Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mediocrity

Spent the morning watching a serial killer/horror film. Actually, I made a bagel and coffee, put the kitchen rug in the wash and refilled the toilet paper roll in the bathroom - so maybe when I say I was "watching" a film that might be a wishful turn of phrase. What I realized during this process was: regardless of where I came back into the story (from whichever little task consumed me) I knew exactly what/where/why/who was happening in the film. At one point, I even had the sound on mute and I could totally follow along.

Is this because I've seen so many of these movies that I'm jaded or is it that these films have become so rotely made that anyone with half a brain can discern the plot structure immediately? I don't know, maybe I'm being too hard on the genre. Maybe I expect more than they are able to deliver and I should just shut-up about it and be glad these movies exist and that I'm not being forced to watch bad Jennifer Aniston romantic comedies until I barf.

All that watching this film did today was make me want to create something better myself. Not sure if that's possible, but mediocrity definitely inspires.

45 comments:

  1. Right on. I guess if it gets people to part with their green rectangles, the folks that make films may be doing only the minimum necessary (with zero creativity) to make a film. Couple this with Alfred Hitchcock never getting an oscar for directing and my head will never stop pounding.

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  2. Tell me about it, not to mention all of the "re-imaginings" of classics that are just destroying the once original plot lines with bad dialogue and not so discrete injections of pornography.

    Give me four years to graduate college with my degree and you will have a good horror movie. A whole generation of good horror movies. That's my goal.

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  3. Mediocrity always inspires; at the very least, it inspires us never to see that film again.

    Far as the genre itself, slasher films were *always* rote. Had sex: you died. Didn't have sex: you died, unless you were the plucky female lead. Ran upstairs: you died. Ran to the scary old barn: you died. Ran at night: generally, you died.

    Actually, that's part of why Scream made such a splash at the time, because it managed to taunt its own genre so effectively.

    In recent years, though, it's gone far beyond rote, and I think genuine slasher fans are waiting for that next advancement in the genre. Somehow. Somewhere.

    That's not, you know, Hostel. Or another Saw movie. (Though to be fair, the original Saw? BRILLIANT.)

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  4. My mentor use to say study the bad stuff as well as the good so you know WHY it was bad. (Althought I'm not sure he took into account some of those Jennifer Anniston romance comedies.) Sometimes when you're on the creative end, I think you also anticipate more than the average person like when you hear a song you've never heard before but you know what the next lyric is. Now that you're in a creative mode, I have no doubt you'll turn out something better.

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  5. A serial killer thriller with you writing/directing it? Now that I would definitely be interested in. Why?

    I like serial killer thrillers but I am less impressed by blood and gore (which actually put me off films) and more intrigued by the psychology of the killer and by violence which is suggested rather than shown. The reason why I think films such as "Manhunter", "Silence of the Lambs" and "Seven" work so well is that they play with what you might see, rather than being obvious and just showing excessive gore. I get the distinct feeling that you also would be less about gore and more about atmosphere, tension and giving some emotional and intellectual weight to the piece, and that I would pay money to see.

    Having seen your body of work as a creator, I am more than convinced of your ability here (and that's not the point of view of a fawning fan, but the opinion of someone who is a fan because you have consistently brought the talent to bear on your work).

    So yes, go for it and write the film you would want to see. let us and the world entire see the talent within you Amber.

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  6. Maybe it will inspire someone to make a new and inventive horror movie. Horror is like most genres - there are a few diamonds in piles of coal.

    I totally agree with Razor-blade Cookies: the original Saw was amazing. It had a new idea and a very tight, well written story. I would also include The Ring, The Devil's Rejects, The original Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser,and Candyman to the list of brilliant horror movies.

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  7. You could and will make something better. And you will do it without having to resort to sawing them up or going for cheap thrills.

    Some of the creepiest things I've seen in the lat few years were JJ Abrahms' Twilight Zone Felicity episode, the episode of Lost where the double-crossing couple were only temporarily affected by the spider's venom, but both were buried alive because they were believed to be dead and not paralyzed, and so on.

    Please, just let us know when it happens.
    Thanks.

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  8. This has been an epidemic with movies over the last few years, and not just in Horror but across the board. It's hard to find something to sooth the hardcore movie watcher. Partly I think it is high hopes of seeing something great but why settle for anything less? Sure it leaves us unsatisfied in the end but when we eventually hit gold again we appreciate it more. And yes it does inspire and hopefully the aggravated creative minds will take it out on their note books or computers.

