Is there anything better than a good horror movie? They make you jump, scream, cover your eyes, even think: how would you survive in the same situation? You can dissect every plot point to outsmart the killer and avoid becoming the last kill. You know, without a doubt, your common sense would assure you a spot in the sequel.
I got to thinking (which is dangerous), what if some of the characters in your favorite horror movies actually used some of this common sense? And that really got me thinking… Can you ruin a classic horror movie using common sense? Of course you can — and that’s just what I am going to do here (all in good fun, of course). Here's how to "ruin" ten classic horror movies using basic common sense.* And it goes without saying: if you haven’t seen any of these movies, spoilers ahead!
*Results may vary if you are doing drugs in the middle of the woods while reading from a book of the dead during a full moon as you lose your virginity.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
No really, don't go into the creepy house with the furniture made out of human bones.
One of the best horror films in my opinion is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With its brutal realism and grisly deaths at the hands of an instantly iconic villain, the movie would have been over fifteen minutes in had two characters (looking at you Pam and Kirk!) used some good, ole fashioned common sense.
Pretty simple, really: instead of wandering away from the group (a classic no-no), Pam and Kirk should have just stayed with them and waited for help. Sure, at the height of summer loving, frolicking in the beautiful water hole is sexier than waiting around for assistance. And I get it; you want to investigate the sound of a generator over yonder. Yes, when you see a quaint little home in the distance, you just have to check it out in case a sweet old lady is there with a phone (or a can of gas). But when a home is furnished with furniture made out of human bones – that’s as good a sign as any to turn around and walk away.
Kirk, come on man! Bones on the wall, no one answering your calls, a pig screaming in the house? You turn around. Always turn around.
In the end, pretty sure a Good Samaritan would come along to help our bunch of stranded motorists (like what happened at the actual end of the movie).
There's a stranger in a mask stalking you, better call the police right away.
My favorite horror movie of this bunch is sadly one I can easily ruin with some simple good judgment. Example: Laurie Strode is lackadaisically taking notes in class while her teacher drones on and on about Shakespeare (or was it Geometry?) when something catches her eye outside. A glance and Laurie sees a strange man wearing a creepy mask staring at her from outside the school. Perfect for a horror movie — stands out like a sore thumb when you think of it in rational terms.
You might argue that Michael conveniently hides after Laurie spots him that first time. How about this:
It could be some hooligan screwing with a girl on Halloween, but the same guy in the same mask hours apart? Get your head in the game, Strode!
Laurie, tell the nice Sheriff (Annie’s dad) about your stalker, dear. The police probably have an APB on Michael after his escape from the mental ward (and there's not just one crazy-obsessed doctor on his tail). Safety in numbers is what I say; the minute Laurie mentions something, we have a different movie, one that is over pretty fast. Course, since Michael is basically superhuman, the poor cops would have a hell of a time capturing the guy. But while he still may have taken a few lives, at least some innocent teenagers would be spared, right?
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Listen to the disembodied voice when it tells you to "GET OUT."
Here you have the classic haunted house movie: The Amityville Horror. Though no one dies, this ghost story based on the bestselling book by Jay Hanson (with personal accounts by George and Kathy Lutz) documents the Lutz’ paranormal experiences that forced them out of their home 28 days after moving in.
Perhaps the Lutz’ life wouldn’t have been permanently scarred if they had just listened to the Priest who heard a disembodied, evil voice telling him to “Get out.”
We would have also accepted the "not moving into the house where someone murdered their entire family’" argument… Just on principle.
The Shining (1980)
Perhaps you shouldn't let your recovering alcoholic husband who beat your child take the caretaking job at the creepy hotel in the middle of nowhere.
I blame Wendy Torrance for not stepping in on this one. Sure, the family might need the money. Okay, your alcoholic, abusive husband recently jumped on the wagon in order to write the great American novel. But I’m sure there are other options available over living in a creepy, deserted hotel in the middle of nowhere. The Shining would have been over five minutes in when Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) tells his wife about the job at the Overlook Hotel. Because when someone is trying to go clean, you might want to avoid the possibility of having drinks with a ghost.
“Honey, I got a job caretaking a hotel in the middle of nowhere during the dead of winter. What do you say?”
“We’re getting a divorce.”
Friday The 13th (1980)
Listen to the crazy old man when he says you're all going to die.
Before Jason and his iconic hockey mask, before we knew just how far a mother would go, even before zombie Jason, there was Crazy Ralph. And Crazy Ralph called it.
You could argue that Ralph knew how far the Friday the 13th franchise would go even before the filmmakers did. No matter the setup, it turns out the same way in the end: if you wander anywhere near Crystal Lake, horny and/or on drugs, you are going to die. Period. Hence, the nagging death curse thing.
Although Ralph’s warning is vague, it’s his absolute conviction that makes it ring true for us, the audience. Do you really want to test his theory? Moreover: when another seemingly-innocent local (a trucker) also warns of the same thing — mentioning fires, tainted water and a bunch of murders right around the time of a boy's drowning — you listen! Better safe than sorry.
Post Script: Old Ralph should have heeded his own warning, for in Friday the 13th Part 2, Ralph’s days of warning horny teenagers are over. RIP Crazy Ralph.
Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
No really, I pulled a hat off the killer who haunts my dreams so this sh*t is real.
