The Shape of Slash to Come

Film Title: Halloween

One of the easiest possible associations to make with Halloween, the 2018 horror film that is now the third movie in the franchise frustratingly by that name, is one with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For indeed, Halloween ’18 (as I shall refer to it from here on in this review as this movie skips over all the other movies between it and the 1978 original but calling it Halloween II doesn’t work because there’s ALSO two other movies by that title) does more than a bit to imply a new future direction in the story of emotionless masked Shape of murderous evil Michael Myers’ (OG Nick Castle for special moments and James Jude Courtney for most of the screentime) and his semi-random focus on tormenting Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), one with final beats that imply that if Myers is to continue, he shall be focusing on someone new. And like The Force Awakens, Halloween ’18 sets this up by blatantly repeating the beats and greatest hits of not only John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece (who returns with his son Cody to score this iteration – I honestly think the difference is not all that remarkable but it was a perfect score to begin with), but at least giving the first three sequels knowing winks as well (as well as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre).

And like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Halloween ’18 opts to forego a steady core story with unnecessary tangents that are mostly dead ends and one of which seems like a contrivance to facilitate a result that already felt inevitable. I am particularly dismayed that Halloween ’18 opted to be a two-hour slasher film when a 90-minute version of itself would have sufficed just as well. This does not bode very well for Halloween ’18 in my heart because those Star Wars movies are ones that I mutedly enjoyed on first watch and slowly decayed the more I thought about it. But to give Halloween ’18, the benefit of the doubt I ask significantly less of my slasher movies than I do of my space operas and I DID end up satisfied nonetheless.

For one thing, the fan service that is littered throughout the movie is of a gleeful sort that argues the soul of Halloween is how Myers’ actions are just as much consistent as they are relentless. For another thing, this film is in the very capable directorial hands of David Gordon Green who I am more fond of than J.J. Abrams (I cannot say I prefer Green to Johnson but I did think about it a lot), who should be returning to form any day now.

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This is not that return but the two of these elements – the fan service and Green’s presence – mix very well in my eye. The familiar patterns within the kills (at least the ones where we don’t see the act, only the grisly results) and the shot styles as his rampage aligns us with the characters as they recognize what’s going on this Illinois Halloween night. Even if Green does not utilize the widescreen spacing as well as Carpenter, though he does have a knack for creating pools of shadow and distressing that with the harsh blues and reds of police lights when shit goes wrong. Green and Carpenter also share the ability to transform a far from Midwestern town (this film was shot in Charleston, South Carolina) into feeling breezily autumnal in a Midwest way. Green’s direction is particularly much better at selling the subversion of Strode’s previous role as victim than Green or Danny McBride’s half-baked and overgluttoned screenplay did, such as a set of shots that is so exciting in how it reversed the roles between Myers and Strode that it made me cheer in the theater.

Perhaps the best surprise out of the entirety of the film is Green’s happy intentions to make the carnage and any aftermath we are lucky to walk in on really count for something. I can’t honestly decide which is the bigger standout: a hovering duo of long-shots (there’s a cut between them but one so intelligently placed that it doesn’t kill the momentum at all) where Myers stalks into homes, stealing weapons and murdering the matriarchs without any pause, promising to us that he has no intentions to hunt Strode and simply kills because he kills. Or a messy explosion of blood as we witness Myers’ boot slam into the skull of a character, a gauche and cartoonish end to the film’s most harebrained character.

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It is perhaps most unfortunate that the best elements of these things take a while to get there because Halloween ’18 thinks it has a complex plot to set up. One that thinks it needs to set up the high school life of a teenage girl or the disinteresting investigation work of annoying podcasters, the elimination of both of these solving most of my problems with the movie (particularly that the character most easy to hate is never even in danger of being murdered). McBride and Green particularly. want to explore the concept of Laurie’s PTSD but don’t really do much of the work to cut into it – they turn her into Sarah Connor without giving much of a clear psychological path between the girl crying against a wall at the end of the 1978 film and the stonefaced woman living in her personal fortress of guns, traps, and panic rooms 40 years later waiting for him to try again*.

Most of the heavy-lifting is put upon a game Curtis, who turns in a determination with cracking resoluteness and a deflecting refusal to acknowledge how her paranoia has broken her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). In fact, practically any sense of character the movie gets comes from the actors present in the second half as Judy Greer plays Karen as somehow trying very hard to pretend her comfortable suburbia life can stifle memories of repressed childhood that her mother continues to bring and Andi Matichak as Karen’s daughter Andi, totally naïve about the threat out there and trying to retain a relationship with Laurie despite the strain between generations and Laurie’s emotional instability. If there is any reason I prefer Green’s Halloween to Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, despite finding both films thematically clumsy about trauma, it is because of these three women. Toby Huss and Will Patton aren’t nearly up to those three women but they maintain a rustic personability as men trying to take control of situations they should be responsible but aren’t equipped for. The only real loose end is sadly Haluk Bilgener as Myers’ psychologist Dr. Sartain (“the new Loomis”, Laurie sarcastically calls him), but he’s also saddled with a character that has no sense or logic to him on paper. The clear standout isn’t even a main actor, Jibrail Nantambu’s babysat child of Julian who feels like a mixed transient in his effortless naturalism and charm from George Washington and Eastbound and Down (my two favorite things Green and McBride have done).

