Why everything sucks

So you've decided for your own inexplicable reasons to read some totally other person's opinion of a horror movie. How do you know that person isn't a complete degenerate moron who doesn't like the same stuff you do? Or even more apalling, likes stuff you don't?

I appreciate an unbiased review of a PEX crimper or catnip-filled fake mouse, but when it comes to anything artistic I think a review without bias is like a restroom door that doesn't say whether it's for people wearing trousers or skirts. Human beings are virtually made of bias and prejudice and the internet is big enough to accomodate every niche group imaginable, so I say this business of unbiased reviews is obsolete.

Here at the Park we operate at 100% full bias at all times. I say it's better to piss off 99 people and connect with one than to bore everybody. I mean what if you have raging achondroplasiaphobia and hated Leprechaun 3 because you detest little people? Maybe I do too (I totally don't!) and we could share an evil laugh about it (I never would and think you're a monster!). This section will set forth my personal horror movie bias so you can calibrate it to yours and perhaps on rare occasion gain a modicum of something other than completely useless information during your visit here.

Seriously I love the little people and hope Doctor Loveless comes to your house and drains your blood.

First off I am a horror fan, not a movie buff. If I'm not watching horror it's probably David Attenborough or women's soccer from Germany. In fact I don't necessarily even view horror movies as movies. I feel that horror is a thing, a vibe, an experience, not a media. Movies are just a carrier. If I watch an 80s slasher it's not because I want to see a good movie; it's because I want to see a good 80s slasher.

A horror movie certainly can be a good movie movie, and many of the very best are, but a pretty high percentage aren't and I say don't have to be. Take a movie like Zombi 2 for instance. Interesting characters? Zero. Memorable dialogue? Not that I recall. Acting? None. Compelling story? Zombies are on an island. Great horror movie? YES. The point is I judge a horror movie by its horror, not its movie.

That out of the way, here then my personal bias on randomly ordered aspects of horror cinema.


I'm a negative sort of person so this is mostly going to be list of whatever pisses me off in horror movies, but I'm going to start with the one thing I love and crave above all else: vibe. I define vibe as being in a place and digging it. It's the darkside trip, the thrill and excitement of the movie's atmosphere.

And as Pinhead once observed, the world of horror has such sights to show us. It can be a dark and stormy night in a haunted mansion, a masked killer at Summer camp, a seedy carnival, weird lights in the desert, a beast on the moor, a dreamscape of Hell, Lovecraft's Arkham. Vibe can even be the movie itself - when I'm watching Halloween it's The Shape out there on Halloween night, but it's also me, in my house, watching Halloween on Halloween night.

Vibe to me is the movie's guts. I can enjoy all aspects of cinema and horror, but vibe is the only thing I actually require. A movie can even be all vibe as far as I'm concerned - nothing has to happen, no story need be told, no evil leprechaun need be thwarted by saying its name backwards. There's this scene in The Skull of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee playing billiards and talking about the occult in a study full of devil statues and musty tomes and pagan masks. Hell with the rest of the movie; I just want to sit in on that for an hour and a half.

For this reason I'm also somewhat a horror purist. There are sub genres of horror that focus entirely on depicting unpleasant events or crimes or dangerous traumatic situations, like torture porn, thriller, grindhouse, giallo, serial killer (as opposed to slasher), surviving the elements, animal attack, etc. I occasionally watch these and have enjoyed a few but they're just movies to me and don't provide that pureblood horror feeling I'm addicted to.


A lot of so-called horror movies are really just action movies with zombies or something instead of Colombian drug gangs or whatever the hell Rambo was always shooting at. Typical movie action scenes are just a lot of irritating noise to me. I'm here for a horror movie, not an episode of The A Team. I also generally despise any sort of action that could be described as "butt kicking".

It's the gruesome spectacle of horror violence that gets me all worked up - and quit calling me a psycho we've been all through that already. But while I love the brutal slashings and eating of brains and Herschel Gordon Lewis candy-red blood as much as the next guy - in fact probably way more than the next guy - I don't consider myself a gorehound. By that I mean I don't necessarily think the effectiveness of a horror scene depends on the amount of human organ displayed or number of limbs traumatically severed. Not to say less is more by any means, just that I think extreme gore is but one of many equally valid ways young people can die in movies.

In fact I feel like a lot of splatter gore is just showing off an elaborate special effect or going more for the "yeehaw" sort of fun you might get from shooting watermelons with a shotgun. I like my slayings bloody and visceral; I'll take a good hard chef's knife pounding over impalement by stuffed swordfish any day.


Not really watching horror movies for laughs, and even if I were, horror comedies tend to be about as funny to me as a shot glass of codliver oil. Most of these movies seem to think that cracking jokes or slapstick violence in a horror automatically makes it black comedy. It doesn't. I'm a huge fan of genuine black comedy but it's the rarest of all forms of human art and way beyond the ability of most screenwriters. As far as I'm concerned 95% of these are just lame comedy movies with a monster or something running around between gags. Basically if you're a horror comedy and your name isn't Young Frankenstein or The 'Burbs then go ahead and siddown.

