There are two main appeals to slasher movies: the interesting look/costume of the killer, and how inventive the killer gets when it comes to dispatching his prey. Everything else is pretty much superfluous in the long run; sure it’s nice to have good actors or impressive production value, but those things aren’t quite what the movie is remembered for (for proof – look no further than Happy Birthday To Me, which had A list talent in cast and crew, and yet the only thing anyone remembers is the guy getting shish-ka-bobbed). However, there is one thing that 99% of all slasher movies have to come up with that is truly unique: the killer’s motive…
For whatever reason, if a film copies another’s reason, it’s considered a letdown. Scream? Billy Loomis’ excuse was nearly identical to, again, Happy Birthday To Me‘s killer. Any killer who escapes from a mental institution is immediately compared to Michael Myers, and you can’t step foot in the woods without a Jason Voorhees fan crying foul.
Well, with this need for “originality” being so important, and dozens of slasher movies being made every year, not every motive will be as memorable as “That girl… that Strode girl… was Michael Myers’ sister!” Most are just strong enough to sustain your suspension of disbelief until the end credits roll, but then there are a few (10, to be exact!) that are just SO idiotic that they deserve their own list.
So without any further ado, I present:
NOTE – Obviously, the very nature of the article pretty much insures that the endings of these movies will be spoiled in whole or part. As the guy who forces himself to watch at least one horror movie every day of his life, I end up seeing a lot of obscure movies. Thus, some of these aren’t exactly in the same league as My Bloody Valentine or whatever, so as a warning: A. if you’ve never heard of the movie, it’s probably for a good reason, and B. again, the ending will be spoiled.
This is a nasty killer kid movie from 1980 or so, and I highly recommend it. However, it would have worked better if they never bothered giving even the slightest explanation for the kids’ behavior, because the reason they come up with is possibly the most baffling in slasher history. It seems our three tykes have murderous tendencies simply because they were born during a lunar eclipse. What? How does that work? Aren’t there babies being born every 6 seconds or something? Wouldn’t there be a lot of killers as a result of this apparently all powerful solar system alignment?
We’ve all seen these movies – a prank (usually on a nerdy character) goes horribly wrong, and then 10, 15, or 20 years later (killers like multiples of 5), he/she (or their twin) comes back to seek revenge on them all. Some examples include: Slaughter High, Scarecrow, Terror Train, Prom Night… it was OK once or twice, but it’s enough. Plus, half the time the killer ends up dispatching a few folks that had nothing to do with the prank, so they sort of lose the sympathy vote.
This is a new one, so I won’t spoil who the killer is, only to say that their reasons are funnier than any of the intentional humor in the movie. Five youths who never really did anything wrong are dead by the end of the film, and it’s all because… they wanted to eat mushrooms instead of seeing the sights and appreciating the beauty of Ireland. Right. Of course, the fact that the killer eats mushrooms too sort of renders him/her a bit of a hypocrite, but since the movie isn’t all that bad I’ll forgive them.
Technically, this should be higher on the list, based on pure stupidity. But the actual motive (revenge) isn’t the problem; it’s HOW ol’ Ben Willis went about it that makes you want to grab screenwriter Trey Callaway by the shoulders and shake him until he apologizes. Rather than just kill the girl in her sleep, or have his son (Will Benson – “Ben’s son” being the stupidest plot development, of any kind, in any movie, ever) do it, Ben instead makes a pirate radio signal, makes sure Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character has her radio tuned into it (and on at all) at the right time to win a contest (with the wrong answer to boot), flies her and 3 friends to the Bermudas during a weekend when a storm will ensure few other people are around, and then manages to kill everyone BUT the two he actually had the beef with. Are you fucking kidding me?
This pitiful little independent slasher movie has one of the best all time screen mistakes (the characters are allegedly in the middle of nowhere, seeking a gas station, but there’s a big old Shell station in the background), and it strangely sort of factors into the film’s big reveal. We learn at the end of the film that our resident killer is SPECIFICALLY going after people seeking gas, because gas thieves killed his parents many years ago. So if the guy just got rid of his home pump, or if a Mobil opened next door, the killer would more or less be forced to retire. Amazing.
