You know who’s stupid? People in horror movies. In fact, as I watched Paranormal Activity this past weekend, it struck me how so many horror movies rely on characters doing stupid things to get going or keep going…. But their stupidity is our gain, as we can learn a lot about how to make our lives better (even in a non-horror movie survival sense) by simply not doing the stupid things they do…
Your life is not a horror movie (I hope!), but you can still learn a lot from the stupid things people do in horror movies. Here are five things characters in those movies do that, if you avoid doing, will save you a lot of headache (and potentially a horrific and untimely death at the hands of some evil monster)
SPOILER ALERT: in order to share these examples with you, I need to give away plot points from a few movies. Namely, I will be talking about Paranormal Activity, Jaws, The Descent, Hostel, and Jeepers Creepers. If you don’t want any details about those movies given away, stop reading now!
Since Paranormal Activity is the movie that inspired this post, I figured I should start with it. Very early in the movie, the couple invites a “ghost expert” over to their house, and while he can not directly help them, he does two specific things:
He gives them the phone number of a demonologist who can help them
He tells them, very directly, do not try to communicate with the spirit yourself!
The wife wants to follow the advice. The dumbass husband (why is the husband always the dumbass?) doesn’t. He talks the wife out of calling the demon expert. Then he taunts the spirit (yes, he taunts it. After a few days have gone by with no paranormal activity (hey, I wonder if that’s where they got the name from…?) the husband walks around the house talking trash to the spirit. Dumb, dumb, dumb). Then he gets a Ouija board to talk to the spirit(after promising not to). Then he sets a “trap” by sprinkling baby powder on the floor (you are probably saying, “what kind of trap is that?” Got me. I told you the husband was a dumbass..).
The husband tries everything other than the critical piece of advice the expert gave him.
As you might have guessed, by the time the wife gets around to finally calling the demon expert, it’s too late.
Hopefully you never have to deal with a dumbass husband who won’t let you call in an expert to remove evil spirits from your house and life, but you will probably encounter lots of advice from experts in the field of health, business, and personal improvement. Don’t ignore it!
Who knew watching two people sleep could be so creepy?
Lesson: If you are smart enough to seek out expert advice, and lucky enough to get it, then take it! Or at least think long and hard about why you are not taking it…
Here’ an idea: let7rsquo;s keep the beaches open, even though people will die!
Ah, Jaws, my favorite movie of all time…
One of the things that elevates Jaws above your average run of the mill monster movie is the three main characters (Chief Brody, Matt Hooper, and Quint) who are superbly written and acted. Quint, the grizzled shark hunter, makes everyone suffer more than needed because of his foolish pride.
When Chief Brody first sees the size of the shark, he says to Quint, in one of the most iconic lines in film history, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Does Quint go back in to shore to get a bigger boat? Nope.
When the day ends and night falls and Brody suggests that they go in for the night and get a bigger boat, do they? Nope. Quint says they stay out.
When the shark is kicking their asses and Brody tries to radio for help, does Quint let him? Nope. In fact, he smashes the radio with a baseball bat.
By the end of the movie, the boat is sunk (turns out, they really did need a bigger boat), Quint has been chomped up by the shark’s jaws (hey, I wonder if that’s where they got the name from…?), and Brody and Hooper get to swim back to shore.
Clearly, Quint had a lot of pride when it came to catching and killing this shark. But that pride blinded his judgment and got him killed. Don’t follow Quint’s example and let your pride get in the way of your success.
Yup, a bigger boat would have been nice...
Lesson: Are you making your life harder than it needs to be because you are clinging to some prideful idea you need to let go of? Is there someone you can ask for help? Is there a different way of doing things? Would you be better off changing course? Persistence is one thing, but pride and arrogance are completely another.
I love The Descent; it is probably my favorite horror movie of the last decade, and one of my favorites of all time. The entire plot is kicked off by one character arrogantly jumping (and dragging 5 friends with her) into the unknown.
The movie is about six women who go on a spelunking trip. Because caves can be dangerous things, spelunkers are supposed to take a map of the cave they are exploring and also register their expedition with the local park officials. That way park officials will know something is wrong if they don’t hear back at the end of the day.
Since there wouldn’t be a movie without some stupidity, we find out that the woman setting up the trip takes the group to a new, unexplored cave, without registering their expedition and without letting them know what she was up to. As fate would have it, there is a cave-in that prevents them from going out the way they came in. Since they didn’t register their trip, no one knows they are there and they can’t just sit tight and wait for help. They have no choice but to descend deeper into the cave (hey, I wonder if that’s where they got the name from…?), and this is of course where they meet with some serious creepy crawlies that like to eat them…
As someone who teaches improvisation and has used the mantra, “leap before you look,” I am all about embracing uncertainty and moving into the unknown. But there is a difference between calculated risks and stupid risks!
