Talking out of my arse, once again
April 5, 2007 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Help me show my wife that I am not a complete and utter windbag (at least concerning horror movies)

While watching an ad for the upcoming Hillary Swank movie, The Reaping, I commented that horror movies with major stars usually suck. She immediately countered with The Shining, The Omen and The Silence of the Lambs (technically not a horror movie, but I didn't go there). I came up blank. Can anyone help me add a little substance to my unsupported proposition?
posted by rtimmel to Media & Arts (28 answers total)
"Modern horror movies with major stars usually suck," is the informed opinion you require. :)
posted by fire&wings at 8:03 AM on April 5, 2007

Texas Chainsaw Massacre? (The original, that is.)
posted by AV at 8:04 AM on April 5, 2007

The remake of The Wicker Man with Nic Cage may not definitively prove your point, but it will help. (YouTube documentation).
posted by ourobouros at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2007

fire&wings nails it.

Godsend, Skeleton Key, Cursed, Fog remake, et al are really, really rubbish. They are definitely the 'modern horror movie' ilk that you're thinking of. Advertised heavily yet easily forgettable. Usually involve a creepy kid (thanks a fucking lot, 6th Sense and Ringu), mysterious going ons and a A-lister walking around looking like they smell a fart for an hour and a half.

See also Wolf, Frankenstein (1994), The Watcher and anything directed by Uwe Boll, even though they constitute humour more than horror. Also lots of shite horror movies had people before they got famous.

Generally speaking however, I would side with your wife on this one.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:15 AM on April 5, 2007

AV, no one in TCM is a 'major star', by any stretch of the imagination. And I will fight any man who says that movie sucks...
posted by slimepuppy at 8:18 AM on April 5, 2007

What fire&wings said. Modern horror movies always suck, though Ju-On and Ringu were semi-ok.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:26 AM on April 5, 2007

The Others is in IMDBs top 50 horror movies (by rating) and that had a major star. Of course, this is helping your girlfriend ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 8:36 AM on April 5, 2007

posted by wackybrit at 8:36 AM on April 5, 2007

Horror movies with big stars more or less have to suck, at least if the movie is predicated more on gore than on psychology (which is why The Shining squeaks through). Big stars draw "straights" to the movies, i.e. people who might not normally watch horror but want to see the latest Will Smith flick. Thus the movie has to be calibrated downward (making it "suck" for the gorehound) to fit that audience.
posted by DU at 8:38 AM on April 5, 2007

I might be jumping the gun, but judging by the trailers the upcoming Luke Wilson/Kate Beckinsale (major stars? ish?) movie and the Hillary Swank (Oscar!) one look like they smell like old fish.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:46 AM on April 5, 2007

Oh, sorry, I thought he was looking for examples of horror movies without major stars that were good, not horror movies with major stars that suck. My bad.
posted by AV at 8:57 AM on April 5, 2007

Horror movies usually suck, whether there is a star in them or not. It's a schlocky genre, the first refuge of the no-talent low-budget filmmaker.

Therefore, big stars usually don't want to be in them. And when a big star is in one, it's often seen as slumming.

The Shining and The Silence of the Lambs were adapted from best-selling novels; a certain level of originality and depth of character, as well as a built-in audience, was more or less understood. As for The Omen, Gregory Peck will always be regarded as an important actor, but by 1976, his heyday had passed.
posted by bingo at 8:58 AM on April 5, 2007

Would "Jaws" count as horror?

It's a coin-toss on "The Exorcist" (Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Lee J. Cobb) and the original "Omen"(Gregory Peck, Lee Remick) as far as suckage goes, but they certainly have big stars in them.

Does it count if they weren't big stars yet when they made the movie? I mean, "Halloween" pretty much put Jamie Lee Curtis on the map. Of course, Donald Pleasence was there, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2007

I don't agree with either you or your wife. A lot of horror movies just suck, period. But I don't think it has to do with whether it's a major star or an unknown actor in the film. As an audience, we're all so jaded and unimpressed with special effects, and the same general plots and twists have been done and redone so many times that they're neither exciting nor scary nor surprising anymore. Most of the horror movies coming out these days are total cliches and we've all been there & seen that already ... and usually what we've already seen has been better.

I've seen some recent horror that had somewhat major stars that I enjoyed (the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, Land of the Dead - cheesy but it's a Romero zombie movie, what do you expect- , the Resident Evil movies, the Others, Stigmata, and I'm sure there are others). But, yeah, I've seen a lot more, both with and without major stars, that sucked and were completely forgetable.

It just seems like no one is really coming up with fresh ideas, and the few movies that don't recycle plots are impossible to like because the writer tries to create a surprise ending, but it's one you can't look back and think "oh all makes sense now".

