Ah, Halloween! Sadly, as an adult, I find October passes by much too fast with my barely able to enjoy the season before it’s gone.
But in my mind, Halloween will always evoke the memory of grade school in Westminister, Colorado: paper skeletons with brass brads for joints and bloody paper weapons taped onto their hands; lawns of dead and crackling leaves; gray skies and a chill air, sometimes with a little snow on the ground; that big, old house several blocks away with the unkempt yard and odd, metal star attached to the chimney, a house that begged to have a role in a Bradbury story with overly inquisitive kids. Halloween was my favorite holiday in the middle of my favorite season.
I don’t do much to celebrate any more, and that’s my loss and my fault. But often, when possible, at the last minute on that Halloween night, I’ll try to at least watch an appropriate film before the clock ticks into the month that begins the season for family and food. This year, I have a weekend in front of me and no thesis or papers to keep me from taking a couple evenings to enjoy the spirit of the holiday.
Here’s what I think I’m going to try watching:
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is an absolute requirement, period.
“Coraline” should be a good one. We’re hoping to get the kidlet to watch that and maybe “9” (the animated film, not the musical) with us.
Then, once she’s off to bed, the pool of possibilities are: “Shaun of the Dead” (hilarious, plus Wife likes it, too); “Zombieland” (though I did already watch it again a few months ago); haven’t seen “Splice” yet (supposed to be good); “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (hey, I liked it [despite Keanu], lay off); “Alien” (more on that in a moment); “John Carpenter’s The Thing” (haven’t seen that since I was 13); maybe “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (also been a long time, and it may be another with-the-kid movie).
Something you didn’t see in that list — slashers. I hates slashers. Ridiculous plots, horrible acting, nihilistic and pointless violence, no redeeming qualities whatsoever. With a couple exceptions: The first “Scream” was not bad, but mainly because it was the first postmodern slasher with a unique take on the genre. And I’ve seen a couple of the “Saw” movies, and while it’s nihilistic violence wrapped in a veneer of moral didacticism and life affirmation (ROTFL), the mechanized tortures remind me of the computer games “7th Guest” and “Phantasmagoria,” and the convoluted and complicated plot with looping timelines is really kind of intriguing. I’m curious to know if the clever yet highly impossible timeline coinciding-plots were planned from the beginning or have been kludged together for each film.
My favorite editor, Ellen Datlow, discusses her Halloween film pick, “Alien” on this page. Interestingly, one of my favorite SF authors, John Scalzi, dismisses “Alien” as unscary in his Filmcritic article. (While I disagree with him about its non-scariness, I have to say, I’m completely with him on why he finds the kind of film he does find scary, to be so.) I first saw “Alien” when I was about 13 or 14, and it scared the flip out of me.
(Although, not as much as seeing Kubrick’s “The Shining” did at 12. To this day, the image of Nicholson’s Jack limping through the snow with the shiny-bladed ax, chasing Danny, gives me jeebies of the heebie variety. That said, I still think Kubrick totally f-ed up what truly made the novel frightening, even more so now that I’m a husband and a father — the idea of a good man who slowly crumbles into insanity, and you’re not quite sure how much of it is within him and how much is supernatural influence. Kubrick’s “The Shining” starts out with an unhinged Jack and puts all the horror on the actions of the hotel. Even as a teen, reading Stephen King’s novel, I could understand the brilliant way he made the horror come from out of the character drama. But I’ve really digressed….)
Yeah, “Alien.” It scarded me! I’ve always realized because, even though it was sci-fi, it was entirely believable and realistic. Plus the hard SF’ness was uber-cool. But, I started watching it again a couple weeks ago, and I realized something disturbing: The script for the movie, the dialog, really sucks! Bad. Yet, the acting is superb! So natural, so believable, that they were able to take a bad script and make you believe it despite. The directing was so well-done, the pacing and mood and film-work, that it entirely enhanced the actors’ valiant effort — culminating in a truly effective film that one remembers as perfect despite the near-embarrassing script. Man, if Joss Whedon had been a script doctor back then, I can’t imagine how truly perfect it could have been. (I understand Ridley Scott is planning to make a prequel film. Note: he wasn’t involved in any of the sequels (although Joss was). I hope he gets as good of a cast as “Alien” had and even a marginally better script.)
Between that film, and OMNI magazine (hey! An Ellen Datlow degree of separation!), I’ve loved H.R. Gieger’s art ever since.
So, those’re my thoughts on Halloween at the moment. I think I might read some Poe to kiddlet this weekend. That’d be a cool tradition to start. 🙂