5 Ridiculous Movie Genres We Used To Be Obsessed With
In a hundred years, our descendants are going to look back at the movies we made and wonder why we were so inordinately obsessed with superpowered maniacs and the other superpowered maniacs who fought them. But that won't be a new phenomenon. If you look back, Hollywood history is littered with the corpses of some truly bizarre trends. Like how ...
Evil Cars Were Once All The Rage
Before Steven Spielberg convinced America that nothing was more terrifying than a rampaging shark, he wanted to prove that there was nothing more terrifying than a rampaging, uh ... truck. Yes, there was a time when horror movies featured a parade of cars possessed by the devil, aliens, or simply the ghost of bad screenwriting. Spielberg's first feature film, 1971's Duel, was technically about a truck with an actual human driver, but we never see that driver.
The truck is hellbent on running a middle-aged salesman off the road for reasons, but that's not important now. It's only important that the film kicked off an entire subgenre which lasted over a decade before audiences finally woke up and realized that being scared of vehicles was a bit silly. Highlights include 1974's Killdozer and 1977's The Car, which both feature vehicles possessed by ... badness? It's never made clear.
A few brave movies did attempt to explain how and why a vehicle could turn evil. 1983's Christine centered around a 1958 Plymouth Fury that goes on a rampage because it has serious co-dependency issues with its owner, and the title vehicle of 1980's The Hearse went bad because it once transported the corpse of a Satanist.
The final nail in the tire was Stephen King's directorial debut and farewell, 1986's Maximum Overdrive. In it, all of the world's vehicles and machines turn evil because of a passing comet, but also maybe aliens? Whatever, King was swimming in cocaine for most of that decade anyway.
The '80s Were All About Body-Swapping
Every kid dreams of the day when they're finally old enough to buy a tiger that only eats algebra teachers. And every adult dreams of those halcyon days when they were young enough to run naked through the rain without having to attend sexual harassment meetings afterward. When Freaky Friday came out in 1977, Hollywood unwittingly tapped into one of humanity's most primal urges -- to fully switch bodies with someone from a different generation and inherit their supposedly easy life.
Freaky Friday's plot revolves around a harried housewife and her petulant daughter switching bodies, and eventually learning that they both have equally difficult lives and are worthy of respect. It made five times its budget, prompting a mad rush of producers hoping to capitalize on the premise. First came a TV series, Turnabout, wherein a husband and wife swap bodies thanks to a gypsy statue. Then there was 1984's All Of Me, in which a man and a woman cohabitate Steve Martin's body. Four more body-swapping films came out between '87 and '89, providing a stern reminder that Hollywood has always had issues with originality.
In Like Father Like Son, a magical Native American switches the minds of a father and son. 18 Again! was totally different; in that one, a man and his grandson switch bodies due to "an accident." Then Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage switched bodies in Vice Versa, which was our high water mark.
But Dream A Little Dream pushed the body-swapping genre too far, like the Manhattan Project of hack screenwriting. In this movie, a yoga mishap results in four characters switching bodies and learning important life lessons. 1992's Prelude To A Kiss spelled the end. Alec Baldwin's fiancee decides to make out with a lecherous old man, which naturally causes their souls to switch. Baldwin then has to learn how to love his previously sexy fiancee for her beautiful soul alone, even if it is now housed inside a pervy senior citizen. And since that was about as existentially terrifying as the genre could get, Hollywood called it a day.
Former Female Sex Symbols Became Murderous Hags In The '60s
As Hollywood entered the 1960s, they realized they had a problem: The gorgeous leading actresses of the day were, gasp, aging. It was out of the question to present women over 35 as attractive, because no one would buy that insanity. But Hollywood also didn't want to cast aside some of their biggest names, so they invented a brand-new genre befitting these exceptionally talented actresses: "hag-horror," aka "psycho-biddy."
It was ... not an ideal solution.
The first and most famous of these films was Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? It revolves around two washed-up child stars, played by aging sex symbols Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who go crazy with jealousy and become embroiled in a bitter, murderous feud. So ... pretty much what happened in real life. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, so of course we got a slew of hasty ripoffs.
