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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The VOH Roundtable: Which Horror Fave Do You Think Is Terrible?

This week on the Vault of Horror Roundtable, BJ-C, RayRay and myself reached into our bag of contrarian tricks to come up with the horror films we specifically dislike that are genuinely loved and embraced by much of the horror community. Many of you should prepare to be pissed off--I know even I got a tad miffed reading one of this week's submissions... Ahem, anyway, without further ado, it's time to take a wizz on some horror favorites...

For months, I had read all the raves about Hatchet, seen the glowing praise heaped upon it at places like Ain't It Cool News and Bloody-Disgusting, as well as various message boards. "Old-school horror is back," seemed to be the general consensus.

Imagine how shocked I was then, to rent the damn thing and be confronted with one of the most amateurish, wrong-headed, derivative and falsely trumped-up pieces of horror cinema it's ever been my sad displeasure to endure? But I've got to hand it to the marketing gurus behind this one--they took a grade-A turd, polished it up real nice, sprinkled on some herbs and spices, and served it up as choice tenderloin.

Old-school horror? No offense, Adam Green, but old-school horror is Boris Karloff tossing little girls into lakes; Fredric March getting wasted on cheap wine and man-handling prostitutes; Max Schreck stalking the deck of the Demeter like a panther. Hatchet, on the other hand, is nothing more than a sad, masturbatory aping of a dated '80s subgenre that was never that great to begin with.

Ever the optimist, I somehow got it into my head that Hatchet might be an inventive, sinister new take on great exploitation horror like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left, like the best of Rob Zombie is. But what I got was a film literally devoid of imagination, with nothing fresh to say at all; rather, it's content to mimic all the worst cliches and stereotypes of '80s slasher movies, trying so hard to be like them that it only succeeds in resembling the very worst of them.

If that was your goal, Mr. Green, you succeeded. Congratulations. All the standard tropes endlessly churned out by the slasher purveyors are mindlessly followed, including most noticeably of all, those filmmakers' depressingly sociopathic disdain for their own protagonists.

Green raises the slasher movie, in its day viewed as the ultimate nadir of the horror genre, to the status of great movie-making, idealizing it to a ridiculous degree. Hey, everyone's allowed their guilty pleasures, and slashers definitely have a trashy-cinema appeal. A handful of exceptions, like the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, might even be damn fine flicks. I'm not saying there's no pleasure to be gotten from them. But I question any horror fan who limits himself to them, and considers them, without irony, to actually be quality pictures.

Hatchet is the filmic equivalent of "The Chris Farley Show". "Y-y-ya remember that time...in Friday the 13th Part VII...when that bitchy camp counselor opened the door...and Jason was standing right there? A-a-and he smashed her in the face with the axe...?? That was awesome...." It's disappointing that Green would content himself to be a filmmaker with such limited ambition--much like guys such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, who can't get over their adolescent fascination with one hackneyed subgenre, and continue mindlessly paying tribute to it for the rest of their careers.

Oh, of course, it's not purely an '80s-style slasher flick, because you also have your requisite post-modern irony thrown in for good measure. Telegram for Mr. Green: That was already done more than a decade ago in a movie called Scream. Even that's old hat now.

The acting is terrible. The script is painfully bad, with dumb joke after dumb joke. At times, it feels like you're watching a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. "Ah," you may say, "But that's what it's all about, man. That's what those movies were like! Green nailed it!" Well, yes, I guess he did. Once again, congratulations. You succeeded in making a bad movie that's a tribute to bad movies. Only in the 21st century could this be considered a positive. See, the difference here is that back then, the people who made movies like Chopping Mall, Slaughterhouse and The Slumber Party Massacre made them because they weren't capable of making anything better.

Jesus wept. And so do most of my horror colleagues when I tell them how I hate Hellraiser. Now, I love Clive Barker, and most of his writings. However, I do not enjoy Hellraiser AT ALL. Now, before everyone starts whipping their special edition puzzle boxes at me (which by the way, aren't very cool since they aren't even actual puzzles) note that I never ever ever ever ever enjoyed Hellraiser. I've watched it numerous times in attempts to give it another shot, but there's just nothing about the film I like. Okay, I'll give credit that Cenobites are pretty cool characters and Pinhead is truly an icon. Clive, you got me there. However, you can have the best characters since Shakespeare, but if the script sucks, it doesn't matter.

First. I hate the characters that aren't cenobites. Frank only cares about himself. He's completely self-absorbed and has absolutely no problem fucking his brother's wife. Keeping it classy, I see. Julia is JUST LIKE HIM. She's a megaskank and has no cares in the world when she bones her husband's brother. Right there is a perfect example of lazy writing. If, say, Julia was some super sweet girl who got mixed up, you might feel for her, but instead, it's just another random hookup on today's Maury Show.

