For instance, earlier this year, a Spanish film entitled El Orfanato (The Orphanage) was released. They called it horror. The movie is not so much horror as much as it is a supernatural thriller or mystery. Words got thrown in like “terrifying” that could turn people away from such an amazing film if they’re not fans of horror. The label gets thrown around so much that it can, in fact, ruin a movie’s turn out.
The biggest disaster to be caused by the act of mislabeling was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village back in 2004. It was labeled (and advertised) as this super scary horror movie, so when people went to see it thinking they were going to be scared, the only thing we were left with were countless reviews being thrown around saying it was horrible and completely unscary. It’s all in how you go in to a movie. If it had been marketed as a thriller/drama/romance (which is what it was), it might have gotten slightly better reviews, because people's expectations wouldn’t have been elsewhere, meaning they wouldn’t have been nearly as hateful. Likewise, M. Night’s Lady in the Water was treated the same way, when it was more of a children’s fantasy/fairy tale. I remembered having to continually convince my mother that the movie was not meant to be a horror movie every time a trailer came on TV, and she never believed me.
A more recent example of this was Bug in 2006. With the director of The Exorcist at the helm, it was immediately given descriptions such as “one of the most terrifying and truly scary movies I have ever seen.” And (gasp) it wasn’t. And it was never meant to be. It’s a psychological thriller and drama. There was a moment when I was waiting in line somewhere, and some lady started going off about Bug, and how it wasn’t scary at all and that she had demanded her money back. That’s faulty advertising for you. It's even on the poster (click to enlarge it).
Similarly, movies like the first Saw are labeled as horror or torture porn, and they’re usually neither. Bet let me digress for a moment and explain for those who are unaware of what I’m talking about.
The term torture porn came onto the scene because of Eli Roth’s Hostel, in which the first half of the movie is like Cinemax porno, and the second half is, well, people torturing other people to death (I also briefly go into the term in my discussion of the Japanese movie Audition, which has wrongfully been lumped in this subgenre, as well). Since then, people have been twisting the meaning of the term to fit a whole bunch of other films into this random and new subgenre of horror. The most recent to get slapped with the title has been Untraceable, which really only has the torture side down. What people are saying about the subgenre label is that it implies people get off to the gore and torture like they would to porn.
So back to Saw; not only is there no sex or nudity (we’re talking about the first installment only here), but the gory stuff is actually rather minimal. In fact, I wouldn’t even label it as horror as much as a crime and/or psychological thriller. Yet people continually thrust it in with (the God-awful) Hostel and the like. Why is that?
If Silence of the Lambs were to be made today, it would probably be considered torture porn because of Buffalo Bill, when it is, in fact, a crime thriller. In fact, any movie these days that has some kind of psychotic killer that likes to toy with his victims in any fashion will be considered torture porn, and I don’t think that’s right.
Honestly, the only movies I consider acceptable to fall under that label are Hostel and Hostel: Part II (and maybe Uwe Boll’s House of the Dead, because there’s a lot of sex, nudity, and blood, and it’s torturous to watch). And they’re all really, really horrible movies (and I don’t mean because of the subject matter… I just mean they’re boring, horribly made films). So when you link good movies like the first Saw or any other kind of remotely decent movie to that subgenre, it’s irking.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Advertise the movie how it is, and it might just get a better response. Hopefully M. Night’s coming film, The Happening, really is as awesome as it appears. Also, Eli Roth and Uwe Boll need to stop making movies, because they both really suck at it.
That is all.