I'm not a dour and humourless person by the way. On the rare occasion a horror movie intentionally makes me laugh I'm fine with it. I can also dig the fun horror vibe of quite a few movies that while not full blown comedy, don't take themselves dead seriously either. Night of the Creeps and Return of the Living Dead are two of my all time favourite horror movies in fact - but they're still horror movies.


I don't hate music in movies, I just hate the music they put in movies. I feel like almost all movies are overscored, and usually with that godawful blaring symphonic action muzak. A car chase with that noise blasting is like having a bucket dropped on my head and beat with a spoon. Bad music has no value. It cannot set a mood. If the sounds and pictures of a movie aren't setting a mood themselves then bland orchestral doodling isn't going to help.

I don't know where film schools get this notion that any scene in which people are running or in danger has to be drenched in brass hits. And they say "try watching a scene without the sound and you'll see what a difference the music makes". Yeah? It seems more authentic without the orchestral equivalent of someone yelling "BE EXCITED BE EXCITED BE EXCITED BE EXCITED!" in my face. Once in a while I'll see a movie that can't afford music or something, and horror scenes without that racket going on are all the more chilling. In fact I think an interesting aspect of the whole found footage craze is it demonstrates that movies don't actually have to have any music at all.

That said, on the very rare occasion when a movie actually contains real music and uses it for some purpose other than punctuating fistfights the effect can be absolutely mind blowing. Experience the ominous and dizzying opening scene of The Shining, the nervous thrill of Halloween, or almost any second of Ravenous.

In most movies though I just wish the music would shut up.


Consider the magnificent Museum of Natural History in London, one of the premier science attractions in the world. There you may stand in awe before a roaring animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex and a full sized reconstruction of the blue whale. You may stroll with interest for hours through galleries of incredible fossils and biology exhibits and preserved dead animals of nearly every species on Earth, some of which were collected by Darwin himself during the voyage of the Beagle. There's a suitably overpriced gift shop. Surely any trip to London without a visit to the Natural History Museum would be foolishly misconcieved.

But the devil's always in the details. In planning your itenerary you've likely neglected to calculate the sheer number of schools for children they have in the greater London area, and how juicy a target a dinosaur museum is to those schools for educational field trips. Thus it is that at virtually any time during its business hours the facility is completely overrun by stampeding herds of shrieking, charging, bawling, grabbing, tongue sticking outing, rhinovirus spreading pet monkeys. Natural history museum? More like Chuck E Cheese!

Same thing when they put 'em in horror movies.

For the millionth time I don't hate or want to hurt your damn kids. Look, I have an actual child phobia okay? It's a disease or something. Before y'all want to hate me for that, think about how much better it is to be a pedophobe than a pedophile.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, tolls the death knell to my enjoyment of a movie louder than the presence of a delightfully precocious youngster chirping witticisms and cleverly foiling the villain's evil plot. Hell even as a 7 year old monster myself sitting in front of Disney movies and kiddie shows I just wanted the badguys to wring their snotty necks.

That doesn't mean I hate any movie with a kid in it. If it's actually a movie about childhood trauma and the kids act sort of real then I might be able to deal with it. I'm okay with Something Wicked This Way Comes or The Devil's Backbone. What I chiefly detest are sitcom brats, and unfortunately screenwriters seem to think they're just the most adorable thing to put in horror movies. And of course they are completely immune to harm. Any film containing such a creature is instantly disqualified and will recieve the lowest rating allowed by law.


I don't want to come off like I'm on a moral high horse here; I like boobs and stuff and I don't think there's anything pervy about lookin' at 'em in movies or whatever. But let's call it what it is and stop with the excuses about integral to the plot and character development and tastefully done bla bla bla. 99% of nudie stuff in movies exists for one reason and one reason only: so guys can see sex and naked chicks without the stigma of being porn watchers. But that's what it is - softcore porn.

Okay, fine, whatever, like I said I have no axe to grind. I like seeing people murdered by masked psychos in movies so who am I to judge someone to watches them for the naughty bits, although I could point out that if you want to see graphic nudity and sexual situations there are movies with nothing but that in them. Anyway here's my thing: I watch horror movies for a reason, and it's not to increase blood flow down there. I do not want to be turned on while I'm watching a horror movie. A sex scene in a horror movie can have no positive outcome for me; either it will fail to be sexy, in which case it's a waste of time, or it will be sexy and that takes me right out of the movie because then I'm thinking about nice ladies instead of zombies or whatever.


I understand that screenwriters are absolutely in love with putting assholes in movies, 'cause they think we'll become confused if we don't hate someone and I guess regular people have a hard time hating the other characters. I must be some kind of weirdo though because I don't so much enjoy the sensation of prolonged burning hatred. I know we're meant to hate them so we can enjoy seeing them die, and yeah that totally works on me, but a death scene only lasts a few seconds and doesn't quite pay me back for having some prick mouthing off in my living room for an hour.

