Movies IQueue: Oh The Horror!
What is ‘Horror’? How do you define ‘Horror’? If you’re talking about… WHOA! Who let Morpheus hijack my column? Get your ass back to Zion and figure out why they have the technology to build enormous hovercrafts but not a sewing machine. kthxbai
Morpheus does bring up a good point, though; how exactly does one define the Horror genre? Even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences botched their attempt to honor the category during the 2010 Oscars. For a moment, let’s ignore the fact that the proper way to ‘honor’ a classification would be to nominate its films for something other than makeup or effects, and let’s just focus on the ~5 minute clip segment they played instead. Though plenty of clips from movies that sit firmly within the Horror genre were included (worthy ones like The Exorcist as well as not so worthy ones like Leprechaun), there were also many clips from movies in other genres and sub-genres, such as Alien and Aliens (Science-Fiction), Young Frankenstein and Beetlejuice (Comedy), The Silence of the Lambs and Misery (Suspense), Marathon Man (Drama), Edward Scissorhands (Fantasy) and the proverbial nail in the honoring’s coffin, Twilight (Romance).
Seems The Academy feels that if a movie features a scene or scenes meant to scare the audience, that movie automatically falls into the Horror category. I disagree with that method of designation, but I’m also not quite sure how the designation process should work. (On a side note, did you notice how the intro to the clip segment stated that The Exorcist was the last Horror film to “have it’s place on [The Oscars]“, yet they go on to include The Silence of the Lambs in the segment… a film that won 5 Oscars, including Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, and was released nearly two decades after The Exorcist? Someone should introduce the writing staff to the segment producers.)
For me, I think a film belongs in the ‘Horror’ genre if it has a strong, focused effort on frightening and/or disgusting the audience through the use of tangible elements such as scare tactics, violence and gore, as well as intangible elements such as atmosphere (via music, pacing and imagery), creepiness (via characters and/or landscape) and gloom (via plot elements and scenery). I feel Monster Movies are a sub-genre of Horror, even though fright or disgust may not be the main focus. Suspense and mystery may also be used towards the ultimate goal, but if either is used as a driving story element instead of a plot device, then the movie falls into either the ‘Suspense’ or ‘Mystery’ genre accordingly. Also, Science-Fiction usually takes precedence over all other possible genre designations; the horror elements need to be extremely strong to pull a film out of the Sci-Fi genre.
I’m sure my method isn’t perfect (I don’t claim to be a Horror aficionado by any stretch… in fact, I may have seen more Romantic Comedies than true Horror movies prior to this year), so feel free to throw out some movies that test my system in the comments section (way) below. Also, feel free to disagree and voice that disagreement; everyone is entitled to their own opinion, especially when it’s wrong. In the meantime, please enjoy this list of movies that fall within (or at least near) the Horror genre that I’ve watched recently, as well as a rating, a mini-review and perhaps a wise ass comment if you’re lucky.
Hey, if the Academy is going to include it, I guess I should, too.
Twilight Saga: New Moon –
I watched these first two in the same day… back to back. I’m happy to announce that I am officially on Team Vagina, as in “I grew one while watching the Twilight movies”… and I just got my period. Oh, and I just breast fed my daughter.
Twilight Saga: Eclipse –
Unnecessary voice-over, unbearable angst, inaudible mumblelogue and an approximately 10:1 ratio of boredom to action… it doesn’t get much worse than this.
Murnau’s ability to create a sinister atmosphere from light, shadow and music alone is truly magical… and something makeup, special effects and spoken dialogue have failed to match, let alone surpass in vampire films to this day. My only gripe is that the story fell apart a bit in Act V.
Stir of Echoes –
I’m not a huge fan of “ghost” movies, but this one relied less on trying to provide shocking moments and more on a little character and plot development. The result was fairly enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie is chock full ‘o cheesy dialogue and awkward camera shots, but it also has a decent plot and general concept. I also appreciate the fact that classic vampire lore wasn’t rewritten just to add new (and interesting) wrinkles to the formula.
