My Biggest Horror Movie Pet Peeves
Like many of you in those parts of the world that celebrate Halloween or some variation thereon, I've been binging a bit of horror this season, and I've been thinking a lot about things they do in horror movies which bother me.
Mind you, the existence of these clichés is part of the fun of the genre and the season, but there is a contrast between those horror movies that are regarded are true cinema classics, and those which become pastimes of the holidays, and abuse of cliché is one thing that tends to separate the two.My Top Horror Movie Peeves1) Cellphones
Horror movie writers seem generally at a loss on how to incorporate these ubiquitous parts of our lives into their stories without it seeming ridiculously awkward.
The most common way to deal with them, and the laziest way, is the dead battery. For me, it robs the suspense, because I immediately think, "If their battery hadn't conveniently died, wouldn't the story be over right now?"
Yes, batteries do die in real life, but if the only thing keeping the monster from Jeepers Creepers
from being captured instead of killing dozens of people for years on end is a dead battery, his days are certainly numbered. No killer can continue to be larger-than-life if a car charger thwarts his plans.
After dead batteries comes Dead Zones, places where no signal can get out. These are a bit more forgivable than dead batteries, because even now some small part of the United States and a larger part of the world has no cellular reception at all. It is very possible to fit this into a story. It also makes sense that at least some types of horror movie killers, those of the non supernatural variety in particular, would seek out such places to reside or just to 'hunt'.
On the other hand, if your Post Nuclear Hillbilly Clan depends a vanishingly small number of people who are dumb enough to drive down an empty desert road that isn't listed on their GPS in a Dead Zone area on the advice of a hick corner store owner, your days are quickly drawing to a close. This is why I couldn't sympathize with the family from The Hills Have Eyes
(remake): the characters were made to eat a turd sandwich of stupid to advance the plot.
After this comes the stealing of the cellphone by the killer. I have no problem with this if done right: smart (non Supernatural) killers would
take your phone from you. I wasn't enamored of how it was done, on the other hand, in the movie The Strangers
. While otherwise a great film, the killers succeeded only because both of the two protagonists bone-headedly left their phones somewhere it could be snatched without their knowing. Not once: twice. If either one hadn't done this, the plot would have been over.
Cellphones do present unique challenges in how a (non Supernatural) killer or killers would have to go about their activities to succeed. Truly frightening horror killers need to appear Beyond the Reach of the Law, and cellphones narrow that. Nonetheless, horror films either need to do cellphones right, or not do them at all.
They also need to start recognizing the way people really use tech. A cellphone isn't just a way for the character to call cops, after all, they use them now for social networks, selfies, navigation, and more. The absence of such behaviors in a movie set in contemporary times is becoming a painfully notable absence.2) Parents
Parents in horror movies are the worst. Oftentimes, horror movies involving young people opt to pretend as if parents didn't exist, as if they were these ghostly figures children could wander through their youths, in groups, rarely brushing up against.
When they're not absent, they're horrible, whether abusive, neglectful, or insanely suspicious of everything their child tells them, even when their child is genuinely fearful for their health and safety. As Doctor House once said of the Boy Who Cried Wolf, "I don't care how often the kid cries he's going to be eaten by a wolf, the mom's going to come running."
Horror movie parents seem frighteningly unconcerned when their children display all the symptoms of mortal terror at an age when such a feeling should be impossible to fake. Or, they assume the child is having a nervous breakdown, with one or the other parent or both lamenting that it seemed inevitable, usually due to some history in the family of mental illness. Because parents are all very Zen and Centered about their kids having serious mental illness.
I'm not saying all parents are wonderful, but horror movie parents exist in a parallel world where it's a wonder the human race's progeny survive their childhoods in any great numbers.3) Memory Holes
Too many horror movies depend on a 'Memory Hole', whereby the ending can seemingly ignore every previous development in the story on the assumption you'll never watch the movie again.
This isn't unique to horror movies, mind you, some of the most celebrated 'twists' in movie history actually make no sense in retrospect. See Söze, Keyser for a classic example of a 'twist' involving a killer that flies in the face of any logic when you watch the movie over again.
Horror movies abuse this to an excess unmatched in any other genre. While in part a sendup of the entire genre, and thus forgivable for its excess, this was best exemplified by the movie Scream
, wherein we discover the two killers always planned Sidney's death in a spectacular climax, despite seemingly trying quite seriously to kill her more than once before that reveal.4) Is This Killer Human, or Supernatural?
Many films in the horror genre have had killers whom you, the audience, are clearly meant to identify as human, yet who behave more supernatural. Real humans aren't generally talented at moving in shadows, keeping to your periphery, or entering and leaving locked or tight spaces without making noise.Scream
, The Strangers
, and even Saw
seem to be very much at times confused as to whether their killers are human, or supernatural, performing feats of strength, stealth, improbable foreknowledge of events, and even apparent invulnerability in some cases to lethal violence that it feels like the killer is less human than some utterly otherworldly force.
Some successful films and franchises have deliberately exploited a blurring of the two, such as Halloween
(both versions) or House of 1000 Corpses
. This can be forgiven, as at least the question in these cases is made explicit: is Michael Myers a demon or just some crazy dude who's hard to put down, is Doctor Satan supernatural or just a mad genius doctor like Frankenstein?5) Found Footage
'Nuff said. I get physically ill trying to watch most Found Footage films due to motion sickness. When I'm not wondering why the idiot hasn't dropped the camera other than 'The Screenplay Demands It', I'm bothered that I have to see the world in a way better fit for professional crime investigators.
As a genre, it rarely works, in my opinion, beyond the fact that it costs very little to make and with sufficient hype can yield many factors of what it cost to make in return.
What are your horror movie pet peeves? #HappyHalloween #HorrorMovies