Six Horror Movies for the Weak
The Happening: In addition to featuring a weak plot, uninvolving characters, and a (by now typically) disappointing reason behind all the madness, Shyamalan's film is almost completely devoid of tension and drama. Loud music cues and sudden pans aren't enough to create suspense or horror, and after a while, they become annoying reminders that Shyamalan's too involved in what he sees as a powerful story with a message to bother investing time in the characters and letting the audience connect with them. By downshifting from super- to just plan old natural, Shyamalan loses his grip on suspense and comes up with only a mildly creepy message film: If you don't recycle, Earth will eat you. Some of his earlier films had some genuine shocks -- the dead bicycle rider standing calmly next to a car, an alien hand moving through a sewer grate -- but after seeing them, it's hard to get scared by trees blowing in the wind.
Dark Water: Dark Water is a plodding, straightforward, one-dimensional movie with absolutely no payoff, other than the pointless, torrential outpouring of grimy water. Despite deliberately slow pacing and methodically built tension, the only suspense Dark Water is able to build involves what kind of twist-ending he will deploy to tie up the film's plot strands. Unfortunately, no such ending ever arrives, allowing the moviegoer no release, leaving us not only unfulfilled, but worse still: bored to fucking death.
Pulse: Pulse, an unnecessary American remake of a Japanese horror film, treads familiar horror/sci-fi ground: It's yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of technology. Only this time, it's not about the travesty of a man playing god, as in Frankenstein and its countless progeny, or the horrors of nuclear radiation, as in Godzilla, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and the dozens of other '50s sci-fi creepshows. This time the evil comes from ... email?
Shutter: Joshua Jackson and hot Aussie (Haussie?) Rachael Taylor play newlyweds who run afoul of a cranky yūrei, as if there's any other kind. Mighty Duck is a photographer who lands a high profile gig in Tokyo, where he and Haussie move soon after their wedding. And not long after, the poor sots are bedeviled by that ubiquitous woman-in-a-white-gown. After apparently running over the woman on a country road, she starts appearing in photographs and popping up in mirrors/reflections. These encounters always have the potential to creep, but we've seen this imagery ad nauseum, and every appearance in the movie is so predictable and rote the viewer has ample time to fortify him or herself from the scare ... I knew what the mystery was, but waiting for it was still an enervating chore. Not only does Ochiai repeat the mistakes of his forebear, he slows the action to a crawl. Predictable or no, a thriller needs a quick clip, if not an engaging one; Shutter moonwalks where it should gambol. The Thai film was just as bland and unoriginal, exploiting the folklore of "spirit photography" for empty thrills, but even it had a reasonable tempo. The new Shutter is a silly snoozer, blandly acted and only functionally directed.
Poltergeist: While the most of you who haven't seen it since your middle-school years may not be surprised to learn that it's not nearly as scary as it was when you were watching it on that VCR with the wired remote from behind your fingers, you might be surprised to learn that it's actually a very family-friendly "horror" film that's about as dark and sinister as E. freakin' T. But then again, Poltergeist isn't a bad film, either. It's just not particularly scary to adult, or even teenage, audiences (which is probably why so many of our parents had no problem allowing us to see it in our formative scarring years). I suppose, even, that it's a decent way to introduce younger kids to horror films; it is rated PG after all, Just make sure to skip over the clown scenes or close your eyes.