Exploring an unknown cave with no back up safety plan is dumb. So too is starting a business when you don’t have savings or any clue of what you are doing. Or taking a million dollar loan on a house that you can’t afford and assuming you’ll figure out a way to pay it off later. Or signing a contract without reading the fine print. Or – you get the idea…
Someone's having a bad day. That's the peril of jumping blindly into the unknown
Lesson: Before you jump into the unknown, ask yourself, “what’s the worst that could happen?” If you can live with that, then go ahead and jump. If not, then reconsider before you move forward.
This list has some of my favorite movies on it (Jaws. The Descent. And Paranormal Activity was also quite good). Hostel is not one of them. Hostel may very well be the worst film I have ever seen. However, the stupidity of the characters does illustrate the lesson I am trying to make here.
The macabre events in Hostel manage to take place because three guys who are backpacking across Europe on vacation bump into some random stranger who tells them about a Hostel (hey, I wonder if that’s where they got the name from…?) in some small town where lots of beautiful women like to have sex with American guys. Armed with this completely unverified bit of info, they go to the hostel and bad, bad things ensue.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would alter my plans and go visit a random hostel in a random town because one random dude said it was good. This is 2010! We have Google! And the Internet! And phones with which we can call people to ask their opinions! This whole fiasco could have been avoided if the guys had just read the Hostel’s Yelp review: “Quaint town, nice accommodations with beautiful women, but there is a 99.9% chance you will wake up chained to a chair while some guy tortures you with a chainsaw and blowtorch. 4 stars for ambiance, 1 star for experience.”
Trust is a wonderful thing. I like to take people at face value and believe in the good of everyone. But I am not an idiot. If someone wants to partner with me, I am going to learn as much about them as I can. If someone wants me to spend money on something, I am going to do a lot of research on what I am buying. Even if it’s not a matter of trust, there’s always the matter of opinion and taste. Just because one random guy likes a quaint European village doesn’t mean it’s going to appeal to my tastes. A little due diligence is very important.
Hostel is too awful a movie to show a picture from. So here is a random Howard the Duck screencap. Yes, Howard the Duck is a better movie than Hostel
Lesson: Research is too easy to do these days to have any excuse not to. Before you jump into anything, do a little due diligence. At worst, you might waste a little time simply verifying someone’s story. At best, it could prevent you from waking up chained to a chair while a guy tortures you with a chainsaw and blowtorch…
Cell phones are wonderful things, and they have made the world a better place in many, many ways. But there are two ways that cell phones have really messed up the world:
They have created a society of people who are obliviously stupid to the annoying impact their conversations have on the people around them (hmm, this should be the topic of a future blog post).
They have made horror movies much harder to intelligently write.
Face it, almost every horror movie should end 5 minutes in with a character whipping out their cell phone and and calling 911. Because everyone has a cell phone and they are so convenient, screenplay writers need to come up with artificial ways to prevent people from using their phones.
One of the ways they do this is the “no battery charge” technique. Early on in Jeepers Creeper, the two main characters are driving home from college and are driven off the road by a guy who they think they saw dump a body down a well. Justin, “don’t call me the Mac guy anymore,” Long tries to use his cell phone to call the police, but – Oh no! the battery is dead. Pretty soon he is being doggedly pursued by a monster who wants his peepers (hey, I wonder if that’s where they got the name from…?).
Keeping your cell phone charged is a great way to stay out of trouble. I know, I know, we all get to that point where we run out of charge on our phone, but really, it’s one thing to forget to charge your phone at home, and quite another to forget before a cross country drive. Wouldn’t any semi-intelligent human being charge up the phone before going on a long road trip?
A little prep goes a long way. This doesn’t apply just to cell phones. Getting your car checked out, giving yourself ample time to arrive at an important meeting on time, actually preparing and going over the presentation you need to give, researching the company you are interviewing for, etc. These are all smart and simple things you can do to ensure success.
I wonder if Justin Long leaves home without charging his Mac...?
Lesson: Take a lesson from the boy scouts: Be Prepared! Get things in order before you embark on a new trip, endeavor, or project. You can’t prepare for everything (like say, running into a monster that likes to eat humans), but you can cover enough contingencies to a) keep you out of trouble and b) allow you flow with whatever happens.
Here’s an awesome YouTube video someone made of all the times in movies where cell phones get no signal, have no battery, or are conveniently lost or destroyed (Jeepers Creeper is around 2:30):
*** Are you planning an event and looking for a great speaker to add humor and energy? Then visit Avish’s Motivational Humorist page now!
By Avish Parashar. As the world's only Motivational Improviser, Avish uses techniques from the world of improv comedy to engage, entertain, and educate audiences on ideas around change, creativity, and motivation.
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