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  9. It's not just Horror movies that are paint-by-number. Any romantic comedy kinda takes that route too. If the lead girl wants some guy that's completely out of her league, one of two things will happen...either she ends up with the guy that's always loved her but been in the background of her life, or the out of her league guy has some epiphany that makes him realize that the girls he's been chasing have no value and he ends up with the lead.
    The fact that you recognized this and it makes you want to create something better is what makes you the artist that you are and your fans the amberholics that we are :-)

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  10. See the thing about horror/thrillers are that they are very formulaic, like really....um well....a large percentage OF movies. For the most part people make movies that people will pay to see. They dont make movies as an art form or creative endeavor. This is why so many scary movies have sequels. If people will pay money to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd why the hell not try to sell them the 56th, 98th or 1,756th?

    A related point, if a horror movie series like, Halloween, for instance, can make it to the 666th movie I bet it will draw huge crowds and be ridiculously publicized. hehe.

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  11. "mediocrity definitely inspires."

    I'll agree to that. The whole reason I started writing again was because I read one too many bad fan fictions involving a certain character of yours and her girlfriend. Not to say that mine were a whole lot better, but that is not the point. So thanks Amber for (in a very round about way) inspiring me to write again. So go ahead and write up the screen play, at least you already know you could get it filmed and distributed all on your own.

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  12. I never watch horror movies because they scare the bejaysus out of me. (I do read horror, and fondly). I recently saw the trailer for the Elm Street remake, and I must say, while I generally despise remakes (I just don't see the point), I thought there was a really interesting (seemingly) new twist added to the Elm Street mythology: what of Freddy Kruger was innocent?

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  13. I think you could create something better. You know how it works from both sides, so you have a leg up on the competition. Unfortunately, movies today tend to be formulaic, which is why you can mute the sound and still tell what is and what will happen. I ache for excitement in movies!

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  14. PLEASE do something new. They are getting REALLY boring and predictable.

    Kisses from Argentina!

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  15. Oh pretty please... would you? A surprise would be nice. I'm getting sick of being able to figure out the ending of something in the first five minutes (not just horror movies). And they're not even remotely scary anymore... There have only been 2 movies i've ever seen that made any decent attempt to scare me and both had a pretty good mix of gore and suggestion (Wolf Creek and Broken by the way), but neither of them quite managed. :(

    Oh and DTB, i agree. Not that i ever stopped writing, but it is seriously hard to find good fanfics. I read one that was pretty good it was just that by the end it was basically just porn.

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  16. I would pay to see it Amber!! Maybe work out something with SyFy Channel, like that one you did for them a few years ago for the Saturday movie. I have to admit those movies are a TOTAL Guilty Pleasure for me, and if you did it I am sure it would be fabulous!!

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  17. When I read a book that's only mediocre, it always inspires me to write more. Because if they can churn that out and get published, I can only imagine how well I could do.

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  18. I find that not only are plot sequences similar in the horror genre, but most other aspects of the movie as well, even cinematography. I mean drawing inspiration from your predecessors is one thing, but not being at all original is just, well, unoriginal. Anyways, Amber, I'll look forward to whatever your brilliant noggin has brewing for us next.

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  19. Why Amber, it's almost as if somebody needs to take this stale horror genre and invert all the silly blond-girl-walks-into-dark-alley tropes, and then use that as a backdrop to tell a different story, one that is actually worth telling... ;)

    In all seriousness, I'm not sure that there's much room anymore for artistic value in any endeavour that isn't subverting the genres. I've felt the same way about the death of romantic films for a long time; although, I surprised myself recently by enjoying '(500) Days of Summer' which I highly recommend.

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  20. The original Night of the Living Dead is perhaps my favorite scary movie. It was scary not because of blood and gore, but because a small group of people were surrounded by danger both without and within. They were as much a threat to one another as were the humanoid monsters outside.

    I never found movies like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street scary. Shocking perhaps. Freaky. Mostly they were fun to laugh at. The screenwriters went out of their way to make the characters in these films unlikable, so when they died I was glad. It's like they want me to root for Jason and Freddy.

    Serial Killer Horror is only as interesting as the victims trying to get away, and how they don't. That's why I'd put Halloween over either of those other two any day. The bad guy was cookie cutter behind a faceless mask, but Jamie Lee Curtis was fascinating.

    I prefer 'horror' movies like Poltergeist or Aliens. Where the things that go bump in the night are otherworldly, and the people facing those things are the kinda people I wouldn't mind having a beer with.

    Getting inside the mind of a serial killer has been done to death. Silence of the Lambs was okay but not worth repeat visits. Seven was about as fun for me as a dentist visit. Saw? I've never seen Saw. The premise reads to me more as gross and cringeworthy than scary, and I don't want to waste two hours of my life watching that.

