There seems to be a constant struggle to get mainstream film critics to recognize horror movies for what they set out to do: scare and entertain. No one is suggesting that The New York Observer should exalt The Purge as the next Citizen Kane, but it would be nice to see critics recognize that the film makes an astute political statement while simultaneously being quite entertaining.
Horror films are so frequently treated like the bastard stepchild of the Hollywood machine. Horror is just as much of an art form as any other cinematic genre, but one could speculate that mainstream film critics go into screenings for genre features with the preconceived notion that they're about to sit through 90 minutes of rubbish. If that's truly the attitude of most entertainment journalists, it’s no wonder fright flicks often score low on movie review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes. Not every horror film will be of Oscar caliber, but that doesn’t mean all genre pictures should be immediately dismissed as poppycock.
Since we like to think of ourselves as fair and equitable, we've set out to recognize a handful of good movies that have received overwhelmingly bad reviews. With that said, we bring you five entertaining horror movies that we think were unfairly lambasted by critics, as indicated by their "TomatoMeter" scores.
Class of Nuke 'Em High (TomatoMeter score: 20%)
Lloyd Kaufman and Troma Studios have put out an almost innumerable barrage of titles... some good, and admittedly some absolutely terrible. But the problem seems to be that critics often go into a Troma picture thinking it's guaranteed to be garbage. Class of Nuke ‘Em High, however, is not a bad film; it's a smart, satirical look at the willingness of our society to shamelessly pollute the environment without regard for future generations, or even for the cleanliness of the air that we're breathing now. It drives home the point that the bottom line is all anyone seems to be concerned with, and it does so in a farcical and often brilliant way.
Slumber Party Massacre (TomatoMeter score: 30%)
Slumber Party Massacre isn't trying to serve as a masterpiece in modern filmmaking; it's out to entertain and insert some sort of feminist stance. The film was fairly successful at what it set out to do, yet it was trashed by 70% of the critics that reviewed it. (I won't even attempt to defend the tepid sequels; while those have a cult following, they certainly didn’t recreate the magic of the original.) Director Amy Holden Jones did some revolutionary things with the film: she put women in roles traditionally held by men, and portrayed the male characters as needing to be rescued by the women. She also subjected the males to much more gruesome deaths than any of the female cast members. The film is great fun to watch, and even delivers a level of social commentary.
The Collection (TomatoMeter score: 35%)
Last year's sequel to 2009's The Collector was a pretty solid film, though both features score well below "Fresh" on the TomatoMeter. Co-writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton created a creepy, interesting, and frightening villain in the original, and the follow-up is well-written and fast-paced, featuring one of the coolest mass death sequences committed to film. Though it often borders on "torture porn," The Collection maintains a modicum of taste, and features a hero who is flawed but still easy to cheer for. Perhaps poor reviews are partially to blame for the film’s abysmal box office results; at any rate, both fims are great fun and even better when watched back-to-back.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (TomatoMeter score: 15%)
Hansel & Gretel isn't trying to be historically accurate, or even true to the fairy tale on which it's based; it's not even meant to be taken seriously. Instead, it's a farcical romp that doesn't require audiences to think too much, or look for deeper meaning than what's taking place on the surface. That doesn’t make Dead Snow director Tommy Wirkola’s English-language debut a bad film. It's mindless entertainment, and taken as such it's a pretty good time. My suspicion is that a lot of mainstream critics were too embarrassed to admit enjoying it. There are enough explosions and action sequences to keep almost anyone entertained, yet the film was torn apart by 85% of reviewers!
House of 1,000 Corpses (TomatoMeter score: 18%)
It is probably an understatement to say that mainstream critics typically don’t "get" Rob Zombie’s aesthetic. That's evident in that his feature directing debut secured an aggregate score of 18%. The interesting thing is that the sequel, The Devil's Rejects, was widely praised by critics. While that film may be a superior effort, that's not to say its predecessor is without merit. While certainly not perfect, House very accurately recreates the gritty, filthy feel of '70s grindhouse cinema. The script is imaginative and Zombie’s prowess as a director became evident to many horror fans upon first viewing the film in 2002.