Anyway, whole lot of fat is in Halloween ’18. Ignoring that part of the beauty of the original is its elegant simplicity. Simplicity that could have been recreated wholly from elements that are in Halloween ’18. So, it’s understandable why it’s been a disappointment to some. Hell, it’s already fading for me. I don’t see it holding up on rewatch where the deadwood will be prevalent and I have a remote that can fast-forward. But for right now, on first watch, I can’t lie and say that I got all I really wanted out of Halloween ’18: a functioning slasher film that delivered on the puerile violence I go to these movies for anyway. Even if I had to squint to get it.

*There is the attitude that this is a failed premise to begin with because Halloween H20: 20 Years Later… already had that fated reunion and just erasing the sequels doesn’t salvage the impact. It would be much easier for me to agree if I gave a fuck about H20.

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A Brief… ish (and Subjective) History of the Slasher

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I can’t put a finger on when I realized I was entirely a fan of horror film (though I took a stab at it a couple of years ago), so it’s hardly a surprise that I can’t exactly put a pin on the moment I realized I was finally completely a fan of slasher films. Yet somehow, after a good amount of time rejecting them, I’ve had enough of them in front of me to brainwash myself into enjoying them as a subgenre dear to my heart, even in spite of the incredibly often poor quality of the movies out there.

I CAN figure when I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing a brief history of the slasher film subgenre – since this past May when I was originally intending to put my friend Josh (yes, THAT Josh) through the whole motley crew of the subgenre’s most popular franchises. And this October, I told myself that if I don’t do any other horror movie posts… I’m gonna finally pull that off and try to sound like I know what I’m talking about (I also toyed with making it into a video, but that just seemed unlikely to do before October 31st).

So here’s what this is a brief compact history of the slasher genre with some amount of subjectivity based on how I encountered the films. If I am to make any mistakes, if there’s anything wrong with what I lay out… call me out on my shit.

But what IS a slasher film first off?

It’s generally simple, a slasher film is expected to simply be a film where a killer slowly dwindles out a cast of expendable victims by his violent hand – usually teenagers or young women – over a period of time. And while that – even while identifying the general structure of the film as similar to Agatha Christie’s famous Ten Little Indians novel – leaves a hell of a lot of open space for a lot of horror movies, it’s kind of a fashion that you recognize when it is in front of you. 9/10 you don’t have much connection with any of the characters being killed because they are all stock types, the killer usually has some distinctive visual aesthetic to their look that marks them out as the most interesting element of the film (usually it’s the weapon he uses), and they are based in the most titillating of content – the promise of sex and the promise of violence (gore if we can, please!) to the point that a good amount of viewers of the subgenre like to consider them intertwined in a fashion that renders the killings as punishment for teenage promiscuity, especially towards females (they are also extremely reductive amongst other things).

So anyway those four popular franchises I was gonna put Josh through? Those are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and… significantly more popular and iconic in the subgenre… Friday the 13th. Each holding their own iconic and recognizable killer character – respectively, Leatherface and his infamous cannibalistic Sawyer family (Hewitt in the remake), Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees (and to some degree his mother Pamela). These four are almost certainly the most recognizable names and faces in horror cinema that are not Universal horror monsters. If you walk around and ask somebody to name a character from Suspiria or Cat People, mostly likely you’ll get a look of puzzlement. But at the very least Jason and Freddy… everybody who has even a cursory interest in movies knows them, even if they’ve never seen a single one of their films.

And years of watching and re-watching these films since my college years (my VERY first of the bunch was Freddy vs. Jason in 2003 – I had a fascination with Freddy since he was the one that kind of scared me enough that he was my first out-and-out slasher icon) has caused me to recognize that one could easily map out the status of the slasher subgenre as a film movement with those four franchises – so don’t be surprised to see several of the installments get name-dropped here.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words dedicated to the definition of the subgenre, let’s start cracking at the history starting…

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In spite of a certainty as to exactly the decade where the slasher film had its big boom rivaling the likes of the Western in the 1930s and the Superhero film in the 2000s-2010s, where the slasher film exactly began is a much disputed factor. Most histories on the horror genre or slashers like to paste the root of the whole thing on one very very very groundbreaking picture: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. And that’s frankly a very fair place to start, but then again Psycho indeed was the picture that went and broke the whole idea of moviemaking to begin with. A lot of that is parallel to its place in horror cinema – the sight of blood, the shocking deaths, the unseen status of the killer until the end, the psychological background behind the killer’s motives, and even Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score was one that found several derivations and blatant rip-offs in the subgenre to come.

But I want to be special. The roots to slasher films go deeper than Psycho and possibly far enough into the silent era if we acknowledge how the idea of a dangerous killer stalking others in a very isolated and menacing location in 1926’s The Bat and 1927’s wonderful The Cat and the Canary. In the 1944 Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes vehicle The Scarlet Claw, yet another murder mystery amongst the several early in horror cinema, we can witness the early editing technique style of unseen murders with the raising of the weapon framed upwards and then moving down out of the frame, well before the infamous shower and stairwell scenes in Psycho where that was at its most iconic before being a mainstay of the genre. And so the murder mystery simply went on and on into the 50s as a matinee with the likes of House of Wax and Jack the Ripper (indeed, many a psycho killer film takes basis in the real-life works of notorious murderers – pre-Psycho had a handle on Jack the Ripper’s sprees and post-Psycho a lot of Ed Gein influence).