    If the movie's got your writing credit Amber, I'll watch it. Just remember a good horror film is like a poker game, and your victim has a hand that she thinks she can play, but she can't see the other guy's cards. Oh, and he's hiding a bloody machette under the table. She can't see that either.

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  21. I think with horror films there's such an obvious, straight-forward formula that filmmakers are afraid of deviating from that. I also think that some truly great slasher/horror films have come from France in the last few years - films like Martyrs, Inside and Switchblade Romance have really restored my faith in the genre.

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  22. I think you're absolutely correct - the genre is very limited, probably because what makes money is actually making the film, not writing something interesting and creative. A friend who works in Hollywood told me only Pixar starts with a script and builds the film from there: many others just cherry-pick scripts as they go along, and I think it isn't hard to see how that translates into a "might as well paint-by-numbers" game for both writers and creators.

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  23. No, you shouldn't just shut up about being disappointed in any film. I have a lot of passion for the horror genre and it saddens me every time I sit down with something terrible, which is happening more and more frequently.

    Producers are afraid to take chances because they're more concerned about the money than putting out a quality product so we keep getting remakes and sequels and we keep giving them the money because we want to see horror flicks in the theatre with a bunch of other people.

    At least this film made you want to make something better; in its own way, it's served its purpose.

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  24. hell yeah Amber! go and make an awesome kickass film if you're inspired, you have my support!

    ~riotgrrrljaz

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  25. one eyed monster, anyone?

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  26. No, you're not being too tough on the genre. Halloween II aside, there really hasn't been much interesting, particularly mainstream and I've decided to completely give up on all PG-13 horror films altogether. Drag Me To Hell, of course being the exception.
    It’s not strictly a horror film, but if it gets a run close to where you are, you really should see Antichrist. No, you're not being too tough on the genre. Halloween II aside, there really hasn't been much interesting, particularly mainstream and I've decided to completely give up on all PG-13 horror films altogether. Drag Me To Hell, of course being the exception.
    It’s not strictly a horror film, but if it gets a run close to where you are, you really should see Antichrist.

    http://leftofleftofleftofcenter.blogspot.com/2009/10/66-antichrist-lars-von-trier-2009.html

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  27. The story you wrote with Chris Golden, "Seven Whistlers" would make a seriously spooky flick.

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  28. Speaking as a fan of both yours and the classio horror films (and I do mean the CLASSICS, the ones from the '30s and '40s; of course there were a good number of goodies during the silent era as well), all I can say is go for it. I've often been of the opinion that certain genres need to go retro to be effective again...usually they don't go retro enough. It would also help to get the CGI monkey off our backs for a while.

    A comment I made to your previous blog recommended the original version of "The Mummy" directed by (if memory serves) Karl Freund and starring the one-and-only Boris Karloff, Edward Van Sloan and Zita Johann (in the same comment I mentioned a "Mummy" documentary containing some anecdotes about Ms. Johann, including one whose punchline was "Coming down was rotten"; the setup was...interesting, not quite in the Chinese-curse sense, but still). That was when the Universal horror formula was being perfected, having elements of "Frankenstein," "Dracula," and incidents involving a certain real-life Egyptian mummy.

    Again, go for it (and for the record, just because I treasure those old horror movies doesn't mean I'm old. I was born roughly a month after Sputnik launched, a year-and-a-half old when George Reeves died, and barely six when Kennedy was assassinated (I waited nearly a whole day for my folks to remember to pick me up from school; THAT was fun). I'm just not THAT old.

    And once again I dig a hole for myself. Pleasant "horrorizin'," boss.

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  29. The trouble with horror movies these days is as others have said, pretty much epidemic all across the board genre-wise...if anyone in Hollywood has had an original thought in the last few years (10 or so) they certainly haven't had it produced by the big studios...film has become a business in the truest sense of the word...stick with what works...this made money so lets make it over and over again until we can find another dead horse to beat...but God forbid they should take a chance on anything intelligent or complex as it might be too much for the teen audience that buys the bulk of movie tickets...it's the whole,"plumber in Albequerque" dynamic that Linda Ellerbee complained about way back in "And So It Goes"...the studios/networks skew everything to the lowest common denominator or at least their estimation thereof which is generally even lower
    It takes a miracle to get me to watch a big studio film these days, for the most part...independent is where the originality is and sadly even that is beginning to get a little by rote...the american film industry could learn a lot from foreign filmmakers...when you can't afford to or at least choose not to rely on special effects and gore you are forced to have a real story...what a novel idea! (no pun intended)
    Look at the master, Alfred Hitchcock...his films are generally viewed as being some of the best thrillers of all time and he NEVER showed the gore...why? Because he knew he could never come up with something more horrific than the viewers mind could conjure up...I think anyone who sets out to make a scary movie should be made to watch the entire Hitchcock ouevre...anyway, I think you should try to make the "new horror film"
    the psyche is where scary really happens and as shown in the clips I saw from "The Inside" you can be one scary bitch! Disturb us, Amber...you've got the chops

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  30. I think most writers are inspired when they see something on screen or page and think, "I could do better!" That's gotten me going on more than one writing project.

