We frequently disagree with mainstream critics on their critiques of horror films. It seems as though the majority of entertainment journalists are not able to accept horror films for what they are intended to do: scare the audience and entertain. Not every horror film is meant to be taken seriously or to make a profound statement and we think that’s ok.
We are left wondering if mainstream film critics dismiss horror films as a lesser art form and perhaps tend to view them as not worth their time. In light of that, FEARnet has been running a recurring a piece exploring good horror movies that received ‘rotten’ reviews on the aggregate film rating site Rotten Tomatoes. Since the series has proved popular, we are bringing you a third installment.
Some of the installments that followed the original film in the Saw franchise went off the rails a bit, but the first was thought-provoking and offered some astute social commentary. Saw was made on a meager budget and really proved to be a success story for independent filmmaking. Some mainstream critics failed to see merit in the picture and called it a glorified snuff film. We think that when compared to the barrage of sequels that followed, Saw kept the violence to a minimum (for the most part) and primarily emphasized atmosphere over gore. It was a pioneering effort for its time and perhaps that is why the critical reaction to the film was less than enthusiastic upon its release.
Creepshow 2 30%
While the original Creepshow film holds an aggregate score above the ‘fresh’ threshold on Rotten Tomatoes, the second installment in the series is far from the 60% approval rating needed to elevate it above ‘rotten’ status. Creepshow 2 had much of the magic of the original and featured enjoyable vignettes – with the ‘The Raft’ segment proving to be a major fan favorite. Though George Romero didn’t direct the follow up effort, he and Stephen King both stayed on to contribute to the script. Michael Gornick took directorial point on the film and though he doesn’t quite match Romero’s directorial prowess, he brought his own unique vision to the vignettes and elicited thoughtful performances from his cast. The film was criticized for appearing to be low budget and lacking imagination. However, we think Creepshow 2 is a solid entry in the franchise and a great deal of fun.
When a Stranger Calls 40%
When a Stranger Calls has inspired so many films to come out in the years after its release – not to mention a sequel and a poorly received remake. All things considered, it’s surprising to see that this 1979 film has such a low aggregate score. Carole Kane turned in a great performance as the babysitter that is tormented by a psychopath that is actually inside the house where she is babysitting, The picture blends horror elements with taut suspense and some conventions of a cat and mouse style thriller. Critics complained that the middle of the film was too slow. I can’t necessarily negate that as it does drag a bit at its midpoint, but the beginning and end are suspenseful enough to make up for its momentary lack of momentum.
Halloween II (1981) 29%
John Carpenter maintained involvement with the follow up to his 1978 hit. He stayed on to write and produce while handing over the directorial reins to Rick Rosenthal (Halloween Resurrection). It’s nearly impossible to match Carpenter’s directorial aesthetic and critics were quick to assert that Rosenthal didn’t, but we think he did a respectable job standing in for Carpenter, nonetheless. The film is a worthwhile sequel to the original classic and is easily one of the best films in the franchise – next to the original. We were pleased to see Jamie Lee Curtis reprise her role as Laurie Strode. For us, she was just as enjoyable as she was in the original.
The Amityville Horror 24%
I was surprised to learn that The Amityville Horror had such a low aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film has a huge fan following, proved successful at the box office, and has led to countless inferior sequels, and a disappointing remake. That the film is based on actual events – as reported by the Lutz family - makes the film’s already tense atmosphere even more jarring. The first film in the Amityville franchise featured a strong cast, including Margot Kidder (Black Christmas) as Kathy Lutz and James Brolin (The Car) as George Lutz. Both turn in chilling performances while recreating the real life torment experienced by the Lutz family. Though the film shows its age now, it’s disappointing that it wasn’t a critical success upon the time of its release. Many critics saw it as a disposable entry in the haunted house sub-genre, but we saw it as a great time.