Science fiction and horror go very well together, thanks to the former’s often cynical look into the unknown and the latter’s fondness for new forms of cruelty. Though there are countless ways to make the next stages of human evolution scary, there are a few that everyone’s seen too many times.
Overrated is an overused and nebulous term in modern pop culture discussion. Can anything be accurately stated to “deserve” the praise or attention it gets? Probably not, but in the world of cinema, everyone has a few beloved smaller projects that got drowned out by something with a bigger name attached. Those big projects may not be bad, they may even be great, but something contributes to their name being on the audience’s minds much longer than they would be on their own merits.
A Quiet Place
In 2019, Netflix put out a horror movie called The Silence. The critical reception was dreadful, with countless critics boldly proclaiming it a shameless rip-off of a film that had dropped only two years earlier. The Silence was an adaptation of a novel written in 2015, the adaptation of which sat shelved for multiple years. A Quiet Place was produced during the production of the adaptation with a disconcertingly identical premise to the novel, then came out first, causing countless people to consider the original work a rip-off. How did this simple B-movie premise with decent execution manage to net a near-perfect score from critics and audiences? By the use of a strong gimmick. A Quiet Place would’ve been forgotten shortly after release if it weren’t for the ridiculous goodwill Krasinski gained from The Office. People claim to hate jump scares, but, as long as it has the right celebrity attached and a veneer of respectability, it’ll apparently sell millions.
The foundational sci-fi horror movie is Ridley Scott’s alien. One of the strongest elements of that classic masterpiece is its simplicity. A crew of astronauts encounters a perfect killing machine under mysterious circumstances. The xenomorph didn’t need explanation, nor did the HR Geiger art of the environments. Prometheus is an effort to actively ruin large swaths of otherwise excellent sci-fi horror material. Not satisfied with retroactively making other films worse, Prometheus is also a complete mess that awkwardly fumbles themes of artificial intelligence, religion, and space horror. Every aspect of the film struggles to live up to its own promise of depth and the franchise is worse for its existence.
What’s left to be said about M. Night Shyamalan? Dunking on his modern works while reflecting on his former successes is played beyond at this point. Everyone has a different ranking for his works, but some consider his fifth feature Signs to be his last success. Many believe that the themes outlast the complete lack of logic, but both aspects fall short. Shyamalan has lived and died on the big twist endings of his works, and everyone already knows that Signs features one of the worst. Not only due to its complete lack of logic, but for its dull Chekhov’s gun storytelling. His attempt to recapture the glory of The Sixth Sense falls for every heavy-handed pitfall that he smartly avoided, resulting in a vastly inferior product.
like A Quiet Place, this film was made famous more on the strength of its central premise than for anything that happened in it. The two films are similar in a lot of ways, including the overwhelming goodwill towards its star leading to a much higher public profile than they could’ve otherwise achieved. In addition, it’s also a film about avoiding a deadly menace that requires the elimination of one of humanity’s very few evolutionary advantages. Instead of aliens that kill whatever they hear, it’s an unexplained eldritch horror that drives anything that sees it to madness. It’s a fine premise, but the execution snags on a million dumb decisions from the characters. The film lacks tension while also refusing to give its characters any notable depth. thanks to the bird box challenge, the film also placed itself alongside Minions: The Rise of Gruz as one of the movies most benefited by meme culture.
Matt Reeves’ breakthrough sci-fi horror effort was a good film with an unbelievably incredible marketing apparatus. As a movie, it’s a found-footage answer to godzilla in an era before that technique became woefully overdone. It’s scary, smart, and stylish, but it isn’t groundbreaking beyond combining two genres that hadn’t met yet. The fact that Cloverfield spawned a franchise that is largely unrelated to the original film’s narrative demonstrates its massive success and its simplicity. There’s nothing more to be done with Cloverfield, it was a well-done, contained, straightforward monster movie and that’s all it had to be. The fact that people are still talking about it almost 15 years later is a success of the complex advertising campaign.
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