Death of the Horror Movie Part 1

Shotgun to the face. Problem solved.
Shotgun to the face. Problem solved.

February 11, 2013

My love of horror and cheap movies should be evident to regular readers of this site. I love a good thriller. I like the anticipation before the scare. I love the adrenalin of a good chase scene and the mystery of a cryptic villain.

Alas, though, I’m starting to suspect the horror movie may be dead. The majority of new and mostly American films seem to be falling into a pattern. It’s not unexpected, especially when something works, for everyone to jump on the bandwagon. Halloween made the masked killer popular. Cue 30 years of imitation. Saw made the torture pron genre popular. Cue everyone and their mother making a movie about slow deaths. However, this is a bandwagon that cannot be tolerated any more.

I demand real horror. And cell phones killed it for me.

The plot of many horror movie involves a group of young adults or teens going somewhere without any communication to the outside world. A variation of this is to trap the protagonists in a place, often a blood-encrusted warehouse, with no means of escape. While varied, the result is to trap the people in a closed environment without any of the tools of the modern world. Help from the outside, then, is also impossible.

This is, if I may be blunt, crap.

5 horror by ~honking-capricorn on deviantART

Look back at the history of horror. Horror is about the other and the alien intruding on our lives, not the normal intruding into the strange. Real horror comes when the nice picket fences frame a crazed killer. It’s not the Cleavers going to an insane asylum to frolic among the crazies. Of course, Laurie Strode would have a cell phone if the story were set today. Modern alarm systems would alert the police. The universal nature of telecommunication and social media make it unlikely for someone to just drop off or find him or herself without access to the rest of the world. It’s not unlikely, but it seems as if modern horror movies go out of their way to put people in situations reminiscent of 1977. The first thing that usually happens in a modern horror movie? Cell phones stop working.

This is infuriating for two reasons.

First of all, what’s the point of this horror if it relies on a series of locations and circumstances most people would not find themselves in? When was the last time you had all cell phone reception just drop and stay that way for hours or days? When was the last time you went somewhere where all signals were dead? Granted, this could be a sign of something terrible about to happen. It can also set an environment apart from the rest of the world.

Second of all, movies that rely on this miss the point. If the protagonists are city slickers and modern teens and young adults who have grown up with technology, they will already be uneasy and the situation will already be alien to most of them. Dropping off the grid like that is horror in of itself.

Urban Horror Tale by *TonyCampagna on deviantART

Why not set the horror in the modern, urban world?

This is the difficult part. Like I said, the nature of cell phones and social media make it so everyone is connected all the time, and horror just hasn’t taken advantage of this as a plot device. We’ve had plenty of movies that paint the internet as a den of torturers and sadists, and some horror has made a legitimate effort to address the anonymity of modern information and technology, but it just feels like the genre is trying to set stories back in the wireless-free days because it’s easier.

Instead of being afraid of this connectivity, why not embrace it? Why not look around and try to find horror again? What is the “other” we can be afraid of and use for horror now? I have a few ideas.

Continued in Part 2

In the meantime, let’s ask the eternal question… how many calories DOES sex burn?

Horror Movies for the Squeamish

For your viewing pleasure.

October 16, 2012

It’s Halloween season again! It’s like Christmas, but watching movies about idiots getting butchered is not frowned upon, so I’m good.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been helping students from several classes, but one class in particular is making students write their review essays on a horror movie. You can imagine my excitement. However, not everyone is willing to just sit down and watch a good dismemberment. And that’s fine. Here are a few films to watch this Halloween season if you don’t want to see blood and gore but would like to see what all the hoopla is about.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

An old manor somewhere in New England has a dark secret, and a father and his daughter, along with Daddy’s new girlfriend, are moving in while the happy couple restores the home to its former glory. However, something has been let loose in the basement, something small and with teeth.

The story has a bit of violence, mostly with one unfortunate victim of the creatures in the basement, and aside from a brief moment in the beginning and the hint of blood, it relies more on suspense and character development. It definitely looks like a Guillermo del Toro movie, too, which is just icing on the cake.

