Dear Horror Directors & Producers of the world,
Please, for the love of god, stop screwing up so often. Seriously, our genre's name has become something of a misnomer. Horror lately has just become a mix of bad slasher films, knock-offs of foreign horror films, remakes of horror films, etc.
Follow my recommendations and hopefully you'll fix this situation.
First off, stop making characters that I want to beat the shit out of. Seriously, it's hard for me to sympathize with or even care about someone in the slightest that is as annoying as the characters we typically get in horror films these days.
If your cast is made up of nothing but bitches, assholes, and two dimensional stereotypes like The Stoner, The Joker, The Horny Guy, The Aggressive Chick Horny Guy Wants To Nail, etc. then all you're gonna make me do is root for the fucking killer.
Make me give a rats ass about the cast, and not just the main character. Make me like her friends and loved ones, so I actually get a reaction beyond joy when they get killed. Make me feel sorry for them, make me feel like I just watched a normal person lose a normal friend rather than a dumb bitch whose too-dumb-to-live best friend just got killed.
Stop with the quick, easy scares. At most they make me jump, -at most-. They're cheap, short lasting, and don't provoke a genuine feeling of fear. They're just screamers.
Real terror lasts longer, it grips you, it makes you feel uncomfortable. Listen to Hitchcock's baseball story sometime about the two men talking about baseball while a bomb is underneath their table. -That- is what we need more of.
Honestly you can even pull this off without doing that, sometimes -nothing- can be scary, and I mean nothing as in nothing actually happens. Our imagination can be far scarier than anything you can do, so try toying with that more, manipulate it. Make us worry over what will happen, make us imagine what's going on, tease us.
Paranoia works great as well. Seriously, The Thing is still one of the greatest horror films ever made for this reason, in my honest opinion. You can't trust anyone, and the film milks that so well that you just feel so uneased throughout it, it's beautiful.
Stop trying to have your cake and eat it too. I'm tired of films that are both meant to be "Genuinely good horror films" and comedies at the same time. Note that I'm fine with comedy-horrors, where it's not actually meant to be a horror but more or less a comedy with horror elements (Jack Frost, Bride of Chucky, Feast, etc.)
Many horror fans will not be happy with this but I -hate- Scream for this reason, especially the sequels. It's one part predictable, cliche slasher, one part "Oh look at all these horror cliches we're talking about." The final product is less a satire of the genre and more like a fat kid complaining about how fat people are.
Gore is not terrifying. Gore can be disgusting. Gore can be unsettling. Neither of those are terrifying. You can't just have a bunch of really gorey scenes and claim you've made a scary movie. No, you've made a gorey film. Hostel and shit like that... fuck them.
Want a good comparison? Texas Chainsaw Massacre original versus remake. The original, despite the title, is pretty bloodless. Much of the killings are done off-screen or at an angle where we don't really see anything, save for the first death. The remake, however? Gore everywhere. The first film played with our fears, made us paranoid... hell the moments leading up to the first actual killing in the movie are still creepy to me, just that slow camera following the guy from behind as he looks around the house... The remake has -nothing- like that. The remake substitutes genunely frightening scenes with... fucking more gore, really gorey deaths.
Also our heroine randomly becomes some Whedonesque super powered chick and kicks Leatherface's ass, despite being pretty frail looking and Leatherface being... fucking huge.
Demonic possessions aren't really that scary, neither are poltergeists. This has been done to death. Unless you have some way to really revolutionize this genre, just avoid it, at least for another decade. The Messengers, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, An American Haunting... seriously, just watch all the god awful ghost/exorcism movies of the past decade, they all just blend together into one god awful film.
Alien, Jaws, etc. did something right. The less we see of the killer the better. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about our imaginations. What we don't see, we assume. We think about. Same goes for the deaths of someone, some of the creepiest deaths I've seen in film history weren't even shown, only implied.
Think of it like the H.P. Lovecraft classic "In The Mountains of Madness." We don't read about the shoggoths attacking anyone, we only read about what's left after it. We're left to imagine -what- happend based on that, and it works. This is why H.P. Lovecraft will continue to be remembered as one of the horror greats, and most of you will fade away the second you quit doing films.
Use some fears you haven't seen manipulated lately. Think about the various things that scare people. Alien? The writer got a lot of inspiration just thinking about the fear of being, well, raped. Jaws and similar films prey on our fear of the deep. The Shining preys on the fear that a loved one could turn against us. The Descent, as a more recent example, preys on everyones inner claustrophobe, who the hell isn't at least slightly unnerved about tight, small, cramped, dark places?
Just take a moment to ask yourself "What scares people?" Come up with something beyond "A guy with a knife," "Someone that tortures people," or "big menacing guys that kill/eat people." Also for everytime you think "pale girl with long black hair that cans stretch her mouth really big and appear out of nowhere", punch yourself in the balls.
Music matters. Rather, soundtrack matters. The Shining has virtually no soundtrack, just the echo of noises inside the giant hotel, it helps us feel what the characters are feeling... this sense of being trapped, isolated from the world. The Thing has this awesome ambience throughout that is -extremely- unnerving at parts, to the point where just having the soundtrack playing can creep me out. Honestly, most John Carpenter films have -amazing- soundtracks, the man's a master of this. John, consider yourself exempt from this letter, you're high above the kinds of directors I'm thinking of while writing this.
Audio alone can provoke certain feelings, remember this. Hell, I've played video games where they've unintentionally made certain places far eerier just by having some extremely creepy music play throughout.
Stop trying to turn us on. I'm only human, I like sex, sure. I like to be turned on. I'm just tired of horror films trying to stimulate me in one way rather than another. Scare me, don't try to get me hot. Stop with the "Let's cast a really sexy leading lady that can't act, and we'll show off her body a lot." Stop casting Megan Fox and the like. Stop with the random gratuitous nudity unless you're leaning more towards a comedy (I'm fine with it in stereotypical slashers, which I'm fine with in small doses.) At the least use it against us: See The Shining.
P.S. Keep Sam Raimi away from the Genre. He hasn't done a good film in over a decade, despite how awesome The Evil Dead trilogy was.