Moving swiftly to capitalize on Baby Jane's success, Crawford returned with Strait-Jacket in 1964. The film follows a convicted ax-murderer who, after being released from an asylum, immediately picks up her trusty ax and starts decapitating people again. It was nominated for no Academy Awards, because it sucked.
1964 also saw the release of Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte -- starring Davis and directed by the same guy who did Baby Jane -- in which four old women go around murdering people for a variety of reasons. That film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and the race was on. What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice? follows an old lady who hires maids for the sole purpose of killing them and keeping their shit. Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? features an evil old lady who tortures orphans. And What's The Matter With Helen? sees two old ladies trying to avenge their sons' murder convictions by -- you guessed it -- murdering a bunch of people. It's not a great plan.
Note that while these were the only roles many aging actresses could secure, male stars continued on as normal, seemingly immune to the ravages of time. Thankfully, Hollywood has long since sorted out all of its issues with older women.
The '70s Were All About Plane Hijackings
1970s America had a big problem: airplane hijackings. While modern airport security is so paranoid that TSA agents have to register as sex offenders in 16 states, the primary form of security in the '70s was hoping for the best. Cue the film industry's decade-long love affair with plane hijackings. The first was 1971's Airport, a bona fide prestige movie with big names and a slew of Oscar nominations. It revolves around an airport manager struggling to keep Chicago's airport open during a snowstorm while also dealing with this guy:
As you've probably deduced from his expression, that man is threatening a passenger plane. That's what the rest of the industry latched onto. In 1972's Skyjacked, a different crazed white dude with a bomb threatens a plane. Several premier leathery overactors volunteer to stop him -- among them Charlton Heston and James Brolin. The film even ripped off the Airport poster.
The formula was repeated in 1973 with This Is A Hijack:
Once again, a neatly dressed middle-aged white guy hijacks a plane. While many real-life hijackings were motivated by politics, Hollywood was most comfortable portraying midair terrorists as dumpy Caucasian bank managers. How times change. 1976's Mayday At 40,000 Feet! also features a hijacking, SST: Death Flight has an onboard saboteur, and 1977's The Night They Took Miss Beautiful includes both a kidnapped beauty queen and a nerve toxin.
Then the Airport franchise came soaring back with Airport '77, in which the hijacker is once again a conservative talk radio fan. There were four Airport movies, by the way. The entire decade was pretty much dedicated to airplanes put in peril by the managers of used car lots.
There Were So Many "Cool" Dinosaurs In The '90s
Jurassic Park was only one part of a huge pop culture movement which posited "What if dinosaurs ... but now?" The Land Before Time got the ball rolling, but it was Denver, The Last Dinosaur that really brought prehistory into the '90s. Its star teaches human children a variety of important life lessons whenever he isn't skateboarding or rocking out on his electric guitar. As you've probably already guessed, the show aired from 1988 to 1990.
Next came 1993's Prehysteria!, In which a museum curator sneaks into a forbidden South American temple like a second-rate Indiana Jones (or a current-rate Indiana Jones) to steal a bunch of eggs and hatch dinosaurs from them. These dinos can't talk, but they still like partying and rock music, because that was all the '90s had.
A month before Jurassic Park was released, audiences were subjected to Carnosaur. Its killer dinosaurs are revived with chicken DNA, so clearly it was a totally different film.
A few months after Jurassic Park, there was We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. Three guesses as to what it's about.
Two years later, studio executives wanted to see how far they could push this thing before the public revolted and tarred and feathered them in protest. To that end, they produced Theodore Rex, a movie so bad that even Whoopi Goldberg had to be legally forced to participate in it.
Tiago Svn would like to make vampire friends on Twitter. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. Jordan Breeding also writes for Paste Magazine, the Twitter, himself, and with a dirty, dirty spray can in various back alleys.
Dinosaurs are still best experienced in LEGO form -- even the Indominus Rex.
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For more bizarre film trends, check out 5 Extremely Specific Movie Trends That Nobody Remembers and 6 Once-Popular Movie Genres Hollywood Doesn't Make Anymore.
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