The Last Exorcism

A pastor who specializes in performing exorcisms hires a camera crew to follow him around so he can show them just how the game is played. He’s tired of conning people in the name of God and wishes to show what exorcists actually do. A worried father writes him a letter saying his daughter is possessed, but as soon as our intrepid preacher arrives, he thinks this case is different. This one might be real.

While not the greatest exorcism movie out there, it’s light enough on the blood and gore to still meet expectations. What blood there is mostly shows after the fact and the camera moves away from anything too graphic. The primary horror comes from the mystery of whether or to this young woman really is possessed or if she’s playing an elaborate trick on everyone.

Fair warning, though. The ending really divides people.


Another Guillermo del Toro flick, this one has his trade-mark bugs and slime. As a plague seemingly moves to kill every child in New York City, a group of scientists identity common roaches as the problem. Using some slightly unethical genetic engineering, they create the Judas breed, a new insect whose only mission is to destroy the roaches… And it works.

Fast forward a few years and something’s hunting people in New York City. It’s big, strong, and looks oddly bug-like.

Being a horror movie with a monster, of course there are plenty of deaths and eviscerations, but they’re off-camera and mostly in the shadows. There’s blood, but nothing you wouldn’t see in an episode of CSI. It also has plenty of creepy crawlies.

Bubba Ho-Tepp

This is perhaps the best example of a weird idea that just works. Elvis is in a retirement home after having faked his “retirement.” The man in the home is an impersonator, or so everyone thinks. The man in the unassuming room really is the King of Rock after he paid an impersonator to take over his life.

But now, something is stalking the halls of the retirement home, and it’s up to Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy, also in hiding, and now black, to save the day.

The movie is pretty light on horror at first, being more of a character study, but when it gets going, it gets going. This may not be the best “party” movie, but it’s certainly great once you get a few drinks in you and you want the kind of movie that just screams “acid trip.”


Man loses girl. Man summons demon to find out what happened to girl. Demon proceeds to give man the It’s a Wonderful Life treatment with a theater set that seems to break the universe’s fourth wall with everything from poorly-staged productions to dance numbers. It’s equally sappy, narmy, and disturbing, but it has a sense of humor about itself hat just oozes class.

It’s fairly trippy and very dialogue-heavy. Watch at your own risk. Honestly, I can see people getting bored with it early on, but if you stick with it, the payoff is worth it.

So there you go. Some nice, non-gory horror. And now, for those of us that remember good, old horror, let’s see if the first teaser for the Carrie remake lives up to its source material.

Also, all the previous movies are currently available for streaming on Netflix.

History of the Horror Film: lurking, waiting, evolving

The horror genre has had more twists and turns than a Mexican highway. Today, horror is filled with blood splatter, torture chambers, and cheap Syfy movies that think CG is a substitute for actual plot and characters. I’m being overly general, of course, but it’s hard to not look at my beloved horror, the genre that helped pass many a dark nights and many dates with Mary, and not think that something has gone massively awry.

Where did we go wrong? It helps if we look at horror from its humble beginnings to today’s pop version.

Okay, let’s talk about old horror. There is no such thing.

Read the full article on my guest post at World Weaver Press

Learning How to Spell: It’s Just Hocus Pocus

Shown here? Sociopathic child murderers. No, really.

November 21, 2011

If you’re a regular reader, you know I love a bad movie. Give me cheese. Give me ham. Serve it with some well-fermented low budget and you’ve got a winner!

Every so often, though, I come across a movie that isn’t bad, but it has so many things that could easily qualify it as Rifftrax material. However, a weird alchemy of performance, writing, and just the right amount of cheese make it into a wonderful movie that actually gets better with age.

One such movie is Hocus Pocus.

Wait, I know what you’re thinking.

“The Disney movie with Bette Midler?”