Which would bring us eventually back to Psycho in 1960 changing film history for good, but that’s not even the movie I wanted to look at from that same year. Just a little bit prior to Psycho’s release, Michael Powell, one half of the beloved filmmaking team the Archers alongside Emeric Pressburger and as such co-author of some of the most flat-out gorgeous movies of all time (if you have not seen any of his pictures, like… stop, drop, and roll over to your screen to watch them – particularly The Red Shoes).

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Peeping Tom was a film about a photographer and aspiring filmmaker murdering women with his camera to capture their visages of fear. If Psycho introduced the violence and psychology and some of the stylistic elements of the slasher to remain, Peeping Tom was the other half intent on the sexual aspect of the violence (as much as one can go for a film in 1960 and honestly Psycho still went further), the acknowledgement of the voyeuristic pleasure audiences get from witnessing such violence, and… with the usage of the camera… the ability to attach itself to the killers’ perspective prior to the kill outright. The unfortunate matter is that Peeping Tom was hated for its daring material upon its release and thrown aside until a re-evaluation thanks to a certain Powell/Pressburger fanboy named Martin Scorsese arranging a re-release in the late 70s.

The late 70s is getting still ahead of ourselves because even before everybody started figuring out Peeping Tom was actually perfect again, three big movements emerged in the film scene during the 1960s that paved the way for the slasher genre to begin slowly rising from its depths in the 1970s. First, all the way in Italy, a cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Mario Bava had released two films in 1963 and 1964 respectively called The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Blood and Black Lace, both essentially providing the genesis of the famous Italian giallo subgenre. These types of films essentially functioned as speedy Agatha Christie-esque murder mysteries themselves with an underlying sexual tone and a garish usage of blood for the murders, the latter element didn’t come about with The Girl Who Knew Too Much which portrayed its bloody violence in black-and-white. So what happened between 1963 and 1964?

Herschell Gordon Lewis happened. Months after the release of The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Lewis released the film Blood Feast and THAT, my friends, brought about the biggest pissing contest in horror cinema – how much blood can you get your film doused in. Blood Feast became the progenitor of the Splatter Film, a movement to fill your picture with as much colorful blood red viscera as you can possibly get on-screen and that hasn’t slowed down in the slightest, but the fact that Blood Feast had itself getting really down and dirty with some (kind of laughable yet historically significant) bloody effects suddenly made Psycho, the Hammer horror pictures, and the likes which also tried to titillate the audience with blood look like basement church productions. While the gore Lewis opened the gates for would be outdone many and many times over the years, it cannot be stressed that they happened because he opened the doors wide open for that stuff, even in spite of the generally dubious quality of every movie he made.

So, Blood and Black Lace got to be hella bold with its red blood color all over (amplified by the fact that it’s directed by a career cinematographer) and so the giallo goes on to follow the formula the successful Blood and Black Lace leaves behind of arthouse artifice in its design and staging and an abundance of foreboding atmosphere to the almost complete cost of narrative clarity or interest, for the giallo was just as much a slave to formula as the slasher. The major difference being how the giallo was essentially able to move past its exploitative nature to function as an artistic cornerstone, while the raw and bluntness of the slasher felt a bit too crude to be called artistic. Nevertheless, another later Bava vehicle in 1971 Reazione a Catena (known in the US as either A Bay of Blood if you’re a basic bitch or Twitch of the Death Nerve if you’re my dawg) would be considered – like Psycho and Peeping Tom – to be an early entry into the slasher genre but I wouldn’t be one of those people who gives Reazione a Catena that title. Nevertheless, the amount of influence the giallo would have –and especially Reazione a Catena with deaths and elements that would be later recycled in a landmark slasher film – cannot be slightly underestimated.

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Ah yes, the third big event that mixed into the comings of the slasher genre. Well, prior to 1968 and way back in 1930, the US motion picture industry had a set of guidelines based on an idealized decency and morality called the Production Code instated by the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America. And this had been a pain in the ass since it had been around to filmmakers, but by the 1950s, it was already getting sort of dismissed and challenged by films daring to be released without a certificate from the Production Code and becoming huge successes without it, such as Some Like It Hot, The Moon Is Blue, and Anatomy of a Murder. But the waning years of the 1960s, the Production Code was basically ready to get abandoned and right before the Code was replaced with the MPAA ratings system, George A. Romero released what is – to my mind – the benchmark of horror cinema, Night of the Living Dead. Where Blood Feast brought about a fun tawdry bloodiness to the horror scene, Night of the Living Dead suddenly made things mean, intense, and aggressive. As Travis Mills said once, “violence is an attitude” and I must say that I have never seen a film before or since more fucking violent in its attitude than Night of the Living Dead, so dedicated to being that much of an aggressor that it’ll convince me that these guys so obviously eating Bosco-covered Hams are committing acts of shocking carnage.

The stage is set for the 1970s to come in and with the 70s, the arrival of what is to my mind the first slasher films in 1974. Just barely winning the race is a Texan with a few pictures under his belt who wanted to use the tale of Ed Gein to mirror the cynical outlook of the early 70s with Watergate, the oil embargo of 1973, and Vietnam having consequence on the previous optimism of the US. That film was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and if you can’t get that national commentary out of the film itself (and who would blame you? Certainly not yours truly, who had to learn that stuff after the fact), you’d nevertheless get a relentless feeling of dread for the less than 90 minutes that made up the picture from frame one and that proved unforgettable enough to canonize the picture. Following up on that was Bob Clark’s Canadian picture Black Christmas that began aggregating most of the stylistic elements that we remember slasher films for after their early introduction in those previous films. Black Christmas essentially constructed the formula that would define the genre, with a little exceptions like the virgin status of the survivor or the defeat of the killer by said survivor.

