I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ll be an hour into a comedy or action movie and think to myself “Was this originally a horror movie?” You can call me crazy, but think of the premise for THE HANGOVER – three men wake up in a strange town disoriented and with memory loss only to realize that their friend has gone missing – and tell me that doesn’t sound like the concept for a great horror flick.
If, like me, you’ve found yourself wondering the same thing, some of the movies on this list may not surprise you, but I’m pretty sure at least a few will. So let’s take a gander at five movies that have hidden horror films inside them…
OBSERVE AND REPORT
I’ll start by saying that I still don’t understand why OBSERVE AND REPORT is not a massive cult hit. The movie, basically a comedy version of TAXI DRIVER, is funny, sad, interesting, and has a fantastic action scene done in one shot. This is the kind of movie that revival theaters should be playing every few months.
In the movie, Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, a mall cop who has dreams of being a real cop, but can’t pass the psychological exam. We’re never explicitly told what psychological issues Ronnie has, but he certainly shows signs of manic depression, paranoia and severe anger control issues.
Ronnie is fixated on Brandi, a counter girl at a department store in the mall (played by Anna Faris). To Ronnie, she is pure. She is all that is good in the world. She is akin to the Virgin Mary. In reality, Brandi is pretty dumb and, like most people in their 20s, has a healthy sexual diet. When a flasher reveals his dick to Brandi, Ronnie makes it his quest to find and arrest said flasher. Ronnie teams up with Detective Harrison (played by Ray Liotta). To Ronnie, this is his chance to prove he’s good enough to be a cop. To Harrison, this is his chance to goof on the mall cop.
Sure enough, when Ronnie figures out that Detective Harrison is messing with him, he doesn’t take it well. Things get worse when Ronnie finds Harrison and Brandi having sex in the mall parking lot. Things don’t go well from here for Ronnie – he begins destroying the mall, leading to a huge battle between him and countless cops.
This being a comedy, at the end, Ronnie is the hero who stops the flasher. The movie, overall is a very dark comedy, and with a few tweaks, it is a crazy good horror flick. The whole movie feels like the origin story that we would normally see in the first ten minutes of a slasher. OBSERVE AND REPORT 2 could have very well been about Ronnie, now unemployed, killing people at the mall and I don’t think fans of the first would feel that it was out of character for him.
Think about the story of FRANKENSTEIN. A mad scientist looking to beat nature at it’s own game creates the ultimate man who just so happens to be a killer.
Now think of ROCKY IV. A mad scientist looking to beat nature at it’s own game creates the ultimate boxer who just so happens to be a killer.
ROCKY IV is part FRANKENSTEIN, part MOBY DICK. When Apollo Creed is killed by a monster, Rocky Balboa, feeling guilt that he did not save his friend, tracks down the monster to it’s lair in order to destroy it, no matter what the cost to his own life. The movie even has great horror dialogue in it –
“Whatever he hits… he destroys.”
“I Must break you.”
“If he dies, he dies”
“I defeat all man”
“To beat me, he’ll have to kill me”
If you think I’m way off on this one, here’s a bit of trivia for you – Jim and John Thomas, the men who wrote PREDATOR, came up with the idea when they were goofing around and coming up with ideas for a 5th ROCKY movie. They figured the next logical step was for Rocky to fight an alien.
Take the basic idea of KILL BILL – a woman who was left for dead on her wedding day comes back to get revenge on the people who destroyed her life. That is the origin of a slasher movie – it fits in great with the origins of Cropsy from THE BURNING, Kenny from TERROR TRAIN, or Alex from PROM NIGHT – back to get revenge is a solid slasher premise.
KILL BILL is just a slasher movie told from the point of view of the killer. We follow Beatrix, an unstoppable killing machine as she hunts down those who wronged her, killing anyone who stands in her way. Each death in the movie is even different, fitting with the great need in slasher movies to make every death unique and more extreme than the last one.
We all know that Tarantino is a horror fan, is it that hard to see him originally thinking up KILL BILL as a horror movie?
FIELD OF DREAMS
Stick with me on this one, because I honestly think this Kevin Costner classic is inches away from being a horror movie.
Ray Kinsella is unable to keep up with his bills and will soon lose his home and his farm. Despite this, all Ray obsesses over is his father, who was not a very good dad. Ray’s pop dreamed of playing baseball professionally, and blamed Ray for that dream never coming true. As Ray grew up, he and his father began to actively despise each other. When Ray’s dad died, Ray found himself trapped in a never ending loop, knowing that he would never get his father’s approval.
One night, while tending his crops, Ray hears a voice…
If you build it… he will come
Ray becomes convinced that he must build a baseball field. He destroys his farm to create the field. He then begins to see ghosts of dead baseball players in his field. His wife and daughter can also see them, but no one else can.
Then the voice comes back…
Ease his pain
Being insane, Ray believes that the voice wants him to go to Boston and kidnap a reclusive writer who wrote about baseball once in his storied career.
So, Ray makes his way to Boston and find the writer who he then kidnaps. As they head back to Ray’s farm, Ray has a delusion that he is back in 1972 and meets an old man. The next day, while driving with his hostage, Ray picks up a ghost on the side of the road.
Back at the farm, Ray, his hostage, and his new ghost buddy watch the other ghosts play baseball as his debts get worse and worse. When Ray’s daughter begins to choke on a hotdog, Ray demands that everyone there let the girl choke to death until the highway ghost steps in and saves her. Or does he? Maybe the daughter is just a ghost now too. We’ll never know for sure.
In the end, Ray forms a cult around his baseball field.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at the movie from that light, it is straight up terrifying.
Much like OBSERVE AND REPORT, I don’t understand how BOWFINGER has not become a cult classic. The movie, which stars Steve Martin (who also wrote it) and Eddie Murphy, is endlessly hilarious. It had the misfortune of coming out just as Eddie Murphy’s career went to hell, and for some reason, many people put it in the same pile as films like THE KLUMPS and DR. DOOLITTLE. A shame.
It is also an amazing psychological horror film.
The story centers on Martin’s Bobby Bowfinger, a not at all talented filmmaker who believes that a script he’s come across, Chubby Rain, will be the movie that takes him from being a C-List director to a B-List director. Eager to make his movie, Bowfinger lies to a studio head and tells him that he has the biggest star in the world, Kit Ramsey, signed on.
Bowfinger makes his movie around Kit Ramsey, who has no idea it is happening. Ramsey, who has some very serious mental issues, is suddenly finding himself being accosted by melting people and a crazy woman with a fake Russian accent. Ramsey, looking for help, goes to MindHead, a cult like group that is clearly a play on Scientology. The people at MindHead are, in reality, only making things worse for Ramsey, who should be seeing a therapist and taking medication. MindHead and Bowfinger team up in order to get Kit Ramsey to film the final scene where he heads to the Griffith Observatory and yells out to the alien mothership “Gotcha, suckers!”.
In the end, things work out for everyone, as this is a comedy. Still, there is surely a horror movie to be made here… Imagine this – everything explained above still happens, but instead of Bowfinger being able to finish his film and get Kit Ramsey to do the final scene, Kit goes fully insane and believes that aliens are indeed invading Earth. Kit goes on a THEY LIVE style rampage, killing untold amounts of innocents, along with Bowfinger and his crew, before being taken down by the police himself.
Gotcha suckers indeed.
*Header Photo: KILL BILL: VOL. 1 (2003) Miramax