Yeah, that’s the one. Mary and I actually sat down to watch it this weekend out of pure nostalgia, and the more we watched it, the more we realized how smart and genuinely funny it was. Yes, there was a drink or two involved, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a movie you should watch if you want to learn a few things about writing.

Yes, writing.

Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus by ~MirrorCradle on deviantART

Take Refuge in Audacity

The Sanderson Sisters are so completely over the top and fit so many of the standard “witch” stereotypes that they probably seem like a minstrel show for Wiccans. The movie is historically inaccurate to the point of being a Fox News documentary.

And I’m fine with that.

Winifred (played by Bette Midler) is so hammy that it works. If you’re going to have a villain be over-the-top, go all the way. Nothing kills the mood more than a half-assed attempt at villainy that ends up coming off weak because it was supposed to be taken seriously. Unless a character is supposed to be goofy, at least make him or her aware of the insane amounts of scenery they’re chewing. Winifred is as stereotypically villainous as it gets, but she’s very much aware of her image and plays it off every chance she gets.

Not to mention the fact that she’s genuinely dangerous and one of the first things we see her do is drain a child of life and sentence her brother to an eternity as a cat.

If you’re going to have ham, might as well have the whole pig.

.:Hocus Pocus by ~IsaiahKS on deviantART

Aim at Kids, Hit the Adults

I first saw this movie when it came out in 1993, then again a few years later, but it really wasn’t until I saw it this weekend that I realized just how adult a lot of the humor was. Seriously, the entire premise starts with our lead character getting made fun of for being a virgin, then lighting the candle that brings the Sanderson Sisters back.

After this, everyone from the talking cat to his little sister (played by a VERY young Thora Birch) points out he’s a virgin every chance they get. What are the odds her character even knew what a virgin was?

Then, you have Sarah, the ditzy witch who is about as sharp as a turkey sandwich. She easily comes off as child-like and whimsical… until she starts making cracks about hanging kids on hooks and playing with them. Throw in the fact that she’ll apparently mount anything with a Y-chromosome, and you get someone who may appear harmless to the little kids watching her while appearing to embody every aspect of lust and the cruelty of childhood.

I Put A Spell On You by *TraditionalDanimatio on deviantART

Your Readers are Smart

Nothing kills the mood more like the reader calling out things your characters should have done. The Sanderson Sisters are bumbling Disney villains most of the time. The heroes are two high-schoolers, one 10-year-old, and a talking cat from Colonial America.

But they do a lot of things that make sense. The kids are smart enough to recognize they have a few advantages over the witches, such as their knowledge of modern technology. Max takes early advantage of this by using a lighter to set off a fire-suppression system and pretend it was a spell to the newly-arrived witches. He later uses a car’s headlights to simulate sunlight and make them think they’re about to die. Plus, they actually try to warn the police and the adults about the situation.

Of course, running around and saying you just resurrected 300-year-old witches that are part of local lore does you make sound like you’ve been licking frogs.

The Sanderson Sisters also have their moments. After they realize everyone is really in costumes and they get made at a grand party, they play it off as though they too are in costumes and sing a song that’s really a component to a spell that enchants a good chunk of the adults in town.

A Bunch of Hocus Pocus by ~Anamated on deviantART

There are moments of stupidity on all sides, of course, but the rest of the movie really is put together very well and does so many things that redeem its flaws. Remember to not be afraid to make things over the top. If you have to dial it down later, so be it, but better to have more than you need than to have to try and make things more dramatic or funny later.

Hocus Pocus should have been on my Halloween movies list. It’s one of those movies that really just goes with the premise and plays with it. It’s got stuff for adults, for kids, and it’s just fun.

Let’s enjoy Bette Midler one more time, shall we?

Halloween Aftermath 2011

Or IS he?!

November 2, 2011

Why is Halloween so much fun?

If you’re a kid, you get free candy and get to dress up and essentially play all day and night. You get to watch horror movies and act out in the darkest way possible without getting arrested (for the most part).

But as an adult?

