Posts Tagged Saw
The past ten years of horror movies have been a mixed bag of re-done, over-done, and just plain horrible. While the last decade was dominated by slasher flicks, teen horror, and zombie stayed buried, this decade was mostly dominated by new puzzles of flesh and film, a handful of redos/imports, and the return of zombies; this time with running shoes. Let’s take a painfully closer look at the defining moments of the years 2000 through 2009.
While it was ironic that both decades ended with a low budget hype factory, The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Activity (2009), the similarities ended there. The year 2000 saw some over flow of teen horror as the Scream and Urban Legend franchises’ final chapters hit us, but aside from the Final Destination franchise, the teen horror genre didn’t seem to have the same dominance as it did in the 90’s. Instead, the 2000’s dragged in a bloody sack of imported Asian horror, torture horror, remade horror, a new brand of zombies, and, of course, our patron saint of mockery here at No Room in Hell, Rob Zombie.
The Asian Horror Invasion
I’ve related my experience with the movie The Ring (2002) before. People were on the floor almost sobbing as if Samara crawled from the screen itself when she did her deformed animal shuffle out of that TV. The scene was endlessly creepy with a fresh new feel, and unfortunately a slew of Asian horror followed her through that TV set but none of them (including The Ring’s sequel) had the power like The Ring did to make audiences believe that those rotted hands were about to emerge from your popcorn bag.
Most offensive about this movement was that each film’s monster was almost identical. I can imagine the police lineup. “Okay ma’am which one of these undead kids with black hair and discolored skin crawled through your TV and killed your husband?” Line up the creatures from The Ring, The Grudge (2004) Dark Water (2005), and Shutter (2008) and I’ll be damned if I could tell’em apart.
With each successive Asian horror remake to hit the U.S., the initial creepy vibe that The Ring introduced rapidly diminished.
The Asian horror invasion didn’t stop with dark hared children either. Pulse (2006) and The Eye (2008) also thought they’d be better with English and an American budget. The real question is what scares Americans more: Asian horror or subtitles?
Well, I blame Saw (2004) for this genre. Granted, Saw could be its own movement considering it produced six movies in this decade, but that’s another blog post. Still, something about its formula was different, new and exciting. Years of slasher horror’s guillotine blade racing down and giving audiences a three second payoff of a face molded in death had made us desensitized, bored. Saw showed audiences that victims could suffer in cruel and unusual ways for minutes or even the whole film. While I applaud the first Saw for being different, the franchise has gone out of control and down the path of self parody since. Worse yet, it opened the doors for films like Hostel (2005), Wolf Creek (2005), and Turistas (2006).
In a genre that is constantly insulted for being formulaic, we don’t need torture horror. Slasher films took twenty years for the formula to get used up and old. Torture horror took until the closing credits of Hostel. I am not ready to jump on the “It’s just torture porn” bandwagon, but I warn developers of these type of films that this genre has very few places to go unless we have a real interesting premise like in Martyrs (2008). I hate to paint it with the torture horror brush, but is the closest example of a movie with torture horror elements that transcended them with artistic brilliance.
My final words on this genre are “boycott Saw” and force the filmmakers to stop making them before they hurt themselves and the genre. And an open letter to Mr. Eli Roth: stick to making Thanksgiving. No Hostel III, please!
It’s bad enough that we imported half of Asia’s horror movies, our lack of originality has American horror producers also re-re-ing their own to get a new product on the screen. Before 2010 is out, almost every slasher icon from my childhood will have two versions. In the past ten years: Jason, Michael, Freddy, Leatherface and those good ol’ freaks from The Hills Have Eyes (1977) have all been copied and modernized. Why?
Money, of course. Sure, our country is founded on capitalism but is it so wrong to hold on to a smidge of idealism? You know, the idea that we could just leave a great movie untouched solely based on artistic appreciation. Insanity, I know.
I’ll bet that right now, someone somewhere is probably trying to get their hands on Leprechaun (1993). “Come on there’s been seventeen years worth of advances in CGI. It’s time for more fun with the most disgruntled leprechaun on screen since those damn kids tried to steal Lucky’s cereal.”
Rob Zombie Crawls Out Of The Mud
Okay, I know we spend a lot of time on this site being harsh to Rob Zombie, but I feel it’s honestly with the love of a disappointed parent. His awesome music populated the background of my high school years and we all marveled at his talent when we found out he had hands in creating the peyote dream from Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996). Obviously a talented artist, Zombie making a film made sense, and since teen horror was ruling the day when he announced his project, horror fans waited for Rob to arrive with it like Moses coming back down from Sinai.
Instead of a leader to bring us into a new age of horror, we got an inexperienced filmmaker unloading a poorly edited mess of tied up cheerleaders, people in bunny costumes, strange misplaced monsters, dream sequences, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre scenarios. Was it supposed to be a joke? Was it supposed to be scary? I would just like to ask him in the most serious way possible what he was trying to do.
The house was not only packed with too many corpses, but too many characters, too many clichés, too much fluff in general. The best way I can put it is the parts that were original made no sense or were tonally awkward, and everything else was very unoriginal. Part of me thinks it was supposed to be some kind of homage, but to this day I’m not sure.
