I think it’s fair to say that everybody has a weakness. (Mine is the STEP UP franchise. I love it. Don’t judge me.) And weaknesses are meant to be exploited, especially by screenwriters who need to come up with some way to defeat the evil masterminds inside of their movies.
Vampires burn in the sunlight, and the Frankenstein monster is afraid of fire. Hannibal Lecter has his vanity and Norman Bates is a momma’s boy. Practically every horror villain has a weakness of some kind, but it’s completely fair to say that some of those weaknesses are weaker than others.
Join me for a sightseeing tour of five films, each of them featuring horrifying bad guys whose kryptonite is either confusing, ridiculous or dumb (or some combination of the three). They’re not all necessarily bad movies, but they’re all pretty darned silly if you think about them too hard.
So let’s think about them too hard, shall we?
Weakness: Chain Letters
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the 2009 slasher movie CHAIN LETTER has been forgotten, since most people have never even heard about it in the first place. But there’s a reason for that: the film is based entirely on a premise that only works if you never think about it. At all.
Here goes: if you receive an emailed chain letter, and you don’t send it out to five more people, you are killed with a chain. That’s it. The film tries to tack on a halfhearted conspiracy theory about anti-technology cultists (or something like that), but those anti-technology cultists sure do do use a lot of technology and… oh, we’re just getting off topic right now.
So basically CHAIN LETTER is about a serial killer who can be defeated by the “Forward” button in your email browser. You’ll forgive me if I don’t lose any sleep over it. And hey, what would happen if so many people forwarded those emails that there ended up being hundreds of recipients all over the world who don’t comply? Who’s going to pay for all of this serial killer’s plane tickets?
Weakness: Car Horns
You may recall that in the classic “robot cop” movie ROBOCOP, there was an otherwise devastating robot whose one weakness was that it couldn’t climb stairs. That movie still gets a bit of flack for that baffling design flaw, but it’s nowhere near as bad as R.O.T.O.R., a film that typically gets labeled as a ROBOCOP knockoff but actually debuted only a few months later. Must have been one of those synergy things.
In R.O.T.O.R., a robot cop goes haywire and proceeds to dispense deadly justice against even the most common of criminals. (Basically it’s MANIAC COP if Robert Z’Dar was also a Terminator.) Naturally, the robot is damn near unstoppable but luckily for all the good guys it has one utterly debilitating weakness: car horns.
Yes, the robotic law enforcement officer that the police were planning to put on the streets is totally stun-locked anytime someone beeps their prom date from the driveway. An unstoppable killing machine, stopped by a tinny recreation of “La Cucaracha.” ED-209 could at least take the elevator. R.O.T.O.R. can barely go outside without being rendered completely useless.
Aliens have invaded the planet Earth, and they kind of made a mess of it if we’re being perfectly honest. They called their shots years ahead of time with giant crop circles, and then the invasion itself only lasted a single night before we fought them all off. And what was the invading alien race’s biggest weakness? What was it that saved the human race?
Oh sure, everyone always points to the fact that the aliens also to burn when they come into contact with common household tap water, but that’s nothing. They weren’t here to conquer Earth and live next to its many lakes, they were here to abduct as many humans as possible. Human beings are weak against bullets and explosives but we still go to war all the time. The risk of acidic scarring was apparently worth it to these extra-terrestrials, so let’s just let that go once for all.
The truly baffling thing about SIGNS is that these aliens are capable of building spaceships that can travel across galaxies but they can’t seem to figure out wooden doors for the life of them. Shyamalan himself, in a distracting cameo, locks one successfully in his basement for essentially forever, and Mel Gibson’s family is able to stave off the whole invading force with wooden planks across their house’s entryways.
So these aliens invented flying saucers, but never once came up with the concept of crowbars. Now that’s weak.
Hardly anything in William Brent Bell’s supernatural video game thriller STAY ALIVE makes sense, from its completely bungled description of the SILENT HILL franchise to the idiotic claim that one of Europe’s most infamous boogeypersons, Elizabeth Bathory, actually lived in colonial America.
So the film itself has many weaknesses. Bathory herself, who apparently helped code a video game that releases her ghost into the world (so she can kill you the same way you die in her game, for some reason), has two weaknesses in STAY ALIVE. She can’t stand looking at herself in a mirror, which actually makes a little sense since her crimes were mostly motivated by vanity… and roses. If the supernatural is out to get you in STAY ALIVE, throw some roses at it and it flees like King Arthur’s knights in THE HOLY GRAIL.
Never mind why “Flower Girl Fu” works so well against an ancient Unreal Engine evil. The film itself certainly doesn’t. This movie makes my head hurt. I’m moving on now.
One of the less notable films from the early 1990s erotic thriller boom (see also: BASIC INSTINCT, THE HAND THAT ROCKED THE CRADLE and SLIVER), Tom Holland’s THE TEMP stars Timothy Hutton as a cookie company executive whose new temp, played by Lara Flynn Boyle, will stop at nothing to get ahead in business. And if that means killing a hapless Oliver Platt, so be it.
Frankly, THE TEMP is pretty standard stuff. Lara Flynn Boyle slinks her way through the movie, using her feminine wiles to get out of suspicious situations, gradually working her way up the ranks as Hutton’s new assistant. She’s a super genius (because of course she is), so even when Hutton finally realizes his temp is a sociopath he has no way to prove it.
So how do you stop a homicidal maniac whose only motive is forward advancement? It’s almost pretty clever, but only on paper: Timothy Hutton fires her.
That’s it. “You’re fired” is literally the last sentence in the movie, implying that terminating this villain’s employment will permanently put a stop her reign of terror. Which is a fun way to end the film but it doesn’t make any sense. That’s the like the ending of James Cameron’s AVATAR, when the Na’vi kick a military superpower off their planet like there won’t be any repercussions whatsoever, when what’s far more likely to happen is Giovanni Ribisi is going to flick a switch from orbit and nuke the whole planet Pandora behind him (it’s the only way to be sure).
What I’m saying is, Lara Flynn Boyle probably would have gone over to Timothy Hutton’s house later that night and murdered the hell out of him. But apparently not. Apparently she just abandoned all of her felonious plans and filed uneventfully for unemployment instead. And again, I put it to you that that’s pretty darned weak.