Horror, Op-Ed

Horror Movie Sequels That Don’t Suck

Overall I would say I am not a fan of the never ending horror sequel. A lot of decent movies are undercut by their sequels, or even decent franchises get bogged down in too many movies. Despite this every once in awhile a horror sequel comes along and is truly worth it. While they aren’t generally as good as the original, they do manage to get close enough to be worth a watch or two.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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We are going to jump right over Nightmare 2 because it’s awful. Dream Warriors earns it’s spot not for being a great horror film, but rather for being a great comedy masquerading as a horror film. The first Nightmare movie had a strange balance of horror and making you laugh at situations that probably shouldn’t have been funny. 3 leans into that and leans hard. This is easily the funniest in the series, and does so unapologetically. It also manages to still be pretty brutal and horrifying at times.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellraiser quickly goes down as a series, in fact even this movie is pushing it. That being said Hellraiser is open ended enough that the sequel is nice. Kirsty’s entire family has been brutally murdered at the end of the first movie, and the Cenobites kind of leave, but in all honesty they still desperately want her. It’s sequel fodder to the max. Kirsty must once again fight against the Cenobites as well as the actual bad guys, people attempting to control them. This movie ramps up the gore, but doesn’t manage to have as solid of a story. It’s still creepy, and fairly horrifying. It’s also the only sequel in the series that I consider anything more than a joke that no one else is in on.

The Devil’s Rejects

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This movie gets the distinct honor of being much better than the first (in my opinion). The Devil’s Rejects is fairly stand alone, while it is a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, you can skip that movie. Where I felt House of 1000 Corpses was an unfocused gore fest, Devil’s Rejects is well, a focused gore fest. The movie is still in your face, brutal, and can be a bit too much. It’s also entertaining, and those of us that love messed up horror movies will have more than a few moments to enjoy.

Jaws 2

Continuing the trend of the second movie being the only passable sequel, we come to Jaws. Jaws was a very clever movie, with a lot of different intense moments. It ends with the humans being completely trapped with just the shark, and that intensity is what Jaws 2 hopes to replicate. Skipping a lot of the build up, Jaws 2 jumps straight into a group of humans being stranded in the water with the shark hunting them. It’s effective, though not as entertaining. In fact that is the bottom line with this movie, everything about it is close to what Jaws was, but falls just a bit short. It’s not a horrible sequel, and it’s certainly better than anything else in the series.

Scream 4

I debated between Scream 2 and Scream 4. Ultimately I decided on Scream 4 because it manages to capture the feel that Scream had almost completely. In fact Scream 4 is arguably not a sequel, and if anything it helps the movie. It’s desire to be something wholly unique, one part sequel, on part reboot, one part new movie, manages to work well for it. It honors the first while still pushing forward to be it’s own thing. At the end of the day Scream 4 is really just Scream next generation, and that is a good thing.

Dawn of the Dead

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I debated whether or not to include this, based solely on the fact that I don’t know that it really counts as a sequel. The “of the Dead” series are more like stand alone movies centered around zombies than an actual series of sequels. That being said if you go on the loosest definition of sequels it is one, and it’s a great one. The movie does what a lot of horror sequels do and boosts the horror, gore, and action. However, it manages to do so without losing much. It’s still a clever, horrific, well told zombie movie. It wouldn’t call it better than Night of the Living Dead, but it’s darn close.

Horror, Op-Ed

Horror Movie Remakes Need To Stop

Horror movies are constantly being made. It’s a great money making genre, and horror movie fans are pretty devoted. However, lately the trend has been fewer original horror movies and more reboots or remakes. It seems to have really kicked off with Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween (some did exist before then), and has continued to go from there. Now while there have been a few good ones, for the most part this has meant a market bogged down in mediocre or just plain bad horror movie remakes. Here is a list of reasons why it needs to stop.

WARNING THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS

The reboot/remake often forgets what makes the first so great in the first place: biggest offender Friday the 13th

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One of the problems with the remakes/reboots is that often ignore what made people love the orginal. A perfect example of this is Friday the 13th remake from 2009. What really made the original Friday the 13th stand out is the identity of the killer. Since the creation of the final girl horror movies we’ve seen tons of them. Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween… the list goes on. What Friday the 13th had was the fact that the masked killer was not in fact who you thought it was. It was not Jason, but rather Jason’s mother. It was surprising, clever, and actually made this movie stand out in it’s genre.

