Not Quite Horror: “The Hangover” (2009)

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Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

The Hangover (2009)

The Monster: Phil, Stu, and Alan pretend to be Doug’s friends as they celebrate his bachelor party in Las Vegas. Then, their irresponsibility leaves Doug on the roof of Las Vegas hotel. A pharmaceutical mishap keeps the “friends” from rescuing Doug until it’s well past time to leave for his wedding.

The Horror: The Hangover is filled with humorous mysteries and awkward distractions, but the horror of Doug’s sad entrapment on the hotel’s roof is inescapable. In fact, it takes little exaggeration to turn this torture into a punishment Saw’s Jigsaw would be proud of.

How long was Doug on the roof before he found himself lapping at pools of water for moisture? Did he try to kill birds for foods when he was hungry, or did he dig through piles of trash for something to eat? When the sun became too hot, what did he hallucinate?

Does he worry about loss of vision or cancer? Will he have flashbacks someday?

The Shared Fate: Most of us have friends, and few friendships go without pranks before too long. In all fairness, locking a friend on a rooftop should have been another harmless goof between friends.

Still, it could have ended with a corpse and disbelief.

When you chuckle your way through the end of The Hangover, shouldn’t you at least imagine the film’s stars gathering around a dead and bloated Doug on a rooftop instead of a camera filled with staged pictures? Just for a moment?

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen