How Dumb Is Too Dumb? In Horror Movies

“Why the hell would she run up the stairs?” you think as you see a movie with a knife-wielding burglar chasing a woman through her home.

Then again, maybe it’s a survival group setting. Unnatural forces are present and someone is at the front door, begging to be let in. The door has no peep hole and the windows happen to be boarded up in such a way nobody could simply peek through the cracks. This starts an argument between the characters, the more altruistic-leaning ones want to open the door while the others, usually the assholes or assholes, don’t want to risk it.  These scenes always portray the ones adhering to common sense as somehow in the wrong.

Yet, if any of us were in the same situation we’d probably be doing the same thing. I’m not saying we’d all go into primal mode. In fact, from what I have heard, times of danger are more likely to get people to put aside their differences, albeit perhaps temporarily. It’s just that if it got to a point of pure survival, I feel like most of us would end up having to make or help make those kinds of difficult decisions. That doesn’t have to be the case in movies, though because they have something called running time.

It kind of kills the suspense when you’re fully aware the movie still has an hour left and in all plausibility, the main cast won’t be killed off so quickly. With that said, where is the line between lucking out and copping out? A character can only escape by the skin of their teeth so many times before it comes across as cheap, especially when it almost feels like they are putting themselves in danger for no good reason. This has been fairly pointed out before and that’s the fact that characters in horror movies don’t have the foresight viewers do. It’s not like they can hear the ominous music playing that will warn them of danger unless the movie decides to get meta.

Then you have people in movies, knowing full well the danger, doing things that could not have conceivably ended well. Take the guy who tried to talk Freddy down in Nightmare Part Two for example. Also, from that series is Jeniifer’s death in Part Three, not in of itself, but the nurse’s reaction to it. Granted, it has been a while since I watched that movie. However, what I do remember is the TV being at least seven or eight feet off the floor in her death scenes. That means she would’ve had to somehow build enough speed and jump several feet in the air to launch her head through the screen.

Obviously, the kids who have encountered Freddy know full well what the cause was. Most of the adults, though are either oblivious or willingly ignorant. That’s another thing actually. Why is it that the adults in these kinds of movies always seem to be the more ignorant ones? Sorry to keep going back to the Nightmare series.

It’s just that it’s the most immediate example of these tropes that come to mind. Anyway, Nancy’s mom in the first movie is the definition of this.  Don’t get me wrong. At first, it’s understandable. Her kid is sleeping less and cuts are somehow showing up on her body. Who wouldn’t think it was something solely mental health-related going on?

The moment that this should have gone out the window is when Nancy pulls Freddy’s hat out of the nightmare. Some of you may argue that in this case, it’s not obliviousness on the part of her mom as much as it is denial. That’s understandable. I wouldn’t want to believe a serial killer could hurt my children from beyond the grave either. The evidence in the movie supporting this perspective would be Nancy’s mom descending into alcoholism near the final confrontation.

What gets me is the fact she denies irrefutable evidence presented before her.  It’s just so frustrating and it essentially meant, other than her dad showing up at the end, Nancy had to fight Freddy all alone. Yeah, not great parenting I’d say. The good news is that, unlike her mother, she’s proactive. She has a timer set to wake her and she sets up traps for Freddy.

There are a lot of horror movies that hit the “teenagers having to solve the problem because nobody believes them” trope like Gremlins for instance. The cops in that movie are shown a creature they’ve never seen before and yet don’t think what Billy is telling them even warrants looking into. Only when the Gremlins are already wreaking havoc do they try to do something. That isn’t to discredit all the adults in that movie. I mean his mom killed like three or four gremlins.

Speaking of parents, this trope happens, albeit in a different way, in Brightburn. I swear, they ignored all signs with Brandon. It doesn’t help that the parenting in that movie was also pretty shitty. The advice they were giving him was horrible, coupled with the fact he had powers not even he himself fully understood, plus that ship constantly messing with him and yeah, it’s not surprising how he turned out the way he did. Not to mention in that movie, as one reviewer (Sorry, I can’t think of the name, but he’s on YouTube) pointed out, the parents don’t communicate crucially important information with each other.

The most important thing of which, again as the reviewer pointed out, was the ship that could hurt him. Instead, they’re at each other’s throats. One is ready to get rid of the kid they’ve been raising for twelve years and the other is in denial about their kid’s actions. This is also understandable. I wouldn’t want to believe my son was a killer either.

Similar to the Nightmare series, though, at least until Freddy vs. Jason, being more proactive probably would have prevented a lot of trouble.  I don’t know if anyone cares about me spoiling Birghtburn. However, for the four of you out there that do, I’ll just say that the movie’s ending is far from happy. Going back to the survival group setting, let’s now expand on that with full-on apocalypses,  To quote Men In Black, “A person is smart. People are dumb panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

While that’s not the entirety of what Kay says, I think it encapsulates apocalypse horror perfectly. Think about traffic accidents. I’m sure a lot of you can name at least one time you nearly got into a wreck because some reckless asshole decided to cut you off. if you happen to be said reckless asshole, f*k you, your license should be revoked. What this shows is that all it takes is one person to f*k things up for everyone else.

Nowhere is that more prevalent than in zombie movies. Here’s a hard rule that all characters in those movies should go by, if someone is bit they are a lost cause. I understand killing your family member or friend is not something most of us can just do. In that kind of scenario, you wouldn’t have any choice. It’s either that or you end up infected at best and eaten alive at worst.

Actually, it’d be kind of funny in a morbid way if a character shoots their infected parents or something,  then someone else pops up seconds later and says, “Hey, everyone, we managed to create a cure for the zombie virus.  You can stop shooting them.”. It’d kind of be like how The Mist ended. Back to the topic at hand, one issue that people have had with zombie movies is that if one happened in real life it wouldn’t get far. Aside from environmental factors, the reason supposedly is that people \know a lot about zombies and would prevent such a disease from spreading.

At least that’s what a lot of us thought until a certain global pandemic where there were people who refused to take even the most basic precautions. Refer to what I said about reckless drivers. Would it be surprising then for a zombie virus to spread like wildfire in our world? I wish I could say yes. Sadly, I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary.  At the very least, it does make the mistakes people commit in horror movies more believable.

After all, if the majority of characters in a horror movie were smart, not much would happen, now would it? Not necessarily and the film disproving this is A Quiet Place. One of the most refreshing things about it was that the characters weren’t complete morons. They had all these intricate setups to warn them of danger and they knew how to move in a way that would draw less attention. They only make two mistakes in the movie as I recall.

That would be giving their first son a toy that makes noise and the nail in the step. I guess you could also count taking way too long to figure out the aliens’ weakness as another. Other than that, seeing them outmaneuvering them was super entertaining. What I really enjoyed about it, however, is that it raised people’s expectations. It proved you can still have stuff happen in horror without making characters so inept they’re incompetence is only second to people in infomercials.

That isn’t to say, I don’t enjoy stupid people in horror. You have to rack up that body count somehow and with them it’s a lot easier. I just think there also needs to be some smart characters to balance it out. Who am I kidding? Nobody ever listens to the scientists. Well, good thing the only place that leads to disastrous consequences is in horror movies, right?