This is a public service announcement! Save yourselves!
Or it might just be me being curmudgeony. “Little whippersnappers don’t know what they’re doing *grumble grumble*.”
In honor of the season, I’ve been poking at my Netflix queue and watching some of the horror films I hadn’t gotten to… and in all honesty, I think I was happier beforehand. So in the interest of saving some of you out there a bit of pain, I’ll let you know what the top three offenders were and why they were awful. And maybe give some alternate suggestions.
#1 The Lazarus Effect
I was really looking forward to this when the trailers were out; it seemed fun, even if the story’s basically been done before. Looked sort of like an updated Flatliners. This pleased me. Because Flatliners is awesome. (It practically has to be, scientifically; it involves Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland and Julia Roberts all in the same place!)
Unfortunately what we got was a poorly explained mess with bad special effects and no real rhyme or reason to it. Flatliners was mysterious. Lazarus is just confusing. Is she possessed? Is she psychotic? Did the drug break something in her head, or was it the being dead thing? We don’t know; we won’t ever know. Then we get into having her shoot up a gallon of the magic drug for no apparent reason, and then use her blood as a replacement to resurrect her victims, again for no apparent purpose, and we’re left scratching our heads. Plus the “almost” ending, which actually showed some potential even if it was a little sappy and convenient, was just shoved off to the side with a “LOL NOPE!” Irritating.
There’s also the problem of their initial test subject, and why it behaves the way it does. If we’re going with a possession angle, it doesn’t make sense at all – why would a dog go to hell? – and if we’re going the “it’s crazy because it’s dead” rationale, then 90% of the main plot becomes irrelevant. Never mind how human brain juice resurrects dogs and turns them into telekinetic sociopaths.
All in all, I’d give it a 2/5; it’s not completely awful… just pointless and meandering. It’s got some interesting concepts, the hell imagery was cleverly done, and if it got a spit polish and a competent rewrite, it could have been a contender. But still, not on my rewatch list.
Other Recommendation: Go watch Flatliners instead, or perhaps Jacob’s Ladder. (Rethinking, it occurs to me that Lazarus isn’t a tweak of Flatliners; it’s Flatliners and Jacob’s mutant lovechild.) Much more psychologically nuanced, more interesting imagery, and they actually hold to their own internal logic by the end of damn movie without obligatory jump scares and opening for sequels.
#2 It Follows
Another film that looked damn impressive in the trailers, It Follows is an STD-scare movie disguised as a horror flick. Which isn’t all bad. The idea that a ghost/demon/curse could be passed sexually, both as a literary metaphor for “normal” panics and as a literal scary piece, was clever and almost well executed. The problem is that it just doesn’t work, because the characters are unlikeable, the “it” is apparently stupid, and there’s no real explanation given. I am not saying that every horror movie needs an explanation – the unknown and the unease of non-comprehension is part of the fun, sometimes, and the explanations given are sometimes just godawful, such as those offered in later volumes of The Ring series – but when you do this sort of thing, introduce questions, and then just toss them aside in favor of lame jumpscares and possibly the worst final confrontation ever, you’ve got problems.
I could go on, but these guys basically said everything that bothered me already, and did it better. So just watch the video, and you’ll understand.
What you should watch instead: I think I’ll have to nominate Sinister in this slot. No particular reason; it doesn’t really resonate with the themes of It Follows or anything, except in the “I did something supposedly innocent, and now…” But it was fun and had a good punchline – even if you can see it coming, or have already had it spoiled. I might recommend Sinister 2, but sadly, I haven’t had a chance to see it, yet. Though I’m worried; anything that carries itself on the strength of a main character consistently referred to as “So and So” might have trouble on the horizon.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised this one was awful. I mean, the basic concept is “chastity society member discovers she has leech teeth in her hoo-hah and starts using them as a weapon,” so… but I was hoping for something that was perhaps a little more self aware and humorous, rather than an attempt at a serious horror film, and didn’t get it. The fact that the actors are pretty atrocious (when probably your best star is playing the bit part of the psychotic brother’s skanky girlfriend, you’ve got issues) and as far as teeny-bopper horror films go – and at the risk of sounding excessively sexist – there’s not even anyone hot in the move! I thought that was kind of a requirement of the genre! Ahem.
Never mind the illogic that her stepbrother tried to diddle her when she was 5 and almost lost a finger, or how nobody remembers it or what happened, or that every male in the universe of this film is a creeper, a rapist or both. There’s just… nothing here. Unless you really wanna see a dog nosh on a Prince Albert equipped hot dog.
A better idea: Scream, Evil Dead (the original), Army of Darkness… I could probably go on. All are more self-aware, willing to make fun of themselves and their genres, and blend horror and comedy – intentionally or not – with a lot more finesse than Teeth could ever hope to.
So there you have it, folks. Save yourselves from these terrible movies! Watch something good, instead!
If you’ve got recommendations, either in the avoidance or the entertainment category, let us know down below!