Theme Festival – Sci-Fi and Horror | Demonstrations

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With horror and science fiction programming becoming more popular than ever, executives like Chris McCumber of Blumhouse Television talk to Ruth Lawes about what’s driving the trend and where the genres are headed.

Horror and science fiction films refuse to die unlike their characters. Perhaps more than any other genre of film, horror films tend to be restarted endlessly or to produce innumerable sequels. This year the Halloween franchise welcomed its 12th installment, Halloween Kills, with original actor Jamie Lee Curtis, while next year the fourth sequel to Scream from 1996 with original actors Courtney Cox and David Arquette will be released.

Horror content is a mainstay of cinema, but a comparatively new genre for the television audience. Executives like Craig Junner, VP of Programming at Blue Ant Media, and Craig Engler, General Manager of Shudder, point to 2010, and specifically to the launch of US Cablenet’s AMC Networks’ post-apocalyptic series The Walking Dead, as a turning point for genres on the small screen. Based on a comic book series, the zombie drama will have survived 12 years if it gives up the ghost in late 2022.

In the years since The Walking Dead premiered, global streamers have also picked up on the growing popularity of horror and science fiction programs so as not to miss a trend. Netflix is ​​behind Mike Flanagan’s gothic horror anthology series The Haunting, which so far includes The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, while Amazon has given the green light to a series adaptation of the 1997 film I Know What You Did Last Summer, to name a few, little.

The spirit of Hill House

Dan March, founder and managing partner of LA-based producer and distributor Dynamic Television, points to the shift in the landscape from linear to digital as one of the main drivers of horror and science fiction programming.

The genres have been “traditionally underserved” and viewed as too niche on linear channels, especially when those networks are mandated to commission content that will reach the broadest possible audience, explains March.

When streamers first started adopting, however, they needed both a competitive edge over traditional players and other content to offer from them, which March said set the stage for the resurgence of horror and science fiction programs. “It is logical and organic that Netflix goes to Germany and produces a horror show like Dark that none of the traditional channels would have ordered,” he adds.

the Walking Dead
the Walking Dead

In addition, horror and science fiction audiences tend to be “tech savvy” and “early adopters” of digital platforms, says March.

For this reason, Blue Ant restarted its Travel & Escape network as the FAST paranormal channel HauntTV in August. “It serves underserved genres that have largely been abandoned in the broadcast or are simply too scattered in the program for viewers to find them,” says Junner.

The Canadian company took the horror route because the paranormal series Ghost Adventures attracted viewers on Travel & Escape, “head and shoulders above” other programs on the channel, Junner says. In just a few months since the relaunch, HauntTV has almost hit the 33 million mark for streams, he adds.

The spirit of Bly Manor
The spirit of Bly Manor

Chris McCumber, president of Blumhouse Television, a division of Jason Blum-run studio Blumhouse, behind films like Paranormal Activity and Jordan Peeles Get Out, goes a step further and says horror and science fiction programs endorse the streamers. “Not only do they want to acquire new subscribers – and this often happens with genre-based content because much of it is a very big event in many ways – they also want to engage and retain those subscribers. ” he explains.

Blumhouse produced a series of eight films under the Welcome to Blumhouse banner for Amazon. It includes The Lie, a remake of the German film We Monsters; supernatural film Evil Eye, directed by Elan and Rajeev Dassani; and Mexican-American horror madres. “We got some reactions from Amazon and they said that not only are we bringing new viewers to the platform, but we’re also reaching out to people who are resting on the platform simply because they are interested in the genre,” says McCumber.

But why is horror programming booming amid an era that has become cruel enough with the coronavirus pandemic? McCumber says the genre offers “true escapism,” adding, “Genre programming like horror can be exciting and empowering because it features shows of defeating the monster or defeating the enemy. It is a very basic human desire to persevere and to want to overcome something threatening. “

The lie
The lie

Over at Shudder, AMC’s horror-focused streamer, the single most important request from viewers since the global lockdown began last year has been around the world, according to Engler. One of the SVoD service’s biggest hits was Host, a movie that was shot completely in lockdown, focused on a zoom call between friends that went wrong. “Scientific research tells us that horror is a real catharsis for people and lets them experience something dangerous, terrible and frightening, but then returns to their lives,” says Engler.

Tom Owen, MD of Cinedigm’s own horror network Bloody Disgusting, argues that horror and science fiction programming create dramatic tension in ways that other genres cannot. “Horror is good at building cliffhangers and scenarios like that that will happen next because it is literally a matter of life or death,” he says.

