowering in a cabin with a knife in her hands we know she’ll never be able to use. Horror is the scene in The Strangers where Liv Tyler tries to hide beneath the bed…and discovers she can’t fit there,” King explained.

Major studios can’t help but ruin even the best ideas with tons of CGI and generic action, and that ruins their horrors. Most great horror movies were made on a budget of $10 and a few bottles of beer, be it Blair Witch, Chain Saw Massacre, or else.

Horror Doesn’t Need Any Explanations

Another problem King pointed out was that studios always feel like their “big ideas” require big in-depth explanations — which is something not applicable to the genre of horror in the slightest. According to the author, explanations reduce terror to dust.

“Big movies demand big explanations, which are usually tiresome, and big backstories, which are usually cumbersome. <...> They feel a need to shove WHAT IT ALL MEANS down the audience’s throat. <...> But nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear,” the King of Horror added.

It feels like Hollywood often tries to apply the superhero movie rules to the horror genre, but that’s not how it works. A good horror isn’t huge and all-encompassing; it doesn’t need to be thoroughly explained, either. All it needs is raw emotion and tension — no CGI, no $200M budget, and definitely no villain origin story.

Source: Stephen King via EW