Editorial: 2011 – The Year of Video on Demand

Posted on May 5, 2011 by Deaditor


2011 – The Year of Video-on-Demand
by Marc Patterson

Despite what the box office might tell you this year, horror is not dead. Not by a long shot. It’s just found a new home, your living room. While big budget flops like Scream 4, Dylan Dog and Drive Angry continue to drive apathy into the hearts of horror fans everywhere IFC, Magnolia and Dark Sky Films have embraced a different model for releasing their horror titles, by giving them limited releases in select markets and hitting the rest of us in the convenience of our own home. If you have a kicking home theater set-up (hell, even if you don’t) 2011 is shaping up to be the year of Video On Demand.

The trend for releasing films through VOD providers at the same time as they hit theaters isn’t new to 2011, but this has undoubtedly been the year where we’ve seen it truly take off. VOD genre releases have out-shined their theatrical counterparts by spades. Whether by choice or coincidence the “theatrical experience” is losing value. High ticket prices, inconsiderate text-happy audience members, and overpriced (and horrible tasting) popcorn and concession snacks all contribute to a stay home solution. Nevermind the continual 3D treatment to every other project financed. But, all of that equates to an obvious statement if you want to just compare apples to apples. The fact is big studio horror has simply blown chunks this year and lower budget, independently produced horror has been kicking ass without sparing the time to take names. Let’s take a closer look…

Here’s a listing of the horror titles that have been released wide in 2011 (in non-sequential order):

  • Drive Angry
  • Dylan Dog
  • Insidious
  • The Rite
  • The Roommate
  • Scream 4
  • Season of the Witch

Of these titles Insidious is the only one to take in a decent box office return. But let’s scrap box office numbers for a minute. After all, who gives a flying fuck if no one showed up to the greatest show on earth? Numbers aren’t everything. On quality alone, with the exception of Insidious as the one saving grace for the genre this year, all of these titles could carry the tagline of “apathy fueled cash-grab”. All of the flops on this list were produced with zero heart, and very little in the way of concern for fans, because they were created not by artists, but businessmen.

Now, let’s flip the coin and take a look at a broad sampling of the titles have been given a small limited release, coupled with the Video-On-Demand treatment:

  • 13 Assassins
  • Black Death
  • Dream Home
  • Hobo With a Shotgun
  • I Saw the Devil
  • The Resident
  • Rubber
  • Stake Land
  • Tetsuo 3: The Bullet Man
  • Vanishing On 7th Street
  • Wrecked
  • X

Not only are there considerably more titles here, but nearly all of these titles have received favorable reviews from us. None of these titles got a shot at a wide release, but yet they’re actually fuckin’ good and worth shelling out your hard earned cash for. The only films that didn’t pass muster universally were The Resident, Vanishing On 7th Street and Wrecked, though I personally enjoyed Wrecked. It sadly just didn’t seem to garner much positive response anywhere else. Interestingly enough three of these titles, Black Death, Hobo with a Shotgun and Stake Land were made cover features for Rue Morgue issues 108-110. What we’re seeing here is a clear shift.

When presented in black and white this tells an oddly compelling story, and perhaps one to consider. We’re quickly moving into a summer filled with more of the same bland, boring, uninspired cinema. Blockbusters? Schlockbusters. Priest? Give me a break. Final Destination 5? C’mon. With the exception of Super 8 the summer offerings barely raise a pulse. Starting in August we hope to see an uptick with Apollo 18 and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. But then we’ll be right back into sequel, remake, and regurgitated mode.

The question begs, are big studio theatrical releases dead, or at least dying a slow and painful death? Can studio horror find a pulse on the genre again? Or are Video-on-demand offerings, such as what we’ve been seeing from Magnet, Dark Sky, and IFC (and soon to be from Bloody Disgusting Selects) the future of the genre, providing the next logical stepping stone from the filmmaker to the DTV shelf?