Five More Misleading Movie Titles That Will Ruin Movie Night
By Frank Wellspring for TheHumbleHeckler.com
In the spirit of honesty, I will begin this article by admitting that I sometimes make the mistake of taking movie titles a bit too literally. However, that does not excuse studios and filmmakers from doing a poor job of naming their films. Ambiguity is the enemy when selecting a movie title. I mean, consider a title like Slumber Party Massacre—nothing ambiguous about that. And guess what features prominently in films like The Mist, The Fog, and The Stuff. Luckily, you don’t have to guess. Do you think a movie called Gremlins might be a creature feature? If you do, you’d be right. The Birds is actually about killer birds; Peeping Tom tells the tale of a psychotic voyeur; and Silent Night, Deadly Night is precisely what you think it would be. So why in the name of all that’s holy and pure do so many movies have titles that seem to exist only to baffle, confuse, or mislead? It just makes no sense, but people continue to do it; therefore, people like me will continue to call them out when they do it. So, here are five more movies (shout-out to fellow critic Clark Savage, who penned the initial list of five) with titles so misleading they’re bound to ruin Movie Night.
(1) Monster-in-Law (2005): As a lover of horror films, particularly creature features, this movie ranks among the most disappointing ever, based on the title alone, anyway. The story of a possessive mother trying to sabotage her son’s burgeoning relationship could’ve provided a fantastic springboard to cinematic thrills and chills. Unfortunately, Monster-in-Law isn’t scary at all—not even accidentally. Sure, the make-up effects are terrifying. Jennifer Lopez’s turn as a soulless, demonic, life-sucking she-creature is the stuff of nightmares. And Jane Fonda will make your skin crawl as an ancient bony-faced hag whose stare rivals Medusa’s in its power to turn those who gaze upon it to stone. But the presence of two scary monster-women ultimately isn’t enough to generate the requisite terror to give modern horror fans the heebie-jeebies.
(2) Saturday Night Fever (1977): This is a confusing film, thanks in no small part to its unfortunate title. The film focuses on the outbreak of a deadly virus—a virus that inevitably leads the poor souls who become infected to suffer from a condition known as Saturday night fever. According to the film, the virus spreads almost exclusively among young people. The most obvious symptoms of Saturday night fever are: the inability to speak in grammatically correct sentences and rhythmic spasmodic flailing of the limbs whenever an infected person is exposed to disco music. It is also arguable that Saturday night fever impacts the region of the brain responsible for fashion choices. Do not watch this film if you are expecting an engrossing medical thriller concerning the outbreak of an infectious disease thrust upon an unknowing population. The basic suspense/thriller plot points are all present, but the film’s execution is woefully inept, leaving the viewer with too many questions for the film to succeed at creating a significant measure of suspense. For example, the narrative never even bothers to explain the source of the virus, the Patient Zero, if you will. Although, to be fair, there are noticeable hints sprinkled throughout the film that subtly suggest this particular virus began with The Bee Gees.
(3) Juice (1992): This film is a bit of a mixed bag. Mostly, the film succeeds as an urban crime drama depicting the harsh realities of life for a group of young men growing up in a tough neighborhood, where life and death decisions are made on a daily basis, and the specter of Death is ever present. But then again, the film completely fails as a biography of O.J. Simpson, which is what the title would have you believe is the film’s true subject. Is it possible that this title was chosen to purposely trick Simpson’s fans into theaters? Possibly. It certainly isn’t beneath the Hollywood marketing machine to intentionally deceive the public. I mean, what’s next? Am I going to find out that the TV series Chuck isn’t about legendary rocker Chuck Berry?
(4) Rain Man (1988): I take no pleasure in saying this, but Rain Man is, without hesitation or hyperbole, the worst superhero film ever made. Dustin Hoffman stars as Raymond Babbitt, a man whose alter ego, Rain Man, does not—I repeat does NOT—have the ability to make it rain whenever he wants. But that’s just the beginning. Other than the ability to instantly count matchsticks that have fallen to the floor and to cheat at blackjack, there really isn’t anything all that impressive about this guy. And get this: There isn’t a villain anywhere to be seen in the entire movie. Rain Man just goes about his life, without any supervillains threatening to reveal his true identity or anything. Not one car chase. Not one explosion. Not one gun fight. What the hell, man?
(5) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): This is an emotionally effective film that, in my opinion, eventually buckles under the weight of too much metaphor. Based on the title, you’d expect the film to work as a treatise on the mistreatment of animals, and that’s exactly what it is; however, this message is buried beneath layers and layers of muddled symbolism. While on the surface the story appears to be about alcoholism, a marriage under strain, and generations of family pride and secrets bubbling to the surface with disastrous results, in reality this is all just a thinly veiled metaphor about how leaving a kitty on a tin roof in extreme heat could be bad for the kitty’s little paws. Sure, the film can be heavy-handed at times, but that doesn’t make the message any less important. Cats really shouldn’t be left on hot tin roofs for any reason whatsoever. And yet, I just wonder if we really needed to go to such dramatic lengths to make such an obvious point.