I’m going to warn you right now. I’m about to get all philosophical up in this post.

At some point, we stopped enjoying life. We go to work, cash a paycheck, and go about our routine. We’ll watch a television show or learn a hobby to pass the time, but we seem to have lost the spark of being able to play and enjoy life. This has to do with work and time as much as anything, and it’s not like we couldn’t make an extra hour in the day if we really wanted it. It’s just inconvenient. We work and act professional, and for most people this “professionalism” bleeds over into everyday life.

We become the suit we wear. The formality becomes normal.

And then Halloween comes around and we can wear a mask or a costume that, ironically, usually tells us more about us than anything else. Mary wanted to dress up like a bloody clown because she likes to creep people out. I dressed up like a calaca because I enjoy the mythology and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos.

+ Halloween+ by ~OMiyukixO on deviantART

It’s odd, but a lot of people get to be themselves more on Halloween than any other day. They let loose. It’s like they’re drunk without the hassle of drinking. There’s a general feeling that you can do anything on Halloween and it doesn’t count, so you get to see who is reserved, who is really a freak, and who likes to show off.

Maybe I’m over-analyzing it, but I think more adults need to just loosen up and have fun. Do something childish. My dad is a consummate professional in everything he does, but get him to a car museum and he turns into a little boy in a candy shop. I’m almost thirty and I work as an educator and freelance writer, but yesterday, my fiancée and I watched Tom and Jerry yesterday for a good hour.

Grow old. Just don’t grow up too much.

halloween yin by *Apofiss on deviantART

And now, to make up for the lack of articles in the last two weeks, here are some links made of awesome. Enjoy!

  • However, the best costume has to be Princess Vader. It’s so cute and epic it’s on a level on its own.
  • Here are some other epic costumes that also deserve honorable mention.
  • The airwaves are full of scary things. Like Jersey Shore. These broadcasts, however, are much scarier for other reasons.
  • I loved watching the Treehouse of Horror specials, but they seem to have gotten kind of lame lately. When I read this ranking, I was glad I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
  • I said everyone needs to calm down and just have fun with Halloween. It seems even Planned Parenthood got in on it. They released a very important memo about the dangers of vampire sex. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like.
  • You think Halloween is creepy and scary movies are gory and unnerving? Try Halloween a hundred years ago. The costumes back then were pure, unleaded nightmare fuel.
  • These guys pulled the perfect prank. It’s creepy, unnerving, they caught it on tape, and they managed to not break any laws. Behold the horror of Timmy!
  • And finally, let’s get over Hump Day with a little metal. And Halloween. Halloween metal!

Halloween 2011 Short Stories

It's Dia de los Muertos themed... not Halloween. You should know how I feel about mixing those two by now.

Today, let me share two pieces of flash fiction. Enjoy, and have a safe and fun Halloween!

“We Do It For You”

Whenever I feel like doing something silly, I wait until I’m standing in front of a mirror and make faces. I stick out my tongue or roll my eyes. Sometimes I just smirk. It takes effort, but it’s very relaxing to do something unexpected. The rest of my day is just spent waiting for my next task. I beg you. Be silly. Show the faces other people don’t know. You really should lighten up. Every time you look in a mirror, it’s always to make sure you look good. It’s to make sure you show the face people want to see.

That’s why I make those faces. You’re too uptight. I’m just trying to lighten the mood. All I ever do is the things you do, copy all your movements.

One day, I’m going to make you grab a pen and shove it in your eye.

Just smile.

Bloody Mary by ~darkshadowmagus on deviantART

“The Sound of the Fight”

My uncle is an exorcist. We were talking one day and I happened to mention my friends and I were going to see a horror movie later. He looked at me with all seriousness and said he never watches horror movies. It’s not that he’s scared. He’s insulted. They’ve never gotten it right.

