Fact or Fiction #9: The Economy of Horror

They say the horror genre flourishes during economic downturns. I'm not an expert in this area, but I would tend to agree. I will say that the genre's darker elements are much more pronounced during these times. For example:

The poor economy experienced during the 1970's resulted in some of the darkest and blackest horror films ever produced (i.e. Last House on the Left, The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). As the 80's and 90's progressed, America experienced a soaring economy and horror films which, for better or worse, were generally not as dark or boundary pushing.

If this principle holds true, we are in store for some mighty dark horror flicks. Ten trillion in debt, a stock market in a state of collapse, and 500 hundred billion owed to China.... let's see what horror goodness the awful economy brings!

Of course, some argue the exact opposite is true. When studios are prospering, they are more likely to take risks... thus begetting horror films that push the envelope. When studios are hurting financially, they are more likely to stick with the tried and true - the sequels and the remakes.

Whatever the case, the heyday of the horror pulp magazine was during the Great Depression (1929 - early 1940's). Looking at some of these magazines, it's hard not to be shocked at how dark and boundary pushing they were... truly the economically depressed forefathers of gritty 1970's horror. As many of these have become public domain, they are now being reprinted and rediscovered.


  1. I've seen some of these older comics. I've often been surprised by how much they did. I guess I would expect it all to be tame compared to our time. I have wondered if we are in for some real gems when it comes to horror. We've had a lot of crappy junk for the longest time. I love the films of the 1970's. They definitely pushed the envelope, shocking and disgusting you.

  2. I've not heard the theory, but it kind of goes hand in hand with the theory that the one industry to prosper in a recession is the cinema industry as people seek escapism.

    If that is the case then it belies the opposite being true "When studios are hurting financially, they are more likely to stick with the tried and true" - as they may be an area that actually doesn't hurt as badly?

    Time will tell but let us stay positive and look ahead to some fine horror - there seems precious little else to look forward to.

  3. Keith- We tend to think that movies and other media from the past as more innocent, less offensive - as if everything was Norman Rockwell and Beaver Cleaver once upon a time. Turns out, media from the Great Depression could be just (if not more) offensive and dark as today.

    Taliesin- Very good point. I'd love to see some real data/stats on the issue - surely there's a dissertation out there somewhere on the subject.

  4. I had my mom one day say something about the movies of today being so bad as in violence, nudity, etc. I looked at her shocked. I said that she should be checking out the movies of the 1970's for example. She would be shocked. Things seem a lot tamer in movies today.