Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Dumbass Smart People In Horror Film
WARNING: The following may contain SPOILERS for the horror films Life, Deep Blue Sea, and Splice. You have been warned.
The tale of science gone wrong is not new to literature or film. However, there is one thing that bugs me to no end and it is especially prevalent in horror film.
Dumbass Smart People
I was “inspired” to make this post after watching the movie Life starring Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson yesterday.
Aboard the International Space Station, a group of astronauts conducts research on what appears to be the first conclusive evidence of life beyond earth from the safety of orbit. The rapidly evolving life form proves to be far more intelligent and malevolent than anyone could have possibly imagined.
This movie proved to be a very frustrating watch for me. The selection process to become an astronaut is very arduous. You have to be one of the smartest and fittest individuals, both physically and mentally, in order to go to space. So why is it that everyone in this movie does the stupidest thing at any given opportunity? I’m not saying smart people are infallible and are incapable of making human mistakes. The movie even tries to not-so-subtly drop hints for some of the characters’ motivations like “This guy just had a kid so he wants to get back to his family” or “This is a monumental discovery and this guy is infatuated with the alien life form.” However, all of these astronauts make terrible decisions on such a regular basis that it took me out of the movie. So much for the best and brightest.
The problem isn’t just with this movie. Horror film history is littered with examples of supposedly intelligent individuals making the worst decisions at the absolute worst point in their lives. This problem is not as prevalent in the genre when it comes to other mediums. With books, you can fill your pages with the inner workings of your characters. All of their hopes, dreams, motivations, and flaws can be laid bare on the page.
While Stephen King is a horror master, he is also a master at fully realizing his characters and conveying what needs to be conveyed to the reader. That is partially why he has found so much success as an author and has transcended the medium to pop-culture icon status. Books are often as long as they need to be, but in film, you have a much smaller window of opportunity to convey all of this data to your audience.
In the movie Deep Blue Sea(a guilty pleasure shark/monster film), a genius level scientist who may have just found the cure for Alzheimer’s decides to lovingly pet a giant genetically altered Mako shark while it’s supposedly under sedation. The result is pictured above. One could argue it’s another example of this man’s hubris and utter lack of respect for the laws of nature that leads to him being ravaged by his own creation, but if you’ve seen the movie, I think that argument is giving the screen writers way too much credit. Who in their right mind pets a freak of nature shark on the head, which is 90% teeth? It would take a real genius…
In the criminally underrated film, Splice, a young couple who also work together as geneticists, introduce human DNA into their work with animal genetic material. The result is a “daughter” who is not quite human. The male geneticist, played by Adrian Brody, finds himself attracted to his creation. This man, who redefined what is possible in the world of genetics with the help of his lover, decides its a good idea to fuck his taloned “daughter” in the barn that his lover often frequents to check in on their creation.
I get the sexual curiosity. I myself have often wondered what sex with a bald, taloned, winged, stinger-wielding woman would be like(which sounds like my ex-girlfriend now that I think about it), but this dude’s actions spit in the face of his presumed intelligence. There isn’t much scientific discovery or reward in having sex with a harpy woman. It can only end badly for him, but he does it anyway.
For once, I would like to see a horror movie where the scientist don’t act like dipshits or horny teenagers. I would like to see scientists focus their intelligence on to the situation to creatively solve their horror movie problems and triumph against an evil that they themselves did not create.
What are some annoying horror film cliches that you would like to see be put to rest? I’m thinking about turning this into a series, so if there is one you’d like to see me weight in on let me know in the comments below.