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Those two essentially came to us in 1978 when a hotshot young filmmaker named John Carpenter told Moustapha Akkad he’d make a film for Akkad within 4 weeks and a low-even-for-the-1970s $300,000 budget and what resulted is the seminal slasher film Halloween. When you think of a slasher film, 5 will get you 10 that the image of Michael Myers is what pops into your mind, with the other big possibility coming up real soon. Halloween’s status as a classic is solidified enough that I don’t think I have to go deep into it, despite not really being the first of anything of the genre so much as being the most impressive aggregation of what makes a slasher film, including the targeting of promiscuous teens and the physical stalking aspect of the killer prior to attacking his victims. It uses everything it doesn’t invent to the highest potential – the performance of the final girl by Jamie Lee Curtis, the first-person perspective of the killer at moments to heighten tension (featuring that Steadicam usage), and the creation of an iconic killer design (without spending much money since the Myers mask was famously created by spraying a Captain Kirk mask white) and an iconic score 5/4 score by Carpenter himself (Though if I laid everything he did right with his craft, we will be here forever). Halloween was especially one of the films to truly prove the slasher genres potential lucrative elements when its huge word-of-mouth success earned it the highest return-on-investment in film history until Mad Max’s release the next year.

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A masterpiece and a hell of a moneymaker, you’d think Halloween would be the movie to kickstart the great big slasher boom of the 80s, right? Except it wasn’t. Slashers were a-coming round since 1978 like Silent Scream and Prom Night, but they weren’t as plentiful and inescapable until the 1980s began. In fact, Halloween II wasn’t even released until 1981, shortly after another movie fired that starter pistol and got its own successful sequel on top of that.

Said starter pistol was loaded up when producer Sean S. Cunningham was inspired by Halloween to create his own slasher film to up the ante on all the shocking aspects, especially with its scares and its blood. He got started by thinking up a title and being so confident in it, he bought a full-page ad on Variety before even completing the script and then enlisting the aid of soap opera screenwriter Victor Miller, gore and makeup maestro Tom Savini, and composer Harry Manfredini (largely inspired by John Williams’ work on Jaws and giving us a just-as-iconic-as-Jason “ch ch ch ch ch, ah ah ah ah ah” motif) to mix together what ended up being Friday the 13th, the story of a campful of counselors being tormented and killed by the deranged mother of the dead Jason Voorhees, a character who would go on to being the iconic killer for 8 of the following 9 films in the franchise that spawned out of the film.

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A franchise was not the only thing the movie spawned, suddenly in 1980 everybody had a goddamn slasher picture to show – Terror Train, Christmas Evil, Maniac, and so many others popped out of 1980 alone – and it meant that studios had finally recognized slashers beyond their tawdry and trashy content that could be called out (very fairly) as misogynist and sadistic to being cash cows. Slowly throughout the 1980s, the amount of slashers grew to an inability to keep track of them all. It became so overwhelming when John Carpenter tried to push the Halloween franchise to his original intentions of it being an anthology and abandoned the slasher format for Halloween III: Season of the Witch, audiences wanted absolutely none of it and it pushed the Halloween franchise way way back (frankly, I don’t think they were missing on much, though like most things, there has been a revisionist audience for Season of the Witch in the past several decades).

Now that Halloween – despite being a bigger damn success than Friday the 13th – wasn’t the movie that dipped us into the sudden saturation of slasher films in the film market seems troubling, but I think it’s pretty obvious why that happened. Part of it is the placement of Friday the 13th at the turn of the decade and how it was able to delve us into the perfect time span for slashers to be big. The American film industry had choked out most of the auteurist attitudes of New Hollywood and became a lot more producer-driven, hence the ability to force out sequels to films interested more in what left a film attractive to a particular audience in the bluntest way than it would be interested in what makes a functional film or makes it considered a high work of art (a movie genre based in blood and sex would have to work for that “artform” status).

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The other is that a VHS market was actually aggressively growing. The home video format was introduced in 1977 and, despite being challenged by other formats such as BetaMax, remained the dominant format of home video distribution and that suddenly led to a much wider audience for low-budget filmmaking and an ability to distribute aggressively and receive a profit. Like pornography, home video became a safety net for the slasher film that provided a great opportunity to earn any lost money from the limits of theatrical distribution – movies such as Madman and The Dorm That Dripped Blood got right on by their home video markets, while movies like The Mutilator and Too Scared to Scream found second life well after their production specifically because VHS gave them that.

That also was aided by the 1983 creation of the Video Nasties list by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions and attached to the Obscene Publications Act. These were essentially films that were called films that “tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see, or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.” Sitting alongside the likes of Reazione a Catena, Cannibal Holocaust, and The Evil Dead were several slasher films such as The Dorm That Dripped Blood, The Burning, Bloody Moon, and Don’t Go in the House. And I’m sure we’re all aware of the Streisand effect. Controversy only breeds more interest.

The third is something that really earns this post the word “Subjective” in its title. We’re all friends here. We all know me. I love Friday the 13th. It’s grown on me. I don’t think it’s good. I think it’s really bad as a film. I think it’s amateur. And I think that was a real greenlight to filmmakers.

