Terror Tuesday: Do Horror Movies Need To Be Part Of The 3D Craze?

With horror, the first is usually the best when it comes to sequels, but it applies to the current 3D craze as well. Since MY BLOODY VALENTINE debuted in early 2009 (long before the “game-changer” known as AVATAR), we’ve had a handful of horror films in 3D, and surprisingly, many of them were shot that way. SAW 3D, THE FINAL DESTINATION, and RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, like BLOODY, were shot with actual 3D cameras. The only two horror post-converts were MY SOUL TO TAKE and (ironically) PIRANHA 3D. Considering the glut of 3D films clogging the marketplace (over two dozen in 2010 between real and converts), that’s not a bad ratio. But should horror stick to 2D?

With horror, the first is usually the best when it comes to sequels, but it applies to the current 3D craze as well. Since My Bloody Valentine

debuted in early 2009 (long before the “game-changer” known as Avatar

), we’ve had a handful of horror films in 3D, and surprisingly, many of them were shot that way. Saw 3D, The Final Destination

, and Resident Evil: Afterlife, like Bloody, were shot with actual 3D cameras. The only two horror post-converts were My Soul To Take and (ironically) Piranha 3D. Considering the glut of 3D films clogging the marketplace (over two dozen in 2010 between real and converts), that’s not a bad ratio. But should horror stick to 2D?

Granted, 3D movies have their roots in horror flicks like Creature From The Black Lagoon and House Of Wax. But now that the format is becoming a “game changer” almost in the way that color or sound was, it’s no longer as gimmicky, and more importantly, it is indeed becoming part of how a story is told. Avatar

is probably the most obvious example – we were completely immersed in this strange new world, experiencing it in a surreal way not unlike the way Jake Sully was. Cartoons such as Up and Toy Story 3 also help us experience the colorful, exaggerated worlds and sense of adventure in a completely new way.

Well, Saw 3D primarily takes place in warehouses and police stations. Piranha was set at goddamn Lake Havasu. These are boring, every day locales not really screaming for the 3D treatment; not new worlds to immerse ourselves in. Sure, the 3D is good for the occasional weapon being thrown out of the screen (or in Piranha’s case, a penis), but it’s also distracting us away from the story and characters, which for certain horror films can be deathly. My Soul To Take is probably the worst offender – there has rarely been a film less suited for 3D. There wasn’t much action, the entire 3rd act of the film took place in a standard suburban home, and it was a very (VERY) talky movie. And in all honesty, the movie wasn’t as bad as you’ve probably heard, but the 3D imagery was a constant distraction, and thus it became harder to focus on the convoluted plot (one that’s actually pretty cool if you can make some sense out of it). It also muted the scares – it’s hard to be terrified when you’re constantly fiddling with your glasses to make sure they are working right (a common problem for converted films, though Soul’s convert job was much better than Piranha’s). What’s supposed to be sucking audiences into the movie is actually doing the opposite for these particular examples. I honestly believe the 3D KILLED My Soul To Take - it already had the deck stacked against it with the rather bland (and slightly misleading) trailer, and then they tried making folks pay extra for it in 3D. “No thanks, we’ll wait for Paranormal Activity 2”, horror fans said.

It’s also resulting in a different approach for franchise films. The Final Destination

was probably the best fit - the films had always had a goofy, over the top/in your face approach, so 3D was the next logical step. But Saw? Saw‘s all about the story’s twists and turns, and ever expanding (or is that contracting) mythology. But Saw 3D, while still very much a Saw film, had a sense of goofiness to some of the kills and character actions; some “3D!” shots that will not only feel out of place when you’re watching in 2D, but feel out of place in a Saw film as well. Likewise, Resident Evil: Afterlife had to tone back its usual frenetic action in favor of a lot of needless slow motion and somewhat clunky fight scenes (the big bathroom brawl comes to mind on both counts), because they were clearly putting more effort into making a 3D film than a Resident Evil one.

More annoying is the lack of a 2D option. Horror films aren’t often screened for critics, so when I see them to have a review for Horror Movie A Day, it’s more often than not out of my own pocket. If it’s shot in 3D, fine, but I really don’t shine to paying 3-4 extra dollars for a convert job that’s just going to distract me. I thought Piranha was perfectly acceptable/enjoyable (but forgettable) summer fare, but the whole time I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be enjoying it more if I wasn’t constantly being distracted by glitches in the 3D post-conversion process (such as a character literally becoming invisible at one point, or heads that seemed to stick out 5-6 feet from their owner’s torso). But the nearest theater showing it in 2D was 30 miles away. It’s ironic that the two best fits (MBV and The Final Destination

) were pre-Avatar

, and thus had fewer screens available for 3D. Now it seems like half of the multiplex is fitted for the format, and yet the selections are less appealing.

Now, I’m not saying 3D and horror should never mix. Again, I thought it was a good fit for The Final Destination

(even if the movie itself was subpar), and since Patrick Lussier knows what he’s doing, My Bloody Valentine

really took advantage of the format by playing with depth for the scare scenes but also applying the “Comin at Ya!” motif sparingly, basically saving it for the kill shots (as opposed to Friday the 13th, Part 3

‘s annoying yo-yo and popcorn shots). Also, MBV had a lot of exterior scenes, and the deep, labyrinthine mines - these are the types of locations where the 3D process is adding legitimate texture to the film. Had Platinum Dunes put any effort whatsoever into their awful Nightmare on Elm St reboot, they probably could have seen how 3D could be a benefit to the nightmare scenes, at least (just no “when Maggie puts the glasses on” bullshit like in Freddy’s Dead, please). And I would LOVE a big budget 3D haunted house movie, because there the house would be a character of sorts and thus it would add to the ride. But overall, I want to see less of a bandwagon approach to the format. I like 3D – when it’s done right. And I’m not seeing too much of that lately. Or in the future, for that matter. The next big 3D horror flick is Priest (which seems to be more of an action film) and (sigh) is a post-convert, which means it will just add to the problem. Underworld 4 will be shot in 3D, and that could work, though if its anything like previous Underworld movies the convoluted plot will prevent us from enjoying the spectacle too much anyway. I’m sure they’ll have really cool posters though.