An exorcism isn’t some ritual performed on some teen girl wearing a white nightgown. An exorcism is a fight. He told me he once went to a house in a poor section of the city. One of the man’s daughters was possessed, and my uncle went in to do battle. He wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t a man who studied theology in all its forms. He was a man of faith. If The Exorcist showed the tactical game of wits between good and evil, my uncle was a street fighter who walked up to demons and ghosts and sent them out with a sucker punch.

He never really told me what the exorcism looked like. I didn’t want to press him since he had the kind of look a soldier gives if you ask if he ever had to shoot someone.


My uncle did tell me one thing, a small detail I’ve never been able to forget. While an exorcist fights demons, the demons will fight back and make sounds like dogs. They howl and bark and sound like animals in pain.

How many howling dogs in the middle of the night are demons trying to stay on Earth?

Divine by Zero: Halloween 2011!

October 28, 2011

It’s been a LONG week. I’ve got sunburn over my entire face and I feel sick and tired like… well, it’s just been a rough, long week. To make up for it, I’m bringing you a LOT of links full of epic randomness, as well as some short films, AND I’ll be writing a flash fiction for Monday, AKA the holiest day of the year. See you Monday!

  • I think we can all agree that children’s drawings are creepy by themselves, but make them into stuffed toys in real life and they are totally cute. Yeah, I called these beasts of nightmare cute. You gonna argue?
  • The Divide is the classic tale of nuclear war and the people who survive in an underground bunker and must fight their own demons. And it’s got Michael Biehn. Sounds good to me!
  • I’ll admit I don’t play a lot of video games, but I’d be wierded out too if I saw any of these creepy game glitches.
  • And speaking of cheese and blood, an 18-year old filmmaker named Emily Hagins from Austin just got distribution for her vampire film, My Sucky Teen Romance. Looks interesting and is defiantly written with the genre in mind.
  • Apparently, they’re filming a new Resident Evil movie and two dozen or so extras were injured. I read this story and the only thing I got out of it was… Michelle Rodriguez is in it? Didn’t she die in the first one?!
  • I’m not going to give it away, but… okay, just watch this commercial and a) try to guess what it’s selling and b) try to guess the ending.
  • And finally, as promised, a short film by the creator or Trick ‘r Treat, as well as some creepy and really cool promos. Enjoy, and I’ll see you on Monday, Halloween 2011!

The War on Halloween

Yeah, that's me in Joker make-up. I made the paper, too! For non-criminal reasons!

October 25, 2011

As if the stupid War on Christmas wasn’t enough, Fox now thinks there’s a War against Halloween. I guess pulling out of Iraq left them wanting combat of some sort, so let me indulge them.

The Fox story goes something like this. Schools are banning Halloween celebrations because they don’t want kids eating candy and they want to not exclude anyone who doesn’t believe in the celebration, i.e. immigrants. But allow me to let Ren and Stimpy here to say it far more stupidly than I ever could.

This, of course, ignores various points. Let me go over them rapid-fire style.

The schools are banning candy to help kids eat healthier.

The celebrations are not being banned. They’re being moved to after-school so the parties won’t disrupt classes.

Likewise, kids can still wear costumes, but so as not to distract from valuable class time, the kids may wear the costumes after school.

Some of the kids cannot afford costumes because of tough economic situations, and this led to hurt feelings and isolation. Worrying about other people’s feelings is NOT a liberal conspiracy. It’s called basic human decency.

Now let me get to the one major point of contention for me.

Dia De Los Muertos by ~Mastowka on deviantART

Immigrants are offended by Halloween? If anything, I think Halloween is TAME by the standards of most immigrants. Take me for instance. I come from a culture that doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but instead has a holiday where we lay out altars dressed in food, flowers, and booze so the spirits of our dead relatives can visit us. We INVITE the ghosts in. Little Timmy in his Situation costume? Lame. We deal with real ghosts.


