When I was talking with some friends a while back about how much my wife and I enjoyed Insidious (probably one of the first genuinely well-made horror films in ages), I started thinking about how they’re almost sure to greenlight a sequel any day now (still waiting on that) for some studio to run into the ground like James Wan and Leigh Whannel’s previous collaboration, the Saw series.

Saw got dumber and shittier as it went on, probably due to the fact that by fourth film or so the plot was incomprehensibly stupid. What’s the point of all this again? And Jigsaw had how many apprentices now? By the end of the series, I was expecting him to have solved the financial crisis by employing the majority of Americans to set moronic traps for each other.

But the thing that’s easy to forget is that the first Saw movie was actually a pretty damn good movie. It wasn’t unique by any means. It owes a lot to Dario Argento and his fellow Italian Giallo filmmakers, but that’s not the point. The point is, Wan and Whannel paid attention. They actually put forth an effort to make a film that wasn’t a remake or a sequel or a cheap knockoff. They showed their hand as far as influences go, but fuck, so does Quentin Tarantino. Hell, even Saw II and Saw III weren’t bad.

So maybe that’s the secret to making a horror film that’s not ball-crushingly idiotic. Maybe it just takes some faith in horror audiences and to not be a cynical prick about putting out films in a consistently critically panned genre. And when you look at some of these other franchises that started out with a bang, you can just see that cash-out mindset start to creep in with each successive entry in the series.

Let’s see more original horror. Let’s see directors and writers and producers give a fuck about the audience. Sure, it’s harder than taking the horse back to the well over and over, but… actually, I guess I can’t think of an argument that would make sense to a Hollywood producer. The Transformers trilogy has proved to me that they don’t really care about making good movies anymore or anything.

Beat the horse until it’s dead and then wait for someone to ride a new one in, I guess. Carry on, you budget sheet moguls. Shit. Let’s get to the list already.

6. Friday the 13th

Quick, how many people did Jason Vorhees kill in this movie? Give up? Zero. Not a single one, because he wasn’t the killer– it was his mother. Yeah, that’s a cheap question, but you get the point. People think Friday the 13th and all that comes to mind is the huge, machete-wielding, hockey mask-wearing mountain of a dude from the third film onward. But that wasn’t the original film at all.

It was a hodge-podge of the slasher films that came before, but at least it used the best parts. It used the dark, isolated atmosphere of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the rarely-seen killer and musical motifs of Halloween, the gore and sexuality of exploitation films like Last House on the Left, and the twist ending of the Hitchcock-era of horror movies like Psycho. Then, it put them all in a big blender and out came a nice, self-contained story that wasn’t (completely) ridiculous and loaded down with pointless nonsense. It was a thriller, plain and simple, and it worked. 

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