Was just reading Crystal Lake Memories (which I feel like I mention so often these days I should be getting paid for it) and I came upon a conversation with the director of Part 4, Joseph Zito, where he really kinda explained something about the genre the way i've never been able to explain it but have always tried to. That being the reason why characters in horror movies always do dumb shit, like leave their girlfriend in the house (when she's clearly in danger) and go off to buy cigarettes (name the movie!), or walk away when the killer clearly isn't dead. Allow me to explain ....
There's nothing that angers me more than when people talk during movies. And the ultimate in annoyance in that department is when people, when watching a horror movie, constantly shout at the screen about how dumb the character is and how unrealistic a situation or event is. That pisses me off to no end and the only retort up until now that i've had for such outbursts of idiocy is that "it's only a horror movie" (preceded of course by "shut the fuck up!). Well what was actually burning inside of me that I hadn't been able to verbalize was this ....
Take it away, Joseph Zito!
"The audience has a very, very rare opportunity to be smarter than the characters in these films. They know that the people they are watching are deliberately doing dumb things. But it empowers the audience. It involves them in it.
A friend of mine, who is a film director, said "Yeah, the movie was alright, but in that scene where Jason busts through the door, and the characters used those little nails (to keep Jason out) - that was really stupid. Why did you do that?" We made that dumb on purpose. It's a pathetic thing for these characters to try and do, hammering with these tiny little nails, trying to hold down this door. That was exactly the point. We wanted the audience to think that those little nails aren't going to keep Jason out of this house. We did that specifically so you would feel that moment."
Joel Goodman, the film's editor, went on to say ....
"The classic Friday the 13th dynamic is the interaction, where you want the audience to say, "Don't go in the room!" Like when the main character, Trish, steps over Jason's supposedly lifeless body - you know he's going to get back up to grab her. It's a horror movie staple. What we were trying to do was not to talk down to the audience, but still do the best job possible within the conventions of the genre. Because, really, we'd be cheating you if we didn't give you that moment, wouldn't we?"
Yes, you would Joel. So ya see, this kind of character idiocy in horror movies isn't there because horror movies are stupid and the makers of them are dolts, it's there because it brings the audience into the film and gets them involved, which is what horror is all about. Horror movies need that kind of audience participation, they need that screaming at the screen and that sense of impending dread. That dread that we know is coming but the characters do not. That's the fun of it! When we watch a horror movie, we must understand that the characters aren't aware that they're in a horror movie! Therefore, we obviously are going to know more than they do (thanks to what we've been conditioned to expect) and are obviously going to be going into it with a better more clearer mindframe than them. Besides, when you're in life threatening situations, you do some pretty dumb shit! And besides besides, if the villain is killed in act one when he clearly could have been, the movie would end right there! Do you want that?! No? THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP AND JUST BE ENTERTAINED BY WHAT YOU'RE WATCHING! STOP BEING SO GODDAMN SERIOUS ALL THE TIME! IT'S A FUCKING HORROR MOVIE!
Now if you have a really good memory and you've been reading this blog for a while now (all one and a half of you), you'll be saying to yourself right now, "Hey! Didn't this clown bash these kinds of stupid character decisions in his horror movie pet peeves post?!" Why yes, I did. Thank you for noticing. Here is what I said, and I in fact referenced Friday Part 2 with my argument ....
Am I allowed to quote myself?
"This one is perhaps the most frustrating of all the horror cliches. After an hour and a half of being chased and terrorized by some sicko in a scary mask, watching him mutilate and rape your dearest friends, you finally get the upper hand. You manage to lay him out, stab him, shoot him, whatever the case may be. And then you just assume he's dead and fuckin walk off! Now i've never been in such a situation, but i'm gonna bet that if some dude killed my entire family and then tried to anally violate me with the business end of a steak knife, I would not leave that room until that motherfucker was in at least three pieces! The worst of this scenario is when the victim is in possession of a sharp object/gun, but instead of stabbing the shit out of him and playing with his entrails/shooting him in the head till the gun cant shoot no more, they drop it right by his feet!"
Yes, I do admit that this kind of thing in a movie is incredibly fucking annoying. I will not backtrack or pretend I didn't make the above statement. But at the same time, I understand it's a cinematic neccessity (especially with horror) and mark my words, you will NEVER catch me getting angry over such things aloud. It all happens internally and I quickly, and I mean quickly, put it out of my mind before it can really even bother me. In fact, when I made that post, I was more speaking to what the general publics most hated horror cliches are than mine personally. Shit, did I just backtrack? Hm. Ok, how bout this. I'm annoyed at times by stuff like that, not because it's unrealistic and stupid of the characters, but because I want to see originality in a horror film. I want to see just once a character totally tear apart the villain and give him what he deserves, rather than bitch out and run away. There, I think I cleared my name on that one and thus saved myself from being too much of a hypocrite. But I am still a hypocrite at times, i'm not ashamed to admit it.
I guess what i'm saying is, to sum up, if ya have a problem with stuff like this when watching movies, keep it internal! Don't impose it on everyone else! And try to understand why horror movies need stupid characters! After all, life is full of stupid people, isn't it?
By the way, in regards to that guy leaving his woman in peril to go get cigarettes scenario, that was from The Strangers and writer/director Bryan Bertino has himself stated that not only is he aware that it was a dumb move for the character, but he put it in there because he wanted it to be realistic. The dude didn't know he was in The Strangers, he didn't know three masked folks were outside his house ready to kill him, much like any of us would not know that if we were in the same situation. We only know what was coming to both of them because we were watching a horror movie and that's what happens in horror movies! So don't make the mistake of thinking filmmakers like Bertino are simply 'dumb'. A dumb person could never write and direct a hugely successful film, whether you like that film or not, fucko.
On one final note, and then I promise i'll shut the fuck up, I thought i'd let you all know that Jen, my wonderful girlfriend, very seldom bitches about stupid horror movie character actions and for that, I am truly grateful. In fact, I may have even been a single man right now if that were not the case! Can you say deal breaker?! Most women i've ever watched a horror movie around are unbearably fucking annoying throughout the whole thing so I really do appreciate her!