They Don't Make Them Like They Used Too
by Lisa McCourt Hollar
My daughter and I were talking today about horror films and the lack of anything that can truly terrify. I am finding myself more and more disappointed when a movie comes out, watching it only to find that a good plot and a build to terror have been replaced with extreme gore. And it’s not as though I don’t want blood and guts in a movie, because I do, but I want it to be scary, not nauseating. At the very least, if it’s not going to scare me, I want it to entertain me and not in one of those spoofy, comedy movie ways.
One of the movies my daughter and I had liked came out in 2003 and was called Wrong Turn. The first one, not all the sequels that came after, I could have done without those. If you haven’t seen any of them I suggest the first, with Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington. Eliza plays Jessie, a young woman taking a trip with 4 of her friends. They take a “Wrong Turn” and end up in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia. Desmond Harrington is Chris Flynn, a man in a hurry to get to an interview. His car crashes into the car the five friends were traveling in, which was stranded in the middle of the road. The tires were all flat because of some barbed wire someone had placed across the road.
Turns out there are cannibals in the woods; severely disfigured, inbred cannibals. This movie scared the crap out of me. In one scene, those in the group that were still alive were walking across huge branches, going from tree to tree in their attempt to avoid these flesh eating mountain men. I was holding my breath, I was so afraid. I was on edge, waiting for the next attack, not knowing where it would come from and yelling at the television for them to run, get out of there. At one point my daughter and I were both yelling, “GO, GO, GO! He’s dead, just leave him and go!” So I was a bit excited when in 2007 they came out with Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.
They at least named the movie appropriately because for me, it was a dead end. Sure, there was some humor in it. I found it funny when the cannibalistic, inbred father was showing his son how to shoot the arrow and they pierced two of their prey with one arrow. I thought it similar to a normal father and son hunting trip, except instead of hunting deer, they were hunting humans.
I also found the plot a little lame, being set up as a reality TV show with contestants trying to survive set up scenarios in the mountain. But the thing that disappointed me the most was not the lame plot…and it was lame, but the lack of suspense. The movie was now all about how bloody and gory it could be, not about scaring the viewer so badly they couldn’t sleep. In 2009 I took a pass on Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead. I hear they are filming a fourth movie. I won’t waste my money.
The thing is, I know I can’t be the only one disappointed. I wonder when the film makers decided it was better to gross the viewers out instead of scaring them. Is it that hard to come up with a plot and to come up with decent actors? There are a lot of screen writers out there; certainly someone is up to the task.
AMA has their new series The Killing and The Walking Dead, which will hopefully not take too much longer coming out with season 2…season one was way too short. I’ve heard some complain that the Zombie Apocalypse is a bit tiring and that they have had it up to their necks with vampires, but I still think there is a place for them in television and movies, as long as it is done right. The Walking Dead is one example, focusing not only on the zombies, but on the survivors and what motivates them. It’s not a constant attack, which gives the viewer time to relax, think everything is going to be ok, then the human buffet begins.
But when it comes to zombies, my favorite baddies, I want them to be realistic. My daughter has a movie she loves, Wicked Little Things, a zombie movie about children that were killed in a mining accident and have been living off blood and flesh ever since. I didn’t share her love. I need my zombie movies to make sense. This didn’t.
Wicked Little Things was released as part of the After Dark Horror Fest in 2006. I bought all the movies in the collection, but honestly, not all of them did the trick. One that I thought did deliver was Penny Dreadful. It only gets 5 out of 10 stars on IMDB, but it remains one of my favorites to this day. Penny is terrified of riding in cars. As a child she was in a car accident with her parents and watched them die. It left a lasting impression. Her psychologist is trying to help her move on by making her go on the trip she was making with her parents. Along the way they hit a hitchhiker and offer her a ride. Through a series of events, Penny ends up trapped in the car and is forced to watch this escaped mental patient kill would be rescuers in front of her. Even though most of the movie had her in the car, it was suspenseful and left me waiting for what would come next.
There are a few movies coming out that look promising. Hanna, Red Riding Hood, (which is out now, but I haven’t yet seen,) and Insidious…this one I really want to see. I hope they deliver on the horror and go a bit light on the gore. There is after all a difference between scaring someone and grossing them out. One thing is for sure, they don't make them like they used to. Horror legends such as Alfred Hitchcock, Vincent Price and Bella Lugosi are probably spinning in their graves.
copyright© 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar. All rights reserved.