The only reason I can assume an immigrant would be offended or feel left out by Halloween is if he or she did not know what it was. Seeing things like spirits and magic treated like a kid’s game might be offensive to some who hold on to beliefs that treat them as real, and I’m sure a lot of pagans and Wiccans take offense to things like the portrayal of witches. The celebration’s spread around the world, though it’s only here in the States that it seems to have attained the kind of holy reverence once reserved for Christmas. Halloween is not some sacred rite here. It’s a fully commercialized day where kids get hopped up on sugar, get to play dress-up, and women are made to dress like pseudo-hookers.

cute halloween by *pronouncedyou on deviantART

War on Halloween? Please. If we immigrants are somehow tainting the purity of this Americanized pagan harvest observance, it’s only because we know what the season is really about.

And now, in an effort to make you think nothing but good thoughts, here’s Michael Winslow doing Led Zeppelin with only his sound effects and a guitar. This is the sound of pure, distilled awesome.

Halloween Movies for Parties

Now shown? The dismembered corpses hidden under the house.

October 24, 2011

It’s the best week of the year, and with Halloween coming up, I thought a whole week of horror-themed articles are in order.

Let’s talk about the must have’s for any Halloween movie viewing marathon.

The thing to remember when trying to pick horror movies for mass viewing is that everyone is going to have vastly different tastes. Some people want gore. Others want something scary but funny. Maybe others love the suspense. With that in mind, this list is going to include a little bit of everything. It’s not a “The Best Horror Movies EVAH!” list. It’s what I think works when you have to satisfy a lot of tastes.


Genius inventor Jigsaw traps people in elaborate traps designed to metaphorically make them face something about themselves. This is usually a dark secret or a vice that makes them inadequate in the killer’s eyes.

Okay, so the sequels could have done without basically turning into a series of more and more elaborate scenarios that missed the whole thematic point of the original. So what if pretty much the point of the movies after the third one was to show how sadistic the writers could be?

The original movie is AWESOME. It barely shows any blood (unlike the sequels), and it’s more concerned with the characters actually finding a way out, unlike the rest of the series where we just get a sickening countdown until someone dies because, let’s face it. If you’re in a Jigsaw trap, you’re dead. Most the gore is implied, making this, surprisingly, a good intro to novice horror watchers. Trust me. They don’t show anything you wouldn’t see on a graphic episode of CSI.



This is it. The gore-fest. The standard. Every movie with exploding bodies or dismembered body parts wishes it has the kind of humor, shock, and lasting power this movie has enjoyed.

Herbert West is a medical student with a secret. He’s working on a serum, his “reagent,” that can bring dead flesh back to life. His goal is to wipe out death, to make humans immortal, but the tests aren’t promising. Anyone brought back suffers from violent personality and animal-like hunger. That’s not going to stop the good doctor from trying, though.

This has to be not only one of my favorite horror movies, but also one of my favorite horror films. Not only do we get Jeffrey Combs at his hammy best, but the film is very much aware of what it is: a horror comedy. And it does it well. The gore is over the top. The humor is dark. The whole movie’s like finishing an onion blossom by yourself. It’s fried and you know it can’t be this good, but damn if it’s not tasty.

I showed this to a friend who is very squeamish about gore, and while she shrieked and yelped, she admitted she had a great time with it. It’s just so over-the-top that it works.

“Halloween” and “Halloween H20”

Okay, so this one’s two films instead of one.

Halloween is the classic story of horny teens getting offed by a masked killer on a meaningful holiday. Michael Meyers is one of the templates for every slasher after 1977. The films that came out afterwards? It gets crappier and crappier until the last few movies where the writers decide to throw in something about a Celtic curse and some psychic powers. Needless to say, those last few movies are… not good.


If you watch only the first movie, the 1977 film that made Jamie Lee Curtis one of the undisputed scream queens, then jump twenty years to the unfortunately named Halloween H20, you get a decent storyline that actually has plot.

H20 still has the trappings of the slasher genre, but it’s smart enough to bring back Curtis as a more mature, grown up version of her original character. Think about it. She survived one of the most traumatic nights of her life and evaded a serial killer that is the stuff of legend. What would something like that do to a person? That’s pretty much what H20 is about, and it leads up to a climactic battle that caps off a 20-year old rivalry.

