The In-your-face over-the-top CGI-zation of horror movies

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few years. When “I am Legend” with Will Smith came out a few years ago, I was excited. That is one of my favorite stories. I’ve seen “The Last Man on Earth” and “Omega Man” and both were satisfying end-of-world films. I sat down for the remake “I am Legend” and cringed. The entire time!

There was almost not substance and entirely too many effects (like in “I Robot” and “2012” and many many others). I understand SciFi lovers need for more advanced technology like in “Minority Report” where it mostly just showcased cool gadgets, but in the realm of horror movies…not necessary--really.

How do you suppose movies like "Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal Activity" with almost no budget and so much profit were successful? Internet hype? Well, that makes you want to see it, but what made you want to see it two, three, or four times? Tension and storyline. You don't need money and effects. Note to horror moviemakers: Give us a squeaky old dusty house and some people with issues and we're on our way! Quit putting the computer generated imagery on our horror movies, back away from the big budgets, please get back to basics!

The purpose of horror movies is to tantalize the viewer with the unseen, the unknown, the covert threat. We know to be scared of a man chasing us with an ax who just killed three of our best friends, but what of that strange sound when we are alone? What of the thoughts that take over our mind when we think we see something that shouldn’t be there? That is true horror--not what we do know, but what we don't know.

Have you noticed that special effects are now plumping up movies that have little dialogue, characterization, or plot line? It’s akin to the slasher movie complex where they became more and more gory and soon the “horror” factor was worked right out of them. They no longer contain true suspense, just gross out in-your-face effects. There’s a big difference between suspense and disgust. The series of “Saw” movies are probably a good example of “rip-it-up and gross-em-out” terror. It’s not scary. It’s really just, well, nauseating.
Here’s an ideal example, the movie “Signs.” This fantastically portrayed invasion by aliens and the implications on one family going through it was a suspenseful, insightful, character-strong film. Well, up until the last scenes that included a CGI alien—full frontal. The movie did a splendid job building up the suspense and terror of the unknown. Viewers were only given occasional glimpses and stories, sounds and silhouettes. They board up the house, they hunker down for a confrontation. The truly drawn out and terrifying moments leave you tense and anticipating what will happen next. That is, up until the moment we get a full and completely preposterously animated monster incorporated into the story with a live character. There are many ways it could have been filmed that wouldn’t have suspended our belief. Even if the creature were seen distorted within the screen of the turned off TV in the room, it would have left us with terror and without disappointment.

So, what are you to do if you’ve seen some real clunker over CGI’d horror movies and want to try the “real” thing? Let me hook you up (reminder—in general remakes of movies only offer effects and take away suspense, plot, and characters):

If you saw “I Am Legend,” try the movie “The Last Man on Earth” with Vincent Price

If you saw “The Haunting” with Catherine Zeta Jones, try “The Haunting” 1963 version

If you saw “Saw” (no pun intended), try the movie “And Then There Were None” 1945

If you saw “Bride of Chucky,” try the movie “Dead Silence”

If you saw “Twilight,” you might try “Nosferatu”

I am an optimist by nature and I believe that there are few moviemakers out there who still get what scares us. I’m such an optimist, I still believe in M. Knight Shyamalan. I’m most thrilled by some of the wonderfully insightful moviemakers who give a nod to true horror such as the Scandinavian filmmakers. I understand Castle Pictures from Great Britain will be coming back to life and that thrills me more than have Disneyland to myself. I also very much admired the way James Wan handled “Dead Silence” (especially considering he was involved in “Saw”). I’m desperately hoping he continues to make more like “Dead Silence” because to me it’s a classic horror movie in modern times.

You can be certain that as I inspect upcoming horror movies, I will let you know if they pass my rigorous “true” horror standards.

Happy truly terrifying viewing!


  1. I used to love horror flicks. Couldn't get enough of them...but that was when horror was horror and not this new-fangled garbage they peddle nowadays. I honestly cannot remember the last horror flick I saw.

