The Jaded Horror Fan – Slow Burn or Boring?


Most movies that fall under the sub-genre of “slow burn” could also be called boring. I just don’t get this trend… well, not a trend as these types have existed for a long while, but they aren’t all too common, and when they do come out, I can’t get into them.

The way I classify slow burn, and I may be wrong in assuming this, is a plot that builds the tension so much so that there is a final and sudden release within the closing moments of the film. In other words, there is a payoff which justified the amount of “nothingness” that happened beforehand. Here’s the argument, though: When does it become boring?

Movies like The Changeling, The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby are some examples from yesteryear that I can come up with where the slow burn was done correctly and wouldn’t be taken as boring. I know there are more, but I’m fast-forwarding to the present, where the motivation to write this article spouted.

Ti West and his handful of movies that gained him notoriety really rub me the wrong way. I’m not necessarily saying that his movies are bad or that he isn’t a talented writer/filmmaker, but the method by which he leads us to the finale is downright boring and unwatchable. I know I’m going against the norm here, but I really don’t care; if I’m taking 90 minutes out of my day, I better be entertained to say the least. Sitting there watching mindless and pointless conversation for 80 minutes, then seeing some violence for the remaining 10 doesn’t do anything for me.

When you look at The Innkeepers, The House of The Devil and The Sacrament, one thing I can say is that these movies got progressively better. A couple of other small releases from him were his segments in V/H/S and ABC’s of Death titled “Second Honeymoon” and “M Is for Miscarriage,” respectively. The theme of the shorts suffered the same fate of his features, which is sad.

With that out of the way, I’d like to mention a few other slow burns which were done right, the first being Kill List (pictured below) from the always interesting Ben Wheatley. I’m sure most readers of Dread saw this, and it was discussed at length on Dinner for Fiends so I won’t take too much time talking about it. What I will say is that the constant building of tension and “what the hell is going on” more than satisfied me regardless of the slower pace. The “shock” ending was also something nice to see in a slower paced film, though most of us kind of saw it coming.

Next up is my favorite of 2015 – Bone Tomahawk. This is the definition of what a slow burn should be in that you have interesting (and different) characters with enough dialogue to make you forget that not too much is actually happening on screen. The dialogue has to be top quality, and there has to be some tension throughout. Bone Tomahawk is a prime example of both of these things, and by the time we were given the climax, everything leading up to that point was well worth the wait.

Another thing: If you’re doing a movie with a slower pace, please give us bits and pieces of “something” throughout the film. Don’t bore us with conversation that leads nowhere and characters with no depth. If that’s what you want to do, stick with the slasher sub-genre.

Kill ListKi



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