It’s easy to look back at the past and criticize or ridicule things people believed, how they thought, or the ways they acted. Cuz people are stupid. I have to wonder what we believe that someone somewhere will look back on in 500 or so years and say “Can you believe they really thought that??” Like, “They lived all that time in a simulation and never knew it! Can you imagine??”
In some cases, it can be beneficial to remind oneself of these things, especially in cases of language use, symbolism, etc. On the other hand, some things from the past just didn’t age well and expose some at best unfortunate, at worst flat out harmful attitudes and assumptions.
This can be especially true in horror. Since horror is already dealing with extremes, any sociopolitical, psychological, and/or sexual stereotypes just get magnified. So here are 5 Movies That Did NOT Age Well (along with, obviously, some spoilers).
#5 Cannibal Holocaust
At first I wasn’t gonna dignify this overrated, overhyped piece of barely coherent shit on this list at all (or almost any list anywhere on this blog if I can help it). I hate this movie for a lot of reasons, and to say it didn’t age well might mistakenly implied that it once had its place and may have been a good example of something. This would be an unwise assumption.
Saying this movie didn’t age well in this case means it just went from already bad to that much worse. First was all the publicity over Deodato and his “missing” cast–a cheap trick that would, like a dead whale, break the surface again with The Blair Witch Project. But even worse is the exploitative animal cruelty. It was unacceptable 41 years ago and unforgivable now. Plus, at least for me, when much to-do is made about a movie being banned in this place and that place, it seldom lives up to its own sensationalism.
#4 Mondo Cane
Like the previous entry, this just doesn’t live up to its own hype. A great deal of it comes off as condescending, mean-spirited, and exploitative. The stuff that was considered shocking then could only be shocking today for someone who hasn’t been on the internet ever. Dog eating, drunk people behaving badly, Hawaiian tourism, the making of foie gras, running of the bulls–a mere sample of the tame, uninteresting crap you could now find for yourself (along with far worse) all over just regular YouTube and without even touching The Dark Web.
#3 Arsenic And Old Lace
On one level, Arsenic And Old Lace is one of my favorite horror comedies. Two elderly aunties poison lonely old me and bury them in the basement. What’s not to love? Well, a number of things. First off, I’m not a big fan of Frank Capra. His portrayals of women are unfortunate, and this movie is no exception.
From the first scene it’s established that a woman’s main goal is to land her a man for the purpose of gettin’ hitched. When it comes to his new wife, Mortimer (Cary Grant) is dismissive and condescending. Finally mental illness is both feared (Mortimer is relieved to find out he’s adopted and won’t “inherit” the family insanity) and reduced to a caricature, kind of an endearing personality quirk.
#2 Dressed To Kill
David Denby called this “the first great American movie of the 80s.” Oops. I mean, it was good in its day, but it wasn’t that good. Anyway, the killer is a man who wants to be a woman. Specifically, Bobbi is a woman trapped in a man’s body. They want their therapist, Dr. Elliott, to sign the papers permitting Bobbi’s sex reassignment surgery, but Herr Doktor refuses.
That’s because Dr. Elliott and Bobbi are the same person. Naturally, when a woman arouses Dr. Elliott, Bobbi kills her. So if you’re trans, there must be something wrong with you is part of the message here, plus the fact that the “unstable” side of Dr. Elliott’s personality is the stereotypically hysterical (another unfortunate term) female side.
#1 Sleepaway Camp
It pains me, truly, to include this movie because I do still genuinely love it. That said, if you’re wasting your time reading this blog, well on one hand, kisses/hugs. On the other, you’re probably aware of The Big Reveal at the end of Sleepaway Camp. Almost everyone even remotely associated with the horror community knows by now. It’s wwwaaayyy over the top as well as straight up life-scarring. Ultimately, though, it’s also transphobic as all get-out. See, Peter, Angela, and their father were involved in a boating accident that killed Peter and Dad.
Except it didn’t. It killed Angela.
Peter ends up in the custody of Aunt Martha (another quirky “crazy auntie”). Since there’s already a boy in the house, Martha’s own son Ricky, Martha decides that it makes perfect sense to raise Peter as a girl, specifically as Angela, his dead sister. Like ya do. Actually when put that way, it almost sounds like a Greek Tragedy. Through the lens of the present, however, the whole thing becomes a fucking mine field in terms of both sexuality and mental illness.
Okay–seems I had a lot to get off my chest there. What movies do you still watch that don’t stand up well under the test to time? Let me know in the Comments.