Often times, a horror film has to take a moment or two to finally explain what’s been going on the whole movie. These exposition scenes are almost always eye-rollingly long and drawn out.
Not every film can have Richard Dreyfuss show up and offer a just perfect amount of information with a great performance. Sometimes you have to listen to Tony Todd pontificate instead.
Check out some of the worst offenders after the break.
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Usually exposition in Halloween films is handled by Donald Pleasance’s Dr. Loomis. But along with basic quality, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers eschewed this convention and gave its big speech on the history of runes and killer children to Paul Rudd who delivers his speech as though he are some kind of autistic robot. The film is less than 90 minutes long, but scenes like this make it feel like a lifetime.
Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Nightmare on Elm Street 3, easily stands as the best of the NOES sequels, and in some ways even eclipses the original. But it’s also the film where Freddy’s backstory starts to get unnecessarily complicated. Pretty much any time the movie cuts to either a nun or Craig Wasson (no, that’s not Bill Maher), you know you’re entering exposition Hell.
Sinister is a lot of fun, but it’s remarkable how much help Ethan Hawke’s character needs putting the pieces together. For him to finally understand the easily avoidable danger he’s put himself in, he needs help from a goofy deputy and not one but two Skype conversations from local academic Professor Talksalot (played by Vincent D’Onofrio). By the time he has the case cracked, we are all way ahead of him waiting for his drunk ass to finally catch up.
Each entry in the Scream franchise deserves a place in the Blatant Exposition Hall of Fame. Part 3 has to be the worse offender, though, because even after you sit through Roman’s (raise your hand if you remember Roman) whole spiel, you’re still not sure you completely understand what the Hell he was talking about. On top of that, he claims to be retroactively responsible for the whole franchise thus far, which in a way means we can blame Roman for the horrible explosion in all the films.
Like the Scream films, exposition scenes are one of the things that help define the Saw series. Any of the films could have made this list, but I’m going with Part 2 since starting at about the halfway point, we have to hear every character spill their guts about their backstory. Furthermore, with the whole Amanda twist, this is the first movie to really establish the methodology by which Saw would ultimately eat into itself to survive as a franchise.
By the time we get to the Ben Kinglsey’s massive info dump near the end of Shutter Island, we’ve kind of figured it out for him. A little explanation would be fine, but he just keeps going and going. Pretty soon, he’s referring to anagrams on chalkboards and it’s almost to the point of self-parody.
A large part of what makes Jeepers Creepers work is the fact that we have no idea what’s going on. That all changes with the introduction of Jezelle Gay Hartman, who tells us basically everything we need to know about the film’s villain in one really long and annoying monologue. After this, the film is remarkably diminished, since The Creeper has now been revealed as a somewhat silly bad guy.
People are often very down on Silent Hill. Watching it, you spend most of your time wondering why everyone hates it so much. Then the second act exposition fest occurs and you fall asleep. It’s still going on when you wake up, so you fall asleep a second time. When you wake up again, everything is chains and ash and blood and it’s a fun horror film again. But for those three-to-four hours spent explaining Silent Hill‘s backstory, the film is a nightmare, and not the good kind.
John Carpenter’s Vampires
I really like John Carpenter’s Vampires, but the middle section of the film often feels like an extended run of exposition interrupted with occasional Sheryl Lee episodes. We have to learn about the bad guy. We have to learn about all the vampires’ plans. We have to learn about James Woods’ tragic past. And, even though he’s talking to a priest specially trained for vampire work, we have to overhear as James Woods gives his new priest partner the whole spiel all modern vampire movies must give defining which bits of vampire lore adhere to this particular lot of bloodsuckers. Still, it’s worth it. James Woods is one of the more underrated John Carpenter heroes, and it’s always nice to see a film with that much denim.
I kind of want to give Identity a pass. For one, it’s a pretty fun and original take on the “Ten Little Indians” trope. On top of that, the premise of this film is so wacky, there’s no way anyone could explain it in a timely manner. But that doesn’t mean the big reveal doesn’t drag and dip its toes a bit into the waters of over-explanation. The film’s big twist helps distinguish it from other horror films for sure, but it also makes rewatching it a chore.
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