The Fourth Kind –
The Fourth Kind tries to play the same trick as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, telling us footage we’re about to see is real. Having never heard of this movie before borrowing it from the library, I didn’t know if this claim was true or false… turns out it was false. Being able to watch the movie without that knowledge made it a bit more enjoyable than 4 stars, but not much. The story is unoriginal and rife with cliches, and the acting is of the expected “whisper and mumble slowly” variety. The only interesting bit is the editing style, which often places faux-archival footage alongside the re-enactment, reminding the audience that nothing is being embellished for the big screen. Some people may find this annoying or even condescending, but I thought it worked.
I’m not sure I’ll ever sleep again (hey, I wasn’t sleeping well, anyway), but on the bright side, I believe I’ve discovered the source of all nightmares. Seriously, this movie is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for anyone who can’t appreciate film as an art form. Don’t take this 9-star review as a recommendation for all, as I think most people will not be able to glean anything “enjoyable” from the disturbing imagery and dark subject matter. Basically, watch at your own risk. Lars von Trier is not for everyone, but I enjoy the way he takes artistic liberties at the expense of traditional storytelling, similar to the way David Lynch does.
The Wolfman –
Doesn’t really offer anything new or interesting in the areas of special effects, storytelling, action/mystery or even monster movies in general. Can’t think of many reasons to recommend watching this… but I do give a bit of credit for not wimping out on the ending.
The Eye –
It’s strange, I look at Jessica Alba and I see a beautiful woman, but I’m not the slightest bit attracted to her. I find her to have almost zero “sexiness” about her. Oh, and this movie is pretty boring for the most part… maybe a few scary moments.
So confusing… my brain sees a poorly acted, poorly written and poorly executed film and tells me to pan it, but my man parts see Shannyn Sossamon and Alecia Moore (you may know her better as “Pink”) and tells me to recommend it. My brain wins out… not by much, but still.
The Descent –
Six hot chicks go on a spelunking adventure and run across cave monsters, then blood , gore, horror, hi-jinx and pillow fights ensue… what’s not to like? Actually, the last part may be from a different movie I watched (Caged Heat, perhaps?), but the rest is all part of The Descent. Not too shabby when compared to the other mass produced, low-budget, poorly acted modern horror films being churned out.
A pleasant surprise, as I was expecting the standard modern horror fare, but instead got some intriguing and interesting moments. I also liked the way it was shot… particularly some of the single-shot sequences that seemed to go on forever.
The Crazies –
Here’s everything that the Resident Evil movie could have been. I appreciate the fact that, though several plot devices oft used in the genre pop up, they’re used, not abused… side dishes as part of the meal rather than a main dish, if you will.
The Skeleton Key –
This is another one that I was fully prepared to yawn through, but it ended up not sucking. And yes, that’s the highest praise I’m comfortable heaping upon it. For reference purposes, it’s not so much of a horror film as it is a psychological thriller… think more like The Others.
The Human Centipede: First Sequence –
This is the theatrical equivalent of an olde tyme freak show… lots of intended shock value, almost zero substance. The plot (and I use that term lightly) moves at a snail’s pace, while the actors (and I use that term even more lightly) display a level of talent on par with high school theater. Forget the fact that you need to ignore the basic understanding of human biology to find the premise remotely plausible; you’re digging too deep for a reason this film is crap.
30 Days of Night: Dark Days –
There were a few gruesome sequences that satisfied, but otherwise it was mostly a slow, steady dose of boring. Better than the first installment, but that’s not saying much… and I’m the one saying it.
Session 9 –
I liked this one a lot. My only major complaint was that I would have like to have gotten a little more depth in the characters. Otherwise, I thought the acting and directing was perfect in how it stayed out of the way… really allowed the viewer to become engrossed in the eerie atmosphere and kept the movie feeling “real”, making it even more creepy. It didn’t rely on almost any horror cliches, and though you can look back and say there were big clues as to what was going on, there were also some red herrings… so if you figured it out, you got lucky. And really, there’s no true “figuring it out” because there is ambiguity and room for interpretation at the end, which I also liked (I don’t need to be spoon fed an explanation so things are wrapped in a bow… leaving a little mystery to the mystery is fine with me).