Just ignore the movie that came after this one, too. Trust me. It’s better if you don’t know.


Monsters attack diner. Diner Patrons fight back. Monsters start killing off patrons one by one. No one has a name.

Feast is both a parody and homage to horror movies. Every character is designated by a convenient subtitle like “Hero,” or “Harley Mom,” or “Beer Guy.” We even get a little leaning-on-the-fourth-wall subtitle telling us everyone’s chance of survival. Some of these estimates are clearly sarcastic.

The result is a movie that is actually a lot smarter than it looks. The patrons are very much aware of how screwed they are and they aren’t all dumb. In fact, they’re quite mortal and when I say anyone can die, I mean ANYONE. No, really. Just try and guess who makes it out and who actually bites the dust and when.

“In the Mouth of Madness”

Let’s say you got that one guy in the crowd that wants something a little meatier, something more psychological. Bust out some Sam Neil.

A prominent author (lovingly modeled after Stephen King) has vanished as his new book is due to hit the shelves. A series of strange murders tied to his books has the publisher worried, so they send a private investigator to find the elusive writer. The journey takes our investigator on a trip into a town that should be fictional, a town filled with beings and situations that cannot possibly be real. All the while, our hero and the audience have to wonder… Is it all real, or are we seeing things through the eyes of a madman?

The movie never really concerns itself with fully explains where the eldritch abominations from beyond time and space came from or why they chose to come through books and other media. It doesn’t explain why the author is seemingly the avatar of alien monstrosities. It doesn’t even bother showing you if things are real or just a dream.

It’s just going to throw weirdness after weirdness and you and you’re going to accept it. Why? Because it’s cool…

It just is. Trust me.

There are MANY more movies out there you could use. Of course there are: The Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Psycho, The Shining, etc. These are just a few of the ones I think would be good for a party. If you just want to do some drinking games with dum kids getting killed, any old slasher film will work. I recommend something from the 80’s or somewhere between 1999 and 2009. Most of the schlock came from these years. The more obscure, the better.

Just remember. There are no bad movies. Just movies you can make REALLY funny with the right crowd.

To show you how to properly riff, here are Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy doing what they do best.

5 MORE Clichés that Need to Die

It's like a recursive dump!

September 12, 2011

It’s that time again. This weekend was spent watching horror movies, and seeing as how we didn’t get to play the horror RPG I set up, I’m in a bit of a horror mood this week. Let’s add to the wonderful list of clichés that need to die, shall we?

Hillbillies in Texas

Let’s sit for another vocabulary lesson, shall we? The term “hillbilly” is a derogatory term to identify someone born in mountainous, rural areas of the country, specifically the Appalachians and the Ozarks.

This means that those murderous clans in Texas, or Utah, or wherever the hell else the movies are set, are not “hillbillies” in the strictest sense. Of course, this kind of mentality, that someone from a rural area is inbred or otherwise genetically deficient, is insulting for a number of reasons, but I’m personally taking offense to the old idea of giving these groups in all these movies the same no-names back-story.

They get cut off from “civilization” and a few decades later you have a nice clan of inbred cannibals, because if there’s one thing a group of people who survive out in the wilderness can’t do, it’s hunt, right? I mean, how many people raised in rural areas of the country do you know can hunt? It’s ridiculous, right?

Seriously. The guys from Wrong Turn and Texas Chainsaw Massacre probably have yearly family reunions.

Leatherface by ~adamgeyer on deviantART

With Friends Like This…

I’ve had friends from all walks of life. Some were Christians, some agnostic, others pagan. Some were conservative, others liberal. Some were straight. Some were gay. Some were bi. A few had a higher education. Some didn’t. And yet, when together with them, you could always tell we were all good friends.

If I have to watch another group of “friends” that look like they’re about to kill each other every five minutes, I might scream.