Suddenly you don’t have to be good to make a successful movie. You just have to have a hella good amount of bloodletting to tease the audience and that’ll give you all the buckets and buckets of money you want out of a film. It means ignoring the fact that the gore was created by a man who was the best at what he did, Mr. Tom Savini, but come on… anybody can do it?

And what about what attracted audiences to the franchise? Much as I am not kind of willing to read it under this lens, I feel the amateur manner of Friday the 13th’s creation communicates a rawness akin to the dirty grunginess of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s aesthetic and that was something that gave audiences a sort of realism to catch from the film added by Savini’s work on it. That it was able to salvage the movie while Cunningham’s previous work with Wes Craven The Last House on the Left got (rightfully in my opinion) disparaged as exploitative for a similar amateur quality in its filmmaking and nearly ruined Cunningham’s career early on must have seemed like happy fortune for Cunningham.

In any case, Friday the 13th got them gears rolling for the subgenre and further rocketed by introducing the unforgettable large menace of Jason Voorhees in its 1981 sequel.

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Even in the 1980s, the slasher run had been marked by ebbs and flows and the first ebb began in 1984 when the repetitive nature of the slasher left many of the audiences ready to move on to something else. It caused the Frank Mancuso Jr. and the rest of the producers behind the Friday the 13th franchise ready to put the series down despite the profits behind the film not yet dropping, hence the release of the aptly-titled Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter where Corey Feldman kills Jason Voorhees as we always knew he would.

Just kidding, the very next year saw the release of yet another aptly-titled Friday the 13th entry called Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, that – while garnering ill will from its fans by abandoning Voorhees as a villain until the next one brought producers to their senses – resurrected the franchise for a brand new run. What happened between The Final Chapter and A New Beginning that changed Mancuso’s mind?

A Nightmare on Elm Street happened.

Robert Shaye bid the hell of the future of his previous film distribution company New Line Cinema on its first production by Wes Craven about a disfigured man named Freddy Krueger killing teens in their dreams and it grabbed the slasher film box and shoved the concept of a larger budget and the opportunity of entering the supernatural element into the previously grounded subgenre (later on brought out more in the success of the killer doll slasher Child’s Play and its household name of Chucky). It also pulled aside the character of Freddy Krueger into becoming the third icon beside Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, built up the house of New Line Cinema into a film production company, and of course a franchise of the Nightmare on Elm Street films where at best (and most of them were just as unwatchable as the Friday the 13th films, frankly) the films were always looking for a new way to twist the slasher formula on its head – the homosexual themes in Freddy’s Revenge, the pseudo-superhero film and continuation of Nancy’s story with Freddy within Dream Warriors, the meta-commentary of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (where the director himself returned), anything but the usage of 3D in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare because fuck that noise.

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Things rolled along smoothly until a decline in the last years of the 1980s, where all three of those major franchises – Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street – had amongst their lowest-earning entries in their franchises. Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan went and was considered a box office failure by Paramount, pushing it to sell the franchise right over to New Line Cinema, while Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers became the lowest-earning film in the whole franchise. It was becoming abundantly clear that audiences were not interested in those types of horror films anymore.

By the entrance into 1990s, the slasher film had become a sort of parody of itself, the few movies of the genre attempting to twist themselves out of the regular mold in an attempt to have some semblance of originality or rejuvenate the formula for audiences. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was an outlandish cartoon that bordered on (bad) comedy, the follow-up New Nightmare worked more as a piece of meta-work than a slasher in any right (with its low body count), Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday threw right out the window most of the rules of its franchise to define Jason now as a Lovecraftian creature borne of witchcraft (a move that earned New Line Cinema much ire as it was their first production for the franchise), and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers infamously became a complete mess of cuts and re-shoots and drama. The only notable entry into the pantheon prior to 1996 was Clive Barker’s Candyman, an impressively crafted supernatural slasher film in its own right produced by the famous author while also providing an impressively nuanced look at African-American disenfranchisement and race relations. It also made a well-respected horror icon out of Tony Todd, who portrayed the titular ghost terrorizing those who said his name in a mirror. Candyman‘s success was not enough to stop the slasher franchise from showing how obvious it was in need of a saving grace of a film.

Salvation came in the form of a necessary evil.

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In 1995, Harvey Weinstein, then the head of Miramax and already behind an impressive slasher of his own in the form of the 1981 The Burning, had bought a famous screenplay by a man in his late twenties named Kevin Williamson. Wes Craven had particularly pursued the chance of directing this script since it was on the market and called Scary Movie and was able to find himself in that seat when the movie went into production. It came out in 1996 and was called Scream and while it briefly re-ignited interest in the slasher genre for one more brief span… it reignited the genre in the form of a zombified “self-aware” form starring Teen Beat cover stars from their high school dramas of the WB taking part in the very painfully clear slasher formula while never actually commenting on the style except insofar as dropping movie references and calling that film criticism, while putting on a smug attitude like it’s BETTER than being just another slasher.

YOU THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?!

YOU FUCKING THINK YOU’RE BETTER THAN ME?!

