Whenever we watch a film, we bring our life experiences to the screen. Due to our individuality, background, and belief systems, the movies we indulge in either work, or they do not. Simple as that.
As for horror, there are iconic films placed on pedestals constructed from bone and sinew that rise up into the bitter darkness of a thunderhead that spews Tesla inspired lightning. However, just because horror fans and/or critics love the hell out of them, doesn’t mean they need to be worshipped by every horror aficionado. After all, in our experienced backgrounds, certain movies, no matter how much appreciated, just don’t work at all for a variety of reasons. In essence, however, “most over-rated” can easily be “movies that irk me.”
What follows is obviously my opinion, like everything else on this site, and nothing more. If you love the movies I don’t particularly care for, then I’m happy for you. Believe me, I sometimes wish I could enjoy these films as much as everyone else, but they simply don’t resonate, and I give my reasons as to why. And no, I’m not trying to change minds, though I hope lovers of these movies can see how others might perceive such works differently.
Enjoy my top thirteen. I set up the list so the very last horror is the number one most over-rated.
Ringu (Japan, 1998) – ½ star
Hideo Nakata’s film is highly acclaimed by horror movie buffs. However, if you’re like me, the film is perfect for boring you into a strong and solid slumber. Yes, the Japanese-American co-production remake is phenomenal compared to the original snooze-fest. Nakata’s version, has a gentle hold on a more profound story, and the scares are sorely lacking. The remake’s mystery, atmosphere, and tension, with its exceptional special effects makeup, cinematography, and tone, is far more compelling. My favorite Nakata film: KAIDAN (Japan, 2007).
You’re Next (2011) – ½ star
What the hell was all the hype about? We’ve seen this home invasion horror far too many times. Idiocy abounds from those who penetrate a home, and from those who reside there. However, if not for Sharni Vinson and her intelligent “fight or bust” character, this lame attempt at horror wouldn’t even be worthy of a ½ star. Scenes like these really made me roll my eyes: Mom’s been murdered but no one checks for a killer, or I’m going to slam a blender on your head and somehow it will burrow into your brain and kill you, or a moron runs out of the house and gets her neck slashed by a cord though the attackers didn’t know how high to hang the wire. Dumb, comical, and ludicrous. My favorite Wingard film: I’m still waiting…
Aliens (USA/UK, 1986) – 1 star
This movie is so loaded with James Cameron’s poor attempts at original storytelling, I almost threw up in the theatre. Decades in the future a ragtag group of Colonial Marines sound like they came right out of Vietnam, slang and all, with an untested lieutenant to boot. And Hudson makes an illegal alien joke? How trite. Ripley’s more like a smarmy Rambo (we called her Rambette at the time) instead of the strong and engaging woman audience’s fell in love with in the phenomenal ALIEN (USA/UK, 1979). Worst still, Newt’s so annoying I couldn’t wait for an alien to rip her to shreds. Surprisingly, even the aliens can figure out how to work an elevator – and even go to the right floor. And poor Lance Henriksen has to hop out of his hole to grasp Newt to the point where we see the lower half of his body. Oh, and I love how strong Ripley is because she can climb up a ladder instead of being thrust into the vacuum of space. And that big reactor explosion that went off like a nuclear detonation? Yes, I could go on and on… My favorite Cameron film: THE TERMINATOR (UK/USA, 1984).
Cabin Fever (2002) – 1 star
Why Eli Roth received so many accolades for this one is beyond me. I had such an unpleasant experience, I can’t even remember the damn thing too well, but I remember longing for the credits to roll. There were too many tropes that just got under my skin – like a virus: young people alone in the woods in a remote cabin, some of them are smart, others need to become victims. The best part was seeing the wonderful Jordan Ladd and Rider Strong. (I’ll take the crazy sequel any day.) My favorite Roth film: I’m still waiting…
The Last House On the Left (1972) – 1 star
Wes Craven blew it with this one. He had the audience by the throat – but kept allowing them to breathe by cutting to the two bumbling deputies for comic relief. I never saw a filmmaker undermine suspense so often, making this one of the biggest mistakes in all of cinema. This is why I prefer Dennis Iliadis’s version, but only by one more star (both films are ultimately lackluster). Otherwise, it’s the same old sickos on the prowl cliché with some questionable music. My favorite Craven film: SCREAM (1996).
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – 1 star
By the time I saw this Tobe Hooper mainstay, I had seen so much horror that I was bored to tears and completely unimpressed. Sometimes tedious and sometimes silly when it shouldn’t be, only Edwin Neal’s Hitchhiker really impressed me out of the entire picture. Watching characters get caught up in lunacy and not reacting as swiftly as they should have to save themselves unnerves the hell out of me. My favorite Hooper film: LIFEFORCE (UK/USA, 1985).