BUT THEN--Frank comes back to life. WHY? Why the fuck would you bring back such a shitty character? When he died, I praised the day and did a little dance, but then that fucker comes back. Ruins my day everytime.

But what really gets me is that stupid fucking puzzlebox. It is by far the most confusing object ever brought into the horror genre. So blood can bring Frank back to life, right? Right? Well, here's where it gets confusing. Pinhead not only killed Frank, but he also CLOSED THE BOX and took it with him, which then CLOSES THE GATE BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL. Frank died when the gate was open...in hell, not Earth. When the box is closed, the gate is closed as well. Frank has already been ripped apart, Jesus wept, and the gate closed. Frank stays in hell and all is well here on Earth. THATS WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE ENDED.

But no, we can't just end it there. Let's throw in an M. Night Shamyahymen and go TWIST ENDING... Blood can bring Frank back through a closed gate! But Pinhead can't... Pinhead can't get back to earth unless the box is open. Even though the Cenobites have all the power of hell on their side. I'm pretty damn sure that creatures with all the power of hell could get through a damn gate. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Okay, so Frank escapes the Cenobites when Kirsty opens the box and Pinhead is pissed. Because for some reason or another, in order to get Frank back, the Cenobites need Kirsty's help. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? You're demonic thingamabobs from HELL. Use your weird demon magic or something! The Cenobites thus become officially the shittiest characters. You may look hard, but if you need the aid of a teenage girl to find someone...you're not as hard as you look.

This film is super overrated. Just because a guy is going to "tear your soul apart" and has a bunch of nails sticking out of him is no need to worry. I've seen plenty of homeless people on the sidewalks of Chicago with nails in their head blabbering about souls. The book does such a good job tying everything together, but the film....doesn't. I hate Hellraiser...HATE.

Since receiving this assignment from the exalted B-Sol, I have thought long and hard. There has to be some beloved horror movie I just cannot stand. Sure, maybe I am not the biggest Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan, and don't really appreciate Romero's seminal zombie flicks, but not as much as some. But can't stand? Sure. Beloved that I can't stand? That's tough.

So I am going to hedge and push the envelope of this assignment slightly. I am not going to talk about one film, but rather a franchise. And that franchise is Friday the 13th.

I will certainly be voted off the island, having become a heretic and an apostate all at once. But allow me to explain before casting me among the lepers. I think the original Friday the 13th was and is great. It was amongst the first in its genre, following on the coat tails of John Carpenter's Halloween, and was damn scary. Hell, it was scary even when it was edited for television.

And to tell you the truth, Part II wasn't a bad follow up. But it was the real beginning of what I consider a lousy franchise that exploited teens for their cash and really made a series of lousy movies that, in the end, became self parodying.

I wrote recently that I got sick of Jason Voorhees after he was killed by Corey Feldman. But in truth, that was being charitable. While the original was a good, scary movie about virile teenagers being silently stalked by a mysterious killer out for revenge, the continued serial returns ad nauseum of the wronged-little-boy-turned-relentless-zombie-murderer got old rapidly.

And they didn't end. Ever. Even when they said they would. Rather, while the original was released in 1980, Part II was in 1981, III in 1982, IV the Final Chapter in 1984, A New Beginning in '85, Jason Lives in '86, A New Blood in '87, Takes Manhattan in '89, the inaptly named Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday in '93, the exceedingly stupid Jason X in '01, Freddy v. Jason in 2003, and now Friday the 13th [part XII??] in '09.

This demonstrates the complete cynicism of the producers of these films, cashing in on Jason's hockey mask and machete wielding ways. And seriously, how many different ways can we, as an audience, watch Jason dispose of nubile young women? I have seen him stab, crush, twist, break, bend, and smash his myriad victims over the two-plus decades Jason has been in movies, and, in truth, it isn't really that entertaining.

I am sick, sick, sick of the silly, stupid and insulting manner that the writers of these crappy movies return Jason back to life, or at least to dry land. And, honestly, what the hell is Jason? I'll admit, not having watched the last 2 or 3 of these miscarriages of filmmaking, that maybe his origin was revealed or something.

Is he a ghost, a zombie, a vampire? All I know is that nothing kills him for long, and his bloodlust knows no bounds. And that's the end of the good news. Usually, when you have these qualities in a villain or monster, it is the beginning of a good horror story. But in this franchise that is where the creative process ended. After this, we are just served up imagination-free kill after kill, to the point that we look upon this violence as comedic. Now, if that isn't doing a disservice to the genre of horror, I don't know what is.

The series of Friday the 13th movies defined the horror genre for over a decade, with many spin offs and copycats. Even the original unstoppable masked killer, Michael Meyers, was returned to the silver screen in a wholly cynical attempt to cash in on the relative success of Jason's franchise, with the release of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Meyers in 1988. Since then we have been treated to several more completely vapid returns of Michael Meyers, simply so some studio execs could cash in on teens with $10 in their pockets.

