Friday, August 24, 2012

The problem with today’s horror offerings

As a horror movie enthusiast – I like to think I take the genre pretty seriously.

That’s not exactly true, though.

Like anybody else, I break up horror into several different categories.

There’s the rank and file – you know, the tedious and slick horror movies that people slap a scary soundtrack on but wouldn’t scare a 14-year-old left alone for the weekend.

There’s the satirically hip – which is usually pretty rare and, unfortunately, doesn’t stay current for more than a couple of years.

And then, there’s the truly rare, absolutely scary movie.

A lot of people say that the 1970s was the greatest decade for horror movies. Others say that’s a snobby attitude – and that today’s horror is truly terrifying.

The thing is, today’s horror is not truly terrifying. It’s truly ridiculous.

Take ‘The Apparition’ – opening today in theaters.

Essentially, the movie is about a couple that are haunted by a presence that is unleashed during a college experiment. Doesn’t sound all that scary to me.

Actually, the only thing I find remotely interesting about the movie is that Tom Felton (Harry Potter’s Draco, for the great unwashed) stars. He’s not enough to get me to see the movie, though. At least not until it comes out On Demand.

On Aug. 31 a movie called ‘The Possession’ comes out. That’s about a young girl that finds something terrifying in a box and it takes her over. Somehow, I doubt it’s going to have the staying power that ‘The Exorcist’ did.

There’s an argument that is often bandied about on horror message boards. It says that there aren’t any new ideas out there.

I don’t think that’s true.

That being said, in the past decade or so there have been very few horror movies that I’ve truly enjoyed. And truly loved? I would whittle the list down to ‘The Ring,’ ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ ’28 Days Later’ and ‘Cabin in the Woods.’

Now, I should note that I don’t think those movies are perfect. However, I think they all achieved what they were supposed to do. Plus, I can respect a decent attempt.

Take Eli Roth’s ‘Cabin Fever.’ There was some really bad acting in that flick (Pancakes!) – and yet, the script held together fairly well and it was just surreal enough to make a lasting impression. I know I flashed to the film the next time I shaved my legs.

The first ‘Saw’ movie is an example of another movie I loved (until the sequels ruined it for me). It was a nice, taught little thriller with a gruesome ending and a mindbending twist.

So, of course, they ground the ‘Saw’ franchise into the ground with a series of sequels that got more ridiculous each time. By the end, did anyone care? No. Did they stick to the mythology of the franchise? No. Did they ever tell me what happened to that little girl in -- what was it -- the third movie? No.

Back in the day, I was sucked back into the horror genre during my college years when the first ‘Scream’ came out. Not only was the movie slick, but it boasted a stellar cast of up-and-comers that were not only irreverent but frightening.

Like anything else, though, they beat the ‘Scream’ franchise to death – even trying to revitalize it this year with some murky results.

Listening to me blather on, people might guess that I’m against franchises. That’s not even remotely true.

My favorite horror franchise is the ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise. Now, I can admit that a lot of those movies are horrible (Jason’s Dead, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, and Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan being my least favorite of the bunch). However, there’s a lot to love about those films and they were true to the genre – a trait that’s hard to find today.

If you talk to random people, they think the future of horror rests on those laughably bad ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies. And, when I say laughably bad, I mean I laughed out loud when I saw the first one in the theater. I was promised terror and I got some of the worst acting – ever.

You want to know what’s worse than the ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies though? Remakes.
That’s right, I'm talking about the ‘Friday the 13th,’ ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ ‘Halloween’ monstrosities that today’s youth think are scary when they’re just mundane, ridiculous and insulting to the source material. That ‘Halloween’ remake could be one of the worst movies ever made – until you watch the sequel that is. Then you realize that’s the worst movie ever made.

I don’t expect a lot from horror movies.

I don’t think they always have to make sense. I don’t think they have to always be rooted in reality. I don’t even think they have to have great actors.

I don’t want to be insulted as a viewer, though, either.

Take both the ‘Resident Evil’ and ‘Silent Hill’ franchises – which both have entries coming out this year. You would think I would hate them – but I don’t. I don’t love them, but I do find them enjoyable – because they’re not remaking anything or ripping anything off.

You may not like how powerful Alice has gotten or the big, multi-tentacled monster in the fog – but they’re original ideas. Sure, they’re based on video games – but I appreciate the effort (even if the follow-through is sometimes lacking).

Crap like ‘The Apparition,’ ‘The Possession’ and Jessica Biehl’s upcoming ‘The Tall Man’ just leave me cold, though  – and not like I’ve been frightened.

The recent release 'Silent House' actually had me going for 2/3 of the movie. I thought I was finally seeing something interesting. Then they turned it into an after-school special on child molestation. That might have been O.K. if they hadn't done the exact same thing with 'An American Haunting' seven years ago.

My favorite movie season is coming up over the next few months -- and yet all of the previews I've read lead me to believe this is going to be a disappointing two months for me.

I can only hope next year will be better.

What do you think? Have you liked any of the recent horror movie offerings?


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