When it comes to horror, no topic is off-limits. We’ve had Santa Claus slaying in Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), a murderous tyre in 2010’s Rubber, and even a killer smell in Reeker (2005). Some are deliberately zany to break out of the typical horror mold, while others reframe the formula for classic horror around unsuspecting killers. But what happens when horror merges with another genre? What is the appeal for horror movies with a sports theme, for instance?
Could Horror Films Make Us Scared of Sports?
As anyone driving behind a lorry carrying timber will attest to after watching Final Destination 2, horror movies can influence what we think and feel about things in the real world. The trope of splitting up when danger strikes is also so ingrained as what not to do in the horror world, that in real life people often cite it as a reason to stay together if they ever hear anything go bump in the night. So, are these films supposed to make us scared of sports like baseball?
Sports are inherently packed with tension and excitement. After all, one team’s victory and another’s loss could have larger ramifications going forwards. The more invested you are in the sport, the more agonising the close calls in the games are. This essence is transferred to the horror movie. As well as the jump scares and slashers themselves being the source of fear, we are also reminded of how tense the sports themselves can be. Typical sports matches can lead to spectators wincing in shock, much like a gory shock moment in a horror movie.
This tension is also utilized for those who have a vested interest in the sport, such as those who place bets. The second the bet is placed, the tension for the game immediately ramps up as there are personal stakes on the outcome and not just ones affecting the teams. For instance, SBO.net helps analyse betting sites to help spectators find where to place their bets and evaluate which ones have the best offers or would be most suitable for each sport. Betting adds an element of tension to watching sport, which is much the same as what a horror film does. Sports themselves are fairly tense so make perfect fodder for scary movies.
The Catcher (1998)
The Catcher sounds like a typical slasher. Killer traumatized by something in his past begins exacting revenge in the present. The catch here, so to speak, is that the setting of the baseball stadium and training area helps characterise the deaths. Think Final Destination but at a baseball stadium – victims are assaulted with bats, attacked with the ball-firing machine, and tied to the home plate. The backstory of the killer is fairly simple and the ‘who is he?’ behind the film keeps us guessing.
The main suspect is a man recently sacked and dumped who may be having a Michael Douglas in Falling Down moment. The movie utilizes the tropes of horror, such as people wandering off on their own and being utterly perplexed when they are killed. While it may not have made a big name in cinemas or based on its Rotten Tomatoes aggregate score, the film is enjoyed in certain niches and takes the essence of baseball movies (Field of Dreams) in another direction.
Japanese horror is often cited as being better than its western counterparts but Deadball takes liberties with this assumption. After being sent to a detention centre for massacring 50 people, a promising baseball star is offered a chance to escape if he joins the team. The catch is that the protagonist (if we can call him that) hasn’t played baseball since a freak accident that killed his father.
He agrees and faces off a female baseball team of other killers. The film is a splatter comedy so is big on the gore. There is a story at its heart about love and loss, but it is mainly a vehicle to use something as commonplace as baseball as an excuse to kill as many people as possible. As far as that goes, the film is successful. There is also some teasing to the film as baseball is an inherently American sport, so is lampooning the sincerity with which it is treated in the States.
The subgenre might not be as crowded as the possessed dolls niche, but sports-themed horror movies tap into the merits of both the sport genre and horror itself. Horror films tap into the mundane to give us a fright, so picking a topic such as sport might seem like an abstract idea. But as we can see with the range of sports-themed horror movies, when it works, it works. And when it doesn’t – well, it lives on in B-movie infamy forever.