Along comes the remake and aside from being mediocre in every other way it decides to skip the grand reveal that the killer is Jason’s mom and just make it Jason. It’s boring, predictable, completely bypassed the one moment of “wow that’s pretty unique” that the original had. Maybe the excuse is we all know that Jason’s mom is the killer, but then again wasn’t this remake supposed to be for a new generation? Not only that, but even knowing that Jason’s mom is the killer doesn’t completely ruin the experience of the original Friday the 13th. The fact is the unique killer is arguably one of the most important things about Friday the 13th so why ignore that?

The changes to the killers are usually not successful: biggest offenders Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street

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Rob Zombie, as mentioned, really kicked off this trend with Halloween. He took a unique approach to his remake and really wanted to look at that character of Michael Meyers. I give Rob Zombie credit for thinking outside the box, but the end result is just not that good. Part of what made John Carpenter’s Halloween so brilliant was that Meyers was this unknown killer. He was some random kid that seemed to live a normal life until he killed his sister. He is then sent away and described as pure evil. Meyer’s doesn’t have much of a reason for stalking and killing the teens that night. The biggest connection he seems to have is that Laurie just happens to stroll up to his house while he’s in there. He kills because he can, it’s as simple as that.

Zombie takes the time to really go into Meyer’s past. Shows him as an abused and troubled boy that doesn’t just snap, but snaps because of all the hardship he faces. The thing is the numerous Halloween sequels that came before this remake already tried that. They desperately tried to give a connection between Meyers and Laurie. It wasn’t needed then, and it’s not needed now. Zombie simply repeats what has already been done, he desperately tries to make Meyers into a complex character. Meyers was never more scary than when he was just a faceless killer with no motivation. Just like the sequels seemed to miss that, Zombie did too. I give Zombie credit for trying, but the end result is rather dull.

Wes Craven was a pro at bringing a macabre sense of humor to his movies. Freddy is the perfect example of that. He is a scary villain, one that was horrible in life, and can now channel the power of dreams to torture in death. Yet despite all this Freddy is really rather hilarious. He is one bad pun after another which really challenges the viewer to laugh while watching something horrific. It’s more than a little twisted, but it’s ultimately successful. It keeps the Nightmare on Elm Street series from being the same as the other slasher flicks.

The remake once again suffers from the desperate need for more backstory and character development for Freddy. You get a closer look at what makes Freddy, Freddy, but in the process the charm of the original character is completely lost. Freddy as a villain might be a little more twisted, but then he’s just as forgettable as the next guy because he’s been done before. The movie totally ignored what made Freddy popular, I mean the new guy makes all of one pun. Honestly Freddy’s new development is forgettable, and I find myself just wanting the old Freddy.

They think more gore is really the solution: biggest offenders, pretty much all of them

The true problem with many of the remakes is how lazy they seem. Little effort is put into making it something that still honors the classic but has it’s own voice. It’s not like remakes like The Thing (1982) where the overall theme is used but a new and wonderful plot is brought to it. No, instead they find the basic plot and then just cover it in more gore. The Hills Have Eyes focused a lot less on the emotional trauma to the characters, but had a lot more gore. Carrie doesn’t really look into the emotional break down of this girl with a slow build up to a climax, but there is a lot more gore. The Last House on the Left lost all the complex reflection but…, well you get the point.

It’s a system built on being able to make a lot of the movies quickly, and easily. Friday the 13th is the final girl movie on a lake, killer with a hockey mask, buckets of blood. Replace lake with suburbia, and the mask and you have Halloween. The fact of the matter is though gore does not make a movie scary it makes it gory. But making a movie gory with jump scares is a lot easier than really trying to work out the plot. At the end of the day it’s a sad system that just leaves classics covered in fake blood.

One of the best possible reboots wasn’t really a reboot, and others that have tried the same have failed

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As I mentioned in the introduction I won’t say that all remakes are bad. In fact one of the best exists in a world of remake/reboot/sequel, and that is shockingly Scream 4. The confused nature of what this movie is probably lends itself to the success. Instead of being a straight up reboot it’s kind of a sequel that follows reboot rules. Doing this keeps it close enough to the original while still giving it room to breath. It manages to do what Scream did all those years before. It breaks down the rules of horror (now changed for the new generation), has an interesting cast of characters, and the killer reveal that is a little shocking. The movie works so well because it hangs between a sequel and reboot, pull out the sequel aspects and it would have been a failure. It would have been a boring remake of a movie that we didn’t need.