Needless to say… I don’t have much care for that sort of post-modern emptiness, especially since Williamson doesn’t seem as intent on talking about what these movies mean as Craven did two years prior with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. That lack of sincerity never sat well with me, but it nevertheless lifted the genre for a nearly final hurrah in the success of I Know What You Did Last Summer, but it also quickly was shut-out by the box office failure of both Urban Legend and Valentine and both of them. In between that quick rise and fall in the late 1990s, familiar faces such as Bride of Chucky (also post-modern, but in a much more enjoyable manner to me) and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later garnered some last second good will. Still the hammer was nailed with Jason X’s actual loss of money in 2001, where Jason going to space would be expected to be gimmicky enough to grab that niche audience and yet did not deliver.

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If there is a final triumph for the franchise, it is the surprising success of a movie with a concept that doesn’t feel like it belongs in any real era, Freddy vs. Jason. This is the sort of thing that would only belong in the sensationalist 1980s when Freddy and Jason were most inescapable as icons (though only in a very short span of time between 1984 and 1988 – perhaps Freddy vs. Jason would have saved the day in 1988 from the slasher decline). And yet the film that pitted those two horror icons against each other became the single most successful entry in both the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises in their history. It didn’t reignite the franchise, but it’s maybe the last big hit of the film alongside the Michael Bay produced remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – both films released in late 2003.

If the slasher film has been able to slowly remain around without making a huge impression, it’s on the coattails of Texas Chainsaw Massacre ’03 showing with its over 100 million dollar win (dwarfing Freddy vs. Jason’s 82 million gain) that maybe remakes had quite the market – House of Wax, Black Christmas, Halloween, When a Stranger Calls, My Bloody Valentine, Sorority Row, Silent Night, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Mother’s Day were amongst the many remakes released throughout the decade. that tried to match up to Massacre’s unexpected win. In the meantime, several modern slashers bubbled up on the basis of being throwbacks like You’re Next, Hatchet, Cry_Wolf, and one more film that I’ll keep to myself. Included amongst that throwback pile are continuations of some once-big franchises in the form of Scream 4, Texas Chainsaw 3D, and Curse of Chucky (lo and behold Curse of Chucky is the only one of those three I can stand, though to be fair I have never thought highly of any of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s sequels and I think the remake is the only other film that is watchable).

None of these are enough for the slasher to regain its footing within the New Millennium to the point that the Friday the 13th franchise while go for another reboot after much delay due to Paramount’s recent re-acquiring of the franchise (as part of a deal that allowed WB to share Interstellar with them, the movie where Matthew McConaughey reckons with the fact that in a black hole he gets older and his performance in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation stays the same age). That the franchises are still around and going for it is very endearing to me and part of what makes me love them in spite of the datedness of their run.

And even then the extreme escalation of the slasher film seems to have given birth to the New French Extremity like Martyrs and Inside and High Tension and the torture porn genre to come in the 2000s so they have Saw and Hostel  to be proud o—know what? No. Nothing should ever be proud of Saw.

leslie-vernon-returns-465x263

If there’s one more movie I’d like to use as a last note for the franchise, it is in the form of a small-production in 2006 made by a couple of fans specifically to showcase both their self-awareness and love for the subgenre called Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It happily deconstructs everything we know about slashers with a great big smile saying “obviously this is how it works for the killers” and shows an interest in its serial killer character by giving him admirable charisma and making him the primary face we see, before gladly indulging itself in the most conventional slasher film it possibly can be and succeeding for the most part in being proud of the craft that goes into creating the slasher film we watch within its final third. In a proper world, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon would be a hit that made the careers of its makers and it would have brought back an interest in the best form (it is every bit as intelligent as Scream thought it was, plus some change) of the slasher, maybe making a case that we should work to make them GREAT again. But it wasn’t, it’s quite possibly the definition of an under-seen gem and if either of these titles should be pressed into your hands because of this post, it is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. Its inability to make an impact implies that the slasher film is done and gone for certain and just as well it remains a time capsule to a film history that is usually just buried anyway for being far the more “serious” and critically appealing works in cinema.

But if there’s anything Michael, Jason, and Freddy taught us by coming back to life over and over, it’s that nothing stays dead with the right amount of persuasion.

freddy_michael_jason_by_laart39-d58h66d

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

All this awful awful useless knowledge was learned and my teachers are numerous, despite never sitting in the same room as most of them. It’s not really classy to acknowledge Wikipedia as a helpful guide to how I wanted to map this out, but verily I will also credit it to leading me to the great book Games of Terror: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and the Films of the Stalker Cycle by Vera Dika. In the blogosphere, Kevin J. Olson’s fun Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies was an early guide as to the plethora of slasher films out there beyond the obvious and his Halloween review lead me to possibly the greatest tome I’ve laid my eyes upon towards the slasher genre, Adam Rockoff’s Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film 1978-1986 (btw Olson has not posted in years, so somebody get him back on that Frankenheimer retrospective). Likewise, El Santo’s 1000 Misspent Hours has an inexhaustible amount of reviews and most of them are in horror or slasher form so it introduced me to a lot more terrible movies to eat up before making this. Carol Clover’s Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film is a marvelous read if you’re like me and just want to add social commentary to everything around you. It delves much more into the thematics and psychological elements of the genre that I was only able to gloss over. These movies run deep. Most importantly, I’d like to bring out Tim Brayton’s Antagony & Ecstasy site as being a large part of what makes me excited to explore slasher films via his annual “Summer of Blood” series (this post in large part an attempt to outdo his own brief “History of Slasher” post that opened up the first Summer of Blood). It’s probably part of what made me realize I do have a great love for the subgenre. That other part and the most important element to me in these acknowledgements are my numerous film buff friends (especially the first generation SCS go-to crew) whom I would have late-night post-theater chats about our favorite slasher films (that would almost always flush into just talking about Friday the 13th movies some more, but sure was fun nevertheless). There’s too many of you to name so I will just pick out the main two who never shut up with me about the genre: William Butler (check out his artwork) and movie and vinyl hog Abraham Brezo. This one goes out to you two.

