Not Quite Horror: “The Goonies” (1985)

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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 Goonies (1985)

The Monsters: One-Eyed Willie. Willie plundered ships to increase his wealth for years and, when trapped, he refused to surrender. Instead, he sealed his ship and his fortune in cave. Then, he laid down traps so diabolical they could fit into the Saw series.

Willie’s commitment to hoarding ran so deep he rigged his ship to sail away if someone actually made their way past his traps.

The Horror: Willie’s greed is astonishing, and it leads him to leave dangerous booby-traps around his lair.

Young Mikey (Sean Astin) is motivated to claim Willie’s gold by the altruistic desire to save the houses of his family and friends, and so he forces his underage pals through traumatic ordeals.

With just one misstep, Goonies would have been filled with children’s spines snapped by large rocks, heads smashed into hard rock floors, and faces bloated from drowning. Even Willie, with his one eye, had to have been aware innocent children could trigger his devices. And still, he left them behind as his legacy.

The Shared Fate: Step into the dog crap someone didn’t pick up or find an unexplained dent on your car and you’ve suffered because someone was not able to consider others when acting. And you got off easy, too.

Most people don’t leave pirate traps around, but they do sabotage property and relationships to fulfill their own needs. Just like a greedy pirate, they don’t care who stumbles into the nasty surprise they’ve created.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “The Imposter” (2012)

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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 Imposter (2012)

The Monsters: It would be hard to be more likeable than Frédéric Bourdin, even though he does unlikeable things.

In this documentary, the French man passed himself off as a missing Texan teen in an effort to experience the emotional attachments of a family life. Bourdin looks very different than the boy he impersonated, but he did not let this stop him from making it across the ocean and into an entirely new world as someone else’s son.

The Horror: This family somehow believed Bourdin was their son against all the odds (for example, Bourdin’s eyes were a different color than their son’s eyes). They brought him home from another country and gave him space to adapt to his surroundings.

And at night, when they went to sleep, did they have doubts?

The Shared Fate: Few of us are cursed with losing a loved to mysterious circumstances, and far fewer than that have an imposter return to their houses pretending to be that loved one.

But there are other imposters, aren’t there? How many beloved family members are faking their way through the role they’ve ended up playing? You don’t have to be from another country to be a phony family member. You just have to have secrets and agendas hiding inside your head.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “End of Watch” (2012)

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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.

End of Watch (2012)

The Monsters: A world of criminals so ruthless and violent they more resemble post-apocalyptic scavengers or dutiful cultists than the stars of a nightly news report.

Police officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol the streets of Los Angeles with courageous energy. Soon, the violence of the streets begins to test their resolve. They first stumble onto a human trafficking ring. Then, they enter a normal-seeming house to find themselves face to face with a mass of dead bodies. Eventually, even our heroes must realize they cannot hope to survive the hordes amassing against them.

The Horror: This gritty found-footage film is bleak enough to make categorizing it as a horror film an easy task. However, a very specific reading of End of Watch as a missing piece from another horror film makes the movie even more rewarding. This film can be read as the story of any couple of police officers from any horror film, in the same way that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead fleshes out minor characters from Hamlet.

Taylor and Zavala aren’t really heroes or villains, though the film depicts them in both heroic and villainous situations. They simply try to do their jobs, even when their job becomes hopeless.

The Shared Fate: Our culture may seem adaptable to every person’s goal for individuality, but it isn’t. Few of us are heroes, and most of us learn to be content with our small roles in the grand scheme of things.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “The Breakfast Club” (1985)

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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 Breakfast Club (1985)

The Monsters: This fiendish psychological thriller sports four monsters, all of whom use deception to manipulate and mild-mannered high school student Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall).

Johnson is no match for the two male students, John Bender and Andrew Clark (Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez), and two female students, Claire Standish and Allison Reynolds (Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy), sharing his suspension. These four developed street smarts within their social circles.

The Horror: Forced to attend a Saturday in-school suspension, Brian is easily outmaneuvered by his more socially savvy peers. These four students lead him on, dope him up, and then trick him into completing their punishment paper-writhing assignment.

As these four students leave, paired up into new-found relationships, Johnson leaves with nothing except the delusion he has been accepted by a larger group of friends. When time moves forward and Johnson realizes he has been duped . . . can he survive this blow to his sense of self? After all, his reason for being on suspension involved bringing a weapon to school.

The Shared Fate: People leave high school and move into adulthood convinced they moved past their problems. However, how often do scars from our adolescent and teen years resurface? Who hasn’t made a decision, at work or at home, as a way of fixing high school failures?

Hopefully we are aware of the importance of our actions, and not brainwashed victims like Brian Johnson.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “Heckler” (2007)

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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.

Heckler (2007)

The Monsters: The audience.

These monsters hide in darkness and strike anonymously. Jamie Kennedy and director Michael Addis attempt to shine light on this dangerous mob, but by the time the film is finished, it’s clear they are more scared of the audience than the audience will ever be scared of them.

The Horror: Audiences are everywhere, and they’re capable of seriously damaging human beings. Mostly, audiences harbor and encourage pesky comments and insults. Fuel those hecklers with alcohol and greater encouragement and they may even embarrass themselves on stage.

Off stage, critics can turn destroying art into a comedic assassination, ruining hard work for cheap laughs and small amounts of attention.

