Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween! Here is a rant for you.

It is, of course, necessary that I write a blog for Halloween.
Clearly I've been neglecting my ponderings on  horror films lately, at least in a formal written out form. Worry not, friends, there is no shortage of heated debates about slasher lore and, now, the local ghost stories here at college. And I know, that, since it is Halloween, I can no longer ignore this blog that was once so well nurtured.

Normally I would write a review of a horror movie, or a general overview of some Halloween movies, or a rant about fake scary movies that they play on ABC family, but I'm going in a different direction.

It doesn't make sense for me right now to review one of the approximate BILLION scary  movies that are on my list of things to watch, because the majority of them are themed with other holidays; specifically, the next movie on my list is Rare Exports, a Christmas-themed thriller, and the next is April Fools, a terrible, terrible slasher. My Netflix Instant Cue opens with New Years Evil and Graduation Day, and, before on the nonsense with Netflix, those two were quickly followed by My Bloody Valentine. Even right here on this blog I've reviewed Black Christmas and Terror Train, both of which take place in the end of December.

There are a whole slew of slasher films that take place on other holidays, specifically Christmas. And, as you probably figured out, there is a lot of controversy over these films. In fact, you may have found even yourself feeling a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of mixing the gory death of teenagers that we love so much on Halloween with the happiness and coziness of Christmas.

A little background: Halloween is considered by many to be "The Father of Slasher Movies." It was wildly successful, making $60,000,000 in about two years with a budget of $320,000. Obviously, great formula: spend relatively little money, make a lot more money, and make a great film. America at the time was ready for it, and, thus, an innumerable amount of movies were made.

The concept was so simple that hundreds (?) of eager indie film makers jumped on the opportunity. Just get yourself a fake knife, some corn syrup and food dye, some cheap, hopeful, young actors, a creepy place, and you've got yourself a film (I know, I've done it). All you need now is a plot, or a theme of some sort--and, riding on the success of Halloween, many manymanymany of the people making these movies decided on a holiday.

Christmas is maybe not the most obvious of all the holidays to choose for a movie whose action is based around the murder of "innocents," but for some reason it became very popular. Movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night, Don't Open till Christmas, Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Bloody Night didn't seem to do any better or worse than other films. Perhaps because the movie that I consider to be the "Mother" of slasher films, and just as good as Halloween, also played a part in the beginning of slasher movies. Perhaps, we can take the cynical view, and say that the producers, directors, and writers were trying to cash in on the controversy that came from making these films, which were often considered a direct assault on family structure and Christianity (don't forget about the New Right shenanigans that were happening in the eighties). Perhaps there are enough angsty people who just need to watch a slasher movie at Christmas to dispel the anger that comes from spending time with laughing children and consumerism. Maybe--and let's go with this one, for the hell of it--the juxtaposition of the violence inherent to slasher films mixed with the happiness that is considered to be inherent to Christmas creates a more shocking and therefore effective film.

The real question is, why are people so accepting for a violent movie on Halloween and so ready to scorn a movie that takes place on Christmas? Christmas Evil, made in 1984, which directly references Carpenter's film in the tagline ("You made it through Halloween, now see if you can survive Christmas"), made approximately two million dollars, with a budget of about one million, in comparison to Halloween's sixty million dollars worldwide. I'm not going to pretend that Halloween isn't a much, much better movie than Christmas Evil, or that the shock value was already wearing off at that point, but still. Fifty eight million dollars is a lot of money.

I think it's an interesting cultural phenomena that we sequester a time of year to be scared, or, rather, to let ourselves be scared. Clearly this intentional fear is part of our culture--scary movies make millions of dollars all year round, not just at Halloween. Would it be better to accept it into our every day lives, like the many hardcore horror movie enthusiasts and self-proclaimed members of the goth subculture that already do? Or, is Halloween, like horror movies, a safe place to keep it so we can live our lives pretending that death and fear are not present?

This has been a Halloween blog post.

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