After two weeks of bad horror movies, I was committed to finding one good horror movie to share here. So I did some research and found three movies that people have told me they liked, that I have never seen. Now, I still had low hopes. Many people tend to have low bars for what makes a good horror film. Merely being “scary,” is enough to call a movie good. But, I want to find something good that I haven’t seen, so I sat down and watched The Strangers (2008), Let Me In (2010), and Unfriended (2015). One of these is bound to be good, right?
The Strangers (2008)
I was told this movie was suspenseful and thrilling. I was told that it breaks the horror movie mold, and builds up the characters and the atmosphere before getting to the action. I was told these things by people who watched this movie and liked it. The movie has a sequel that is in theaters now. While critics gave this middling reviews, anyone I know who saw it, says they liked it. So I gave it a chance.
So I was left baffled when what I watched was one of the most boring, and cliche, “horror” movies I have seen in a while. The premise is that it is supposed to be scary the way the killers mess with the couple who are our lead characters. They will linger behind them. Knock on the door. Tap them from behind and disappear. None of this is scary though. A person in a dumb mask standing far away, and then vanishing when the person turns to look, is not scary. Half of the things our killers do have no purpose because their victims do not even notice.
There is one part where our female lead, played by Liv Tyler, is walking around the house. We the audience can see one of the killers lingering in the background, but she never sees them. When she finally looks to where he is, the killer is gone. For whose purpose was he doing that? It obviously had no impact on her, because she never noticed him. So is it for the audience. Why would the character try to scare us, we do not exist in the movie. I hate when horror movies treat the camera as a character. So many horror movies do this and think it is scary, but it is just pointless. The movie treats things like knocks at the door as scary. It treats things like people vanishing as scary. And the vanishing could be scary if our killers were supernatural. But they are not, they are real people. So all I can envision is them sprinting and hiding once the camera pans away, and that makes the scenes significantly less scary.
I do not care about this couple or their relationship problems. We meet them after there was an awkward exchange after he proposed. We never get told what happened, but we are lead to assume she either froze and gave no answer, or said no because things are very awkward between them. But if they are so uncomfortable, why would they go back to a vacation home together. From what we are told, this is not their house, it is a house he rented, for romance, after the proposal. He could have just dropped her at home and drove home himself. If he did that, they would have been spared an awkward night, they would both be alive, and I wouldn’t have to watch this movie.
The movie peddles the lie that this is based on a true story, but also says that no one knows the real events. So basically they are saying that people were killed in a house once, and they made up the rest. Horror movies love to stretch the truth and claim it is a real story. I guess they assume calling it a real story makes it scarier. But when it is so blatantly a lie, it is just annoying.
People will cite a line near the end of the film as a reason it is effective. Before the killers finally start to kill their victims, Liv Tyler’s character asks? “Why us?” to which the killer’s reply, “You were home.” So it is supposed to be scary because these killers had no reason to target them. It wasn’t a story of revenge, or to steal from them, they were just looking for someone to kill and picked a random house. But we do not learn this until the very end, so this detail does not help the viewing of the movie where nothing happens.
I can be all for a slow, methodical horror film. I do not even need someone to die for a horror movie to be effective. It Comes at Night is super slow paced and there is no payoff to the buildup until the very end, and even then so many questions are left unanswered. But the difference is It Comes At Night is tense throughout. It builds actual atmosphere and paranoia. This movie just screws around until the final 15 minutes, and the payoff is just them stabbing the victims.
it is not scary, it is not well made. It is just boring. I will now trust the opinions of the people who told me this was good less.
Let Me In (2010)
Of all the movies on this list, Let Me In is held in the highest regard. Some people think this a legit great movie. I have seen the original movie, “Let the Right One In” from Sweeden, and I loved that, but I never saw this version because American remakes of foreign films tend to be pretty bad. But I needed a safety net, and since this movie is so beloved, I assumed it would at least be alright.
What I found, is that the best parts of Let Me In are the things they rip directly from the original. All the new things that director and writer Matt Reeves added, hurt the movie. Let the Right One In was great because of how subtle and tense it was. it was not a true horror movie, it just had horror elements. Let Me In, ramps up the cheese, and wants to be a super scary vampire movie. Any time Abby transforms into a vampire, the movie loses me. The CGI is bad. Why even use CGI? Why have her move around all fast and have her snarl like that? Why cover up the movie in overly dramatic and loud music. The original had a more effective score because it barely had a score. Let the Right One In had a masterful use of silence. Sometimes, silence is the best thing a movie can use. But so many American films feel the need to drown a movie in loud music because they think it will elicit the emotion they are looking for.
