Last month at Phoenix ComicCon I was part of a panel that discussed “the future of horror media”. We chatted about trends, popular sub-genres, and what type of movements we think will explode next. At the end, we opened it up to audience questions. One of the first questions asked was “Why are Creepypastas not being made into movies?”. Members of the audience clapped and cheered in agreement. This had been a theme of my weekend at the ComicCon. I’d been asked at the booth several times about why there wasn’t a “Laughing Jack” movie or a “Barbie Interviews” TV show.
I completely agree. These stories are amazing. Creepypastas are a treasure trove of horror material! But there are a number of reasons that studios and networks have been hesitant to touch these works. And I should note here, I’m talking about big studio pictures. A quick internet search will yield MANY fan-made Creepypasta trailers and shorts for non-existent feature movies. Syfy just announced they are tackling one of the more popular Creepypastas, Candle Cove. And a few indie filmmakers have dared to approach some of the material. But there have also been a lot of legal threats and lawsuits which will always scare the bigger studios away.
There are lots of rumors about Creepypasta films supposedly getting started, but hardly any are actually coming to fruition. Read on to learn why they are being approached very delicately and slowly by much of Hollywood and why many of the concepts may not work as movies.
Creepypastas are horror stories written by groups – 100% user-generated content. Usually one person will post an item, be it text, video, or image. Then the group will add to it, slowly building the story one-by-one. “Slender Man” is a good example of this. Though one person created the original photographs, Internet threads quickly emerged where people added to the story, further creating the background and mythos. Though “Slender Man” has since been copyrighted by one individual, many of the other Creepypastas are not this clear cut.
There is a lot of gray area surrounding who owns the rights since they are created by groups, and some people who have attempted to created larger projects surrounding Creepypastas have then been met with legal papers declaring that others hold the rights. So who does hold the rights to a Creepypasta? Is it the original poster? Everyone who adds an idea or embellishes the story? Is it fair game and no one should hold the copyright on these? Or is it the first person who can run to the copyright office with the idea? The answers are still very murky.
“Hey, Everyone! I Found Something Creepy on the Internet”
This single statement may sum up the principal charm of Creepypastas. They are something you find, something someone stumbled on, or something few others have seen. Whether or not this may actually be true, there is appeal in seeing something obscure, rare, or downright disturbing that the general masses know nothing about. This is possibly why many Creepypastas are rumored to have been found on “the deep web”, like a secret, hidden tunnel of the Internet that few can find, but it’s where all the really messed up stuff lives.
Occasionally, the forbidden dark enigmas of the “deep web” get leaked out and seen by a privileged few who then bond over just how creepy the stuff is. This is the backstory of endless Creepypastas, and the forbidden, unseen nature is part of the allure. These readers are small group who have seen this illicit material. But if the mysterious material is now available at every cinema across America, a chunk of the attraction is missing. Sure, it may still be a great story with amazing scares, but the fascination and rarity are pulverized into a sea of mass-marketing. Stories like “The Expressionless” or “Who is Janice” are incredibly unsettling. But if every shop including Wal-mart was selling “The Expressionless” ball caps, beach towels, and pajamas, it would lose some of the appeal.
The Use of Outside Material
THE SIMPSONS, LEGEND OF ZELDA, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS- CreeyPastas utilize endless amounts of outside media. Though some people create their own materials from scratch, many people augment existing works for use in creating the scary stories. Take for example, the popular “Russian Sleep Experiment” image (see cover photo). The photo is actually of a Halloween prop someone created. This means that the photo and creature design technically belong to someone else. Does this mean it will result in a lawsuit because the Creepypasta site used the image? Of course not! But most media makers, especially big studios, will be wary of potentially messy chains of ownership.
Pushing Your Imagination
Many of the most popular Creepypastas begin with brevity- “Look at this creepy picture I found” or “Here is this weird video clip” (like “Tara the Android“). Then other readers add to the story and embellish. But at the root, many of these concepts begin with something small. Yes, you can build an entire movie or TV series out of a single creepy photo, but you have to take a lot of creative license to do it. This loses some of the essence of what makes Creepypastas so unique.
Additionally, these stories exist as written texts which are meant to be read online. They force you to use imagination and fill in a lot of blanks yourself. The lack of visuals and specific details actually works in the stories’ favor, making them more terrifying and unknown. A movie would remove the imaginative side as the bulk of the information would need to be visually provided.
The Element of Suspended Disbelief
All of the Creepypastas have one common vein- the element of suspended group disbelief. They are presented as real, and users are generally forbidden from debunking them. The group, as a whole, treats the content as truth. I have seen people kicked off threads and out of forums for exposing the real sources of the material. This is part of the fun. Could it be real? Where did this terrifying material come from? There is a frightening air of veracity to much of it. But in a movie, this group agreement on “the truth” is obliterated. It would be hard to maintain the “possibly real” allure and mysticism as a clearly fictional movie rolls on screen.