When we hear about a new horror film coming down the pipeline, there are a lot of factors that come into play that fuel our expectations. Casting, crew selection, synopses, and on set photos all add layers to the expectations that we have before a film is released. Some films never live up to the impossible standards that we hold them up to leading to their release date. Then again, some films get unleashed upon the general public when the expectations are low or almost nonexistent. These films go on to surpass expectations and in reality turn out to be much better films than they have any business being.
The Devil’s Rejects (Dir: Rob Zombie – 2005)
Odds Against: The Devil’s Rejects was the follow up to the 2003 Rob Zombie film House of 1000 Corpses which made next to nothing at the box office after sitting on the shelf for several years. While it definitely did find itself a cult audience on video, everyone expected more of the same cartoonesque violence and surrealist plotline with the sequel called the Devil’s Rejects.
How it Exceeded Expectations: Not only was The Devil’s Rejects one of the best horror films released in its decade, but I would put it in the top tier of horror films released in the last 25 years. Who would have known that the sequel to a borderline experimental horror film would become such a deep and layered satire of the United States after September 11th? Most of you reading this article have probably seen the film, but for some strange reason if you haven’t yet then stop reading this and watch this movie now.
The Crazies (Dir: Breck Eisner – 2010)
Odds Against: The Crazies is a remake of a George Romero film that hasn’t really aged too well. It was an essential part of George Romero’s filmmaking career and I can’t help but assume that it was what creatively led to George Romero making Dawn of the Dead. The remake news came across the wire and we all assumed that it was a cash in on the remake craze that we would all ignore and then forget.
How it Exceeded Expectations: It’s important to realize that even though the market has been flooded with horrible remakes in the last 15 years, there have been a handful of really good remakes. The Crazies was one of the recent remakes that not only surpassed the original, but also ended up being a great horror film. Taking the topic of a viral invasion completely seriously, a portrait of the human condition during crisis was captured all the way to its horrifying end. It’s a difficult film to watch whenever a situation of neighbors against neighbors comes along that makes you question what you would do to the people you know should your back be against the wall.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Dir: Scott Glosserman – 2006)
Odds Against: Falling graciously off the festival circuit, Behind the Mask got rave reviews but didn’t get much of anything as far as a theatrical release. With no marketing with its video release, it got lost on the shelves of video rental stores and almost entirely ignored by the casual horror fan.
How it exceeded Expectations: Low budget faux documentary style films aren’t exactly uncommon, but in order to stand out from the pack, you have to take a unique road to success. Behind the Mask did exactly that taking you into the mind of a serial killer who approaches the subject like it’s a 9-5 job. What seals the deal is the fact that when the documentary crew stops rolling, the film transforms into a legitimate horror film. It’s fun, entertaining, and out of nowhere, it will scare the pants off of you.
Pontypool (Dir: Bruce McDonald – 2008)
Odds Against: Pontypool was very much a similar situation as Behind the Mask, however it did receive a bigger theatrical release over the entire US and Canada. The only problem here was that there was no money put in to marketing the film to the point where I actually saw it on the big board in the theaters and said to myself “Pontypool? What the hell is that?” I write about horror movies and I had never heard of it. (Hey, I know I suck and I don’t need your help.)
How it Exceeded Expectations: there are many single location films that are completely outstanding, however when attempted with a small budget don’t normally fare too well due to lack of acting talent. However, Pontypool was led by an amazing performance by Stephen McHattie as a radio DJ stuck in the studio as a massive populous goes insane in the world around him. Using sound, on site reports, and some amazing acting this movie absolutely knocks it out of the park and should be seen by everyone.
Carriers (Dirs: David Pastor, Alex Pastor – 2009)
Odds Against: Carriers was a film with no big name actors (Pre Star Trek Chris Pine), a very sad story, and a close enough plot to the world renowned success of Zombieland. Zombieland and Carriers were both road movies across a apocalypse raged America
and without a doubt, Zombieland was much more accessible (and also a good film) while Carriers got pushed to the side because it just wasn’t happy enough.
How it Exceeded Expectations: Carriers is not a happy film in the least bit. We follow four young people as they desperately try to make it to the coast and away from the virus that is spreading through and ravaging the nation. As the film goes on, characters that we have come to care about start doing things that really don’t portray them in the best of light in the name of survival. The performances are all great, and much like The Crazies, it shows you a side of human nature that we all hope we never have to see in real life.