Horror movies, in general, are not my favorite things in the world. I got nightmares simply from reading the synopsis of “Us,” and had I known what “Get Out” was about, I would not have agreed to see it with my friends. Obviously, Jordan Peele isn’t the only person making horror movies, but of the ones I’m interested in seeing, his movies rank the highest. On top of their plots, however, they have another thing in common: their release dates. “Us” aired in theaters on Mar. 22 last year and “Get Out” was released on Feb. 24, 2017. Both are extremely innocuous dates, with nothing all that culturally important happening. Maybe midterms at U-M, but at that point in the semester, we could all use a good scare that doesn’t come from a Canvas page.
The idea behind movie release dates is classic. So classic, in fact, that several of my college classes have used it as an example to discuss what’s known as the prisoner’s dilemma. In essence, studios are trying to avoid opening certain movies on certain days in order to gain the biggest profit. It’s a concept that’s easy enough to understand and, traditionally, may also result in releases on certain dates, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, to boost opening day profits. Again, a totally expected thing to do. Except for the fact that, for some reason, various production studios have decided to release horror movies on holidays that, quite honestly, don’t need horror movies.
This past December, Universal Pictures released “Black Christmas,” a film centered around a group of sorority girls trying to avoid being murdered on their empty campus during the holiday season. Though it wasn’t released on Dec. 25, its holiday season ad campaign put a serious damper on the red-and-white Macy’s doorbuster ads any sane person would prefer. That said, not all Christmas movies have the happy-go-lucky bad acting of the Hallmark variety — “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a classic, though I personally have never seen it because Jack Skellington gives me the creeps. What “The Nightmare Before Christmas” proves, however, is that the key to a good Christmas horror movie is to maintain the essence of the holiday season. “Black Christmas” is mired in clichés; sorority girls alone on campus being attacked by a mysterious man has been done in more movies than I can count. An animated skeleton that finds the true meaning of Christmas? Now there’s an original idea.
Not all seasonal horror is created equal, however. Valentine’s Day, as commercialized a holiday as you can get, was made for horror movies. While I would rather watch Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner exchange sloppy teen kisses and a large white teddy bear in “Valentine’s Day” over and over, I can understand the appeal of sitting through a scary movie with your significant other. They give people the excuse to cuddle up and hold hands, if only because they’re scared. Absolutely genius, truly. And it makes sense, then, that when I googled “Valentine’s day horror movies,” there were at least six options to choose from. It’s honestly impressive the way studios and the floral industry capitalize on our constant need to feel close to someone.
Even July 4 isn’t safe — “Midsommar” was released this past summer on July 3, and the whole third season of “Stranger Things” was released on the fourth. “Midsommar” being released during the summer holiday is forgivable, mostly because July 4 really shouldn’t be a holiday anyway. At this point, it’s just an excuse for Americans to blow things up and drink, but that’s not really relevant. What is relevant, however, is the fact that Florence Pugh gave us a reason to watch her frolic with an eerie band of people wearing flower crowns. And though “Stranger Things” isn’t a film, with the binging culture that Netflix has created, watching season three all the way through is almost the same as watching a horror movie, but with more opportunities to go get more popcorn, or even a tan.
The one horror movie holiday release date that I can’t understand, however, is Mother’s Day. There is no reason that people should be going to the movies on Mother’s Day, let alone to see a horror movie. Maybe your mom is into feeling frightened, which is fine, but when I’m watching a sewing tutorial and have to mute my computer and watch a trailer through my fingers for a horror movie not even released on Mother’s Day, but on Mother’s Day weekend, I have some questions for the marketing department. Let’s just discuss the date itself, not even its connotations — how many people actually know when Mother’s Day is without googling it? I’m not an awful daughter; when May comes around, I will figure it out and set my Google Calendar to remind me the day before, but as a consumer I want to be told a concrete date. What I don’t need is a scary man’s voice telling me, three months in advance, that this Mother’s Day I should be ready to run from Sarah Paulson’s newest character, when I don’t really even know if Mother’s Day is on a Saturday or a Sunday.