I know what a lot of you are going to think about me writing about “Don’t” movies: “WhatEVER dude…you ripped this idea off from the ‘Grindhouse’ trailer! Why don’t you try and be ORIGINAL for a change, and write about something that DOESNT SUCK douchebag!”
To that I say: “WRONG!”
My fascination for the “Don’t” movie actually stems back to the summer between my Junior and Senior years of High School. i.e. The summer of 1991. This was a landmark summer for me in terms of my love of horror movies. It was also a critical juncture for me personally. You see, prior to that I was a genuine outcast.
Not the kind of outcast who dresses in all black, looks like a cast member from a Marilyn Manson video, and hangs out with OTHER ‘outcasts’ who look just like them. No, I’m talking about a legit outcast who used to walk around the block at lunch because I had no one to eat with, and was generally addressed with hostility by my classmates if they even acknowledged my existence in the first place. A lot of this had to do with my flagrant mullet, endless array of rush t-shirts, high-water jeans, and my propensity to not talk to anybody. I probably smelled too.
“Whatever Loren…Cry me a f*cking river!”
Yeah Yeah…before you think I’m making a play for your sympathy I will tell you that in my senior year I cut the mullet off, and started dressing with something resembled a sense of style and in an ode to the true vapid materialism that is High School, I became wildly popular. Isn’t it funny how shallow kids can be? My senior year I had parties at my house, had the lead in the school musical and had people say things to me like “I didn’t even realize you were at this school before now.” All thanks to my decision to snip off a really bad haircut.
In college I went on to shed my geeky image completely and became the SEEMINGLY charming well adjusted douche you see today. This was of course on the surface only because behind closed doors I was still listening to Peter Gabriel era Genesis, watching every episode of every “Star Trek” spin off in existence, and discovering the brilliance of Sam Raimi.
Needless to say the summer of ’91 was the bridge between the two phases. My activities that summer revolved almost entirely around me and my oldest/best/only friend Dan watching a movie literally every single night. Probably about 95% of the movies we watched were horror films. About 2% of the time was spent watching “This is Spinal Tap” repeatedly when we didn’t have the funds to rent anything new. There is a rumor that .5% of the time was spent watching p*rn, but I will neither confirm or deny that.
Our movie watching exploits that summer were legendary. We found ourselves at the local Blockbuster Video nearly daily, and on several occasions paid for our rentals entirely in dimes and nickels much to the chagrin of the person behind the counter who cursed our very existence behind a pained smile. Generally speaking we would make straight for the horror section and power through the entire catalog. From classics like Todd Browning’s “Freak’s” to B-Shlock like “The Legend of Boggy Creek” or “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things”.
Even discovering then unknown gems like Peter Jackson’s “Dead/Alive” we instantly became masters of the genre. It was during this period that my interest in the “Don’t” movie began. It became a running joke between us because every time we’d scan the horror section we’d get to “D” and be flashed by a seemingly endless assortment of movies like “Don’t Go in the Woods Alone”, “Don’t Go in the Basement”, “Don’t Go Near The Park”, “Don’t Go in the Attic”…etc.
Here’s how the conversation usually went:
Me: “Dude. Don’t Marathon! FUCK ‘Lobster Man From Mars’!”
Dan: “Eh…next time. Let’s get ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ instead. I hear it has titties in it.”
Me: “Wha? Titties?? Are you serious?? LET’S GET THAT!”
There always seemed to be a reason to postpone the “Don’t Marathon” and eventually the summer came to a close. School began and the horror movie barrage of ’91 slowed to a crawl.
Flash forward to about three months ago. I began talking to Dai and crew about writing a column for horrornews.net. In discussing the things I would write about I thought I would ‘wow’ them with the idea of initially writing a piece about “Don’t” movies. They idea was to designate a certain month as “Don’t” month and watch nothing but “Don’t” films during that period. “Wouldn’t that be awesome?? Aren’t I so NEAT and COOL for thinking up such a concept??” Needless to say the horrornews folk really liked the idea as a starting point and I was given my own lil column to which you are tuning into today. “But wait a second Loren. I’ve been reading your dogsh*t consistently since they put you on this f*cking site. How come I haven’t seen this d*ckeating column till now??”
As great as this concept SEEMED the idea pretty much start and ends there. It pains me to admit…after all that time and build up…
By and large “Don’t” movies are mostly suck and aren’t reaaalllyyy even horror movies at all.
“WHAT?? IMDB TELLS ME THEY ARE HORROR!! THIS CANT BE! IMDB NEVER LIES!!!!”
