In this seasonal series, the good people of Crossfader detail what they want pop culture to get them for Crossmas this year. This time around, it’s . . .
Podcasts Making Horror Great Again
Hello there! It’s me, your friendly Editor-in-Chief by day and, more often than not, tireless contributor to the Podcast of the Week section by night. It’s a scrappy little section dedicated to a scrappy little medium, and most of you don’t read it. But that’s OK, because it’s also the section with the highest engagement with the artists it highlights! And that’s because virtually every podcast still needs your help and your recommendation. Podcasting is still the underdog of the entertainment world, despite offering some of the most interesting stories and most vital commentary in our current sociocultural climate. But this year saw a big milestone: LORE was adapted! It was honestly pretty middling, but it was Hollywood finally tipping its hat to podcasts, and the logical conclusion is that they’re already parsing through the vast treasure trove of content that LORE hopefully opened the door to. But who should really be paying attention to podcasting are horror-centric studios. We can make horror great again, and podcasts are the way to do it; my Crossmas wish this year is that Hollywood can finally get wise.
No, WELCOME TO NIGHTVALE doesn’t count
I swear to God this is probably the most internally-linked to article on the site by this point, but if you have remained unaware, I’m a staunch advocate of horror podcasting. This is mostly because of the innovative, Wild West nature of the back catalogue that the medium is currently enjoying and creating. Because the podcasts are more low-stakes, lo-fi, what have you (literally anyone can do it, including us!), they can both take more stabs atnarrative innovation and make a heck of a lot more content due to comparatively low production costs. In fact, and I won’t exclude personal favorites such as THE NO SLEEP PODCAST from this, they can, and do, often feature stories, characters, or themes that are plain old bad! And you know what? That’s OK, because the next week, or the next day, as is often the case with CREEPY, there’ll be another story, and odds are it’ll be better! So why do I think it can save and revitalize a genre if I’m wilfully admitting that a sizable amount of the content produced is subpar? Because there’s so damn much of it! The curatorial and editorial process achieves so much more agency and potential with such a vast canvas to work with. How exciting to be faced with a multitude of independent, off-the-cuff examples of vital and raw creativity! These are all exciting new grounds, often propagated on internet message boards, but there are always diamonds in the rough! Anything that gets elevated is sure to have so much more vetting behind it due to how strong the signal must be in the noise.
That’s not to mention the fact that podcasting makes way for and caters to more emotionally resonant horror stories. I’ll never forget reading DANSE MACABRE, Stephen King’s non-fictional account of horror across the ages, as an impressionable youth and being fascinated by how viscerally he mentioned being affected by spooky radio broadcasts. Most likely hearkening back to our primitive storytelling sessions around campfires, there’s something infinitely more affecting about hearing something scary that sticks with you as opposed to seeing it, as it finesses the imagination to a more notable degree. As such, when horror podcasts work well, they work really well, and the best ones traffic in auditory surrealism, unreliable narrators, and delicately layered backgrounds of sound effects. You can break and stretch a lot of genre parameters and paradigms through the audio medium while still keeping an intimate, human connection to the narrator at the most basic level, and I think especially more esoteric horror production studios (*cough* A24 *cough*) would do well to tune in every once in awhile. Now I’m not an idiot, and I know that a stellar parent text doesn’t guarantee a satisfactory result when adaptation comes into play, but let’s put on our Ronald Reagan hats and believe in a trickle down for once, eh?
More beneficial to believe in than some other things
While less assuming, perhaps most important of all is that horror is communal, which ties in with the methods and means of horror podcasting and the sources it draws from. Adaptations of horror podcasts would come pre-supposed with a passionate and rabid fanbase curious to see how their darling fared on the silver screen. As you can probably already tell from the general tone and conceit of this article, those that do love podcasts love them fiercely, and the more popular ones features hordes of listeners that would significantly boost the heavy opening weekend virtually all horror releases enjoy. A little cross-promotion here, a little event-themed podcasting tour there, and buzz for the horror film in question would be palpable. No cynical fans negging a trailer on Facebook (well, at least not right away), no air of a distant and aloof Hollywood cash-grab, just the act of exciting ardent supporters of an entertainment form that easily fosters the most genuine and honest relationship between creators and fans. Despite my love for the genre, I am fully ready to admit that the majority of horror films are bad. But keep in mind how much of a fan you have to be to keep up with the genre in podcast form; the idealistic hope is that movies made with the source material that these people hold so dear would excite a core demographic that cares, hopefully encouraging a larger amount of care to go into the craft in general through interaction with the fanbase. I think it’s a positive feedback loop that everyone would benefit from, especially once news of the adaptation’s success gets circled back around the podcast campfire. But hey, even if it sucks, a lot of people would still hear about it, and its name would get extended in the cultural consciousness either way. Remember, most of the horror podcast oeuvre is based on stories circulated on Reddit and 4chan message boards, and those are extremely volatile communities to excite to either extreme.
I’ve said my piece by this point and said it loud, but no matter how hard I may go in on certain examples of the genre, I will always love and believe in horror at the end of the day. So once the January dumpster fires are out of our consciousness and the big ol’ baddies of summer loom ever closer on the horizon, I look forward to scanning the news to see if anyone is starting to take the hint. Podcasting is the future of a lot of things, but especially for horror, it’s an EpiPen shot that a wise studio will soon being capitalizing on.