Halloween (1978) – 1.5 stars
I love John Carpenter, but this film didn’t cut it. As always, I enjoyed Dean Cundey’s cinematography and the great contrasts of color and shadow, but the musical cues detracted from every scare. Although I hate to know what’s coming, the music worked in JAWS (1975) because the shark could come from any angle. Myers was limited by gravity. I even laughed when he pinned a victim to a wall with a knife to the belly – because the guy never fell forward. And the whole “Is the evil bastard really dead?” crap was already old and tired by then. At least I got to see PJ Soles. My favorite Carpenter film: THE THING (1982).
Suspiria (Italy, 1977) – 1.5 stars
The bad dubbing and the characters’ over-the-top reactions to stimuli always leave me laughing. The sound effects also have much to be desired. Even so, the story is slow and tedious at times, and the production is completely scare free. However, I do love the lighting and cinematography. Why Dario Argento’s considered a horror master is still a mystery to me. My favorite Argento film: INFERNO (Italy, 1980).
Carnival of Souls(1962) – 2 stars
I know people who despise horror movies but love this film with a strange intensity. Regardless, Herk Harvey’s film is long-winded with some questionable acting and lackluster transitions. Worst still, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out in short order how this precursor to the FINAL DESTINATION franchise will end. Regardless, there are some beautiful moments here, especially with Maurice Prather’s camera work, and those netherworld entities roaming about as if patiently waiting for Romero to get his zombie franchise up and running. My favorite Harvey film: This is his only feature.
Dawn of the Dead (1978) – 2 stars
Yeah, yeah, blasphemy on my part, I know. Granted, this film has its moments beyond George A. Romero’s thematic commentary regarding consumerism, such as character development and interaction, as well as Tom Savini’s quality special effects makeup. But the film falls back too far into comedy to make it work for me, including one of the silliest caricatures of a motorcycle gang I’ve ever seen. I’ll take Zack Snyder’s serious remake. Regardless, I enjoy Romero’s films, but this one is near the bottom of the list for me. My favorite Romero film: THE CRAZIES (1973).
Nosferatu (Germany, 1922) – 2 stars
For many a horror fan, this is gold. But I think some just worship FW Murnau’s film because they feel they have to. Yes, it has its moments and brings the creepiness, but every time I watch this thing, I fall asleep – and I’ve seen many a silent film. This is also the movie that tainted the entire vampire mythology forever. According to the old folktales, a vampire could go out in the sunshine, though they weren’t as powerful. Oh, well. At least Max Schreck is fabulous. My favorite Murnau film: FAUST (1926).
The Conjuring (2013) – 2.5 stars
When James Wan’s film came out, people went nuts proclaiming this ho-hum horror as genius as if they’d never seen a horror movie before. Yes, the film had a couple of scares and amazing acting, and Wan proved he can direct kids like George Lucas never could, but the redundant story and anti-climactic end did little to ultimately thrill the soul. Plus, the overdone trailers gave away too much, thus preventing more jolts from the audience. And even though this is a low budget horror, with the stellar cast of Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, and Patrick Wilson, this definitely had a mainstream feel. And mainstream means: no kids will be harmed in this horror. Sigh. This truly could have been a stellar film but Wan played it safe. And what’s with the title when nothing was ever conjured? My favorite Wan film: DEAD SILENCE (2007).
The Exorcist (1973) – 2.5 stars
Yes, this classic is my number one most over-rated film, even though, for many, this Friedkin flick is “the scariest movie of all time.” Yet, from the first moment I saw the movie I just laughed like a crazy person. I even watched it again last week and couldn’t hold back the chortling. After all, the sound editing is weak, the demonic voiceover is off and damned funny, and poor Regan’s antics are a gut splitting riot (though I’m sure Linda Blair wouldn’t think so). The worst of it all is Norman Gay and Evan A. Lottman’s harsh “hack and slice” editing that did little to create a cohesive and seamless story. Overall, their editing was far more jarring than any “fright” in the film. However, I give the re-edited version with the spider crawl scene three stars. My favorite Friedkin film: KILLER JOE (2011).
I know some on the list may have you blowing a gasket, but it’s just my perspective, and I’m not attacking anyone for loving these movies. I can certainly see why people would enjoy most if not all of them, but that doesn’t mean I have to play along.
Please leave me a list of the horrors you feel are over-rated in the comments because I’d love to know.
(ALIENS photo from Bloody Disgusting.)