The Horrifying State of Netflix
With Easter just a week away and relaxing Summer days quickly approaching, Netflix is making sure audiences have plenty of… horror content?
Following the release of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2 at the beginning of the month, Netflix has released a variety of original horror content with part of their $12 billion budget for 2018. This is all in addition to the horror classics it released on Netflix America, such as Freddy Vs Jason, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, and I Am Legend. The question is why Netflix is doing all of this, despite horror traditionally being a seasonal interest.
Netflix, being the data-focused company that it is, undoubtedly noticed the fanfare over their recently released horror content. Shows such as The Haunting of Hill House, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 1, and movies like Bird Box and Cargo defined the year of 2018 for the genre. Fellow journalist Tony Wong of the Toronto Star points out that Netflix is a “data [driven company so they try to respond to what their analytics are telling them”. In this case, we can look at the, albeit worrying, popularity of “Bird Box Challenges” or how audiences loved to re-watch scenes of Haunting of Hill House to catch the ghosts hiding in the background. “If people like horror,” Tony Wong continues, “[Netflix will] go with horror. In the old days, the creative people ‘told’ audiences what they should like. In the age of data it’s the other way around.”
Investing in a niche market like year-round horror is an uncommon thing for a business to do. AMC’s Shudder service is built solely on providing a horror focused experience, but has only been around for a few years. Shudder’s predecessors, FearNet and Chiller, each had a promising run at eight and ten years respectively. Advertising in a niche market becomes a problem though, as smaller, focused audiences are a very unattractive prospect to marketing companies. This unattractiveness carries over into possibilities of product association which can be troublesome in gruesome or shocking horror content. Shudder may currently be doing well in this age of online streaming, but it certainly has the odds stacked against it.
Of course, there are fans who enjoy watching horror films all year round. Films like The Conjuring’s The Curse of La Llorona and Jordan Peele’s Us have been released earlier this year, but are supported by their cinematic universe or their pedigree, respectively. Aside from Black Summer existing in the same fictional world as SyFy Network’s Z Nation, the new content released by Netflix is free of pre-existing franchise.
The strangest part of it all is that Netflix seems to have this all under control, and are possibility initiating the trend for this success. At the start of the month, Netflix released the anticipated Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 2, Netflix’s loose companion series to the overwhelmingly successful CW series, Riverdale. Though rumors of a crossover between the two were initially disproven, executive producers of the two series have since warmed up to the idea. Various references can already been found in either series, with some as significant as Riverdale’s Ben Button guest starring in an episode of Chilling Adventures. Naturally, fans of Riverdale would be inclined to watch Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
While developed, filmed, and produced by the same company, though, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was written to be more horror than the teen-drama of Riverdale. Instead of mysteries and murders, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has demons and lots of gruesome deaths, and this is where Netflix begins to influence the trend. Nothing compliments demons and death like more demons and death.
With a lineup featuring zombies in Black Summer, strange creatures in The Silence, ghosts in Chambers, and serial killers with Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, Netflix seems to have covered every horror sub-genre. Even The Perfection sounds and looks reminiscent of the jarring and unsettling tones of Hereditary. Anything horrific a viewer may want to watch after binging Part 2 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will only be a few clicks away. Though Tony Wong is right about Netflix reacting and investing in what their data predicts viewers will enjoy, there is a possibility that Netflix could be the one to have started the trend that results in the data. After all, Netflix cannot continue building their empire by simply following what is trending. They need to have all of their genres packed with content before the trends begin.
In the pursuit of becoming the solution for all of a viewer’s streaming desires, it is in Netflix’s best interest to round out their content library. With the dramatic Riverdale, the comedic Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the adventurous Stranger Things, and the multitude of reality shows and documentaries, Netflix needed a boost in visceral horror. To be the “one stop shop for the cord cutting viewer who doesn’t have money to spend on a bunch of apps”, as Tony Wong puts it, Netflix needs to have a library that can facilitate that very demand. With an expected $15 billion budget for 2019, this is just the beginning of a multi-billion dollar library that will dominate every other streaming service out there. If they can create a trend, they can reassure investors that the budget is being spent wisely, and the budget continues to grow. Best of luck, Apple TV+.