Films have come along way since its birth in this country in the 1920’s and in the realm of horror have been reinventing itself since then. Whether looking at the early awe of Nosferatu or to the recent popularity in last decade of ‘found footage’ style films such as Paranormal Activity, it seems horror has little to be imagined and its losing its luster in the past few decades. The horror of The Exorcists (1973) that made moviegoers vomit in the theatre and run out, to the chilling scenes of A Clockwork Orange (1971), the stranger danger of The Last House on the Left (1972), prom night or road trip hell of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (varied dates & remakes) to the fear of clowns instilled from the TV mini-series IT (1990), horror has not been the same. Perhaps this is the overflow of horror flicks or ideas itself are lacking. But can that be true? In the last century, almost the amount of times films have existed, are all ideas worn? Does this mean all for the remaining genres? For this purpose, the focus is purely on the horror genre and in order to examine this question, let’s look at horror as a genre.
Fear, panic, crying, jumping, a shrill, leaving the light on, checking the closet, lock the doors and windows. If a good horror movie makes you feel any of these, then its succeeded. This success can vary but usually include a good script (sometimes simple like the Nightmare on Elm Street series or Carrie), believable characters, the horror element of a good villain, enough gore (not too much) and mystery (the horror on the screen you don’t see–the elusive horror) to wrap up a nice package that will make you piss yourself. In the last year, I’ve hardly found films that meet even the basic requirements and often times see an overload of gore or a good idea spread out into several sequels that never reach the same taste the first film produced (Paranormal Activity is guilty of this as the Saw series–towards the end, its clear funding has run out and the storyline was just the worst). A few movies, some more known than others are victims of the times or guilty for going for gore in order to avoid writing a decent script and seeking out believable actors that mesh well with the cast:
POOR EXCUSES FOR HORROR FILMS: (SPOILERS)
YOU’RE NEXT (2013): Yes, I have this on here for a reason. The cast at first was believable and cinematography is shot well. The storyline however is obvious within the first ten minutes and the ending of the main character being an Outback survivalist, information her boyfriend had no idea about yet he’s bringing her home to her parents in which with the help of his siblings is planned to kill for money (because why else kill your parents, right?). The body-count slasher film isn’t completely disappointing but it brings nothing new to the genre and the twists are weak.
OUIJA (2014): No one should be surprised this is on the list. No one. Absolutely no one. This may be the worst film of the past decade and ironically, its not shot too poorly. For whatever reason (perhaps, budget or writing issues), the movie tanked and story lines within the film were left unfinished. So here it goes, the plot: a bunch of teens are haunted by the death of their friend who was killed by the Ouija board (or that’s what actually killed her). The board was haunted by a crazy woman who used her kid in seance because of course, that happens. The woman was murdered by her other daughter she wasn’t using in demonic seances (played by now horror actress Lin Shaye–known for her work in Insidious Chapter 1-3). Of course the big twist in the film of the haunted Ouija board was really haunted by the little girl and getting rid of the mom ended up unleashing the little girls evil….for about five minutes until the remaining teen survivor uses sister power to burn the Ouija board, which apparently couldn’t be done before. By the end of the film, you’re laughing more than anything and the way some of the characters die make absolutely no sense. What this film lacked is the following: a full script, a good script, a believable villain, a satisfying ending…I can;t going with this, you get the picture.
JESSIBELLE (2014): This actually started off good and took a turn to sucksville. The plot was simple: a girl starting her life with her fiance gets into a car accident. She survives and the only home is with her father in a southern swamp looking middle of nowhere town, trapped in a wheelchair temporarily. Reconnecting with an old flame (mostly because her father is so distant and an alcoholic, she’s more lonely than ever), she begins to piece together the mysteries going on within the house. Jessabelle played by Sarah Snook (no recognizable films to mention) unfortunately never really fully develops and the storyline that is driven by haunted VHS tapes from her dead mother and an ominous spirit within the walls of the home isn’t enough to keep the storyline going. There a couple of jumps but it takes so much time to get there, you’re yawning by the time they occur. Then the voodoo begins. A good backdrop of this is in The Skeleton Key (backdrop and feel, not the movie itself though there are some pros to the film).
Unfortunately, the voodoo in Jessibelle is more about trying to build a story that ends in ‘it was all about voodoo the whole time’ than strengthening the plot to have a more realistic ending. Now for the actual ending and this is a spoiler. So, because Jesse is stuck in the wheelchair and being assisted by the old flame, by the point of the last act she is confronted with some hard truths of her existence. For one, her mother had a baby who was African American and the father was a voodoo priest. Ok, this is interesting. Then Jesse’s father kills the baby and the father and somehow gets Jesse and passes it off as their own. Ok, that’s weird but sure. Then she is left with all the haunting (because now the ghost of the real Jessebelle has been haunting her and her mother pretty much hates the current Jesse) and in the wheelchair, pushes herself off (because she believes the ghost is pushing her in the swamp) the dock and into the water where she sinks to the bottom. In a voodoo explained way, old Jesse who was killed as a baby, is a full fledged adult and enters Jesse’s body before the old flame saves her and like the Skeleton Key, becomes the new Jesse. Make sense? No? Yeah I didn’t think so either. How would a spirit age if the death of the physical body was in infancy? Oh, because its voodoo so…yeah. Overall, the movie was bland and disappointing, despite its earlier potential.
Movies to Check Out:
- As Above, So Below: The last film to actually be shot in the Catacombs in Paris, As Above, So Below is a lot of great suspenseful horror moments with several camera’s for the found footage style filming. The actors are believable and one scene involving a character getting stuck in a tunnel feels so real my claustrophobia started to kick in.
- Oculus: I was surprised by this one. It’s more of the elusive horror mixed with an interesting storyline that ends in a way that you don’t see coming. The film also touches upon mental illness which is a nice addition to the film.
- Evil Dead (2013 remake): This movie has it all and is one of a few remakes that has been able to meet the times and freak you the f-out. The cast dazzles and cinematography/special effects are done well. Worth the watch for sure.
On My List–Movies Yet To See
- The Lazarus Effect, 2015 release
- It Follows, 2015 release: there has been a lot of buzz about this film, see the trailer.
- Insidious Chapter 3, 2015 release: New storyline and its probably needed. Lin Shaye appears to show up at some point.
It Follows Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkZYbOH0ujw