While the best horror movies make us long for next October, the worst remind us that the holiday season exists for a reason. At least Christmas movies know they’re tacky. As we celebrate this year in horror, it’s important to recognize what makes a horror movie bad. With flat plots, one-dimensional characters, and cheesy stereotypes filling the screen, we know a bad horror movie when we see one. Even with these recognizable patterns, the most seasoned horror movie fanatic can’t go a full year without seeing a couple duds. Don’t mourn the death of the Halloween season for too long, reminisce instead on the worst of the worst in horror this year.
Here’s another one I had expectations for, the much-anticipated sequel to It.
From the sinister and creative mind of author Stephen King, the first film offered audiences humor and a healthy dose of jump scares. What the first film lacked in psychological terror, it made up for in the character development and the relationships the kids had throughout the film. From Bill Denbrough dealing with the consuming grief and guilt of losing his brother, to Eddie confronting his mother with his “gazebo” pills, the film worked because the kids were well-rounded characters.
The strange charm of the first film, however, washed straight down the storm drains in the second. Spanning almost three hours, the second movie feels like the leftover scraps of fat cut away from the first. The movie drags on with anticipated jumps cares and played out characters.
It 2 picks up right where we left off in the first movie. Conquering their fears and a mysterious clown manifestation, the kids think they have finally rid Derry, Maine of tragedy. However, 27 years later, after the traumas of their childhood finally start to fade away, It’s back. The now grown-up group of friends called “the losers” must return to their hometown and kill whatever is lurking there for good.
In It 2, we see that all the characters have reverted back to their original forms. While this could have been quite a clever call back to the first movie, it comes off as repetitive. Ben, who once was awkward, shy, chubby, and in love with New Kids on the Block and Beverly is now void of all personality. The film gives us no reason to root for Ben other than the fact that he beat childhood chubbiness, but it does still force us to watch his monotonous love story with Beverly unfold.
Though Bill Hader was one ray of light, his character Richie had a questionable storyline. If you still haven’t seen the film, meet me back in the next paragraph, otherwise, continue with caution. Though there wasn’t a single mention in the first movie, It 2 brings a shocking new dimension to the story––Richie is gay! While this too could have been an interesting theme––exploring queerness in the deeply homophobic 1980s––Richie’s sexuality felt like a weird afterthought, like the writers were desperate to inject some depth into a vapid storyline.
Even scarier than that was the cartoonish racism that loomed in the shadows, waiting to jump out at you when you least expected it. Explaining that “It” first appeared in the days of Native Americans, it is also revealed that there is a Native American “ritual” to get rid of It. A tired and racist trope, the movie goes so far as to even include a faux Native ceremony, though they fail to incorporate any meaningful representation of Native people in the film.
The Curse of La Llorona
Okay, so I didn’t actually see this one, but hear me out.
La Llorona (which means the weeping woman) is an old Mexican legend. It tells the story of a young and very beautiful woman who lives in a small village. One day a traveler comes into town and is immediately smitten with the woman. He charms her and the two marry, giving birth to two children shortly after. As the woman grows old (and, as the legend tells, less beautiful), the man begins to travel once again, seeing his family less and less. He then meets a younger woman and runs away with her, abandoning his first wife with their two children. In a fit of rage, the woman drowns her children in the river before throwing herself in after them, realizing the horrible thing she has done. After death, the woman is forever bound to wander the earth, searching for the bodies of her children.
As a child, a friend of mine told me a variation of this story (although in this version, it ended with La Llorona drowning me, for shock value) and it was the first time a story had truly terrified me. I can still picture the trail we were walking on as he recounted the story, the slippery earth beneath my feet and the pounding sun doing nothing to comfort my trembling body. I could see her wispy hair whipping behind her in the wind in the corner of my eye. Or hear her awful moaning sobs drawing closer and closer to me as I slept. It was one of those stories that never left because the thought was so lodged in my brain as a young kid.
So obviously, when I heard they were making a movie rendition, I was beyond excited. If a story that took less than a minute to tell out loud could be that frightening, imagine how scary a full-length film would be!
To my horror, however, the trailer had been completely whitewashed. Though drawing from an old Mexican story, it seemed like much of the cultural impacts were missing. Starring white woman Linda Cardellini, the story manages to center a Mexican myth around a victimized white woman. For an unclear reason, the movie is mainly set in modern-day California, as if to further distance the legend from its Mexican roots.
Before you tell me not to judge a book by its cover, the movie got an astounding 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. Connected vaguely to the Conjuring movies (which are also bad, but I’ll save that for another day), the film’s entire goal appears to be to market to a Latino audience without actually having to hire too many Latino people.
Bad horror movies continue to turn their back on progress––ignoring the input of marginalized communities and following formulas set by the status quo. The worst horror movies are filled with tropes and often lean on offensive stereotypes. As long as these movies exist, moviegoers everywhere will continue to dismiss the genre as a whole. While the greatest horror films of the year leave us with unsolved mysteries, the only question these films ask is what else could you have done with those two and a half hours