This sort of blend between sequel and reboot was attempted with Texas Chainsaw 3D. It fails because it’s less of a sequel and more of a lazy reboot. First while being a pretty much direct sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or so it claims) the amount of time that has gone by completely breaks the timeline. More than 20 years have actually gone by, and yet the movie tries to make you believe it’s just been a few. Aside from that horrible oversight the whole plot is turned on it’s head. Leatherface is not the abused killer from a messed up family. No, the people outside the family were really the bad guys and Leatherface is a hero of sorts? I mean there is more to it than that, but it’s not worth analyzing. It attempts to find the success of blending sequel and reboot, but fails. When attempting to mimic the success of other movies it’s important to pay attention to all the aspects that created that success.

Bottomline:

At the end of the day we get a few gems of remakes/reboots. We even have a few passable ones. With the world so bogged down with so many remakes however it’s hard to sort through them to find the ones worth watching. So unless a movie is going to really actually try to honor the source material but still find it’s own voice, it just needs to not happen.

Horror

Horror Movie Death That Are Total Fail

Some of us like to cheer for the heroes of horror movies, some of us might cheer for the killer. Either way there is a sick sort of pleasure that many of us take from the many deaths in horror films. They disturb us, yet entertain us, and keep us wanting more. Occasionally though our heroes fail to live up to the title. Their actions are groan worthy, and cause us to yell at the screen. Here is a list of some of the horror movie deaths that just seem to be failures.

There will be many spoilers

Jimmy, Hallowen II

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Jimmy works on the ambulance that takes Laurie to the hospital. He somehow manages to fall for her, despite their lack of conversation, or it making any sense at all. Truly Jimmy’s romantic feelings for Laurie just seem to be an excuse for him to attempt to be the hero. Jimmy tries, he really does. However, he completely fails. He first slips in a pool of blood, after seeing said pool of blood. He manages to get up at some point and finds Laurie in the parking lot. She is attempting to escape and Jimmy being his super helpful self dies on the car horn, alerting Michael to her location. Michael actually does nothing to Jimmy, he kills himself… and puts the final girl in danger in doing so.

Sarah, The Descent

But Sarah didn’t die? Yes she did, or at the very least it’s extremely likely that she does. The original ending leaves with Sarah alive, but completely lost in the cave with monsters closing in. The less depressing ending only happened because the movie was deemed too much for American audiences. Going with the original ending as it was meant to be, and was seen by most other audiences, Sarah is likely dead.

Moving on, Sarah’s death is frustrating because she jumps the gun. Sarah is clearly having a mental break at this point in the movie. Everyone but herself and Juno have died. She discovers that Juno was sleeping with her husband, and it’s easy enough to say that Juno is responsible for all the deaths. Sarah leaves Juno alive when she first finds her because Juno claims to have an escape route, and it seems smart. Then Sarah for whatever reason decides that she needs to kill Juno before seeing the escape through to the end. She injuries Juno and leaves her to die, running away from the monsters. However she gets lost, and eventually just collapses in the cave. She never got the escape route from Juno, and then left her for dead, seemingly for no reason other than Sarah just didn’t care enough to get out.

Curt, The Cabin in the Woods

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Once again a so called hero makes an appearance on the list. In Curt’s defense he really is trying to save his friends, though the plan is pretty far fetched. Curt attempts to make a daring escape on his bike in order to get help for his friends. Brave, daring, and he drives it right into an invisible wall causing him to crash and die. At least it wasn’t his own fault, but it’s still a pretty epic fail.

Tatum, Scream

Tatum’s death in Scream is a series of really poor choices. First she mocks the killer, walking right into his arms because she believes it’s a joke. Then after running around the garage and throwing weak things at him she decides to crawl through the dog door. I get she’s super skinny, but she clearly had no chance of making it through that opening. Behind her she’s left a number of things she could have used as a weapon to defend herself and a killer, that for a moment was actually on the ground. He gets up not long after she’s stuck and finishes her off.

Helen, I Know What You Did Last Summer

I find most of this movie pretty groan worthy, but Helen’s poor choice really sets me off. Helen is running for her life and decides to stop all of five feet from a crowded street to look behind her. When she turns back around the killer slashes her. Helen could have been safe if she just kept moving. I know there’s the cliché of “look behind you” in horror movies, but that’s only for characters unaware that they are about to be attacked. Helen knows, Helen has pretty much gotten away, and Helen has no reason to stop.

