Horror films are often maligned by mass audiences so it’s not really a surprise when a non-horror fan hates a horror movie. Given the variety of horror fans and horror films, it IS surprising to see horror films that even horror fans seem to universally think are bad. These are the horror films I enjoy that everyone else hates. Including other horror fans. These are not in order of my favorites, but rather in order from least to most provocative. With each film, I will attempt to justify its merits, and provide some commentary on why I think it is disliked by other fans.
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
IMDb Score: 5.2 (tied with the 2010 remake for the 2nd lowest score in the franchise. The lowest? Freddy’s Dead); podcasts lambasting it; when I said this was what we were going to watch together one of the biggest horror film fans I’m friends with said “yikes.”
I would rank this film my 3rd or 4th favorite in the franchise overall. I added it to this list because I’m surprised by how many people prefer A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master to this one. In the documentary Never Sleep Again, the cast and crew mention how the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike caused a lot of improvisation in the 4th one, not to mention the script they were supposed to be working with was allegedly written in seven days. I think this really hurt the final product. (To be fair the script for the 5th was also churned out within a year of the 4th and was still being reworked as the movie was being filmed, but at least it had writers involved throughout the process).
I bring up the 4th because these two entries really go in tandem since Alice remains is the final girl in both films. Notably, she is a final girl who begins the movie having sex and getting pregnant, once again destroying the myth of virgin final girl. Yvonne is an amazing survivor in this film, and really aides and supports Alice’s ultimate victory over Freddy. The death scenes are on par with the 4th (Greta’s death is particularly upsetting), and it builds on the central themes of the franchise (strained relationships between parents and child; the way our nightmares can destroy us), while introducing more complex themes involving motherhood and reproductive rights.
The 5th was inspired by Executive Producer Sara Risher being a new mother, and wanting to see issues of pregnancy, abortion rights, and motherhood explored. What I really appreciate about this film is how it handles Alice’s pregnancy. In particular, it features a frank conversation where her friend gently broaches the subject of Alice getting an abortion, which would effectively prevent Freddy from killing them:
You know there is...one way.
Alice looks up at him, intrigued.
Have you thought about not having the
baby? I mean, no baby, no baby's dreams.
Alice thinks about it, very hard. Finally shakes her head.
I couldn't do that, Mark. He's my last
link with Dan...No, I want him.
Then we'll find another way.
It is frank moment handled very well, and ensures that we know that Alice has considered all her options, and isn’t just having the baby because it is a foregone conclusion in her mind. Immediately after this scene, she is given another opportunity of sorts to opt out of the responsibility of single motherhood when Dan’s parents insist on letting them take the baby. Again Alice states that she’s thought about it and she is keeping her baby. The only thing that would make the scene better is if Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” started playing in the background.
5. Black Christmas (2006)
IMDb Score: 4.6; director looks visibly sad in behind the scenes features; podcasts deride it if they actually talk about it; actual quote from my friends “you’ve already made us watch this!”; my wife *just stares in disappoint as I once again complete my annual tradition of watching it while wrapping holiday presents*
I’ve talked about my appreciation of this film at length in other posts so I will keep this brief. While I certainly think it’s found its audience over time (and probably had a bit of a resurgence thanks to the 2019 version), I think people had an understandably bad reaction to this because of how in your face gory and superficial this remake is compared to the slow burn suspense and rich character development of the original. I think now, with some time and distance, more people are coming around on this one. Because it is so different from the original, it is gradually finding an audience that can enjoy it for what it is without comparison. It does at least follow the lore of the original, even going so far as to imagine Billy’s backstory which is something the original only alludes to in its terrifying phone call sequences.
4. Sinister 2
IMDb Score: 5.3; people seem dislike Sinister 1 and 2 for the same reason: the Bughuul jump scares
I watched this prior to reading any reviews, and I was genuinely shocked by the negative reactions I read after watching it. This did exactly what it was supposed to do: it showed us more disturbing snuff tapes from Bughuul. It builds on the first by making Deputy So & So the lead as he continues to investigate the supernatural mystery he was inadvertently drawn into by the family in the first film. I really liked that they brought back a side character and fleshed him out into the lead while still allowing him to be kind of a dork. The film further explores the way Bughuul corrupts children, gives us rational explanations as to why all the new characters have become ensnared in the horror, and features a surprisingly well-executed romantic subplot between Deputy So & So and a single mother. It is clear that C. Robert Cargill and Scott Derrickson were passionate about the story they created in the first movie since they co-wrote this sequel as well. Also, props to the evil kid for conveniently killing his evil father before being thwarted in his attempts to murder the rest of his family. Bughuul basically did them a solid on that one!