Much of the dialogue is good, but that is because it is at times the same exact dialogue as the original. So I can’t give this movie credit for that. I can’t give this movie credit for anything. Like I said, everything good about it is from the original.
I do not like the non-linear nature of this remake. It ruins most of the mystery and tension that the original had. The movie feels the need to over explain everything. it over explains “The Father’s” relationship with Abby, Whereas in the original, we did not know all that much about their backstory, Let Me In explains it to us, making their weird relationship a little more normal. But it should not be normal. The remake missed the point of their relationship. The relationship between the similar characters in the original is so much richer, creepier, and genuine.
Overall, I was left disappointed. If I wanted to watch this story, I would just watch Let the Right One In again. Maybe I would have seen value in Let Me In if I had never watched Let the Right One in. Because then I would have credited the story to the American version. it would have been a good, but flawed American horror movie. But since I have seen Let the Right One in, I can see Let Me In for what it is. A cheap imitation that does not come close to reaching the quality of the Sweedish version. Hey American filmmakers, STOP REMAKING FOREIGN FILMS UNLESS YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT RIGHT.
The best American remakes are usually ones that either tell a new story that is inspired by the original, or one that truly recreates it but in an American setting. The Ring, while flawed, is an example of an American remake gone right. Reservoir Dogs is a remake that you can’t really even tell is one because it tells a fresh story. Let Me In, rips off the original, and cheapens a beautiful story.
People really like this movie, and I cannot understand why. I am sorry, I tried, I really wanted to find a movie that was good this time, but it did not happen.
The core concept of this movie has potential. A horror movie that is all over skype and the internet could be cool, but this movie is sloppy. I mean really sloppy. Ther are constantly continuity errors and dumb plot conveniences.
For instance, there are times when you can hear the other characters in the skype call in the background while the main character is doing something else, but there are to her times when they are muted. We can see they are still talking, but for whatever reason, the director decided to mute their voices. If he did not want the voice to be in the background, he could have just had our main character hit the mute button. That way, it would actually make sense that we are no longer hearing them. To have the voices just cut in and out, is so distracting, and makes it all seem fake. They want it to feel like a found footage film for the modern era. They want us to somewhat believe these things happened, but then blatantly undermine it.
Now I know why it does it. It does it because silence is scary. Taking out the music, and any ambient noise builds up the tension. It has been used effectively in many movies, But when do this at the cost of realism, it is just stupid. And when is the only way you know to scare people, it is lazy. Plus, it is BORING. It happens so many times. Half the film is just the main character silently typing on a screen.
There are also times where there are cuts that make no sense. Every character is on a static webcam so you would imagine they wouldn’t move around much. But the characters will just randomly teleport to different positions with no attempt to cover it up. What is crazy is they could cover it up so easily. They could make the camera lag before they move, they could have it freeze first. But no, the character just teleports on the screen in front of us, yet they want the movie to feel realistic.
The film tells us it is April, but the date on the computer tells us it is February. That is embarrassing. Did they not think people would notice. It is not even like it is hidden in the corner of the screen. The character receives a new email, and at the center of the screen, it says the received date of the email is in February.
This was the easiest movie to the film of all time. They sat each actor in front of a go pro, in sperate rooms of the same house, and had them run through the entire script a bunch of times. They should be able to have the best possible take for each character in each scene, but they still screwed it up. Characters flub their lines, and it is left in. The actors break character, and it is left in. There is no reason for there to be any mistakes in this film, but there are still so many mistakes.
The characters in the film are completely unlikable. Our protagonist is the type of person who will send a text, and If you do not respond in 30 seconds, send 50 more texts complaining that you are not talking to them. This happens in several scenes. Why anyone would be friends with her is beyond me.She also knows nothing about computers, but she is the one controlling the computer we watch. So we have to sit there and watch her do dumb things like not know how to copy and paste, not know how to delete, and not know how to forward an email. We are supposed to believe she is a high school student, but she has the tech savvy of an 87-year-old lady.
It also ended with the laziest and cheesiest jump scare I have ever seen.
I hated this movie. It was not scary, it was not interesting, it was just annoying. It did create an interesting way to film a movie. A more competent filmmaker could make a masterful film with this technique. But this film is just a mess. It has a sequel coming out soon called, Unfriended: Game Night. I haven’t seen much of it, but I saw a review that said that it shows how scary the internet is and cringed. Unfriended is bad, do not watch it.