I think it takes a lot to truly frighten and surprise people, and no one is pushing the envelope in that regard. Either that, or it takes something so disturbing to frighten/surprise a savvy audience that it's not making it to mainstream theaters.
posted by tastybrains at 9:02 AM on April 5, 2007

Secret Window with johnny depp
23 with Jim carrey
The Watcher with Keannu reeves
Event Horizon with Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill
Hannibal with Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore Director: Ridley Scott
Halloween H20 with Jamie Lee Curtis
posted by CaptMcalister at 9:06 AM on April 5, 2007

CaptMcalister: Event Horizon? Huh? My wife, to this day, can't watch a movie with Sam Neill in it because of that thing. *shudder*

Also, Jamie Lee was in the original Halloween as well, so I think that balances out.
posted by griffey at 9:23 AM on April 5, 2007

Can you clarify a little about what the actual question is? Are you looking for horror movies that suck despite having major stars in them, or are you just looking for us to lie a little to substantiate your position when you're actually wrong? (No judgement on whether you are or not, but if you can't find examples to back up your case, I'd say you probably are.)
posted by Caviar at 9:27 AM on April 5, 2007

(Also, I'd go so far as to say that the vast majority of all movies made in the past 5-10 years suck, not just horror movies.)
posted by Caviar at 9:29 AM on April 5, 2007

Why just the last 5-10 years? The vast majority of all movies ever made suck. And that's not dissing "Hollywood" or "clueless execs" either, since the vast majority of books, paintings and photographs also suck. Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

The question at hand has a context within that law.
posted by DU at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

To clarify: I don't think I am wrong and I have what I think is a fairly good explanation:

1) Horror is a very hard genre -- its emotional range is very narrow and has a very formulaic set of building blocks.

2) A good horror movie must both acknowledge the cliches of the genre and expand upon them in an original manner.

3) This requires risk and is probably best accomplished by non-mainstream writers and directors.

4) Any movie that can afford major actors usually cannot afford to take the risks necessary, either in writing or directing, to produce good movie.
posted by rtimmel at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2007

Oops -- I left of the last couple of sentences -- I just couldn't come up with examples to back me up. The examples above have been very helpful.
posted by rtimmel at 9:55 AM on April 5, 2007

Can anyone help me add a little substance to my unsupported proposition?

Well... a lot of people have already done that, but how are you planning to bring up your newly supported proposition with her? "Honey, remember the other day when we were watching that ad and I said horror movies with major stars usually suck? Well, since then I've come up with some examples."

If she's not expecting a continuation of the discussion (and it sounds pretty small and minor, to be honest), it might sound a bit like you can't let things go.

Trying to bring it up "casually" again will sound weird.

Although, if this is just because now the question is bugging you, or you expect her to rib you about it later, I guess that's different.
posted by Many bubbles at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2007

Dracula 1979
Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasance, Kate Nelligan

Truly bad.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2007

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation starred Renée Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey before they were stars, and is totally whacked out and excellent.
posted by nicwolff at 11:41 AM on April 5, 2007

I would argue that the Horror genre more than some other film types require the most 'suspension of disbelief' from the viewer. It's hard enough to believe the premise of most horror films, so adding a well-known film star to the mix can really bring you out of the story if it's not done well. So while Jack Nicholson is a believable crazy-person (The Shining) because he's played that kind of part before, he's not so much a believable werewolf (Wolf).
posted by FreezBoy at 12:03 PM on April 5, 2007

FreezBoy, isn't that just a special case of all typecast actors? :)

Seems there are a few relevant permutations regarding the original discussion

Categories supporting the wife's position:

1. Horror films starring no-name actors that suck.
A vast ocean of films here. Probably the majority of all Horror films fall into this category.
2. Horror films starring famous actors that do not suck.
A small number of films, given all the above stated problems.

Categories supporting your position:
3. Horror films starring no-name actors that do not suck.
These are the movies horror fans really _want_ to see - the rare cult classics where the unknown actors, writer(s) and director manage to create something that really succeeds.
Very Rare.
4. Horror films starring famous actors that suck.

Now, mathematically, I'd say category 1 is huge, 2 and 4 are medium-sized (but probably not equal) and 3 is very small.

So numbers-wise, the wife wins.
posted by Crosius at 12:46 PM on April 5, 2007

If you include Japanese horror movies, this doesn't hold true at all. For instance, Koji Yakusho is a well known actor in Japan as has been in several good horror movies. The Cure and Doppelganger, just to name a couple.
posted by rsanheim at 8:53 PM on April 5, 2007

I would love to agree with you (and your theories are similar to Grand Pronouncements I've made myself) but unfortunately I can think of so many exceptions to the rule that the rule doesn't really hold up at all:

The Shining - Jack Nicholson
Rosemary's Baby - John Cassavetes
The Exorcist - Max von Sydow, Ellen Bursten
Jaws - Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss
The Omen - Gregory Peck
Invasion of the Body Snatchers ('78) - Donald Sutherland
Don't Look Now - Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie
Ghost Story - Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr
The Hand - Michael Caine
The Dead Zone - Christopher Walken
The Hunger - Catherine Deneuve
Misery - James Caan

Just off the top of my head. (I've only included films where the lead actor/s were famous at the time the film was made; there are many more great horror films from the past featuring actors who shot to fame later in their careers, or as a result of the horror role, eg. Sissy Spacek in Carrie and Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, Susan Sarandon in The Hunger.)
posted by hot soup girl at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2007

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