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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

weekend box office: ‘Silent Hill’ makes noise, ‘Scary Movie’ still terrifyingly successful

ugh, I’ve got bad movie all over me!

Sign of the apocalypse number 7,092,163: Silent Hill, a movie so bad its studio knew it would get some of the worst reviews of the year so it withheld the film from critics before its release, led the box office this weekend with a take of $20.2 million. Ray Bennett in The Hollywood Reporter called it on Friday:

Witless, soulless and joyless… The massive advance publicity might catapult the film to decent box office returns on its opening weekend, but its total reliance for thrills on predictable jump cuts and loud noises might render word-of-mouth devastating.

And Scott Gwin at CinemaBlend this morning cringed:

The ironic part about the film’s success lies in the fact that the few critics who did give it a positive review acknowledge that it’s basically a mindless series of scary images designed to scare you at any cost. It gives the fans of the game a chance to enjoy their fright fetish without the hassle of thumb cramps. Meanwhile the rest of us can do little but cringe that the Uwe Boll style of filmmaing is actually gathering steam.

‘Scary Movie 4’: less fun
than a whack to the crotch

And the box office runner-up? Scary Movie 4, bringing in $17 million. Why, dear god, why? Wes Craven, quoted at ABCNews.com, thinks he knows:

Craven pointed to some of the more gruesome scenes in today’s horror films as indicative of what the culture is thinking and seeing in the news.

“People are taken hostage, people are beheaded and then that beheading is put on the Internet,” Craven said.

“Our own government has been caught torturing. It’s holding citizens of other nations right now at Guantanamo without any charges being brought. So, there’s a very deep sense that all the rules are being broken and we don’t know what the rules are anymore. Now when that’s the case, I think the horror films will reflect that. The horror films are basically nightmares of a society.”

I have no doubt that horror movies reflect cultural anxieties — but it used to be that it was good horror movies we craved when we were worried, not just any random splatter of blood, gore, and feces. When did we, as a society, become such crass and mindless children?

[box office results via Yahoo! Movies]

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  1. “When did we, as a society, become such crass and mindless children?”

    You might want to read this entry at this cool blog I keep up with. Apparently the downfall of society began with novels.

    My point being that the answer to your question is that society has been made up of crass and mindless children as long as “society” has existed.

  2. Possibly, but how come movies were mostly aimed at grownups as recently as the 1970s?

  3. Well, if your issue is that there’s more “juvenile” humor in movies today, well, you may be right. But while movies may contain more of that type of humor currently, I’d argue that the exception was when there weren’t as many that were like that. That there were other forms of media with their unrefined humor, and the sanitized movies of the time were the exception.

    I’m not a fan of the Scary Movie series, but I don’t loathe their very existence. At least, not for the types of humor in them. Sometimes I like sophisticated humor, sometimes I like dick and fart jokes. I consider that “well-rounded” but I recognize that there are some people on either side that only like one or the other. So be it, there’s no accounting for taste or sense of humor. But I don’t get upset that other people laugh at things I don’t personally find funny.

    And again, it’s not a new phenomenon. Hell, there are all sorts of sex jokes and such in Shakespeare, but we consider that sophisticated, because we’re so far removed from the language that it’s not as blunt to us as it was to people in the day it was written. Not that I’m comparing Scary Movie to Shakespeare, mind you, my point is that such humor has been around forever, and society has eaten it up just as long.

  4. Why, why??
    Well. Indeed. First off, yes, there ought never have been a Scary Movie 2. People love mockery, so that’ll be 4’s selling point, bad or no.
    But…but I’m not at all a horror movie fanatic, and I don’t particularly enjoy nonsense like Scream, but I LOVED Silent Hill. I’m commenting because our parting here is odd to me: I nearly always agree with you. I was pretty astounded at the buckets of bad reviews, and thought, “Ah, MaryAnn will save me. She won’t completely TRASH it.”
    Alright, so…the wonderful music, the really quite good acting (notably: Rose), the great special effects, and the freaky monsters, sure, I can see that these all need something backing them up, something more substantial.
    I thought the plot was amazing. It kept me guessing and it wasn’t incoherent at all, except for the ending scene which is just curiosity-invoking. The so-called sanctuary being the most devilish place of all, the little girl being the reaper, and a siren bringing doom were all lovely little contradictions. A town cloaked in mist that rains ashes and brings hellish creatures forth with the sound of a siren…maybe aiming just to frighten and string people along, but in my mind, that’s what horror movies often should aim to do, and with such a creative setting and main character motivated by maternal instinct, I don’t see how it could go wrong. What is it that was so horrible about it??

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