One more thing is that since this is such a labor of love, I think I’d like to remind any readers interested in supporting this blog to the patreon site I recently started for Motorbreath and give it a good boost to help out with the creation of other big-ass rambling posts like this while having a shot at also making videos (like I was thinking about making this one) so that you could see my face and dismiss my opinion based on that.

Thank you all for reading if you got this far down (and pass it on to any folks who gave up halfway if you see them). Once again, please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts on the genre or if you think there’s something to be corrected in this subjective history.

Happy Halloween!

4

31 NIGHTS OF HALLOWEEN – 30 and 31 – They’re Coming to Get You! – Night of the Living Dead (1968/dir. George Romero/USA) and Halloween (1978/dir. John Carpenter/USA)

Horror, which over the years of history has turned from a legitimate source of entertainment into a cheap thrill in the public eye, is a genre I love. In terms of film, I love it for two distinct reasons separating any experience I get from a horror movie – If it’s not a good movie, I get honestly a great sense of cynicism tearing it apart from how it does not work, looking inside and figuring out how it represents the horror culture in the end to what always looks like its final grave. But then, when you find a real diamond in the rough, a real gem, something legitimately scary. Then you’re going to get somewhere with finding out how it makes your hair stand, your skin crawl, then you’re going to watch reactions after finding out and discover to your joy… the trick still works.

For the next 31 days, I will be giving a day by day review of select horror films in all of the spectrum, from slasher to “Gates of Hell”, from Poe to Barker, from Whale to West, from 1919 to 2014…

This is the 31 Nights of Halloween.

If we are going to be fair about this, we will have to recognize that at least a handful of horror films have been made that are way better than Night of the Living Dead. Hell, maybe even more than that – I don’t know fucking everything.

But the one thing one can’t deny is how Night of the Living Dead served as a gamechanger for horror cinema from the moment it was released into the USA. It is pretty much founded in the being the center of subtle horror that encompasses a space on-screen and leaves audiences dreading the brutal violence to come, and the affront of the violence when it is finally presented to us at random points of the film where the audience isn’t ready.

Night of the Living Dead is the single most essential horror film in cinema history and I will fucking fight anybody who tries to make a claim otherwise. No, seriously, you got some other shit to say, how dare you disagree with me, bro? Try saying it without any teeth.

However, when it comes to films that perhaps prove to have stood the test of time better than Night of the Living Dead itself, one has to notice how the majority of modern horror films coming out today are either slasher films or heavily informed by slasher films. A fable-esque obsession with making a simple tale of bad things happening to people who don’t deserve it or don’t want it to happen, escalating more and more into the worst. That basically sums up the type of story Halloween provided for audiences to be disturbed and affected by (even if Halloween did not invent that story, much as little of Halloween is in fact original itself.)

I don’t think I personally am eloquent or intelligent enough to say all that there is to say about Halloween and Night of the Living Dead (and in the end, hasn’t pretty much everything been said about them?) but my major focus is to showcase how these two films are, in the end, the most groundbreaking hallmark horror films of cinema yet.

And what makes it all the sweeter, they were both heavily independent projects.

For instance, the story of Halloween‘s inception comes from the fact that Moustapha Akkad, the executive producer for the film (and later the entire series until his death in 2005), was producing a film and extremely dismayed at the expenses of the film in consideration of the results. John Carpenter, then a little filmmaker who adored Howard Hawks and had a few features under his belt (namely the very Hawksian Assault on Precinct 13) told Akkad he could probably get a movie made for $300,000 (convincing Akkad be showing that AoP13 was made in fact for $100,000).

And so Carpenter went about making a film for as little as possible but the effect is still enormous. For all its inexpensiveness, Halloween does not very much show. Sure, it’s heavily minimalist, but it’s definitely not a real-life product looking like Black Dynamite and the like.

How Night of the Living Dead came about is a story that elicits surprise akin to the film, considering its legacy after the fact. Commercial filmmaker George Romero decided to finally take a shot at making a feature length film and really wanted it to be horror. That’s the only thing that drove him… the fact that the movie had to be a goshdarned horror flick.

After building up a budget around 100,000 dollars, and then messing around with various random drafts of different stories, Romero happened to read Richard Matheson’s vampire apocalypse novel I Am Legend and began involving a lot of elements in a story about the most horrifying thing he could think of monsters to do: eat people. This ghoulish idea of living corpses that only return for the nourishment of human flesh came out of the imaginative mind of Romero and so with all of that settled, he went about to make his feature film…

For the lowest price tag possible. That is, in black and white, with a singular setting of a house and a graveyard for the entirety of the film, some non-actors in the scene and from there, use the script and the cinematography to elicit an atmosphere of dread.

