Since we haven’t done one in a while, I figured it was a good time for another installment of Story Pet Peeves. This time we’ll look at one of my favorite genres: horror. I love to be scared in movies. In fact, some of the best horror movies purposefully don’t have storylines to them. It’s often hard to juggle a strong storyline with tactful scares, as it often requires pulling away from the scare build up to progress the plot. This lends itself to many clichés in the genre, which is a nice Segway into my biggest pet peeves in horror.
There are lots and lots, so if you have any to add feel free to do so in the comments.
- When the monster/scary creature is revealed too soon. This speaks true to both books and movies. Buildup and anticipation is everything, and the scariest tool an author/screen writer has in horror is the audience’s imagination. However…
- Never revealing the monster can sometimes be just as bad. I’m looking at you Blair Witch Project. The buildup of horror should lead to something, and in some cases revealing the villain may not make sense. However, in the case of The Blair Witch Project, where the only scares are either a cameraman who can’t hold his equipment still, a bunch of people slapping the canvas walls of a tent, or a whiny girl videotaping a close up of her eye tearing up, there needs to be something else that drives the scare. And yes, this is my way of saying The Blair Witch Project was about as scary as a toothless puppy.
- When the horror story tries to force in a story. As said before, sometimes horror movies purposefully omit any kind of story, focusing instead on the scare. While this isn’t the only way to avoid the challenge of scaring while telling a good story, it isn’t necessary. There are plenty of horrors that also tell great stories: The Skeleton Key, Fallen, Seven, The Sixth Sense, The Ring are a few that come to mind. However, it drives me nuts when any movie or book tries to be what it’s not. In the case of horrors, when they try to shove in a romance that just doesn’t feel right, or cram in a storyline that’s just so hokey or poorly delivered.
- Gore just for the shock of it. I have no problem with gore…if it makes sense. Needless gore, however, does nothing for me. It’s a cheap trick—a gimmick. I’m looking at you Hostel 1 through 27.
- Stupid protagonists. I’ll admit, it helps when they’re big-chested and beautiful…but only a little. How many times have we seen a character, who knows a serial murderer is after them, hear a noise and go out alone in the dark to check it out? Sometimes they’re smart enough to grab something to use as a weapon, but often it’s something like a butter knife or nail filer. Granted, I may be more sympathetic to watch these characters die if this were real life, but in movies…I have no sympathy.
- When the victim finally gets to the vehicle, but the car won’t start. I am not a car person. Put me in a crowd of car nuts and ask me what I drive and I’ll sheepishly tell you “A white one.” I should also say that my car is about 15-years old, albeit in good shape. Still, with that in mind, I don’t think my car has ever died…ever. I have had cars die on me, but in my 18 years of driving I can count those times on my fingers. So how come they always seem to die when a bloodlust monster is on the attack?
When a random gimmick is used to give the audience/reader insight into the mysterious monster/creature/ghost thing. Yikes, this is one of my biggest peeves on this list. I’m looking at you Jeepers Creepers. The movie follows the same template as most creature features, a Podunk, remote spot with lots of wheat fields or whatever it was, and this strange creature goes on the attack. Since the creature doesn’t speak, the protagonist doesn’t know his motives. Well, then he happens upon a random woman who’s mysterious in her own right and because of her soothsaying ways she’s able to tell him, in great detail, exactly what this thing is all about. Rather convenient, I think.
- When the villain survives explosion, bullets, bludgeons to the head, yet is assumed dead when he trips and falls. If I’m being chased by a human with a knife (let alone something otherworldly) and I’m lucky enough to shoot him in the head, I’m not suddenly going to sit around and rest. I’m calling the cops and keeping a close eye on the cadaver until they arrive.
There are many, many, many other peeves that could be listed here. I know many people will likely say they have a beef with all those raw footage unearthing real events (like exorcism) films. I actually like them when they’re done well. The problem is so many are crap.
Anyway, add your peeves in the comments below, or check out other posts from the Pet Peeve series:
- Story Pet Peeves #1: The unrealistic fairytale guy
- Story Pet Peeves #2: Cheating your audience
- Story Pet Peeves #3: Things that irk me in fantasy novels