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POLITICAL NEWS:

Much Ado About O'Reilly Horror Attack

November 6, 2006 -- Never mind that the corporation he works for, Fox, is about to release "Hills Have Eyes 2" and "Turistas." Bill O'Reilly called for a ban on horror movies on the Fox News Network the other night. And never mind that horror films are actually watered down compared to what they used to be, even the R-rated ones. But much is being made of his O'Reilly Factor attack on "Saw III", but horror fans with an historical perspective have seen this sort of thing before. Only now the attacks are being launched by a lunatic Republican instead of soft and cuddly liberals, like they were in the early 1980s.

Way back around 1980, daytime TV show stalwart Phil Donahue featured a segment on horror movies, and showed nude and gore scenes from the film "The Toolbox Murders." Members of his audience openly wept as a therapist was brought on the show to explain why Americans basically men watch these movies.

Well, "Toolbox" is actually 100 times more disgusting than "Saw III," and O'Reilly's point of view that movies like these weren't made 10 years ago is ridiculous. Actually, horror movies were more disturbing in the '70s than they are today.

Another huge attack on horror films came from Siskel and Ebert's original PBS show Sneak Previews, around the same time as the Donahue attack. The critics looked at "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" and "I Spit on Your Grave" (among others) condemning all the films with the exception of "Halloween."

The good news for the studios is that attacks like these only increase ticket sales. The huge protest against "Silent Night Deadly Night" in 1984 made the film a box office smash. I suspect that maybe Fox even edged O'Reilly to condemn these movies to boost ticket sales for "Hills Have Eyes 2" and "Turistas."

Whatever his motives, O'Reilly backs a president who massacred 500,000 Iraqis, and now wants to ban art that depicts horror. 'Nuff said.

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Will a Democratic Victory Be a Disaster for Horror Movies?

October 27, 2006 -- Democrats look poised to crush Republicans in the coming 2006 House and Senate elections. But will this be a good thing for the horror film industry?

For the first time in a long time, Democrats appear likely to actually win an election. Some of today's horror movie fans couldn't even drive a car the last time the party of Nancy Pelosi had any real clout in Washington. The last six years under a Republican President and, for most of the time, a Republican Congress has seen a major upsurge in the quality of horror films being produced, from "The Devil's Rejects" to "Frailty" to "The Passion of the Christ."

But will the coming Democratic sweep of both Houses of Congress and a possible Democratic takeover of the White House in 2008 stop the horror movie winning streak?

It's likely. When Republicans took back Congress in 1994, a horror movie famine came to an end. Very little horror hit screens in the early Clinton 1990s, when Democrats controlled every branch of government. But Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" improved things. Less than 12 months after Gingrich took over as Speaker of the House, Wes Craven's "Scream" hit theaters. After years of living in direct-to-video hell, the horror genre was reborn.

As Republican support continued to edge forward through the late 1990s, horror support improved too, until by 1999 the most successful independent film of all time, "The Blair Witch Project," was released. Clinton's impeachment and the inevitable ascendancy of George W. Bush saw continued improvements to the genre: "Dog Soldiers," "Freddy vs. Jason," "High Tension," etc. Abu Ghraib seems to have influenced the genre as well, clearly serving as inspiration for Eli Roth's excellent, now-classic "Hostel."

In 2006, however, we've seen Republican support slide, and not coincidentally the year is turning out to be the worst one for the genre since the Clinton Years. Case in point: "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning."

It's no surprise. Under Eisenhower, we saw the release of the most seminal horror film of the past 50 years: "Psycho." Then under Kennedy and Johnson, not quite so much in the way of edgy horror to speak of. Then, when Nixon took over, "Night of the Living Dead" began playing on screens across the country, another one of the greatest fear films ever made. The Nixon/Ford years saw "Last House on the Left," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Black Christmas" "The Exorcist" and countless other ultra-classics of the genre. In fact, 1972 was one of the most prolific years the genre has ever seen. Yes, the Carter years beginning in 1977 were good too ("Halloween," "Dawn of the Dead," "Alien"), but not as good as the Nixon years, and certainly not the Reagan years.

The Reagan era saw the rise of the slasher genre, a genre that stays with us to this day. The "Friday the 13th" series had its run during the Reagan/Bush years, as did most of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series. This was an age when horror films became truly gut wrenching ("Nightmare," "Maniac," "Re-Animator"). Unrated films were box office smashes. But the genre's popularity once again began to wane during the last years of the George Bush Sr. Administration, as Republican popularity sank into the toilet as a result of the economy and the savings-and-loan scandal, then the genre fell into a Depression under Clinton. The first term of the Clinton Administration may have been the worst days the horror genre has ever seen.

We've seen these shifts over and over again. As the nation turns away from Republicans, it turns away from horror. The genre suffers as a result. Fans are forced to rent the old movies. As Democratic victory appears to be a guaranteed certainty in 2006, no doubt executives at Lion's Gate Entertainment, New Line and Rogue Pictures are shaking in their boots with the fear that another horror movie gravy train might be coming to an end.

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