The Recent Trend In Horror That's Bad For The Genre
Do you like scary movies? Want to play a game? Name three characters who came to the small ghost town on that doomed party bus in Netflix’s new Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Do it, or the bunny I’m currently holding — that most certainly would’ve ended up being roadkill in the First Act of some horror movie anyway — gets it. You can’t, can you? Okay, I'll give you a pass here. It’s a hard one, especially since those bus people were never really introduced to us. Their deaths weren’t particularly memorable either, even though they were massacred on a freaking bus. (Also, you get another question because I really don’t want to murder bunnies).
Answer me this, then: What was Liv’s ex-boyfriend/Stu Macher’s nephew’s name in the new Scream? You know, Liv — the one who was dating twin brother Chad. Liv’s ex. You know, the guy who gets killed outside the bar because he’s Liv’s harassing ex-boyfriend/Stu Macher’s nephew.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Horror movies are less scary when they're crowded. As in, the more characters writers and filmmakers add to their horror movies, the less scary those movies become. Think about some of the big modern horrors we’ve had over the past … let’s say decade. We’ve had supernatural horror franchises like The Conjuring and Blumhouse’s Insidious. Jordan Peele has stepped into the horror arena with Get Out and Us. Halloween has had its reboot, Mike Flanagan has made his emotional horrors, and Robert Eggers from The Witch had everyone arguing over whether The Lighthouse is a horror movie or not (it totally is, come on, all that farting is absolutely horrific).
Now let’s look at the actual scary ones. Sure, the idea of “scary” will always be subjective, and that’s fine. Why would, say, a toaster be scary to you when you’ve never been physically assaulted by one in the middle of the night while you were all alone in your kitchen? Yes, that totally happened to me and no, I still don’t want to talk about it. Even though we all find different things to be frightening and/or triggering when it comes to our nerves, most horror fans would probably add films like The Dark and the Wicked, Hereditary, and The Descent to their list of scariest modern horrors. Quick, count how many characters feature in each of them.
Horror movies that focus on a small and intimate group of friends and/or acquaintances (The Descent, The Invitation, It Follows) generally do pretty well and are often regarded as creepy films. Same with a nuclear family dynamic (Hereditary, Relic, The Dark and the Wicked, and the reason why the original Texas Chainsaw remains the best and scariest entry in the franchise). It’s simple why these films tend to hit our nerves: Fewer characters mean more time to focus on them, drawing us into their world and then making us squirm alongside them. The moment the film becomes crowded, however, is the moment they start to lose us. It’s simple. It’s the monkeysphere.
That is why the concept of “high numbers = more kills” only really works in comedy horrors where it’s imperative that we don’t care too much about who gets the ax or the knife or the chainsaw that must be terribly rusted by now. This is why Scream can still get away with adding characters like Liv and her ex simply for the Kill Count, even though Wes Craven’s original movie was meta and pretty damn scary at the same time. It’s why Final Destination, The Final Girls, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, and Freaky work. And, when it comes to straight horrors, it’s why Halloween (2018) was scary, but Halloween Kills wasn’t. Guess which one was super duper crowded.
There was a lot wrong with the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, in particular, that bus scene. One was that we just didn’t care and were kind of confused as to what those characters were supposed to even be — seriously, does anyone know people like that except from movies and TV shows? Also, TCM isn’t a comedy horror, never was. So it boggles the mind why they would add the most confusing characters ever to a scene that will forever be remembered for all the wrong reasons:
It’s a mess, it comes off as mean instead of funny and, more importantly, it isn’t scary.
Zanandi loves bunnies, really. Follow her on Twitter.
Top Image: Netflix