Friday the 13th – Part VI: Jason Lives –
Put this in the “good ’cause it’s bad” pile, as nearly every cliche in the genre is used. It’s nice of Jason to find new and interesting ways to dispose of his victims, otherwise the routine would get boring after a while.
Bad Taste –
A Lake Superior sized fondue pot of New Zealand cheese in the dialogue, plot, acting and humor departments, but the over-the-top effects and animatronics used for the many death scenes will keep you dipping.
Resident Evil: Afterlife –
Once again, Paul W.S. Anderson delivers a craptastic borefest with the ‘Resident Evil’ label slapped across the side of it. It disgusts me how he’s sullied the wonderful video game franchise with his horribly written and cliched scripts that pluck characters and plot elements from the games and (ab)use them endlessly. Plus, the movie is 90 minutes long, but I suspect it would only last around 50 minutes if all the slow-mo was played at regular speed. On a side note, if your husband kept putting out trash and having you star in it (as Milla Jovovich’s husband Paul W.S. Anderson does), wouldn’t you lose all respect for him and have to file for divorce? C’mon Milla… I’ve been patiently waiting out your marriage for years; I think it’s time you gave us a shot.
A Nightmare on Elm Street –
It’s been a long time since I watched the original, but I can’t say that I was desperate for a reinvention. A few new ideas, some updated visuals, a new Freddy and a slight twist on the story… but mostly it’s the same act with less over-the-top violence or cheesy one-liners. It’s a story about a dead guy who kills people while they’re dreaming… I don’t think it needs to be taken so seriously.
April Fool’s Day –
I say, with Horror films, if you can’t think outside of the box, you may as well jump all the way in and tie a bow around it. This movie tries to keep one foot in the box and one foot out, and this lack of commitment keeps it from being anything more than mildly enjoyable. Could have used a bit more campiness… and definitely could have benefited from some nudity.
The last half hour of the movie had some satisfying violence and gore, but there was so little character development leading up to those 30 minutes that you really don’t care why it’s all happening. Really, you could have just dumped the cast of any random modern horror film into the finale sequences and it would have been just as meaningful and gratifying.
Hostel: Part II –
While the original gave us an impersonal, shallow glimpse into the mindless and pointless violence housed in a Slovakian torture/murder warehouse, Part II takes us on a personal, yet still shallow journey back into the mindless and pointless violence housed in the same warehouse. Put the Ambien away, ladies and gentlemen; sleep will be provided courtesy of Eli Roth this evening.
Boobs, blood and bad acting… what more do you want from your average campy horror film? A few more laughs and little less Jerry O’Connell wouldn’t have hurt (hmm… I think those two things might be related).
Sort of a Pleasantville meets Edward Scissorhands, with a post-zombie apocalypse setting. Unfortunately it lacked the charm of either of those films, and failed to take advantage of the enormous potential for comedy the brilliant premise created.
Rob Zombie does a very nice job of creating an atmosphere worthy of the title “horrific” during the first half hour or so. After that, some (distr)acting by Mrs. Zombie, continuity issues and eventually a barrage of poorly written teenage girl dialogue drives the tension level quite low, and you’re left with a watchable but hardly notable re-imagining.
Halloween II –
With a plot ranging from ridiculous, to expected, to cliched, it’s hard to find much enjoyable about this follow-up. Great use of editing and camera movement to convey a frightening level of strength from Myers… otherwise, the scares are at a minimum.
House of 1,000 Corpses –
Once again, Mr. Zombie creates a sinister undercurrent… and once again, he spoils it by inserting his wife (who’s as qualified to act as I am to fly a 747), as well as an overabundance of intrusive visual effects and editing.
The Devil’s Rejects –
Rob Zombie has no trouble creating an unsettling atmosphere, his trouble is sustaining it while building a story around it. The Devil’s Rejects loses steam about halfway through, but a substantial performance by William Forsythe jerks the car back onto the road and steers it straight towards its calamitous conclusion.