Jason was key in setting back the horror genre a full decade. Only recently has the genre, as a whole, begun to recover, in no small part thanks to the importing of the Japanese horror movies.

So before you get all up in RayRay's grill, ask yourself: are any of these good movies? The inescapable answer is no.


Soap Magic said...

Oh my gosh, I just hate it when my least favorite horror movies are so popular. In my six months of watching horror movies, I have seen crappy movies that for some reason are beloved in the horror community.

For some reason, I predicted that this was going to be the next roundtable topic. Now I'm inspired to rant about this. Thanks for the idea! :D

BJ-C: Even though I like Hellraiser, I can see where you're coming from. You must've been pissed when you saw it appear in my Top 50 Horror Movies. :P

B-Sol: I'm surprised you didn't rant about The Blair Witch Project or Friday the 13th (just the first movie). I guess it's because we all know how much you hate those movies.

RayRay: I hate franchises. I'm surprised people even see sequels.

KT Grant said...

I hate Hellraiser with a passion. Give me less blood and more scares that will make me piss my pants any day.

RayRay said...

BJ-C: while you could count me as a fan of the first Hellraiser, the series went South [of Heaven? Slayer rules!!] from there.

And while I do still love the Cenobites as movies monsters, you really hit the proverbial nail on the head.

B-Sol: I think you and I unwittingly attacked the same problem from different angles. I hope I didn't anger you too much. Pshaw!!

BJ Colangelo said...

Soap Magic: I wasn't pissed, I almost expect it most of the time. We can just agree to disagree :)

RayRay: Yes...slayer does rule.

Unknown said...

B-Sol: I am not a huge fan of Hatchet either. I couldn't even finish it.

B-Sol said...

Soap Magic: Blair Witch! Of course! Damn, we may need to do another round of this question at some point...

RayRay: If you only knew. My original target was going to be Friday the 13th. But don't worry, I won't do an angry vlog about this...

BJ-C: Slayer rules? I think you would've fit right in with me and Ray in high school. Well, except that it was an all-boy's school and everything...

DLR said...

I could probably be considered a fan of slasher movies (there are quite a few good ones - 1987's Stage Fright (aka Delerium) is an unsung classic) but Hatchet was so bad, so insulting its audience that it made me physically angry. People, this movie hates you. It thinks you're retarded. All it had going for it were some good kills. I was really looking forward to it based on the buzz and then I'm watching it and I'm all WTF?? People think this is good? Arrrgh! I'm still pissed off.shiatops

BJ Colangelo said...

Hey. I could have pulled a "Just One of the Guys". B-Sol, I swear to God I showed you the yearbook picture of me from flashback day. All the other kids in HS were wearing dayglo and looking hella cliche when my friend Kyle and I came in looking like true 80's metal heads. I teased my hair out to kingdom come and it was AWESOME.

B-Sol said...

Friggin awesome. See, unfortunately, all the girls I knew in high school back in the day did the same thing, 'cept they weren't trying to be ironic lol. Well, all the girls who weren't guidettes, which was FAR FAR worse...
And "Just One of the Guys"? Yeah no. They don't make football helmets that big.

Anonymous said...

B-SOL: TOTALLY agreed on Hatchet. Way overrated and it ripped off so many other movies. I didn't find it original in the least bit and it didn't deserve any of the hype.

BJ-C: Agree to disagree. That's the whole point behind Frank's character. He's supposed to be so self-absorbed that by the time the Cenobites show up, you are pretty much cheering on his demise.

Ray Ray: Agreed on the franchise overall (and the awesomeness of the 1st two films). I thought to myself 'You couldn't find ONE movie worthy of poo flinging?' And as I'm typing this, I also have a hard time thinking of a single film. FUCKING SLAYER!! \m/

BJ Colangelo said...

Planet: Yeah yeah yeah. Doesn't excuse the fact that the box is a walking hypocrite.

gord said...

Come on B. Don't hate on a movie only half of us have seen. I want to see you trash a real classic!

Garg Unzola said...

Frankly, I disliked the original Friday the 13th completely. If it weren't for the sheep blood special effects and Betsy Palmer's great performance as a lavender version of your mother in law, I'd scribble verses from the Quran on the disk and nail it to the nearest synagogue door.

I really enjoyed the story of Hellraiser, but all and all I agree that it's a poorly made film.

This is my Hellraiser review if anyone is interested.

B-Sol said...

Gord, I did consider Blair Witch, It and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Perhaps for a future post...

RayRay said...

Look, it is all my fault. I stole B-Sol's thunder by writing on the same topic. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

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