Watching these movies raised a lot of questions with me as to what really defines horror. What distinguishes a movie from being a thriller or murder mystery and being a horror film? Is it scaryness? It’s hard to say that because the majority of horror movies I watch don’t actually scare me. Is it blood and gore? Well…”Pulp Fiction” had ton’s of blood and feature a head exploding and that DEFINITELY isn’t horror, meanwhile John Carpenter’s “Halloween” maybe has two or three scenes that feature any real visible blood and that’s a horror masterpiece. So that isn’t really the answer either. Is it the supernatural?
For me personally I tend to think of the supernatural or other worldly as definitive horror, but then again there are exceptions to that even by my logic. In my last column I was quoted as saying that “The Omen”, was not only one of the most overrated horror films of all time, but was also not even a horror film at all. Rather it’s a mystery thriller. (Controversy) Meanwhile, its themes are totally supernatural. Last time I checked there is nothing supernatural about “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and that movie is one of the most horrifying horror movies ever made. (Although to me Leatherface is a ghoul) The more I watched the more I found that there is a finer line between horror and non-horror then you’d think. To help demonstrate let me give you a brief recap of my “Don’t” exploits:
Don’t Go in the Woods Alone
I will freely admit that I watched this movie at 1am and in a slightly altered state. Even with my senses being numbed it was so close to unwatchable my mind seems to have erased a lot of the details from my memory. As the title implies it tells the tail of a group of young annoying bad actors from the 70’s…er…uh I mean college kids that venture into the woods only to come to a grizzly end. It had some promise early on due to some GOREY ASS deaths, and mega campy dialogue, but much as I love camp…sometimes crap is just crap.
The killer in this movie? Turns out to be a WILD MAN! “Oh…a WILD MAN you say Loren?” Yeah! A wild man! He lives out in the woods and lives off the LAND and builds SPEARS and shreds people before storing them in his cabin (he is wild of course except for the fact that he lives in a well built cabin) then eating them. Now, without getting into the other ridiculous details of this movie I ask you this: Does a freakin’ WILD MAN count as horror? Yeah I know it’s bloody and all, but a WILD MAN? I guess you can make the case that he is technically a serial killer, but I have a hard time taking the concept of a wild man seriously. I keep basically thinking of Grizzly Adams after being bitten by a rabid dog. Anyway, I’m fully aware looking for logic in a piece of schlock like this not only is a waste of time, but also entirely misses the point. So I’ll just say that while there was plenty of blood, and it was INCHING IN on being craptastic fun, it eventually fell short on all accounts and drifted into the land of suck.
As much as I hate to admit it…it IS horror. Even though it ain’t my cup of tea it’s hard to classify a movie about a serial killer cannibal wild man as anything OTHER then horror.
Don’t Go in The Basement
To be quite honest It took me several days after watching “Don’t Go in the Basement” to decide whether it was a total pile of horse-sh*t or a subtle masterpiece. The more I have given it some thought I believe it may be latter. One thing I know for sure is that it features one of the hottest unknown chicks of the 70’s in Rosie Holotik the films lead. Upon further review I found she went on to be a playboy centerfold…ok….not SO unknown, but by 70’s standards? Out of this word hot.
ANYWAYS. The movie follows the tale of mental hospital whose doctors and administrators have been killed and the inmates literally do take over the asylum. Nurse Charlotte Beale (the aforementioned hottie) shows up at her new job unaware that the woman she believes to be her boss is actually an inmate. Apparently this movie was shot over 12 days for less then $100,000 and it shows.
The bare bones starkness of the sets create surreal world that can easily be mistaken for utter camp, when in actuality it’s more of a white-washed alternate reality. At times I found myself both disturbed and frustrated by the main character being unaware of the truth that should have been so obvious before her, yet somehow there is a dark tension that mounts and mounts until the VERY gruesome ending. This movie is both dreamlike and disturbing, and as much as some of you may say it was a sluggish piece of sh*t, you likely won’t be able to take your eyes off it.
This movie pretty much typifies the horror grey area I’ve been talking about. As much as I decided I liked this movie I have a hard time calling it a horror film by my own personal definitions. It is surely disturbing and the things that happen in it are horrific, but I’m not so sure this movie’s intent was to “scare” per say. Although I can fully see the other side of the argument on this one as without this movie is like a bad dream, and what is horror if not a nightmare on film?
Don’t Look Now
Without question this was the best “Don’t” movie in the pile. In fact the worst thing about this movie is it’s title. “Don’t Look Now”?? Sounds like it should star John Travolta and Bruce Willis as the voice of the talking baby. The movie stars Donald Sutherland and, in the tradition of “Don’t” movies starring smoking hot chicks, Julie Christie. If the chick from “Don’t Look In the Basement” is hot then Julie Christie is from another dimension where all humans are genetically engineered to be superior.
