It’s Ash Wednesday and lent has officially commenced. Brace yourselves as your social media feeds become flooded with posts about how hard life is without chocolate, alcohol, puppies, crack or whatever it is various individuals have decided to give up.
After all, people need something to post about for the next month now that dry January is over.
One year I actually lented (is that the term?). It was horrible. It was a full on relentless lenting. I gave up crisps (chips, to those in the US). Fucking love crisps. Never forgiven lent for that.
Anyway, some people could really do with observing a good old lent. Horror movies for a start. I’m not saying they need to cut back on carbs or stop having a pint at the weekend, that’d be absurd – they’re not sentient entities and have no mouths. But there’s definitely a few things I think we’d all appreciate them giving up.
Here’s ten of them, because the internet likes 10 of things.
1. Cheap Jump Scares
Where would a good horror film be without a few jump scares. Like them or hate them, they always fill you with a bit of a thrill. But at what cost – WHAT COST I ASK YOU?
While some jump scares genuinely shit you up, some have become so overused that any horror fan can see them telegraphed a mile off. The worst offenders are the cat-out-of-nowhere, the friend sneaking up on you for no reason and, the lazy-man’s favourite, the unnecessary loud noise. These types of scares are about as artful as your 6 year old little cousin hiding in a cupboard and jumping out at you.
2. Bathroom Mirror Surprise
OK, so technically this follows on from cheap jump scares, but it’s used so extensively it deserves its own mention. You know the thing, the soon-to-be victim is in the bathroom, doing what they do and, oh look, there’s a mirror. Wonder if something will appear in it suddenly? Not until they open it first.
Of course, they’ve got to open it, so whatever it is can time its appearance exactly with the closing of the cabinet. This one’s used so heavily it’s almost impossible to see a bathroom cabinet in a horror without expecting it to happen. And since when does EVERYONE have a cabinet? No house I’ve lived in in the last decade’s had a bathroom cabinet.
Anyway, here’s an actually great example of this. Because this is a classic and Jack looks super cheeky.
3. Low Budget CGI
I’m a huge fan of cheap effects, low budget gore and DIY approaches to everything. But when it comes to CGI it just doesn’t come off right. There’s something truly ugly about bad CGI.
Unlike a wobbly bit of stop motion or some bright red blood-spatter gore, cheap CGI just comes off like you’ve transition from a decent film to a dated video game.
4. Bad Signal
Mobile phones are a problem for horror films because they’re a great lifeline, leading most films to blurt out some flimsy excuse early one for them not to be working.
And, to be fair, that’s totally fine. I’m not saying I have a solution. But ‘oh I have no signal’ has worn a little thin. Especially when signal, or at least a bit of 3/4G is available almost anywhere in the Western world. Have they not tried standing on their tip toes waving it above their head?
5. Blowing Their Load Too Early
Some of the best horror comes from being teased with terror. A little glimpse here, a shadow there. A suggestion that nothing is alright. Some films keep you on edge throughout, so when they do pull of a great jump scare you soil yourself. But for every film that achieves that level of suspense, there’s a dozen that blown their load way too early.
One film that did this relatively recently was Sinister. I’ve written before about how that film irked the shit out of me. But what’s most frustrating is how it begins so well. The occasional glimpses Bagul a terrifying. But then, way too early, the unleash far too much and suddenly Bagul goes from a peripheral glimpse to an all out in your face caricature. The fear they’d built up so well is instantly obliterated.
6. Not Killing The Killer When They Have The Chance
How many times have you seen a horror movie victim finally get the chance to triumph over the killer? They acquire some kind of bashing device and THWACK, land the killer square on their arse.
But then they go and spoil it all by tossing away the weapon and turning their back – their actual back – to the person/thing/monster that’s been trying to kill them. Without even a cursory poke with a stick. This is no time for mercy. They should be going to town, with long-stay parking, on their face, or unleashing every last bullet into into the antagonist’s head until they’re absolutely goddamn certain they’re not going to get up and kill them.
This is something You’re Next got really, really right. If you haven’t see it, go see it.
7. Victims Who Trip Over At Inopportune moments
Seriously, how many times do grown adults trip up? Almost never. And you can be sure as shit that, if being chased by some kind of lunatic, you’ll not be making the decision to start tripping.
8. Needless Excessive Violence Against Female Characters
For some reason an overwhelming number of films are still using the female characters as little more than punching-bags and helpless victims. Don’t know about you, but most of the women I know, especially the ones into horror, aren’t pushovers. They’d be going batshit on any Jason Voorhees wannabe, not tripping over in a forest.
I recently watched Wither, a Swedish Evil Dead homage/rip-off. Overall, the film wasn’t terrible. But what most people noticed throughout the film is every single female character only serves as a target for all the other characters, supernatural or otherwise. Not a single female character in that film didn’t get punched in the face.
9. Reboots, Remakes and Unnecessary Sequels
From one homage to a whole bunch of them, it seems not many days go by before a new sequel, reboot or remake is announced for some much loved horror cult classic.
Some of these have been great. The Town That Dreaded Sundown update was solid, Dawn of the Dead’s remake was great fun and Rob Zombie get an interesting new edge to a flogged-to-death HAlloween franchise. But then there was Nightmare on Elmstreet. So. Can’t win them all.
10. The Wise Old [Insert Minority]
This came to me watching a really uncomfortable episode of X-Files featuring the Chupacabra. While some cultures have obviously held on to their traditions, spiritual beliefs and superstitions more than others, the entire episode made every single Mexican character seem like an uninvolved, superstitious maniac. This reminded me of basically every horror where some kind of demonic possession of legendary creature is involved
The safe middle-class family starts getting haunted by some bad shit. What do they do? It’s cool, their buddy knows this old [insert ethinc origin] dude/lady who knows all about demon stuff, because, you know, they’re kooky and down with the lore. AFter a while, it just gets kind of uncomfortable. Though to be fair, they really should have listened to the maid in Paranormal Activity 2. Lady knew what was up.