Five Movie Monsters That Blew The Reveal Big-Time
Earth-shattering news dispensed right here: Suspense is a pretty important part of a good horror movie. Luckily for would-be horrorcrafters, building suspense is fairly straightforward. A creaky door here, a creepy doll there, and you’re well on your way to heightened hairs across the audience’s forearms. Unfortunately, all that valuable suspense you’ve built now has to actually payoff, and the more suspense you’ve built, the bigger the payoff you’re now on the hook for. Like pole-vaulting, the difficulty is heavily skewed toward the final moments.
Sure, you could also go with the old trope that “the scariest thing is what you never see…,” but let’s be honest: We want to see that shit. You can Blair Witch us around for most of the movie, but at some point, you’ve got to pony up, coward. You have to show your hand before we, the terrified audience, let you leave the table with your jackpot of pissed pants and nightmares. Unsurprisingly, these big reveals don’t always work out, whether due to less-than-convincing effects, a general difficulty in portraying something as scary or just being straight-up dumb.
Here are five spooky movie monsters who brought the theater to a shuddering halt on their debut — and obviously, an article about horror movies’ big reveals is going to contain some spoilers, so if I ruin something for you, don’t blame me, blame your reading comprehension.
‘One Missed Call’ (The Bad One)
As someone who, as barely a teenager, was sufficiently traumatized by the original Japanese version of One Missed Call, just hearing that they were doing an American remake was enough to send me hurtling back to a time when I was scared of my Motorola Razr. Luckily enough, it turned out I had absolutely nothing to worry about. The original One Missed Call, by Takashi Miike, is a heavy recommendation, and is 112 minutes of one consistent panic signal from your brain. Part of that is the successful mystery of exactly who or what is doing all this cellular killing.
The American version of One Missed Call, which barely deserves those italics, is not that. Apparently whoever was responsible for bringing it over saw the original and said, “You think subtle, haunting world-building is scary? Nah, fuck all that. What’s scary is just when there’s a guy who looks weird. We’ll fit the phone stuff in later.” The absolute highest-level brake-slam on the entire thing might come from a CGI baby holding a cellphone in a crib, looking more like something from a weird right-wing Super Bowl commercial than a half-decent horror movie. They’re probably lucky it was CGI, so that none of the actors involved walked off the set as soon as they saw this dumb little goblin.
Of course M. Night Shyamalan is going to be on this list. I’m not going to pretend he doesn’t have some bangers too, but when you set yourself up as the plot-twist king, you’re also setting yourself up to fail pretty spectacularly if it doesn’t hit. Babe Ruth also holds the record on strikeouts, and so on. What’s so particularly frustrating about The Village is that they actually had already set up some genuinely awesome, creepy monsters, but then they had to double dip and be like, “Actually, those were fake.” A classic overthink that results in somehow losing the race after you’ve crossed the finish line.
Monsters aside, the narrative device of just telling the viewers that something is true, and then suddenly going, “I was lying, you idiots!” big-time sucks. We’re on your side, movie man. Have some confidence in your weird witchy rat pigs, we were onboard. To then reveal that they’re actually just the Lion King on Broadway spooky costumes of some pissy old farts? You’ve sucked the spooky jelly out of your own donut, my guy.
If you’re arguing that Stephen King isn’t a modern master of horror, you’re probably just keeping your whole college writing class past the bell, and I beg you to let everyone go to lunch. The man has proved himself beyond a reasonable doubt, and wrote a book while entirely blacked out, which is pretty sick in a deeply depressing way. Unfortunately, good spooky books don’t always translate well to the screen, as some things just can’t ever live up to a mental image. One that probably should have stayed on the printed page is Maximum Overdrive, based on King’s short story, Trucks.
As the sharpest tools in the shed might have gleaned, the primary antagonists of Maximum Overdrive (along with all sorts of other haywire technology) are trucks. I’ve tried to avoid horror comedies on this list because a goofy monster is usually their bread-and-butter, but despite its Wikipedia labeling, I do not believe Maximum Overdrive was meant to be a knee-slapper. When you’re trying to make trucks scary, you’re already sledding uphill. By the time you make one of them look like the Green Goblin, it’s probably time to pack it in.
King doesn’t disagree either, and he’s got a pretty honest review of the film, which he directed: “The problem with that film was that I was coked out of mind all through production, and I really didn’t know what I was doing.”
It’s cool, man. We could tell, but your books still rule.
‘The Scorpion King’
Bad CGI is the bane of a massive amount of horror. Even good CGI tends to age poorly, and bad CGI ends up looking aged by the time the opening credits roll. It’s hard to have a theater tooth-trimming their fingernails when your big bad looks like something out of a PlayStation demo disc. When we’re talking about the appearance of the Scorpion King in his centaur-style form in The Mummy Returns, it turns out the domain of profoundly shitty CGI is another one he sits at the top of.
The Scorpion King’s whole vibe is already decidedly 1990s, and honestly, the Rock with long, flowing locks is never going to look particularly not dumb, but when they booted up Maya to stick his chunky top half onto a scorpion’s body to send it scuttling around some tomb walls, that’s when things really went off-the-rails. Even the smirk he cracks upon his entrance seems like a couple of vertices fell out of place, and the whole scene feels like it should be fading out at any moment so that your Final Fantasy party can enter the fray.
I mean, yeah. You had to know this was going to make the list. I know the movie has its supporters, but when the ace that was up your sleeve for the entire runtime was that “it was the trees,” I wouldn’t shove too much into the pot, there, cowboy. Oh, man, the stuff we’re doing to the environment… is bad?
That’s huge news to me, a man who was removed from a big egg yesterday.