Horror Hype: One Man’s Disappointment with Recent Genre Hits

One of these is a bloodthirsty monster. The other is "Silent" Steve.

One of these is a bloodthirsty monster. The other is “Silent” Steve.

Greetings Vault Dwellers, “Silent” Steve here, with a poem to set the mood:

Disappointment by Mike Topp
6’5″ 4″

Yes, disappointment: It is the crux of this piece that I have contributed to The Vault. While the story I’m about to share with all of you may seem sort of random, I assure you that it has some bearing on the topic I’m about to explore. So sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane with me, won’t you?

Several years ago, I took my three year old daughter and wife (who will remain ageless in order to ensure my own safety) to a Christmas parade. I’m not much of a parade person, but this time I was really excited because it was my daughter’s first, and she was going to see Santa! Happy memories all around! So we left the house, played Christmas music, and spent the whole car ride getting her pumped to see Jolly Old Saint Nick. By the time we parked she was ready. Santa Claus was coming to town!

It was easily ten degrees out that day, with a windchill of -1000. Complete strangers huddled close for warmth. The spirit of the season was all around, and it felt like it was going to be awesome! Then the parade started. Cars. Just a procession of cars: Police cars, councilman cars, radio station cars, and fire trucks.

Everyone riding in said vehicles, was careful not to lean out of their windows too much, otherwise they would freeze like all of the hypothermic onlookers. There were one or two floats, but they weren’t decorated very well and were also populated by human popsicles. There’s nothing that says Christmas like frozen people on the sidewalk, staring at frozen people on a parade float.

After about thirty minutes, the crowd was in low spirits, but Santa was coming. He would save us, and remind us that it’s Christmas! Then, at the very end, he arrived. He was sitting in the back of a convertible, like the Pumpkin Queen of French Lick, Indiana.

He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, flashing peace signs, and laughing. He had the worst fake beard on the eastern seaboard, and looked like “Timeshare Claus.” Everyone despised him.

"Santa. I have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. You disappointed my daughter on parade day. I will look for you. I will find you. And I will kill you."

“Santa. I have a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. You disappointed my daughter on parade day. I will look for you. I will find you. And I will kill you.”

He could only look at one group of frozen huddled masses just a few seconds before they turned on him. Then he would look elsewhere, and elsewhere, and elsewhere. He was the most hated man in the world that day, and he knew it. We sulked back to our car and drove home despondent. Then when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my daughter looked at me and asked, “That wasn’t Santa, was it?” No, it wasn’t.

Now, I realize I’m partly to blame. I expected something traditional, and “Timeshare Claus” took a calculated risk for humor. But that begs the question, how much should expectation factor into our final judgment? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’m seeing a trend. Every time a halfway decent horror movie comes out it gets highly touted as the “Second Coming of Horror.”

Last year it was THE BABADOOK. It came out of nowhere and the word of mouthsurrounding it was outstanding, with many people touting it as the best horror film of the year. William Friedkin, the director of THE EXORCIST, went as far as to say, “PSYCHO, ALIEN, DIABOLIQUE, and now THE BABADOOK. I’ve never seen a more terrifying movie than THE BABADOOK. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me.” That’s the highest praise you can get for a horror movie, ladies and gentleman. But is it deserved? In a word, no.

To sum it up, the main character is the mother of very difficult child. She is grieving the death of her husband, loses sleep, is overworked, and getting pulled in all directions. Her delusional son pushes her to the limit. He believes he’s seeing a monster, the titular Babadook, which he read out of the creepiest children’s book ever. Before long, it becomes as real to her as him. In fact, there are many clues in the film that point to her fabricating the whole thing. Is it a well-directed film? Yes. Well-acted? You betcha. Is it the best horror movie to come along in decades? Nope.

"I'VE BEEN BABA-DUPED INTO SEEING THIS MOVIE BY ALL THE POSITIVE BUZZ!!!

“I’VE BEEN BABA-DUPED INTO SEEING THIS MOVIE BECAUSE OF ALL THE POSITIVE BUZZ!”

However, because I’m an idiot, I still get pulled around by the nose whenever I hear about a great horror movie. So a few months ago I caught wind of another “word of mouth” hit called IT FOLLOWS. I looked into it enough to be interested in watching it, but assumed I’d have to wait a while to see it. But unexpectedly, it had gained steam (through critical praise), and began getting wider and wider releases. How could I not go?

Turns out that IT FOLLOWS is a love it or hate it movie, and I know who will hate it: Cinema professors. There will be about ten thousand term papers written about this movie in the next few years. Why? Because it’s a movie about metaphors that have sex with each other, to the point of becoming a veritable orgy of them.

Now, I know it sounds like I didn’t like the movie, and you would be right. I also didn’t hate it. The director, David Robert Mitchell, is clearly a great talent. Even in scenes where there isn’t much going on, the visuals are captivating. He also gets pretty good performances out of a bunch of unknowns.

The soundtrack is also one of the best in years, despite the fact that the composer, Rich Vreeland, insists on keeping his “Disasterpeace” moniker. To me, Disasterpiece sounds like the stage name of a transgender hip-hop performer, but in contrast, Rich Vreeland looks like one those unapproachable guys who sit in Starbucks and murder-stare at their laptops. Still, he’s a genius.

The problem with the movie is that it never commits to any of the great ideas it comes up with. I was sitting in the theater thinking “Okay, it’s a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases,” and then “Oh, wait. This is a movie about rape trauma.”Not even ten minutes after that, it seemed to be about teenagers with abandonment issues who seek casual sex for intimacy.

"Also, don't feed it after midnight and keep it away from water and... wait... that isn't right."

Then there’s this clever metaphor for the audience members who feel tied down in their seats after paying $10+ dollars to see IT FOLLOWS.

Then at the end of the film they quote directly from Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot,” and it seems like the point of the story all along is the certainty of death. For a movie that so eagerly quotes about the fear of certainty, IT FOLLOWS doesn’t seem to be certain about anything.

You see, while all these deep metaphysical concepts are being thrown around, a very real monster is pursuing the main characters. It just doesn’t jive well to have a monster be both a representative of the darker consequences of sex, along with being a physical threat to the characters onscreen.

I can honestly say that you won’t find a film this year more in love with its own themes than IT FOLLOWS. Stopping the narrative to have a character read from “The Idiot” reminds me of when Jimmy Fallon laughed during an SNL sketch. We already know you’re in on the joke because you’re telling it, so stop laughing and let us laugh for ourselves.

But don’t listen to me. Go watch it, because the commercials tell you that this is the “Scariest Movie OF ALL TIME!” Because everything is the next greatest thing! That’s all we have to look forward to: More trailers. More hype. All aboard!

You see, we’ve been through the endless parade of expectation only to be ultimately let down. A movie will be announced, and then cast, and then speculated upon, and then a trailer will come, and then we grow more excited. We start to think Hollywood gets us. We start to think the long parade of endless letdowns will lead to that one movie. The one movie that truly will belong to us. And in the end it’s just a fake Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt on his way to a Grateful Dead concert.