The Shared Fate: Heckler tries to turn the tables on hecklers by putting them in front of the camera and holding them accountable.

Unfortunately, the movie Heckler fails because the film itself is unprotected from the heckling and criticism it condemns. By trying to squash an annoyance, the film has instead proven how powerful an anonymous voice in the crowd can be.

Let’s all hope hecklers weren’t paying close attention. They often aren’t.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “Forrest Gump” (1994)

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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.

Forrest Gump (1994)

The Monster: Though not a major character in the film, Forrest Gump’s monster makes a deep impact in a small amount of screen time.

The monster is a sort of imp that lives inside of the heroic Forrest Gump. When heartache and loss have left him without guidance, this imp compels Forrest to run unceasingly across the country. Forrest is never long-winded, but he seems especially at a loss for words in describing his need to run.

The Horror: Running for long distances is an act of mastery over muscles and pain. Many Americans relish this challenge, as their T-shirts and bumper stickers attest to.

Forrest’s running goes much deeper than that. He simply does not stop, even as his beard grows and his clothes fall to pieces. If Forrest’s body is echoing the emotional agony he feels in his heart, he is a man double damned and driven further and faster.

The Shared Fate: Regardless of your personal religious views, we’ve all been victims of various imps that drive us to despair. Desires and compulsions have pushed us to punish our bodies more and more.

Forrest stretches his agony over the course of years, longer than we hope to suffer. The running portion of the Academy Award winning film seemed out of place to some viewers, but viewed in its rightful horrific state, it becomes the pivotal battle between Forrest’s inner good and evil the movie needed.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “Caddyshack” (1980)

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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.

Caddyshack (1980)

The Monster: A dancing mutant gopher. When the animal learns it has been targeted for death by the golf course it lives on, it spies on the dim-witted groundskeeper. After foiling its enemy’s attempts, the malicious rodent places the groundskeeper’s explosives all around the course and blows everything to high heaven.

Then, pleased, the gopher dances to celebrate this destruction.

It is worth noting the lack of other gophers on the course. What has this dancing demon done with them?

The Horror: Caddyshack clearly sides with the gopher, but it doesn’t take much reflection to realize this is a supernatural creature. It displays emotions. It is able to create and then enact elaborate battle strategies in its war against the groundskeeper.

The gopher is undefeatable, and it dances when you lose.

It loves to dance.

The Shared Fate: If you’ve ever had a non-comedic rodent problem, you understand the frustration and horror of trying to destroy vermin that simply won’t die. An intentional horror film, Of Unknown Origin (1983) explores a similar story in a serious manner.

The dancing Caddyshack gopher made it into the sequel and even got to shake and shimmy in toy form.

Imagine that gopher dancing atop your chest in the middle of the night, and that smile won’t seem “all right” at all.

— 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

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

Not Quite Horror: “The Sopranos” (1999-2007)

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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 Sopranos (1999-2007)

The Monster: Film and television have relied on organized crime to create compelling story lines for decades. The criminals in The Sopranos are born from this murderous family tree. They even discuss previous gangster films as they go about their work.

Given an entire HBO series to develop, these characters grow in different directions than their counterparts in film. The show gives them time to wear track suits and grow bored. Then, in sudden and vicious moments, these men take lives with swift brutality.

The Horror: Murder on The Sopranos is no glamorous business. Even when the hit has been organized well, the victims sob pathetically and one bullet rarely does the job.

Usually, it’s not even that efficient. Characters can’t figure out where to stow a dead body, or have to rebury a corpse when development threatens to unearth it. A traitorous friend haunts Tony Soprano in visions and dreams of dead fish.

Shame and death aren’t reserved for the family business, either. A hitman dies a bloody death in his car after completing his mission. A husband stuck in traffic finds he has been delayed by the car accident that killed his wife. One character even dies after straining too hard on the toilet.

The Shared Fate: Coming after the proud glory of the Godfather movies and the swagger of Goodfellas, The Sopranos goes out of his way destroy glamour.

Life in the Sopranos world is often in the hands of bitter, hideous men with no sense of beauty. That hits pretty close to home, don’t you think?

Popular as it was, The Sopranos must’ve given nightmares to thousands of viewers expecting a nice mobster bedtime story.

— 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

Not Quite Horror: “Gangie” (????)

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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.

Gangie (????)

The Monster: Based on Maeby Funke’s grandmother, or “Gangie,” the titular monster survives by drinking the blood of her victims. Her monstrous face was inspired by Maeby’s Grandmother after a particularly brutal beauty treatment.

The Horror: Whether in the original film, any of its many sequels, or as the real-life Gangie herself, the monster repels anyone foolish enough to face her head on. In this case, the truth is even more frightening than the movie.

Why? In real life, Gangie is never far away from her son. He’s a self-proclaimed monster with a hook for a hand and a habit or wrecking everything around him.

The Shared Fate: No family is perfect on the inside or the outside.

With time, a family member’s physical quirk can become an oddity. Add disdain and disappointment and monsters are born in your own living room.

Bound to our families by love, honor, or at very least habit, these physically differences are politically incorrect to ridicule and uncomfortable to discuss. Yet find yourself forced to stare at that nose, or that rash, or that hair for one more minute and . . . This is why Poe wrote “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Be honest with yourself. Isn’t there a Gangie lurking in your kitchen, and isn’t she thirsty?

— 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