Terror Tuesday: 5 Horror Plots I Don’t Want To See In 2011

Brian talks about five horror movie tropes that he’d like to avoid in this bright and shiny new year.

But in 5-10 years, I might be totally delighted by this scenario.  I enjoyed Turistas

and the Hostel films, after all - I just don’t care to see any more for a while. So, in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and all that, here are the five horror movie plots I hope to avoid (for the rest of) this year.

1. Idiot Tourists Get Killed By Locals For Some Reason

Well I just discussed this one, but it’s the one I’m certainly the most sick of, and I say that as one of the 18 people in the world who liked Turistas.  We’ve gotten to the point where even the unique twists (such as Turistas’ forced organ donor operation) are becoming stale – the recent Sutures and Train both used this scenario.  Then there are the forced breeding entries (The Season, Timber Falls), or the just plain like to kill folks versions (Hostel and its myriad clones).  I actually enjoy some of these movies, but I’m just tired of someone trying to scare me out of wanting to take a vacation – the costs do that.  And they’ve run out of ways to try to trick us into thinking someone is good but they’re really bad, or vice versa.  Now I just assume everyone’s in on it or will end up dead anyway, and I’m usually right.  How about a version where no one is bad and the tourists just get themselves killed by their own stupidity by falling off a cliff or something?  That’d be fun.

2. They’re Dead The Whole Time

The Sixth Sense

worked.  Maybe not for everyone (my dad figured it out after like 5 minutes), but it certainly did for me.  And in the hands of a good filmmaker, perhaps it can again.  But I haven’t been fooled in a while.  I’d name names but then I’d be spoiling several underwhelming DTV movies, so let’s just put it this way – if the main character gets into a car accident in the opening moments and is able to walk away – they’re probably dead.  Wait, I’ll spoil one, because it’s from The Asylum and thus you shouldn’t care – Haunting of Winchester House

.  Ironically that one almost works because it’s The Asylum and thus I assumed they weren’t showing us the car accident because they couldn’t afford it – turns out they were just trying to hide the obvious.

3. Movie Crew Gets Killed

Last week in my slasher A-Z column I had three films about movie crews being killed as they made their movie: Urban Legend 2, Killer Movie, and Wrestlemaniac.  But for every one of those (that I like), there’s a half dozen entries like Splatter Movie, which tries really hard to be clever, making meta-jokes about the bad script or inept actors, and never once managing to be interesting (or actually funny).  Or Dark Reel, which had the audacity to rip off Scream 3 (right down to casting Lance Henriksen as the studio head and having the killer be the bastard son of a dead actress).  It’s bad enough watching a bad movie, it’s worse when it’s about folks MAKING a bad movie.

4. A Ghost Just Wants A Proper Burial

Most of the more popular J-horror movies (and their remakes) focus on this sort of thing – One Missed Call, Dark Water, The Ring – they’re all about vengeful ghosts who calm down once their body is discovered in a hole in the wall or a well or whatever.  What drives me nuts about these movies is that the ghost tends to have pretty strong powers – they can choke the heroine with their long black hair, or turn our TVs/cell phones/etc on and off at will – why don’t they ever just say what they want?  If they just wanted to kill people, it would be one thing, but why are they always forcing the protagonist to play detective, slowly prompting them toward their remains?  I much prefer when they want revenge on specific people (i.e. Shutter).  At least they have a reason for being cryptic.

5. X Number Of Strangers Are Trapped Together For Reasons Unknown

Now that the Saw

series is over mostly due to fading interest, I don’t expect to see TOO many more of these coming along.  But the market is flooded with entries I haven’t seen yet, which is depressing when you consider I’ve seen the Saw (7 movies) and Cube

(3 movies) series in their entirety, plus Are You Scared, Shadow Puppets, Nine Dead, Hunger, Breathing Room, Steel Trap... I think I’ve seen more movie characters have the “What’s the last thing you remember?” conversation at this point than I have shots of the Eiffel Tower outside a Paris hotel room.

Again, I don’t dislike these scenarios on principle – I could list a half dozen of each that I really like.  But I just see them turning up far too often, and after a while I have trouble telling them apart because they’re so similar.  Worse, I don’t see anyone putting their own spins on a formula, which should be the very least one could expect.  Recent festival favorite Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is a perfect example of how to do something old and new at the same time – it’s set up as the standard “group of kids in the woods get menaced by rednecks” movie, but the twist is that the rednecks don’t mean them any harm, and it’s the kids’ own fears and prejudices that get them killed (and it’s fucking hilarious).  It’s a brilliant idea – but why the hell has it taken 30 years of these kind of movies for anyone to mix it up in such a fairly simple way?  The great thing about horror movies is that you are allowed to use your imagination and break cinematic taboos in ways you can’t quite get away with in other genres, but I’m seeing fewer and fewer filmmakers take advantage of that.  And it’s even more of a shame to see so many HORROR movies playing it “safe” by sticking so rigidly to a formula, especially one that has long since worn out its novelty.

Brian Collins watches a horror movie every day, which means he’ll probably end up seeing movies with these plots before April. To read about his continuing adventures in horror films, read the original and the best Horror Movie A Day.