One potential catch with horror and science fiction shows is that, given the inevitable deaths of main characters, it is not suitable for return – and therefore profit – for producers and buyers. However, Blumhouse’s McCumber says the problem can be circumvented with strong characters and overarching narrative themes. “With genre programming, you can get so involved in shaping the world that you forget the characters,” he says. “But mostly we see stories that have an umbrella concept for several seasons and characters, with which the audience develops an emotional connection.”

Schlitzer: Flesh & Blood
Schlitzer: Flesh & Blood

Because of this, the genre has spawned anthology series like American Horror Story, created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk for US Cablenet FX. “Long-term horror shows are hard to take because you kill a lot of characters. And if you’ve had something scary for over 20 years, the fear factor subsides, ”says Engler from Shudder. “You see many anthologies in its place. In that area, for example, we have a show called Channel Zero and we recently recorded a show called Slasher: Flesh & Blood. “

As for the best source for horror IP, classic films, much like their cinematic counterpoints, are in demand. “Above all, viewers want to see new versions of films from the 1980s and 90s,” says Engler of Shudder. This is because it was the era of VHS and DVDs, which meant audiences repeatedly watched movies and loved their characters, he adds. “They paid more attention to monster characters and it was a real moment when monsters broke out and became icons of pop culture.” Among them are Freddy Krueger from Wes Craven’s 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street and Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise.

Blumhouse’s McCumber says he’s hoping to blur the distinction between television and movie horror by working with Cooper Samuelson, president of feature films at Blumhouse Productions, to develop the original IP. “What would it be like if we developed a concept for film and television and started it at the same time?” He says. “I don’t have an example of where this was done and it’s an opportunity that we absolutely need to find out.”

The purge
The purge

Blumhouse Television has already produced a series adaptation of Blumhouse Productions’ The Purge for the USA Network and aims to reinvent Sinister, originally directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson, for television.

Josh Thomashow, VP of Acquisitions at Cinedigm, which also includes horror network Screambox, says books are another major provider of horror IP. “Stephen King is the best example of how to get intellectual property based on novels,” he says. Recent examples include Disney streamer Hulu, who commissioned The Woman in Black, based on Susan Hill’s novel of the same name.

Van Helsing
Van Helsing

According to these executives, there is a huge misunderstanding with horror and science fiction programming. While most would think that it is mostly seen by younger men, the genre is watched by men and women almost equally. According to Junner, women aged 25 to 50 are the top demographic on HauntTV. “A paranormal story has a lot of emotions because it mostly tells first-person what happened,” he explains. “It’s great storytelling that appeals to the female viewer.”

Dynamic’s March agrees, saying that horror and science fiction scripts are seen by 50/50 men and women ages 18 to 54, as well as a lot of non-genre programming.

So what’s the next hit sub-genre within horror and science fiction programming? “It would be a good time to bring out a slasher while Scream is restarting,” says Owen of Bloody Disgusting. “I think the horror genre is ripe for new slasher IPs. Freddy, Jason and Chucky have been around so there is a great opportunity for someone to become the next titan of the slasher genre. “

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With horror and science fiction programming becoming more popular than ever, executives like Chris McCumber of Blumhouse Television talk to Ruth Lawes about what’s driving the trend and where the genres are headed.

Horror and science fiction films refuse to die unlike their characters. Perhaps more than any other genre of film, horror films tend to be restarted endlessly or to produce innumerable sequels. This year the Halloween franchise welcomed its 12th installment, Halloween Kills, with original actor Jamie Lee Curtis, while next year the fourth sequel to Scream from 1996 with original actors Courtney Cox and David Arquette will be released.

Horror content is a mainstay of cinema, but a comparatively new genre for the television audience. Executives like Craig Junner, VP of Programming at Blue Ant Media, and Craig Engler, General Manager of Shudder, point to 2010, and specifically to the launch of US Cablenet’s AMC Networks’ post-apocalyptic series The Walking Dead, as a turning point for genres on the small screen. Based on a comic book series, the zombie drama will have survived 12 years if it gives up the ghost in late 2022.

In the years since The Walking Dead premiered, global streamers have also picked up on the growing popularity of horror and science fiction programs so as not to miss a trend. Netflix is ​​behind Mike Flanagan’s gothic horror anthology series The Haunting, which so far includes The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, while Amazon has given the green light to a series adaptation of the 1997 film I Know What You Did Last Summer, to name a few, little.
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