Most horror movies already have the cliché of “young friends go on the road, trouble finds them.” That would be bad enough, but the movie feels it needs to lump in a mix of personalities: the jock, the nerd, the slut, the innocent girl, etc. Instead of having a story draw everyone in, we get everyone in a car because they apparently know each other and they have nowhere else to go.

I’m serious. Watch the interactions in any movie that features more than three people traveling somewhere. They can’t stand each other.

And I know that friends can bicker and argue, but the groups of friends that go into these trips to an island, or a party, or the haunted mansion where a hundred people were killed by a lone sociopath so it should be a prime Spring Break vacation are so utterly incompatible as a “group” that I find it easier to believe the serial killer really can teleport.

Frienemies by ~IsabellaDeLaVega on deviantART

Horror Goes With Soy Sauce

Lovecraft is one of my favorite writers. Just search for him on this site and you’ll see. If he didn’t invent the tentacle monstrosity or the abomination lurking beneath the water, he sure set the groundwork for it. Virtually everyone from Stephen King to Guillermo del Toro has, at some point, used Lovecraft’s monsters as a template for their own horror shows.

And now, can we please move beyond the need to have every inhuman alien or creature look like a Japanese entrée?

There’s a reason tentacles and slimy things unnerve us. They’re not something we see every day. We’re land-based animals that still fear the unknown, and tentacles and goopy aquatic adaptations are some of the strangest things our animal brains can see. That’s what makes this terrifying.

It also means everyone and their mother does it. I’ll admit something, though: this cliché would be very difficult to undo or break away from. You can only design something to make it look alien so much before it becomes either ridiculous or unrecognizable as a life form. The horror of the strange yet familiar is what tickles all of our brain.

Still, if someone found another way to make truly alien beings appear alien and terrifying, I’d appreciate it.

Cthulhu Fetus in a jar by ~Tyranihilhus on deviantART

Vamp Out

In a video game, it’s not uncommon for your ninja guy on a mission of vengeance to call out his attacks as he does them. Think Street Fighter or any other fighting game. It sounds and looks cheesy right?

So why have we accepted that vampires get weird eyes or otherwise turn animalistic when they’re about to attack?

There’s some justification for this one. At least in the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon thought it would be disturbing if high schoolers continually stabbed and killed human-looking villains all the time. Not having to have them dispose of the bodies is another reason for why vampires “dust” when they die.

However, pretty much any time a vampire is going to go for broke, the eyes turn a different color, sometimes the fangs grow out, something. If these are supposed to be stealthy killing machines, why the theatrics? It’s much scarier NOT knowing when the monster is going to attack.

Personally, if you’re shooting for straight horror, nothing’s scarier than a guy who could live next door just casually chewing on someone’s neck or severed arm. It would be hard to pull it off, though.

The scene, not the severed arm.

Vampire Eyes by *GeorgiaPeaches on deviantART

Michael Myers Syndrome

Any fan of horror should know this one without me even spelling it out. A killer is on the rampage. Dumb college kids are dying left and right. As the killer approaches the Final Girl, we can only wonder what combination of events and motivations led this killer on a murderous spree…

Oh wait. We can’t.

A lot of killers get something akin to a back-story. Freddy was a child murderer. Jason’s mother was killed in front of him. Michael Myers… uhm…


Even the ones that get something like a back-story quickly abandon it in favor of killing and slashing for the sake of murder. At the third sequel, does anyone really care whether or not Jason’s mother went on a killing spree that ended in her death and pushed her son to become a violent killer? There’s nothing wrong with having the antagonist be the star of your show. Having the bad guy be front and center, exploring his or her emotions, is a great way to tell a story from an unconventional point of view.

Let me put it another way. Either the bad guy’s interesting, or the heroes are interesting. One or the other or both.

Most horror films can’t do even one.

And you can be sure I’ll be avoiding as many of these as possible when I finally run my horror game this week. See you tomorrow!

Jason and friends by ~Flame-Ivy on deviantART