Thursday, May 29, 2008

Strangers, Do Behave!

I'm intrigued by the trailers for the upcoming film, The Strangers.

This trailer isn't that good, but it hints at the possibility of something good.

And anyone who knows me, knows I'm a sucker for a good horror film. Horror movies are great way to observe and understand our fears, personally and as a culture, from big things like xenophobia and terrorism down to little things like walking alone at night.

It has always been my theory that you really can't go wrong with a horror movie. If it's amazing, and has layers and says something interesting/innovative, well then, fantastic, you've got a new classic on your hands. If it's terrible, oozing cheesy special effects and bad acting all over the place, then a fun evening is still had by all.

Or this used to be my theory.

While there have been a few absolute horror gems in recent years (The Descent immediately springs to mind - see it right away if you haven't), with the advent of affordable CGI for all and a general surge in the popularity of horror movies - leading to bigger budgets, the bad movies have gotten better. And I feel that this is not a good thing. Now our bad horror movies exist in that middle ground, where they are too schlocky to be good, but not schlocky enough to be complete camp. As a viewer, these movies just bore me to tears: the last thing a horror movie should ever do. Gore is not, in and of itself, interesting or amusing. We need something more.

I submit examples like last year's The Mist (which I just saw last night) as well as the countless "Dead Teenager" movies like Final Destination, Turistas, Urban Legend, etc etc ad nauseum. These are basically all the same film. Just plug in some variables (change the setting, tweak the monster, etc), rinse and repeat. At least The Mist tried to add some political intrigue to make things interesting, though it failed miserably.

And don't even get me started on the new subgenre of "torture porn" that's become increasingly popular, with films like Hostel, Saw and Captivity building tension only through the slow dismemberment of its attractive casts, with nothing resembling plot, characters or even ideas anywhere in sight.

It's not that I'm confused as to why these movies are made. Most of the bad movies I mentioned have become successful franchises at this point, with the Saw series already on part four. They do well, because audiences just like to be scared in a dark room and see people get chopped up. America's bloodlust cannot be sated. I just think people don't know what they're missing. I mean, what about suspense?

I'm not opposed to gore. Just say something interesting. The French film, High Tension, was extremely, extreeeemly gory, but it was the intense, twisted story that left me with something to really think about afterwards.

At this point, the market has become so oversaturated with mediocrity that when a scary movie looks like it could be good, like it might actually be doing something unusual, I really get my hopes up. It's rare for any of these movies to live up to their trailers, but when they do, I completely lose it. When I saw The Host (an incredible monster movie/political satire from a few years back), I raved to anyone and everyone who would listen for weeks on end. I literally forced my friends to watch The Descent, practically holding them hostage in my theater. And when I see a movie like 2007's The Orphanage, that is scary and atmospheric but also has a huge amount of depth and heart, I get a high that lasts for quite a while. Interestingly, The Host is South Korean, The Descent is British and The Orphanage is Spanish. It would seem that everybody knows how to make a good scary movie but us Americans.

So. The Strangers. Comes out tomorrow. Could go either way. Looks like it could say some really interesting things about our society, and how we feel so unrealistically safe in our little lockbox houses. Or it could just be Funny Games with masks. And those masks look like they'll be scary for all of two minutes. It also looks like it might be a straight remake of the French film, Them (2006). So that's already one strike against it. And Liv Tyler makes two.

Please be scary. Please be interesting. I beg of you. Win one for the Americans!

Digg this


  1. I completely agree with you! Horror flicks have gotten so boring I usually don't even bother with them any more, which is honestly what I plan to do with The Strangers as well. Call me cynical, but I don't have hope for that one being good.
    Haven't seen The Descent, if you say it's good though I'll give it a try some time.
    Hugs, Deb

  2. I was just talking about The Descent yesterday. I actually saw it pirated a month before it came out in theaters. Don't ask how, i just watch what i'm given. I'd have to agree that it was a pretty good horror film that scared the living hell out of me.

  3. The Descent and Hight Tension - two of my faves. Just recently got into the horror genre. Not into gore, but exploring my fright aptitude.
    Talk about face melting, that's my "space" headline. Kay Hanley, Stacy Jones, Jamie - doesn't get much hotter.

  4. That movie trailer reminds my of Vacancy with Luke Wilson. It was ok... but rather silly overall. Guess we'll have to wait and see for this one. Maybe I'll just dust off Motel Hell and break even (see it if you haven't just for the cheese factor if nothing else... it can brighten any rainy day... lol). Here's to horror films that don't make me feel like I wish I had that 2 hours of my life back! ~Heather

  5. Mike, if you love horror, you should see the Eye with Jess Alba and the Haunting with Barbara Hershey. Both screw with her your head, both are good films.

  6. The Mist was one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

  7. I saw the Strangers last night, and though I was hoping like you for it to be very good, I wasn't thrilled with the outcome. But maybe I'm just a bad critic.