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You’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat

“Look what your brother did to the door!” — Jim Siedow in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

If you love movies, you probably have a long list of memorable lines from your favorites.

If you’re a horror fan, however, it’s a virtual guarantee that you’ll have such a list.

Other kinds of films can have great lines, of course, but the fact of the matter is that horror films – the good ones at least — simply have MORE of them.

Great lines from horror films are also more likely to have philosophical resonance than lines from other films are. A great line from a horror film is more than just clever or funny: it’s a statement on the nature of the world we live in.

Consider, for example, Roy Scheider’s classic “You’re going to need a bigger boat,” delivered on the decks of the Orca just after Bruce the shark’s giant mechanical head has first emerged into full view. How many times has this sentence popped into my head as — psychic engines straining, lower decks filling up with oily water and black smoke — I’ve negotiated the shark-filled waters of my own life?

These days, timeless lines still pop up in horror movies, but I sometimes wonder if the great age of them has come and gone. Many of the greatest horror movie scripts were written in a hurry. A big hurry. That we-need-a-script-by-tomorrow frenzy made for a certain creative spontaneity — one that allowed for strangely brilliant lines to pop up and get written down before the writer necessarily even knew what he or she was doing. When a scriptwriter has lots of time and money and committees of people to look the thing over once it’s done, how likely is such spontaneous magic to happen?

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