Please forgive my constant digressions into horndog analogies.
ANYWAY. “Don’t Look Now” follows the tale of a young couple coping with the death of their daughter. This movie is somewhat of a miracle. It is by FAR the scariest movie of the bunch yet barely anything happens in it. It is 99.9% gore free, 99.9% ghoul free, and there is not a single horror cliche in it. That said I guarantee that you will be sleeping with the lights on after watching it. The only scene that can be described as traditional horror is the films climax which is WAY to out of this world to spoil for you. So SEE IT.
Again I find myself torn in a horror gray area. Based on the scare factor alone I am compelled to call this horror, yet there is not a single event or action in it I can point to you right now to explain why. It is based entirely on tension, mood, and atmosphere. “Wait a second Loren…Doesn’t this contradict what you JUST said about the LAST movie?” I know. I know. I think you’re starting to get my dilemma?
Don’t Look in the Attic
It pains me to have to write about this movie because it is by far one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. When 70’s movies are low budget they are difficult to watch as is, but when they also suck? It’s BRUTAL. (To my astonishment I found out this wasn’t even a 70’s movie! It was made in 1982!) It’s essentially a haunted house movie with an overtly convoluted plot that never resolves itself. It’s loaded with sh*tty plot twists, third grade level acting, and horrible production values. Now…I’m sure you all know how I feel about campy movies. I am a connoisseur of crap. I consider “Jason X” to be a work of brilliance and I can tell you there is nothing redeeming about this movie. “Why do people make movies?” This film actually made me think that. I should have watched “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitters Dead” instead.
It’s a haunted house movie. It’s horror. Just really really sh*tty horror.
Don’t Torture a Duckling
While the title suggests a bizarre bestiality snuff film it is in fact an early Lucio Fulci movie…and a really good one at that. Several years prior to pitting a zombie vs. a shark, or having a flying undead zombie head attack people Mr. Fulci crafted this gem about a small town in Italy plagued by a series of child murders. It has both religious and sexual undertones while remaining simple and understated. Nothing is pushed to far, and we are given just enough to suck us in and keep us feeling quite disturbed. That said, after making it through the majority of a pretty classy movie we are also treated to one of the most ludicrous death effects I have seen this side of “Troll 2”. Fucli wisely saved this for the last 120 seconds of the movie. I dare not describe it except to say it involves a priest falling off a cliff. See a snapshot and decide for yourself:
Not to sound like a broken record but “Don’t Torture a Duckling” also features another outrageous mega-babe. Barbara Bouchet the films leading lady is WAY ahead of her era in terms of hotness. I have to be honest with you all, I had no idea chicks got this hot in the 70’s. At least watching all these don’t movies added up to SOMETHING.
In trying to determine how to categorize this movie I stumbled upon a complete Italian Sub-Genre that I didn’t even know existed, whose description almost seemed to summarize the grey area I’ve been writing about. The sub-genre is called Giallo, and here’s how Wikipedia describes it:
“‘Giallo’ films are characterized by extended murder sequences featuring excessive bloodletting, stylish camerawork and unusual musical arrangements. The literary whodunit element is retained, but combined with modern slasher horror, while being filtered through Italy’s longstanding tradition of opera and staged grand guignol drama. They also generally include liberal amounts of nudity and sex.”
So wait…let me get this straight? A thriller genre, with slasher horror elements that also features nude hot chixxx? That sounds an AWEFUL lot like what I’ve head to say about several of these films.
Listen up folks. I am quite aware that I am trying to put a definitive explanation to something that is mostly very open to interpretation. What horrifies me may not horrify you. In fact just the other day I was talking with someone who described “Eraserhead” as horror. To me “Eraserhead” is not even in the field of play, but to her it was scary and gave her nightmares. How can I argue with that? I’m well aware this article does little to answer the “What defines horror?” question, but answering it really wasn’t my intent. Hey…at least this article featured some hot chixxx!
As far as “Don’t” movies I’m realizing that there is a reason why the era of “Don’t” movies ended in the early 80’s. These movies were far removed from crowd pleasers…even the good ones. Good or bad they were off-center enough to steer very clear of the pop continuum, and there IS something to be said for that. For me? Even though I have about ten more “Don’t” movies in my queue I am going to a bit of a break and get back to important films like “Sleepaway Camp 2”. I will humor you no more ‘Don’t’ movie! Alas, I will lay the concept to rest as a mission accomplished, even though my heart is empty from disappointment.
That’s all I got folks.
Horror Don’t Movies – An Overview of The Don’t Factor