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  31. Me am dumb...

    When I mentioned "going retro" in horror filmmaking and how those who try usually don't go retro enough, I'd completely forgotten about the HP Lovecraft Historical Society's direct-to-DVD production of "The Call of Cthulhu." It is a beautiful and faithful adaptation of Lovecraft's story produced as if it were made around the time it was written/published (the late silent era). It's astonishing how they were able to craft a minor masterpiece on the shoestringiest of shoestring budgets...it makes "Chance" look like "Titanic"(pleasedon'thurtmepleasedon'thurtmepleasedon'thurtmeallhailAmberQueenoftheAmber-zonsEmpressoftheAmberlandsshewhoshouldOFCOURSEbeobeyedandwhosebosomheavedwiththebestofthemin"OncemorewithFeeling"...dang, I was doing OK there up 'til that last bit. Oh, well.)

    Enjoy your weekend; up here in Canada we're having the REAL Thanksgiving(man, I can't stop digging myself into holes...).:)

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  32. Hey! Dont mock Mediocrity, most of us reside there!

    On a serious note...Sometimes I wonder if life wouldn't be more enjoyable not being able do discern quality. I know people that are quite oblivious to the finer things in life and they seem to be more happy and contented than those of us who have an eye,ear,taste,feel for high quality things.

    Seeing and imagining what is possible can cause more pain than not knowing it exits...lol Amber it Pained you enough to write in your blog and me enough to respond.

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  33. Yes, most horror movies are predictable these days. That is what makes the ones that are even semi inspired, unique or ground breaking, so much better! There are ones that deliver though. But sometimes, you gotta kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince :)

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  34. I agree, they all have the same plot.

    A x x x

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  35. That's why Zombieland was great. They mixed genres. Hope we start seeing more 'hybrid' films since crappywood can no longer be creative (remakes are killing my childhood).

    Horror/Sci-Fi
    Horror/Zombie/Comedy/Action (zombieland)
    Horror/Thriller/Film Noir (original twilight zone)

    We need some more old western/horror/zombie films. I recently watched The Quick and the Undead and it was decent for a B movie.

    Other side of the brain is saying shut up; Horror films should play on people's phobias/fears. Viruses, war, insects, animals, creepy dudes jumping out of closets, religion... enough ranting.

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  36. Try Leprechaun and get the best of both worlds - bad horror movie AND Jennifer Aniston. It doesn't get any better than that.

    I once watched Phantasm from start to finish on mute, and I'm convinced my version of events was vastly superior to whatever the script called for. Sometimes it's just better that way.

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  37. First, let me introduce myself. My name is Harrison. I am a 21 year old student at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. I am currently in the process of moving to Florida in order to complete my internship for school at the Ritz Carlton. The real reason as to my blog, which is a first, is to look for inspiration. My overall goal in life is to be this; Creative Master Chef slash Food Critic slash restaurant owner slash Author. After viewing a film of yours on Hulu, it got me thinking. I would like to write. Not an essay or a mission statement, I want to write excellence on paper. I want to publish a script. Let me know if you could be of any assistance. A simple acknowledgement of my message would be cool too. Thanks, Harrison.
    Oh, and I posted on another one, but it was old.

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  38. And now for something completely different...

    Noticed a comment on your twitter page about being a "book whore." Sorry, your self-description as you wrote it is not "book whore"(or "book slut").

    If anything, you're a Book John.;)
    (I am SO glad I'm submitting this anonymously)

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  39. I've never seen them, but my stepdaughter says the 'Saw' series is good and actually has a plot in each one. Personally, I enjoy the classics. You don't need alot of blood and gore to make a good horror film.

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  40. A movie about a disembodied penis might be less predictable. Just saying. :)

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  41. first of all...they are getting way to predictable. I actually fast fowarded through a whole movie and knew exactly what was going on without actually watching it. I only pushed play for the good parts.

    second of all...you can definitely create way better! None of your work has ever been anywhere near that predictable. =) Looking foward to your next book!

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