Please understand I'm not talking about genuine movie villains here. I love those guys. I'm talking about the guy who's just being the biggest braying jackass since god spoke through a donkey to the prophet Balaam. {And by the way, if some xtian ever gets in your face pin 'em down on that until they have to admit they believe donkeys can talk, then walk away all smug.}

The worst abuse of asshole is when a movie decides to have one usurp the real monster or slasher killer and become the de facto bad guy. Like you turn on a movie to see Jason or a giant wombat and instead it's ninety minutes of that kid you hated in school except now he's a full blown felon. No matter how well done such a movie may otherwise be, it won't be treated kindly here.


The most common cause of movie depression in my household are the people on the screen, and this is where my bias is going to be the most severe and abberant from the normal viewer. It's not just assholes who bug me in movies; I tend to kind of not like most of the people in them. It's not a personal animosity or anything, just that my own life is so different from the typical movie character that seeing them up close makes me feel all the more alienated.

Particularly hard on me are the young folks who populate most movies made since around 2000. They come in two varieties: the shallow and usually drunk obnoxious ones they put in movies that are supposed to be campy, and the smart hip ones (college crowd) they put in movies that are supposed to be cerebral. I pretty much can't stand them both equally.

This is also where my little blurbs would piss off a lot of people, because while I don't blame or hate others for that feeling of alienation, I do bitterly indulge it when I'm writing about a movie or whatever.


Lack of character development is one of the most common criticisms levelled at horror cinema. Endlessly we hear critics grouse about how the characters are just faceless fodder for kills and scares and gore scenes. Screenwriters respond by trying harder to "make us care" about the characters. The problem is that the majority of people who make movies are completely incompetent in this aspect of fiction and merely waste time by trying. Yes I am actually complaining that there is too much character development in horror movies, especially modern slashers.

Now, now, don't get me wrong here. I dig fantastic characters and performances in movies as much as you do, and I could talk about them all day. In fact if you care to read all the movie rants I've typed and uploaded to this very website you'll see that I do talk about them all day. My point here is simply that I'd prefer no character development to bad character development.

I think most filmmakers fail to grasp the fundamental principle that for character development to be interesting, the character has to be interesting. Screenwriters seem to believe that all people are equally interesting if we just know their stories, so these movies typically line up a bunch of catalogue models and start handing out pamphlets about which ones are sleeping with each other behind which ones' backs and which ones are having trouble juggling their careers and relationships and which ones' moms died in a fire when they were kids so they're afraid of fire now and on and on bla bla bla while I'm trying to watch a horror movie.

Merely being told random facts about people or having events occur that concern them does not make them interesting. If the characters in a movie are dull or irritating to begin with, learning more about them only makes it worse. I could know every second of their whole life stories and still not give a flying goddam, and Jason could have killed three batches of them in the time it takes to inundate me with their trivia.

I'm not saying characters shouldn't have stories, but it's not always necessary and the character has to be entertaining first or the story is just ketchup dumped on soggy French fries. I believe it's our experience with characters that makes them interesting, not what we know about them. But how do we pull that off? What is this "character development" anyway? We hear the term constantly but what does it even mean?

Unfortunately I don't think there's a clear mathematical answer. I think it's like music - there's no formula, only knack. To me character development is anything, anything at all, that makes me enjoy a particular individual being on my video screen. It can be the whole nine yards of great script and incredible performance like Eleanor in The Haunting or something as simple as the facial expression of a bit player. It's every little thing about a character - what they say and do, how they move, how they look, even the timbre of their voice. It's screen presence, and is the product of artistic talent by filmmakers and actors.

And as such it's really hard and rare. I don't blame directors and screenwriters for trying, but based on my experience with quite a few motion pictures I have to say I think most of them are trying the wrong thing. Basically this is a really long winded way of saying I'm sick to death of having to sit through a fifty minute lecture about a bunch of people I couldn't care less about when I just want to watch 'em get murdered in a damn slasher movie.


One has to be careful listening to director commentaries. A surprising number of them are this:

"Oh yes I made this little film when I was breaking into the business and it's not really a horror movie. I don't even watch horror movies. It's more a thriller and I made sure to avoid the usual horror cliches. Like you see here this character is pregnant and worried about telling her boyfriend, and that makes you really care about her as something other than some faceless victim. Oh tsk look there the studio made me put that silly gore scene in the movie to appease the horror crowd, which rather undermined the cereberal comment I was trying to make about violence in society. Fortunately I'm able to make real movies now. Be sure to check out my latest film about gay teens coming of age in Liverpool during a coal miner's strike".

Yeah thanks I liked your movie until I realised fuck you and your movie.


I mean it's a horror movie right? Why go to the trouble of making a horror movie and then deface it with a happy ending? I'm not saying every horror movie should make you want to kill yourself at the end, but tinkly music and holding hands? Triumph of the human spirit? "Fuck you Jason!"? Freeze frame of people laughing? All lies! Movies that balk at the end get two for flinching here at the park.


And as a final calibration test of bias in action, a short list of movies I like way more than most people do...

...and a few I think are way the hell overrated, with the offending reason:

And there you go. I can't imagine what sort of weirdo would actually read all this, but if you have, congratulations! You are now 100% qualified to read a bunch more other crap I wrote.