    By the way....please tell me more about the sweet tea.

  2. Mary;
    Sweet tea...I use Luzianne (the large bags made for iced tea). Steep it at least 8 minutes so it's really strong (2 large bags per 2 liters water). Add 1 c. sugar--yeah, it's like KoolAid. I do my own western twist on it and put a few slices of fresh ginger in it. It lightens it up and gives it tang.

    Movies--yeah, I'm an old-school girl for horror. That's the kind of thing I like to write. It's more about the what goes on in the person's head in a scary house than the actual ghost racing around. There are a few newer horror movies with that suspense and feeling. I super highly recommend "Dead Silence." It was truly a breath of fresh air. Super super spooky and depended more on the setting and mood, music and anticipation.

  3. I agree. I don't watch many horror movies anymore for just this reason.

  4. Panademona;
    We really need to band together and make a good horror movie. My ghost hunting partner and I always say "jeez, we could so easily do a horror movie with almost no budget--it's all about the character and the setting). I guess that's why I write horror. Some day, I should just do a screenplay instead. Now, you gave me a whole new idea.

  5. A horror that scared me shitless as a kid was Necronomicon. If you watch it now, it's a laugh.
    Happy New Year to you! I hope it's a fantastic year.

  6. Hey Juz;
    Isn't that wild? The other day, I got a movie I hadn't seen since I was a kid. I was so excited because it had scared me so much. Now, seeing it as an adult, it was really very campy and silly. Now, I don't expect horror is going to scare me so much, but I do love being put into a place that's moody and an atmosphere that's haunting. That's probably why I love "Dead Silence" so much and really loved the movie "Sauna." They were top for mood and a place I've never seen before that would terrify me to be in.

  7. I have tried to watch I Am Legend and I couldn't. I do still prefer the older movies. I agree give me an old spooky house and something unexpected and I'm hooked. BTW how about some of your stories into movies. When I was reading the Zombie/hunting cabin one I was seeing it like a movie in my mind! Even casting people I can still see them. That would be Thrilling! :)

  8. Hey Becca;
    I have a SciFi I want to convert to a screenplay. It's called MetaNet and is about a machine that talks to the other side and changes all of humanity--but has a dark side. How do you know you're talking to heaven's occupants? Or Hell? Yikes! I keep hoping I'll find someone who wants to work on that screenplay with me. I need someone to bounce ideas off of. Some of my stories I could see being made into movies in my wildest dreams, but my goal is to come up with an ultimate ghost story to turn to screenplay. The zombie one I could see as part of a trilogy maybe. The suspense of whether he's alive or not would be the interesting aspect and no one likes to be locked in a cabin with a maybe dead/maybe alive dude! BTW, if for some insane reason that zombie one wins the contest, I'll let everyone know. I'm sending short stories out vigorously right now and working on an erotic horror novella that I hope to send in by February 1st. I'm very determined. Thanks so much for your interest in my writing. I love blogging because it helps me get feedback so I know if my target audience likes what I'm writing, but also I make great connections so when I can "make it," I can pull along all those folks I've found along the way with special talents and abilities and try and support their endeavors too. I hate climbing ladders alone, I want to put everyone on my back and grab the rungs. hee hee

  9. TOTALLY agree! The scariest and creepiest things in horror movies are the unforeseen. Nosferatu is awesome. D and I love the older horror flicks, too. The more "black and white," the more they creep me out. Surprisingly, we've never seen Dead Silence. We'll be renting that soon. Thanks! ;)

  10. Michelle, be sure and tell me what you think--I know you're going to love Dead Silence--it is everything that totally creeps you out without being in - your - face.

  11. I enjoy the more suspenseful movies like Signs and not so much the slasher movies. The suspense and not knowing what is going to come next is much more scary. I think The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity did so well because of clever advertisement. It had many believing that the stories were true.


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