This is a tougher nut to crack because all the common sense in the world can’t explain how in the hell Freddy Krueger is able to kill you in your dreams. But let me say this: if my kid went to sleep in front of me and awoke screaming and thrashing about holding the hat of a deceased serial killer, it would be time for a serious gut check. The kid’s not crazy… The sh*t is real! If you’re bringing actual stuff back from a dream, the only logical conclusion here is that there’s a devil at work and you need a priest.
Freddy is using some hoodoo-voodoo here and, if most horror movies are correct in this assumption, a priest is your best option (except when said priest chickens out like in Amityville). When all else fails and the police and the parents don’t want to look at tangible evidence — pulling dirty hats from the nowhere, long slashes appearing on the body (hello, stigmata?) — get a priest, do a blessing, hopefully problem solved. Maybe Freddy continues to kill, but at least you made a rational attempt.
For some extra fun, here’s Cinema Sins with some other common sense issues from Nightmare On Elm Street.
Maybe you SHOULDN'T go into the woods to investigate a witch that is allegedly responsible for missing people that are presumed dead.
From a hard-to-prove use of common sense in A Nightmare on Elm Street to one of the most obvious scenarios, here we have 1999’s low-budget hit The Blair Witch Project. And folks, this one is the easiest to ruin with rationale.
At the very least, Heather, Michael and Joshua (our dumb-dumbs with a camera) should have brought along more people when they went into the woods searching for a murderous urban legend just in case (and a map, a compass, a gun, a dog, a trailer, a forest ranger, etc.). Because with all the legendary evilness and all the warnings issued to our dumb-dumbs with a camera, do you think they took a single precaution? No. No they do not.
They leave their car, enter the woods and vanish without a trace until months later when their footage is found. 15 minutes into said footage, our trio interviews some locals from Burkittsville, Maryland where they learn not just about a witch but also a crazy hermit named Rustin Parr that kidnapped, tortured and killed some children in his cabin in the woods. Pass.
But that’s not all! 20 minutes in, the three (dumb-dumbs with a camera) interview some fishermen where they learn a young woman named Robin Weaver went missing as well. That’s three cases of crazy happening in the woods!
Simple common sense says you stay out of the Blair Witch Woods. Instead, here's a new video project: get some kittens. Film them. YouTube always needs some more kitten videos.
Never trust a European stranger who suggests you go to a weird hostel that supposedly has tons of hot women waiting for you.
Here is yet another tried and true "what were they thinking" moment courtesy of 2005’s Hostel, the movie about a secret lair in Europe that lets rich people kill travelers for sport.
Our two main American tourists Paxton and Josh meet up with their Icelandic friend Óli in Europe where their first stop is, of course, Amsterdam. This vacation is all about smoking some weed and hitting on chicks. These boys are ripe for disposal by an unsavory killer... Enter Alexi, the weird European stranger who promises the guys a ripping good time at a hostel in Slovakia because: hot girls.
Immediate red flag, boys.
Of course they go and of course Óli and Josh disappear under strange circumstances soon after arriving. You can see the regret in Paxton’s face (below). I’d say he’s a little pissed at himself for getting in such a mess.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Trust your eyes because you now have video proof that ghosts exist.
As seen in 2007’s Paranormal Activity, if you’re lucky enough to capture irrefutable evidence that ghosts exist, get the hell out of the house.
Main characters Micah (ace reporter in the field who spends hours and hours taping) and girlfriend Katie (future villain of the franchise) are convinced an evil presence is in their home, a fact later confirmed by a priest (always with the priest). With footage capturing flickering lights, slamming doors, sleep walking girlfriends and Ouija Boards inexplicably catching fire, the simple use of logic reveals one obvious solution: move out of the house and go live in a damn church.
This movie would have been over within 30 minutes and Micah’s videos would be used to prove the existence of ghosts (despite the inevitable YouTube comments crying "fake"). Not only would Micah have lived and Katie have been saved, science in general could have advanced beyond our comprehension. You see, Micah? You could have changed the world! Instead, you’re dead.
You found a box of snuff films in your attic so get the hell out of Dodge immediately.
For the curtain call here, let’s look at 2012’s Sinister, starring the always-awesome Ethan Hawk as true crime novelist Ellison Oswalt. Ellison has the brilliant idea to write about a murdered family by moving in to the house where they were murdered. Clearly he has not seen The Amityville Horror.
Sure, you’re a novelist and you want to immerse yourself in the material, but did any alarms go off in your head when you found the box of snuff films in the attic? Supernatural, demonic kidnapper named Bughuul aside, if I found a box of snuff films in my attic I would be more concerned with whomever shot the movies making an unannounced appearance at the house.
Because if I saw this video…
…I would be talking to the cops whilst moving the fam into a gated community with 24-hour security.
So that’s it for me, horror movie lovers. Now that I’ve ruined your favorites (don’t hate me) I’m now wondering: in your opinion, did I miss anything?
Thankfully, and for the love of all horror movies, the genre we know and love will continue employing people that make stupid decisions, keeping us entertained. And for that, we will always be grateful.
Mark Reilly is a film writer of over ten years. He is Editor in Chief of SchmoesKnow.com and also writes for ISeeTheFrog.com. Reilly is one of the featured members of the Schmoes Know Movie Show and host of its spin-off podcast Meet the Movie Press on the Popcorn Talk Network. Tweets at @Reillyaround