Like beauty and comedy, scary is in the eye of the beholder: What leaves me sleepless and wringing my hands in fear may have you rolling on the floor in hysterics. I won’t understand why you don’t think some movie is scary. You’ll wonder why I’m such a wimp. We’ll inevitably engage in fisticuffs before realizing that everyone’s taste is different and that’s probably a good thing — variety is the spice of genre, right?
Still, I think there are some monsters and killers that are… well, just plain dumb, there can’t possibly be anyone on the planet who actually finds them scary. I’ve written at length about slasher-movie psychos, including a piece on what makes a good mask.
As someone who grew up fearing the likes of Jason, Freddy, and Michael,
I know these guys can be the stuff of nightmares. I also know these
guys can be laughing stocks: I’ve seen the movies listed below. No
panache, no real desire to make an impression on the audience… most
of these killers don’t even have names!
He Knows You’re Alone (1980)
name is Ray. He’s a jilted groom-to-be who takes out said jilting on
his ex-fiancee and every other prospective bride he can find. He sweats
a lot and he stares a lot. Ho hum.
Graduation Day (1981)
This psycho gets points for using some of the most awesomely ridiculous weapons ever devised (a football with a sword attached!), but does all his murderin’ in a gray sweat suit. A sweat suit? The fact that this dude can’t be bothered with buttons or zippers on his pants is a whole different kind of scary.
Night School (1981)
I understand that wearing a motorcycle helmet will help the killer survive a particularly violent encounter with a final girl — one never knows when a survivor is going to make good use of that 2×4 lying nearby. But my practical side says “Doesn’t it limit the killer’s peripheral vision? Isn’t it hot in there?” And the horror fan side of me says, “Why, that motorcycle helmet isn’t scary at all!”
Final Exam (1981)
They say most murders are committed by someone who knows the victim, which is a bit of comfort if you’re, you know, paranoid about getting murdered. It seems logical, then, that random, senseless killing should be infinitely more scary — you could be out there minding your own beeswax when some random nutjob comes over and offs you. I think this may be what they’re going for in Final Exam, where the killer is just some dude in a green jacket who appears out of nowhere and kills without a hint of motivation. The result, unfortunately, is slightly less profound: The audience ends up crying, “What the hell did I just watch?”
Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
movie is a darkly comic take on the slasher genre, but the killer is
just kind of sleazy. He sweats, wears a jeans jacket and carries around
a big drill. Sure, you’d give him a wide berth at the hardware store. But no one’s going to dress up as this guy for Halloween.
Of course, slasher movies aren’t the only place you’re going to find lame killers. There was this weird little trend back in the early to mid ’90s that… well, it’s a little hard to describe. They were all based on fairy tales or urban legends or fake urban legends, and they all featured dudes in monster makeup — you know the kind of movie I mean. Whatever you want to call ’em, they’re far more funny than frightening.
This little dude has somehow garnered enough sequels to put him in league with the genre’s heavy hitters. He’s gone to the hood, to Vegas, to outer freakin’ space… it truly boggles the mind. The series leaned more to comedy than horror as it progressed, but there’s no denying that in the early years — you know, when he was chasing around the likes of Jennifer Aniston — the leprechaun was supposed to be terrifying. There’s also no denying that he wasn’t.
I have a weird relationship with Rumplestiltskin — the movie, I mean. I know it’s terrible, but whenever I’m not watching it, I want to. Then when I am watching it, I wonder why, because it’s terrible. It’s a vicious cycle that’s become my life! Learn from my pain and stay away, lest ye be trapped in the vortex with me, wondering who finds this movie A) good or B) scary.
Jack Frost (1997)
No, I’m not talking about the heartwarming holiday flick with Michael Keaton — I’m talking about the one where a serial killer gets into an accident involving radioactive waste and the resulting ooze mixes with snow, causing the killer to be reborn as a snowman. I don’t really have a head for science, so I’ll have to believe the filmmakers that such a thing is possible. What I don’t believe is that there’s a Jack Frost 2.
Uncle Sam (1997)
It kind of hurts to include a movie by cult creators Larry Cohen and William
Lustig, particularly when it features a great cast full of ’70s icons. But I’m not sure what they were thinking here: A dead
veteran rises from the grave on July 4th to kill unpatriotic denizens of his hometown, eventually just killing everyone. Mind you, the fact that he’s dressed as Uncle Sam takes away any possible frights this scenario may suggest.
Miner’s Massacre (2002)
So, there was this mean ol’ miner 49er and when he died he cursed his gold… and when some kids dig up the gold… he comes back and… zzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, I’m sorry — was there something scary going on here? No? I’ll just go back to sleep then.
Now, I’ll admit that maybe some of these movies aren’t meant to be scary — maybe they’re just unsuccessful satires. Or at least, that’s the benefit of the doubt I’ll give ’em. Or, maybe these movies just aren’t scary to me — perhaps you’re getting ready to log in with a comment along the lines of, “You jerk, are you crazy? I couldn’t sleep for five days after watching Miner’s Massacre, I was so scared!” If that’s the case, then I say good for you. It’s always better to be scared by a horror movie than disappointed. But must you resort to name-calling?
When Stacie Ponder isn’t writing about horror movies here or at her own beloved blog Final Girl, she’s making them. Always, though, she leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.Read More