Susan, Deep Blue Sea

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A different character from this movie almost made the list, for nearly the same reason. Deep Blue Sea features super smart sharks attempting to kill all the people. It’s cheesy, but super entertaining. Despite knowing what’s going on fairly early, a number of characters still make it a habit of being right by the water, thus making the most fail death hard. Ultimately I decided on Susan because she WILLINGLY jumps in the water instead of just standing around it. They know that one of the sharks is attempting to escape and need a plan to stop her. Susan attempts to recreate a rather unbelievable scene from the start of the movie, and jumps in the water while bleeding. It has the desired effect of attracting the shark, but she dies anyway. Her escape plan is weak at best, she didn’t seek help from the other survivors, and she is not overly physically adept. It was clear the plain was going to blow up in her face, but Susan just had to try anyway.

Glen, Nightmare on Elm Street

Glen’s death is actually pretty awesome I have to admit. He’s also a pretty decent character throughout, so it’s a bit upsetting when he goes. The reason that Glen is on the list though is because he does possibly the stupidest thing he could in the movie, he lays down in bed. They are trying to stay awake to be safe from Freddy, and failing pretty miserably at it because they’ve been up for so long, but he still lays down in bed. Despite the loud noise in his headphones, and the TV on his lap, he is still making himself comfortable when he’s already exhausted. Why Glen?

There have been many other characters that have earned the word “fail” when they fell to the many bad things in horror movies. What are some of the ones you loved, hated, or just groaned at?

Horror

Remembering Wes Craven

I am a long standing fan of the horror genre. As far as modern horror goes, there will always have a special place in my heart for Wes Craven. He had been part of horror since the 1970s and had made many great films in his career. When he passed on August 30th it was a great loss to the horror film world. I wanted to talk about a few (out of the many many reasons) that Wes Craven will be missed.

-He understood the fine art of comedy in horror

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Wes Craven is of course going to be best known for his horror movies, but a lot of his movies were really amusing. He didn’t create horror comedies like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, rather he understood where to throw humor into his films. Wes Craven was a master of making you laugh in uncomfortable situations then throwing gore and fear at us. Freddy was actually the master of puns and it was interesting to laugh at the killer while at the same time being disturbed by what he was doing.

This continued on to later films. People Under the Stairs had more than one laugh out loud moment, while being truly disturbing and terrifying. Scream brought the giggles but also more than it’s fair share of gore. Craven was not afraid to make you both laugh and cringe, and it showed in his films.

-He owned the meta horror flick

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Meta horror flicks have become more and more popular. Be it Cabin in the Woods, the upcoming The Final Girls, or even horror movies like The Town That Dreaded Sundown (remake) that combine a movie world with the real world. All of this really started with Wes Craven and Scream. Scream came out in the hayday of the 90s slasher flick. It built off the of the established “rules” of slasher flicks that came before, and met up with the changing rules that the 90s brought. It was one of the first horror movies to have a character acknowledge the way to survive horror, and had a plot based on people attempting to make a horror movie situation.

Wes Craven then managed to do it again with Scream 4. In the world of horror movie remakes, and reboots he stepped up to the plate and did the same. Scream 4 did in the 2010s what Scream did in the 1990s. It managed to be scary, and still meta all at the same time. It once again established the “rules” of the changing horror world and pulled out a great movie. So not only did Wes Craven manage to invent the whole meta horror in the 90s he retook ownership of it more than 10 years later.

He also did New Nightmare, the meta flick that was set in a universe where the Elm Street movies were just that, movies, but then they brought Freddy to life. While more of a cult film than the orginal Scream it is still a highlight in the meta horror sub genre, and no movie has done it quiet as well.

-He had a far branching and unique career

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While I would venture to guess that the two biggest franchises that Craven is know for are Nightmare of Elm Street, and Scream. However Craven actually had a pretty diverse body of work. He also did the orginal Last House of the Left, The Hills Have Eyes. He created more thriller horrors like The Serpent and the Rainbow. While not all of his risks panned out (Vampire in Brooklyn) the man took risks in his career and created a number of unique movies. Heck, Wes Craven even stepped out of the shadows of horror in his directing career.

-He created not one but two slasher movie favorites

When you sit down and list of the slasher franchises that horror fans aren’t allowed to forget we have Halloween, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then not one, but two Wes Craven franchises. Scream and Nightmare on Elm Street. While the arguments are made that Scream doesn’t really belong in the list because the killer is different in it’s nature, it doesn’t really change that those two franchises stick with us. We know them, we watch them, love or hate them they are part of the horror pop culture.

Truly this man will be missed, a giant in the horror industry, and a creator of many of our favorite nightmares.