Oftentimes Hollywood's lack of originality leads to overexposed trends. Remember when every action movie seemed to be easily defined as 'Die Hard on a ...'? Remember when disaster movies were all the rage? And then twenty years later when they were all the rage again? Remember when there were like a hundred body-swapping comedies? Well, there appear to be fewer trends these days, or maybe it's just that Hollywood turns trends into full-blown practices, as in the case of sequels, comic book movies and fantasy films based on literary franchises. Nowadays even a promised trend, like the one involving religious Passion of the Christ copycats, isn't necessarily going to happen. But despite there being so few here-today-gone-tomorrow film fads, there's at least seven bad ideas currently in vogue in Tinsel Town, and all of them need to disappear soon, lest they too become permanent.
1. Torture Porn
I'm going to start with an easy, surely obvious one. Torture porn is the latest trend in horror, a genre that changes its predominant style every few years, and it may be the most despised -- at least by us non-horror junkies. I miss the days when a friend, an actual junkie, could drag me to a harmless scary movie that provided a few screams, a few laughs and afterward, at the most, a few silly nightmares. Now, with each new horror movie there's promise of a seriously depressing experience. After watching The Hills Have Eyes, I realized I hadn't been frightened at all. Instead I wanted to cry my heart out. I haven't been to a horror flick since, and my friend is going solo. Sure, I hear that Eli Roth's movies are a lot more enjoyable than watching a young woman raped while watching her father burned alive and her mother raped and then shot in the head, but I just haven't been in the mood to find out.
Apparently the torture porn trend is already on its way out. Hostel II performed poorly at the box office and Captivity may have peaked too soon, reaching maximum tastelessness before even opening in theaters. So what will be next? I'm rather looking forward to when slasher movies are in fashion again, when I can delight in seeing sinful human beings killed off quickly and deservedly by an implausible maniac. Which brings me to the next trend ...
2. Horror Remakes
Yes, I want slasher movies to come back. No, I don't want them to be the same slasher movies. I'm perfectly fine with the umpteenth sequel to Halloween, but there's no need for it to be redone and rebooted. The thing that I don't get about horror remakes, particularly slasher remakes, is that they're all pretty much the same to begin with. So why not just start a new, 'fresh' franchise? Hollywood may think it's cashing in on recognizable titles, but the reason Halloween and others are familiar is because they're memorable. The die-hard fan doesn't want to see a new version of his favorite film, especially since it probably won't be as good as the original. Sure, unproven horror titles can have trouble finding an audience, but there's plenty of unseen villains out there just waiting to be conceptualized well enough to be the next Michael, Jason or Freddy.
(For seven horror remake that were actually worth it, check out Scott's list)
Sequels are here to stay, and many of them are actually pretty good, but their young step-brother, the prequel, is something of a problem child for Hollywood. The worst thing is, like a clueless John Ritter, the studios don't seem to notice that prequels have been bad, bad, bad since they arrived on the scene. And so they keep coming. You could possibly argue that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a good prequel, or even that The Godfather II works as a great prequel within a sequel, but neither rightfully fits with the current trend. No, the prequels of today are specifically made to provide an explanatory origin for popular characters, mostly bad guys like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Leatherface. The thing is, prequels can't give us anything useful in terms of entertainment. If they show us a villain as an annoying kid, then we're left with that impression of him when we return to the original, and it potentially ruins that villain's credibility as a bad ass. Plus, if we already know what that character is going to be like and what he's going to be doing in the future, then there's not much chance for either suspense or surprise in a prequel. Basically, prequels are themselves devoid of mystery and they diminish the mystery of the films they are meant to set up.
4. Expository Endings
I've long accepted the fact that twist endings are now common practice. I even like them once in awhile, as long as the shocker isn't that all the film's characters are in one mental patient's head. Of course, thanks to M. Night Shyamalan, twist endings have become an overused convention these days, but not even The Village did as much damage to the practice as the expository ending could do. Still only a fledgling trend -- I can only really think of Lucky Number Slevin and Smokin' Aces as prime examples -- the expository ending movie is one in which the twist takes about twenty minutes or so to explain. The expository ending is fine for old mysteries, but in movies like the two I've cited, they bring the energy to a disappointing standstill, leaving us so confused and bored that we don't even care what the twist is. Sure, both Lucky Number Slevin and Smokin' Aces would have been more confusing without the explanation, but they also would have been more consistently entertaining. Anyway, sometimes its actually fun to be lost if the style of the movie is worth it. Hopefully this young trend-in-the-making doesn't grow any further, but I guess if it does, some of us will find it worthwhile to leave the theater a few minutes early.
5. Movies Turned Musicals Turned Movie Musicals
This one doesn't need too much explanation. Broadway is ridiculously overpopulated with musicals based on movies. Some of the most seemingly logical choices (Footloose; High Fidelity) have shown us why the trend should die. Then there are the ones we couldn't have imagined (Grey Gardens; Xanadu) that actually make it all seem like a good idea. Either way, it doesn't matter, because Disney is turning the trend into common practice more and more each year. But the related trend, the one where these musicals are turned back into new movies, really needs to be stopped. It wasn't learned with The Producers, so hopefully it will be clear with the release of Hairspray. Because we never should have been subjected to John Travolta in a fat suit and a dress.
6. CGI Versions of Popular Cartoon Characters
The title character of Scooby-Doo and its sequel at least somewhat resembled the cartoon dog. Later, the computer generated lead in Garfield and its sequel were more difficult to accept. This summer, a totally unrecognizable Underdog makes his way into theaters. Personally, I would much rather see a 2-D animated character mixing it up with live-action humans (except in the case of Transformers, I guess). Unfortunately, this trend is not going away, and I'm downright scared to see what computers have done to Alvin and the Chipmunks.
7. Numberless Sequel Titles
They've worked for Dirty Harry, James Bond, Nick and Nora and countless others. So why do I think this is even a trend, let alone a bad one? Well, from what I can tell from the reviews of Live Free or Die Hard, the clever usage of numberless titles these days is more about duping uninformed moviegoers rather than establishing a library of unserialized, watch-them-in-any-order sequels. So, we get a sequel that, yes, could be a stand-alone pic, but one that didn't need to necessarily be linked to a familiar franchise. As Erik has pointed out in his review, the latest Die Hard feels like just any other action movie more than it feels like a return to the crazy, coincidental life of John McClane. Some of the upcoming numberless sequels, including The Dark Knight and Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods, won't have the same sort of compromised feel, but if Live Free or Die Hard does good business this weekend, and it surely will, then Hollywood will probably make this trend a full-blown standard (if this study hasn't already done so). And when that happens, I'll almost be wishing the 'Too' sequel trend (Teen Wolf Too; Splash, Too) would return.