To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know Fearnet, the cable horror channel, was going away. One day, it showed up on my program listing as “Movie”. Nothing more, just “movie”. So I went and looked it up, thinking maybe Verizon had dropped it, only to find that it had been bought out by NBC and shut down, half of its programming going to Chiller and the rest going to Syfy.
I also found that many horror fans were lamenting the death of the channel because, according to them, it was so much better than Chiller. That may be so, but it wasn’t really too impressive. So let’s look at Fearnet and the unfortunate reality of niche cable programming today.
I only really started watching Fearnet, and by watching, I mean I only flipped it on for background noise after I reviewed the latest change to the HD programming that Verizon offered, replacing SD channels with HD versions and I came across both Chiller and Fearnet, along with a couple of other specialty channels. Fearnet was HD, Chiller was not, but I added them anyhow, figuring I might watch them occasionally. To be honest, on those occasions when I was in front of the TV, usually when I was reading a book or playing a game on my tablet, the movies that were on were just not impressive. Mostly, they were low-budget foreign horror flicks that reminded me of the crap movies Syfy has on. They were laughably bad quality with horrible acting, maybe that’s what they meant by “horror”. Yeah, I know, some people really love those, but they ones on Syfy are not good science fiction, any more than the films on Fearnet were good horror. Chiller isn’t any better, in fact it’s arguably worse because they have other non-horror programming on, but in general, you could be sure that some stupid, not-scary, cheesy b-movie was playing on at least one of them, starring people who either spoke English badly or didn’t speak it at all and had to be dubbed over.
Now forgive me but I think that Fearnet is just one more example of the craptastitude that is American cable television. Tons and tons and tons of niche channels, showing the cheapest programming they can buy by the ton, hoping someone will watch and they can keep selling time to advertisers.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to have some really high quality niche channels on the box but we don’t make those anymore. Science Channel, which has very little science, History Channel, which has very little history and the Syfy Channel, which had to change it’s name because it’s no longer about science fiction. All of them show paranormal crap and reality programming because it’s cheap and easy to make. I honestly can’t tell you how sick I am of cheap and easy. Of course, these are niche channels, designed to appeal to a relatively small percentage of the audience, but as I always say, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.
Some of this is problematic across the board, there’s 700 channels and nothing worthwhile on, but some of it is genre specific. I’ve said before how I really hate modern horror and this lowest-common-denominator stuff really doesn’t interest me. I want deep, meaningful, lasting horror, things that stay with you long after the movie is over, things that are actually psychologically frightening and don’t engage in cheap scares. Maybe they’re afraid of getting sued because someone might have a nightmare, I don’t know, but those people ought to stop watching horror, it isn’t the genre for them.
So farewell to Fearnet. Chiller still sits in my favorites, in all of it’s low-def glory, but the films on it are no more scary than the films on Fearnet. Bad effects, bad writing, bad acting and crappy scares mar what could be a good channel, if only they’d do it right, but doing it right means caring and nobody really cares anymore. It’s all about the quick money grabs, not about creating true, lasting, psychological horror and that’s a shame,