The Horror Honeys: Neither You Nor Your Revenge Movie are Clever

Neither You Nor Your Revenge Movie are Clever

THAT is a revenge face. Take note.
The Five Mistakes (Almost) Every Revenge Movie Makes

Part Two of a Two-Part Epic New Year Rant

Last week, I started off 2014 by offering up some suggestions to filmmakers on how to fix the generally sorry state of revenge films (and how to stop giving me rage babies all the damn time.) This week, I finish up my series with the second two, slightly more light-hearted, but just as mind-numbing problems that frequent the revenge genre. Fair warning: this week features multiple appearances by a racist sock puppet.

Settle in kids... It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Mistake Number Four: Thinking You're Clever When You're Just a Moron

I hate to break it to you screenwriting types out there, but most of the things that you think are hilarious when you're stoned and writing a script with your buddies at 3am well... they won't make ANYONE laugh but you. There are multiple genres guilty of this sin, but revenge films seem to be exceptionally good at it. Now I know that science requires more than one example to form any kind of cogent thesis, but I am going to spend the majority of this portion of my two-part rant focusing on one film, because let's face it... it has it fucking coming.

Rites of Passage (2012), is a film written and directed by W. Peter Iliff, a.k.a. this guy:

That's his own name on his backwards
baseball hat. 

I'm just going to move past the fact that Rites of Passage is one of the most racist (toward Native Americans) films I have seen in my life. What I am going to offer you are the following four words: Racist. Monkey. Sock. Puppet. That's right. Despite my valiant efforts to pretend Christian Slater ceased to exist after the 90s, he stars in Rites as some sort of vengeful wackjob gardener who talks to a monkey sock puppet with a racist hispanic voice that only Slater can hear. Because the voice is also Christian Slater.

You're making it REALLY hard for me to pretend you got swallowed
by a sink hole immediately after 'True Romance.'

I will allow that the main plot involving Wes Bentley as woman-kidnapping ritualistic serial killer isn't the worst one I've ever heard (and probably not that far off Bentley's normal day to day.) And I will even admit that Rites of Passage isn't even THE most racist revenge film I've watched this year (that honor belongs to Bad Kids Go to Hell, for which I think the screenwriters should be convicted for committing a hate crime.) But there is NO way that any of the FIVE production companies involved in this movie or ANY of the actors or CHRISTIAN FUCKING SLATER should have looked at the script for this train wreck and thought, "Hey! Racist monkey sock puppet! That's fucking hysterical! Sign me up!"

Benedict Cumberbatch thinks you're ALL assholes.

When it comes down to it, you're either writing a spoof movie, or you're writing a revenge movie, or you're writing a ritualistic serial killer movie, or you're writing a college kids getting slaughtered movie, but you can't have it every fucking way. If your movie ends up so unbelievably overwrought and confusing that a dude talking to a sock puppet is the highlight, just let it go. Revenge movies are not meant to be funny. While they can have moments of levity, they can not be upstaged by juvenile humor. I can guarantee you that your friends are laughing at your horrible jokes because they are just hoping you will make it big and pay for their tricked out Civic.

Just because Lloyd Kaufman can make stupid jokes work, doesn't mean you can. You are not Lloyd Kaufman. Deal. With. It.

Mistake Number Five: Cliches - Stop. Just stop.

Of course they all love her. She's blonde,
sweaty, and pursing her lips.
Since, once again, this is my article and I'll rant if I want to, I'm going to use this section to file a few complaints I have one with one specific movie (though I will offer more than one example here.) Hype can make or break a horror movie, often to its own detriment. For frigging years, I had been hearing about this amazing unreleased horror film from Jonathan Levine called All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Actual years. Seven years to be exact. Early in 2013, I finally got sick of waiting for this apparently remarkable film to get a US release and ordered a region-free copy from the UK. And I... was... pissed.

Yes, Mandy Lane had a vaguely clever ending, but this revenge film about a high school girl who got "hot" over the summer (let us be clear here, she went from movie "ugly" to hot, as we are talking about Amber fucking Heard), and may or may not be picking off her classmates for her former treatment is generic at best. The hype machine turned Mandy Lane into some kind of horror white whale when really, it was just an average teen slasher so chock full of cliches that I thought I might choke. So yes, I was furious with this movie because I felt like I'd been cheated (and promptly handed that shit off to my local used video store like it was a copy of the movie from The Ring), but Mandy Lane also brings us to my next revenge movie mistake: stop writing bullshit cliche characters.

Now, I can't speak for every country that spawns horror screenwriters, but I know that when it comes to America, Canada, and the UK, most writers have probably gone to high school. Now let's assume that in that time, these screenwriters actually spoke to and/or engaged with other kids. (And not in the way I interacted with other teenagers, which was something like this...)

High schools and colleges are generally stocked with every type of child imaginable, and yet almost every horror movie featuring a person under the age of 22 conforms to the same stupid cliche: slut, virgin, jock, nerd, stoner. I'd say we could blame this on The Breakfast Club, but it was going on in the horror film way before John Hughes assembled his ragtag group of kids for detention. And this type of rampant stereotyping bullshit happens more often than not in revenge films.

Those are teens from 'Tamara.' Or... 'Truth or Die.' No wait...
'Mandy Lane. ' Definitely 'Mandy Lane."
In addition to Mandy Lane, another film I live tweeted this year was Truth or Die (2012) and besides being homophobic crap, was full of the English versions of the Breakfast Club cliche high school kids. Then there was the 2005 movie Tamara, in which "ugly" Jenna Dewan-Tatum (seriously... I want to know on what universe Jenna Dewan-Tatum is ugly) comes back from the grave all sexified to revenge her cliche classmates. And lest we forget 2009's Forget Me Not... oh wait... I totally forgot it. I just know there were a bunch of boring stereotyped characters that I don't even care enough to remember. This is the easiest fix of all the mistakes on both parts of the list, but the problem is that horror screenwriters are just too lazy to bother doing anything about it. (Check out my interview with horror screenwriter Dave Campfield and just SEE what he was fired for on one project.)

As we have discussed, the key to a solid revenge film is writing characters that an audience can care about, and it's damn near impossible to care about boring ass stereotypes we've seen in a hundred other movies. Take the time to research what "the kids" are like these days. Think about the kids YOU went to school with, or hell, maybe even consider what you were like in days gone by. For half of these dipshit screenwriters, it wasn't even that long ago. Did that make me sound old? Meh, whatever. I'm okay with it.

Revenge movies CAN get better. And some of them have been great (I Saw the Devil, The Caller, The Pact), but not nearly enough of them. If writers would just spend a little more time fine tuning their scripts, a little more time thinking about what will make their audiences care, and a little less time only writing about what amuses them and no one else, then revenge movies can be great again. (And before any screenwriters jump all over me, YES, I know studios fuck with films. But most of the films I watch are indies, that don't have a ton of studio control. So suck it.)  In the meantime, I'll be over here, watching a mute dressed as a nun blow some dudes away at a Halloween party.

Don't even pretend that's not one of the best things you've ever seen.

Required Revenge Honey Films