I think most of us would agree that many horror movies are just made to be dumb fun and aren’t meant to be taken seriously. There’s a movie called “Wish Upon” that’s coming out at the end of the week that’s about a magic box that grants people’s wishes. But there’s a catch. For every wish the box grants, someone close to the wisher dies!
Yeah…it’s pretty dumb. But that’s usually the point. These kind of blockbuster horror movies aren’t really about a story…they’re about spooks and scares and things going “BOO”.
Also gore…there’s a lot of gore these days.
But what if we took these movies more seriously? It is true that some older horror fiction contained moral lessons or at least satirical observations on modern society. So what would happen if we took these tales at face value?
Sex is bad
If you’ve never seen the show “Robot Chicken”, all you really need to know is that it’s a skit show involving action figures. And it’s raunchy…oh so raunchy…
There’s a skit on the show that mashes together “Scooby-Doo” and “Friday the 13th”, with the crew of the Mystery Machine getting brutally murdered one by one by the masked killer Jason Voorhees. At one point during the skit Velma complains that “the virgin lives the longest in these horror movies”. And it’s true. The virgin is the last one alive, particularly in slasher movies.
The excellent 2011 movie “The Cabin in the Woods” references this, stating that for things to work out, the virgin has to be the absolute last one to die, if at all.
But why is this exactly? How did this become a trope? Well, as it turns out, horror movies have a weird thing with sex. Which is that sex is bad. Very bad. Unless you’re married. Which is why in slasher flick movies, the promiscuous cheerleader and the football jock she’s dating are pretty much always the first targets.
The movie “It Follows” literally revolves around a monster curse that is passed on by sleeping with people. It’s weird, but horror movies apparently grabbed on to this cultural fear of teenagers having sex. The plot of “It Follows” reads like a paper-thin metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s like horror movies abide by this strange, Victorian era sense of morality when it comes to sex. Which brings us to our next topic…
Warped Moral Messages
The Sam Raimi movie “Drag Me to Hell” features a female loan officer who refuses an extension to an old lady, who subsequently turns out to be a gypsy or something and puts a curse on the main character which will send her to hell.
Seriously? I mean, refusing a loan extension is a cruel thing to do, but even the IMDb plot summary points out that she only does it out of misplaced fear for her job:
“Christine Brown is a loans officer at a bank but is worried about her lot in life. She’s in competition with a competent colleague for an assistant manager position and isn’t too sure about her status with a boyfriend. Worried that her boss will think less of her if she shows weakness, she refuses a time extension on a loan to an old woman, Mrs. Ganush, who now faces foreclosure and the loss of her house. In retaliation, the old woman place a curse on her which, she subsequently learns, will result in her being taken to hell in a few days time.”
Given that this movie seems to take place in the modern-day, why not go after the people who caused the housing bubble to burst and created the economic turmoil that likely put the old lady in danger of being foreclosed on? What about the politicians and the rich people who sat by and let everything fall apart? I mean, if it’s that easy to curse someone, why not curse the people who deserve it?
But that’s horror movies for you. They attempt to justify all manner of horrible things through the flimsiest lens possible. Take, for example, the “Saw” franchise.
If you’ve never seen the movies, the basic premise is that a serial killer kidnaps people and forces them to play elaborate games involving deadly traps. It’s a franchise that spawned seven different movies and is even spawning another movie later this year, seven years after the last movie came out. But what bothers me isn’t how many sequels there are, but the motivation behind the killer himself.
In the second movie, Jigsaw tells a former police detective that he attempted to commit suicide after he was diagnosed with cancer. Evidently, when his attempt failed, he was infused with a new appreciation for life. And apparently, he was compelled to inspire that appreciation for life in others.
Inspiring an appreciation for life…by physically and psychologically torturing people until they have PTSD and nightmares for the rest of their lives. And that’s if they survive.
Superstitions are not to be mocked
“There’s a logical explanation for all of this” – Guy who is about to be killed in horrific fashion
A great example of this trope can be seen in “Blair Witch”, the 2016 sequel to “The Blair Witch Project”. It was…not very good. Near the beginning of the movie, when the crew is first making their way into the woods, one of the characters makes their thoughts on the legend of the Blair Witch heard and mocks it for all it’s worth. Then, on the second night, he is chased by some unknown entity and presumably killed.
Just goes to show you kids: don’t mock superstitions. Because they’ll come true and kill you dead.
And this a common character in horror movies, especially ones involving local legends or folklore. They’re a skeptic by nature, so they loudly proclaim their disbelief in “silly” superstitions and the like, much to the chagrin of others.
“You actually believe in Bigfoot,” they’ll ask with a mocking chuckle. “Bigfoot isn’t real. He’s a myth and a hoax, sustained by people who have nothing better to do with their lives.”
And then Bigfoot will promptly stroll out of the woods, rip the person’s spleen out of their chest, and it so far up their rear end that it pops out their mouth.
Actually, that sounds pretty badass. I’d pay to see that movie.
Archaeology is nothing more than grave robbing
This is a weird one.
I’ve gone on record before about how I enjoy point and click adventure games. Well I have a couple in mind when it comes to this trope: “Barrow Hill” and its sequel “Barrow Hill: The Dark Path”.
In these games, the central plot revolves around an isolated gas station and motel set near an ancient barrow or burial mound. In the first game, archaeologist Conrad Morse triggers the horrible events that trap you and other characters in the area because he digs up the mound, taking dirt samples and treasures. The implication is that he disturbed some kind of ancient spirit by doing so. And in the second game, which features the spirit of an ancient Wicca witch, goes much the same way. In the game you find the diary of an archaeologist who dug up the grave of the witch and angered her spirit.
Now, “Dark Path” ends with a message from one of the main characters stating that “there’s a difference between archaeology and grave robbing”. But the game never makes that distinction. There’s no point in the game where it points out what would be considered good archaeology. Because for archaeology to work, things have to be dug up. But according to the “Barrow Hill” series, that’s a bad thing.
You could argue that it’s more a point about having respect for ancient cultures and tradition, but without any clear indication of how you’re supposed to have respect for these things it comes across as a harsh indictment of the profession itself. Even if it’s just about not forgetting the past, if we leave it alone eventually nature will erase any trace of these things ever existing. Even if Conrad Morse hadn’t dug up the barrow in the first “Barrow Hill”, nature would have eventually eroded away the rocks or overgrown the area, which means that people would have forgotten about Barrow Hill anyways. Think about how many ancient cultures or cities we don’t know about, that we may never know about because nature has long since destroyed any evidence of their passing.
Maybe Indiana Jones could get away with it. Who knows?
I hope you enjoyed reading. Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.