Not Quite Horror: “MacGruber” (2010)

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.

MacGruber (2010)

The Monster: MacGruber (Will Forte). A relic of the 80s, MacGruber sees no need to use guns to solve problems when he has his intellect, imagination, and the ability to tear out people’s throats. MacGruber claims to be focused on saving the world, yet his ego and rage make him so unstable he has trouble focusing on saving the world when he’d rather get revenge on a bad driver.

The Horror: MacGruber shameless exploitation of others turns every mission he attempts into a lifetime of self-loathing. He may debase himself by offering his body for violation in exchange for another chance at tracking down his arch enemy. He might allow others to risk getting shot in his place, or even insert celery into bodily cavities to distract the enemy.

Spend any time around MacGruber and you are likely to be debased and murdered. If you do somehow survive, you may end up violated by the “hero” as he offers up a pathetic one-line joke. Worse yet, you may end up becoming just like MacGruber.

The Shared Fate: MacGruber attempts to be a loving homage to the rugged, individualistic heroes of the 80s. However, the satire in the film is so vulgar and gory it effectively de-sanitizes memories of Reagan and Bush the First era heroism.

This is best summarized by a scene where MacGruber has imaginary sex with his deceased wife on her grave. For him, this is a magical moment. Someone stumbles upon this act, and the real act becomes visible. A naked MacGruber moans and thrusts over his wife’s monument in a dark graveyard.

Elsewhere, men and women who exploit and use others while convincing themselves they are dashing heroes make things just as awkward as MacGruber undulating away in a cemetery. You may work with a MacGruber today.

— 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