Quit Making Cheap Public Domain Horror Films!

Cheap Public Domain Horror needs to die a quick death and the focus needs to go back to making entertaining films.

Steamboat Willie and Winnie the Pooh from their Public Domain Horror Films.

There’s a pandemic going on right now. It involves filmmakers taking characters that have recently fallen under Public Domain and making a horror film with them. This isn’t an issue on its own, as adaptations of past work can make for some great films. But with movies like Mickey’s Mouse Trap, Steamboat Willie, Winnie the Pooh Blood and Honey, and even Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare, quality doesn’t seem to be on these filmmakers’ minds. No, the intention just seems to be to make a quick buck.

There was a YouTube trend many years ago where fan films would spring up that looked damn near movie quality. I still look back fondly upon stuff like Mortal Kombat Legacy or even serious Power Rangers. So, it’s not exactly a new concept. But what these new films are lacking is any kind of passion for the adapted material. The IP is another marketing element and getting people to see their movie versus a driving force behind a story they NEED to tell. They’re showing the heights that these IPs can reach. And I get it; movies are hard to get made, especially in this era. But tricking audiences into watching your film isn’t the greatest idea. Just look at Asylum.

Asylum Entertainment would famously release films at the same time as big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, with slightly different names. So when Transformers released, they had Transmorphers, with the entire goal of getting naïve viewers to accidentally rent or purchase their film. It resulted in many awful movies that would have easily populated the old Sci-Fi channel. They are able to use the name recognition, as well as the marketing from an entirely unrelated project, to help propel their cheap film into households. It’s similar to what is going on with these Adapted releases.

Let’s take Steamboat Willie, for example, which entered the Public Domain earlier this year. Immediately, multiple horror films were announced, all based on the character. Is it because this character has all the hallmarks of a great horror villain and, therefore, lends itself to a horror film? No, it’s simply that Disney has marketed the hell out of Steamboat Willie, and he’s known far and wide, so much of their marketing job is done for them. There’s both name and visual recognition, which would seemingly give them a leg up on the competition. Only the quality is absolute drivel.

My worst experience in the theater last year was Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. What should have been fun and schlocky was simply a dark and gritty slasher starring the characters of Pooh. The usage of the now public domain characters felt completely inconsequential. They constantly relied on the reaction of “Can you believe these characters are KILLING people?” This doesn’t sustain any sort of wonder or amazement. The kills are all lame, and the lighting is so bad that it’s hard to make out what is happening during key moments. And don’t even get me started on its pacing. It’s infuriating that Winnie the Pooh was in theaters while many great horror films could only dream of reaching so many audiences.

It would be one thing if these films were smart, clever, or well-made, but none are. They are cheap and lack any entertainment value. Whenever a new one is announced—and it feels like this is happening every other day at this point—I can’t help but roll my eyes. And this is coming from someone who has an appreciation for bad cinema. Sure, I’m not going to rate it well, but I can still vibe with some trash. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to connect to with in any of these films. It’s almost offensive that in this day and age of robust content, that they think this stuff is even worth your time. It’s not, and you’re better off checking out good Indie Horror. At least they’re trying.

About the Author

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Tyler Nichols is a horror fanatic who resides in Michigan and is always on the hunt for the next great film. When not scouring the internet for movie news, he is usually off watching something dark, writing nonsensical musings, or playing in some fantastical video game world. While horror takes up most of his time, he still makes time for films of all types, with a certain affinity for the strange and unusual. He’s also an expert on all things Comic Book Cinema. In addition to reviews and interviews here on JoBlo.com, Tyler also helps with JoBlo Horror Originals where he’s constantly trying to convince viewers to give lesser-known horror films a chance.