The Devil’s Rejects illustrated a little bit of a learning curve on Zombie’s part. The film’s opening sequence wastes most of his irrelevant characters and plot elements with Swat team gunfire, and to his credit, everything that remains resembles a tighter narrative structure and manageable character development. Wisely, Zombie even throws in Ken Foree, portraying a pimp – the film’s best character – for good measure. Even though this piece resembles a film, at least, and had some redeeming value, I still think it illustrated that Zombie had a bit to learn about being scary, directing, writing, etc…
Then he moved on to Halloween, which is a move that baffles me. For a guy that loves film and the horror genre to not realize that remakes are what’s wrong with the industry is beyond me. Furthermore, Zombie has barely been able to put together a decent vision of his own, before he started making a mockery of someone else’s.
The main issue with Zombie’s films thus far is not so much his directing as it is his writing. Particularly with The Devil’s Rejects and Halloween, Zombie illustrated that he at least has an eye for shot composition and pacing. Maybe I’m giving him too much credit here because he had cinematographers work on both of these projects too. What has remained painfully constant is his penchant for mistaking sleazy hick dialogue for disturbing dialogue. The entire opening sequence of Halloween is unintentionally laugh-out-loud funny because it tries so hard to disturb us by showing poor little Michael and his trashy family. The dialogue (and miserable acting) is ridiculous and just goes to show that Zombie was using the same shtick found in his previous films. Granted, with Halloween he’s taken a stab at character development, but the results were just more clichés.
With the next ten years about to start, Rob should focus on his own work (better yet music, but if he absolutely MUST keep making horror films…) and something simple. Maybe a low budget flick with like five characters would be good at least until you get the hang of this film maker thing.
Real Zombies Crawl Out Of The Mud
The 90’s were cruel to the working class Joe of the undead world. No one had heard from Our Father, George Romero, Hallowed be his name, and his holy trinity seem destined to stay that way, just three movies. Then rumors were pushed about that he was being considered to take the helm on the Resident Evil (2002) project. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead we got Anderson, Milla and an average zombie movie franchise that may not have been great, but it got people interested in Zombies again (and we love Milla).
Then, 28 Days Later blew the walls off the genre. It may not have been living dead , but zombie horror had entered the twenty first century at warp speed and this excellent film kicked the doors wide open for fast zombies and a Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake. Most fans of the original shrugged and said, “Well not as awful as I thought it was going to be,” but more importantly the interest in hordes of zombies was poppin’ again.
The return of the king came the next year with Land of the Dead (2005). Romero got to play with slow zombies and a big budget (for him), and the film itself was a decent entry into his mythos, at very least offering better closure to fans than Day of the Dead (1985). Romero since then has released two indie films in his universe – Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). While these have fallen upon mixed reviews, the importance of Romero doing what he does best should not be overlooked.
Zombies are pretty much everywhere now. Video games, board games, dozens of straight to DVD titles line the shelves of stores with happy rotting faces racing there covers. Even zombie comedies have become popular. Zombieland (2009) and Shaun of the Dead (2003), both zombie-comedies, were not only hilarious and excellent films but also two of the best horror films I’ve seen in years.
With these positives growing from the seeds of Resident Evil and House of the Dead (2003) it goes to show that bad movies can sometimes help to refresh a genre. Hey, maybe that’s what our buddy Rob Zombie is hoping for…maybe not.
So, are we hopeful for the next ten years of horror? It is hard to be. One of the most telling events of where the genre is going was Let The Right One In (2008) being slated for Americanization in the form of Let Me In (2010). Originality is not spilling all over with the blood here in The States these days. Recently, fans of the genre are turning to foreign films because of their ability to be different, raw, and generally less influenced by the norms and taboos us Yanks are used to, which probably is what makes the need to import every decent horror film over here that much more offensive. Not everything good has to be seen through American-goggles.
We have to sadly acknowledge that the remake machine isn’t stopping anytime soon and focus our attention toward foreign and indie horror. There’s a lot of crap to sort through, but there are still some gifted horror filmmakers out there somewhere waiting to take the genre in new directions.
And what would a end-of-the-decade blog post be without a list or two. Here are our favorite films of the decade. I think we already give enough attention to the worst of the genre around here, so we’ll forego that list. Here’s to hoping for a new movement of originality in our already saturated genre.
Happy New Year.
10. The Hamiltons (2005)
9. The Children (2008)
8. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
7. Dead Girl (2008)
6. The Descent (2005)
5. The Orphanage (2007)
4. Shaun of the Dead
3. Land of the Dead (2005)
2. Let The Right One In (2008)
1. 28 Days Later (2002)
10. Paranormal Activity (2009)
9. Frailty (2001)
8. Dog Soldiers (2002)
7. [REC] (2007)
6. Ginger Snaps (2002)
5. Martyrs (2008)
4. 28 Days Later (2002)
3. The Descent (2005)
2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
1. Let The Right One In (2008)
And these movies got way too many props:
1) Inside (2007)
2) High Tension (2003)
3) Midnight Meat Train (2008)