3. V/H/S Viral
IMDb Score: 4.2 enough said ; I guess I’ll also add the first time I asked friends to try the original V/H/S with me they didn’t make it through the start of the wraparound story before turning it off.
I definitely agree that V/H/S and V/H/S 2 are superior films, but the first two shorts in this film are solid. In particular, “Parallel Monsters”, is so incredibly dark and disturbing I think it’s worth overlooking the terrible wraparound story and weak final segment to watch it alone. The premise of “Parallel Monsters” is that an earnest and likable scientist has found a portal to alternative reality where he encounters that reality’s version of him. They are overwhelmed with excitement at finding a way to access their parallel realities, and agree to trade places for 15 minutes. What happens next is incredibly messed up.
2. The Happening
IMDb Score: 5; plants are killing people which was a joke my friend made to me in the middle of the movie but it actually ended up being true.
This movie is unintentionally (or maybe intentionally?!) funny during a lot of its rambling run time, but the opening and many death sequences are genuinely unnerving. The hanging people and suspense leading up to John Leguizamo’s death after the jarring jeep crash. The old woman bashing her head into windows as she is bloodied, as well as the man getting run over by a lawn mower and the lion handler getting mauled are effective even if the surrounding film is not.
After learning this was meant to be a call back to science fiction films of the 50s and 60s the acting and story are far more palatable. And as other viewers note, it is oddly amusing to see such a ineffective protagonist who really represents how clueless most people would be in this situation.
Believe it or not, this film is how I learned about bees disappearing. I can honest to goodness say I learned something from The Happening. And eventually M. Night Shyamalan did as well, eventually losing his Hollywood status and ego and making the incredibly overlooked gem The Visit.
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
IMDb Score: 5.2; you already know
This is a bad movie, but it isn’t THAT bad of a movie. Yes it’s terrible compared to the original. A lot of movies are. And unfortunately this one had the audacity to be a remake. But there are good moments. For one, the opening scene in the diner is brilliant:
If only the rest of the film was as atmospheric as this. I love the alternating red and green neon lights, and the diner is a nice reference to Alice’s job in the 4th and 5th movies.
The trailer for this film highlights a lot of the best elements. I love that it starts with Fred Kruger running from a mob while screaming that he is innocent. I also love the twist within a twist that Freddy was an actual child molester, and the teens had all repressed their horrific memories of his abuse. By making him guilty, his screaming of innocence show what a coward he was in life, and the way death provides him an opportunity to become a confident, sadistic hunter. Seeing Quentin and Nancy go from being determined to prove Fred’s innocence, to the utter devastation of finding his horrific photos of them is absolutely heartbreaking.
I also admire Jackie Earle Haley’s performance. Some fans refuse to accept anyone but Robert Englund as Freddy, but eventually if we want to see that character again we have to take a page from Frozen and let it go. I love the work so many performers have given us over time, but I find it bizarre when fans insist on an aging actor reprising a role instead of allowing the studio to find new talent to bring in these roles.
I also love the idea of micro-sleep. It is already so terrible to imagine having to force yourself awake for weeks before eventually succumbing to sleep only to meet a grisly death, but the idea of just fractions of sleep providing an opportunity to die makes it feel even more impossible to escape Freddy. The sequence of Quentin micro-napping while swimming only to wake up cold, shivering, and nearly naked near the scene of Fred Kruger’s death is wild. It is made all the more disturbing by the “reveal” that Quentin was sexually abused by Fred, and that he is so vulnerable in this dream/flashback.
I do hate that Nancy is so ineffectual compared to her predecessor. I firmly believe the original Nancy Thompson is the GREATEST FINAL GIRL OF ALL TIME, and this Nancy is a pale imitation. But even still, I appreciate the writers doing something different with her character. She is far more reminiscent of Kristen Parker from Dream Warriors with her interest in art and more introspective and reserved nature. This also makes her and Quentin tag teaming Freddy at the end much more logical if they are meant to be nods to the dream warriors. I also felt with the images of Quentin by the factory and his social removal from the rest of the group he was a parallel to one of the original final boys: Jesse Walsh in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
I’m not saying go watch this film and be pleasantly surprised. You still won’t be. Especially when it ends on yet another terrible jump scare. But I am saying I believe this film has found its audience over time, and deserves credit for the things it did right because it did those particular things very well.
Now Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare? That’s one I’m not even prepared to defend.