Fans are pretty divided over whether or not Laurie being Michael’s sister (revealed in II) was a good idea. But it’s certainly better than the “expanded” version of this motive – Michael wasn’t going after his family just for the hell of it, he was doing it because he was a pawn in a plan from a group of Druids who were trying to… you know, I still haven’t the slightest goddamn idea what they were up to. All I know is this: rewriting four (superior) movies’ worth of scenes is a really cheap move, made even more upsetting when the film became Donald Pleasence’s swan song. And if Michael needed to impregnate a family member, why did he try so hard to kill Laurie and Jamie in the previous films?
Honestly, I didn’t think anything could be funnier than the DVD box’s claims that this movie had a “stellar cast that includes Todd Bridges and Joe Estevez” (neither of whom are the actual stars of the film). But I was dead wrong, because when it came time for the killer to reveal his “tragic” backstory, I almost lost it. The killer is a prison guard (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s revealed right at the beginning) who was forced to perform oral pleasure on an inmate, and no one came to his rescue. Now he is seeking revenge on inmates AND his fellow officers (not the ones involved, mind you). So he’s strong enough to wipe out hardass criminals and trained officers, but he wasn’t strong enough to use teeth?
This is a direct to video movie about a killer at a ski resort. It’s terrible. But even worse is the motive: the killer HATES SNOWBOARDERS. I’m not joking. He wants people to ski again, so he kills snowboarders, for their sin of… what? Progress? I imagine the sequel, should we be unlucky enough to have one, would find a killer going after Rollerbladers in a local Roll-R-Way, in an attempt to revive the dormant 2×2 skating wheel formation. Maybe they could set a big kill scene to “I Got A Brand New Pair Of Rollerskates”! Hell, I smell franchise! Shredder 3: Game Over: “Damn kids and their Xbox 360s! In my day we had Sega Genesis!” *sharpens axe*
This movie was in development for a full decade (more if you count the attempt in 1988), and there were more scripts leaked to the Internet than any movie in history. And THIS was the best they could come up with?? Freddy using Jason to kill kids so that they would be afraid of him again? First of all, if Freddy’s strong enough to bring Jason back from Hell and have him do his bidding, why isn’t he strong enough to appear in a few dreams? And second: why does this movie have a goddamn plot at all? No one cared about WHY, they just wanted them to fight. The idiotic story (made even dumber by Freddy’s constant explaining of it to the audience, as if it was really that difficult to follow) just got in the way of Freddy fighting Jason.
When I saw this movie during opening weekend, I was the only one in the theater. So while it was kind of sad that I didn’t have anyone to share the moment with, it’s also kind of good that no one heard my maniacal laughter when the killer explained why he had just wiped out half of the film class. It seems the guy was a failed filmmaker himself, and his student film had been passed over in favor of another, better film. So now, 20 years later, he’s still bitter enough to kill the entire cast and crew of a really good student film so he could pass it off as his own. The idea that this nonsensical plan would work is stupid enough (the crew he could maybe explain away, but wouldn’t anyone get suspicious that all of the cast members were now dead???) but the fact that we have to believe that there is such a thing as a “really good student film” is just outlandish*. When I come up with slasher movies in my head, and plan out a motive, no matter how dumb the (usually drunken) idea I have is, I can always remember that Urban Legend 2′s is still dumber.
This movie clearly aped Halloween (structure, score, and female archetypes are identical), but they went one step further. While the sequels (over)explained Michael Myers’ motives away, in the original he was just Michael Myers, escaped mental patient in a Shatner mask, going after babysitters. Well, Final Exam‘s killer doesn’t even have that much. He has no mask, no name, nothing. He’s just a guy. They don’t even offer a radio broadcast about an escaped mental patient; for all we know, this dude simply got bored during his day shift at the box factory. Sometimes, yes: less is more. But sometimes it’s just lazy. At least the other 10 movies TRIED.
*I myself have worked on awful student films (I edited, and appeared in, one in which a group of folks eat ice cream and then throw up. That’s it), and attended a few school festivals with “films” featuring nothing but 10 minutes of a guy playing with a yo-yo (that one won an award, if memory serves), so I have earned the right to make this crack. And for the record, no, I don’t really believe that all student films are bad.