On 9 June I will be delivering a keynote lecture at "Exploitation Cinema in the 21st Century", a day symposium organised by Dr James Newton.
My talk will consider "direct to video" horror movies in the early 2000s. Find my abstract below.
Easy-to-make money machines: making and marketing exploitation films in the early 2000s
This talk will examine direct-to-video (DTV) horror movies at the turn of the new millennium, addressing the production contexts and marketing strategies of numerous films released just as video’s “tangible phase” was beginning to wane (Herbert 2014). I will consider various North American DTV cycles which emerged in the wake of Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), and discuss how such films were marketed to consumers. Key to the visibility of DTV horror during this period, I maintain, is the mainstream video chain Blockbuster, which sharply became a key access point for audiences of contemporary exploitation films at the beginning of the DVD age. The talk will show how Blockbuster’s movie acquisitions company, DEJ Productions, was, for a short while, a threat to DTV market-leaders Artisan and Lions Gate, both of which relied on the rental chain to stock their “B-level” fare (Perren 2013: 110).
Through acknowledging the rise in popularity of DTV horror movies since the 1980s, this paper maintains that DTV films such as Scream Bloody Murder (2000), I’ve Been Watching You (2001), Voyeur.com (2001), Do You Wanna Know a Secret? (2001) and Final Scream (2001) complicate how contemporary exploitation movies are so often—and, in my view, so wrongly—framed as retroactive “cult objects” above all else, and that Blockbuster—in spite of its traditional “family” image—facilitated the widespread distribution of new, low budget, horror films aimed at mainstream audiences. I will argue that these films’ tangibility, as VHS cassettes and DVDs on shelves in video stores through North America and the UK, was central to their market visibility.
Dr Johnny Walker
Senior Lecturer in Media, Northumbria University