5 things I wish they’d stop doing in horror films

Let’s enjoy a good old moan, shall we?

Asshole Characters

The most crucial problem in low-end horror films (and indeed some high-end ones) is the total inability of scribes to write people we actually give a damn about, save for maybe the ones who’re going to survive (but not always – read on).

Thinking back to the happy-go-lucky teens of the 80s set, there was usually a bitchy girl and a macho dickhead but, for the most part, they were fairly innocent, likeable kids who we feared for and were sometimes even sad when they were slashed to ribbons.

But now? Oh God, it’s just a parade of obnoxious, self-absorbed, hateful characters and the audience virtually cheers on the killer when they die. Is this how people are now? Surely, I can’t be the only one who sees the problem in that?

No Survivors

Sometimes it’s necessary to off everyone in a film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning for example, but more frequently, and the Final Destination franchise is to blame, as if Asshole Characters aren’t enough, even the survivors aren’t valuable enough to save.

What initially appealed to me about slasher films was the notion of one person escaping to tell the tale. Every now and then there was a last second twist where the killer would leap out from somewhere and grab the final girl and it’d be left to the audience to decide whether or not she got away but seeing the last survivor brutally offed is an overstep into cruelty, i.e. the plain mean end of the super-shitty Splatter University.

Token Lesbianism

It’d be progressive if gay characters were ushered into the genre every now and then but what’s happened instead is that ‘gay characters’ has been translated exclusively to “hot girls making out”, as homosexuality can seemingly only be represented in a way that titillates the presumed low-IQ straight male demographic and any gay male characters are camp, weak and unquestionably doomed and would never be allowed to kiss a guy on camera.

In the last few years, there’s been girl-on-girl action in ever increasing numbers. With the exception of French flick Deep in the Woods, gay girls are always killed off, as if it’s the only logical alternative to them being ‘cured’ with a good hard shag.

No Opening Credits

This is more of a complaint about film in general: Why do 50% of new films completely bypass the opening credits? I like to see who’s gonna be in it ‘cos sometimes there’ll be a recognisable face you weren’t aware was going to be there or a cool cameo. But now…well you’re lucky if you even get the title! Wes Craven’s New Nightmare I’m looking at you.

Torture Porn-Lite

Hostel was a good film; great idea for a horrible tale of grue and in spite of what it proposes is going to happen or has happened, it’s not that gross. The downside of Hostel (besides the fact it had Eli Roth attached to it) is that it caused all manner of slasher films to ramp up the grue.

Gone were the thrifty throat-slashings and quick, sharp skewerings, enter long drawn out sequences of people suffering for extensive periods of time. The ambiguous enjoyment of the kills in a slasher flick moves the audience into questioning if they want to continue watching as the likes of Seed, Carver and Turistas delight in dragging out the demises of (usually female) victims.

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OK, so I’ve seen too many, I’m getting old and cranky, but for fucks sake will the people who write and produce these films at least try to avoid the pitfalls of their predecessors? Who am I kidding, genre comes from generic. May as well just shut up and learn to live with it.

7 comments

  • I’m generally very critical with horror films simply because I strongly it’s still an untapped potential decades on. Big fan in particular of the slasher sub-genre. What perplexes me the most however is just how tied down with formulaic clich├ęs the majority of these movies are like it’s a self aware wink by the film makers to let us know they understand the general tropes and conventions inherent in the medium. It’s very patronizing to be honest and if they spent more time trying to come up with something original and creative, we wouldn’t have such amateurish indie turds like Carver.

  • Very eloquently put.

    I agree wholeheartedly, the things you love the most are often victims of your criticism.

    To quote Homer Simpson: “let this be a lesson to you – never love anything.”

  • I agree with all 5 of your points… especially “Asshole Characters”. Nothing makes a slasher more pointless than having no one to root for.

  • Abso-fucking-lutely!

  • Couldn’t agree more, with every point. And Piranha, I’m looking at YOU…

  • I agree on all counts except for opening credits. Few things bother me as much as having to sit through several minutes of credits before I can see the movie. There are exceptions, like the opening credits for Halloween. It’s not 7 minutes long, the music is utterly classic, and it’s a clean and neat sequence that just sort of enhances the atmosphere. But other credits sequences are not nearly as welcome.

  • Personal Additions:

    * Obnoxious juvenile humor.

    * Acknowledging plot holes, stupidity, etc. does not make it okay.

    * “Stylistic Suck” (intentionally bad effects, purposely visible crew or equipment, the “reel missing” gag, etc.) It’s almost never as funny or as clever as the filmmakers think it is, and it can make them look like poser douchebags.

    * Trying so hard to be “retro” that it becomes slightly detrimental (ex: the gratuitous dance number in The Sleeper).

    * Similarly, cramming so many references and shout outs into a film that it eventually stops being cute, and just becomes annoying.

    * Flooding a film with too much fourth wall breaking genre savyness, especially if it’s done in an uppity and smarmy way.

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