John Carpenter probably is inspired more or less by George Romero’s work, just a teensy bit less than Howard Hawks. Both Halloween and Night of the Living Dead have focused all of their events on a singular location of a house. Both are pretty much terrifying day-in-the-life accounts. There is very little graphic violence in either film (I’d warrant to in fact say none, but I might be missing something). Which doesn’t mean they are less assaultive. Indeed, the majority of the effect of both Night of the Living Dead and Halloween is the moments of tense unsafe disquiet before a sudden assault of movement occurs to make people in the audience need to change their pants. I’m not as quite sure that they work as well this day and age as they clearly did back when they were first released (Halloween doesn’t scare me at all, I just love the movie), but the effect in the end is still outright unnerving to a heavy degree.

What stuns me even more watching these movies well after the fact is how their elegance comes from their simplicity in terms of story. Night of the Living Dead practically borders on plotlessness without falling into that trap, by just subtly adding more and more obstacles for the characters to overcome, but the main premise is simple: Barbara (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Steiner), two siblings, are just visiting their father’s grave briefly to put a wreath their mother requested. Barbara is not comfortable with the area, Johnny is just reluctant to do the damn deed. A man approaches them both and attacks and kills Johnny, while Barbara rushes frenzied into a farmhouse where she is met with and saved by Ben (Duane Jones), who begins boarding up the doors and windows of the house. The two of them then discover in the cellar fellow inhabitants of the house – The Coopers (Karl Hardman, Merilyn Eastman, & Kyra Schon) and a teenage couple (Keith Wayne & Judith Riley). From there, we just witness a mix between a power struggle from the patriarch of the Coopers – Harry (Hardman) and Ben as to who knows what to do best, while bits of exposition as to the nature of the ghouls are provided by local news and radio, and a desperate struggle to survive the night and get what everybody needs.

It’s a very simple movie. But it’s also painstakingly serious about itself, from music giving a bombastic air to Duane Jones’ absolutely straight man performance, largely giving no room for humor, save for the opening with Johnny’s statements. Characters dismiss each other, get into shouting matches, all in near total darkness. These facets lend themselves to a very nihilistic atmosphere surrounding the movie – that there’s no hope (even despite the glimmers on the tv screen) and that all will be trapped and it’s going to be a long night, no matter what resourceful efforts are made.

Halloween in fact has a little bit more meat to itself – like the importance of character and cinematography (not to say Night of the Living Dead‘s cinematography is not brilliant – Romero provides brilliant soft lighting to the moments of blackness in the film, adding to the tease of hopelessness with the shadows and shines). It can be divided simply into a few small fractions of story events:
-Michael Myers kills his sister and is entered into a mental hospital.
-15 years later, he escapes and is pursued by one of the doctors, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance)
-He stalks a woman in his hometown of Haddonfield, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and begins obsessing over her friends.
-Hijinks ensue.

But the movie is padded up with itself by some gloriously settling daylight photography of a dreamlike nature by Dean Cundley, also setting the stage for very cool comic-book esque nighttime scenarios, and the actors who lend the film a higher presentation of its simplicity. Pleasance practically chews up scenery (and to be honest, I don’t know him not to be a scenery chewing actor considering all I’ve seen him in), but ethics of mental health attitudes aside, he sells the belief that Myers is a complete personification of evil that must be stopped. Curtis provides a very innocent and unassuming presence as the victim of Myers’ gaze, and Nick Castle as Michael Myers… Well, you wouldn’t think there’s much one can do in a silent stalker role, but Castle does it all to freak me out. From tilting his head after a kill, to standing inhumanly still before a big kill, eventually you just get the feeling that he’s always there.

Ideally, we are moving on with the technical advancements in storytelling and moviemaking and movies are coming out sometimes better than and sometimes scarier than either of these two films. But, one of my early encounters with each film was back in 2010 when I was really excited to see them in a theater as part of a double feature with my friends (we came late though). And by the popularity, reaction, and legacy that the films have each left behind in their own regard, it is clear… Halloween and Night of the Living Dead are perhaps the most timeless entry into the horror cinema canon and certain to live on and keep their effect of immersing the world for two hours each into a little brilliant story.

For fuck’s sake, goddammit, next year, I’m just doing 13 horror articles for October. This shit was fucking exhausting.

FLASHBACK/EDIT EXTENSION: Halloween Costumes Considered…

Well, it’s now that Horror-movie marathon month of October. The unfortunate thing is that, as of this year, I am much too involved in my internal mental and emotional conflicts with several events the month before to invest myself into a continuous stream of movies from the genre I take the most enjoyment of watching in my entire life. Sad but true.

So, it’s about 1 am here in Phoenix and, to quote Bob Seger, I’m thinking “about the woman, oh the girl [I] knew the night before.” The fact of the matter is that what’s making me think about her at this hour is knowing her birthday is essentially Halloween and she stressed that I attempt to come out of my Halloween hiatus and actively pursue a Halloween costume rather than my standard “badass motherfucker” (aka me in casual clothing) this year.

Ironically, I quit on the occasion that I, inspired by a cracked article, went about as The Dread Pirate Roberts at one point from Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, taking the advice that it’d get me laid. While I at this point believe it’s going a bit too close for comfort with you unknown readers if I just say the result, I will say a side-effect is that I largely got mistaken for Zorro instead (Probably because I am Arab and as such very clearly not Cary Elwes). Add that to the childhood shock I got everytime I saw a costume of the two most-frightening elements of my early nightmares: The Cryptkeeper and Freddy Krueger, and I just gave up on it.

God damn you, Batman!

Now, a girl has made me change my mind… Yeah, go ahead and make that whipping gesture. Brand me too, because the circumstances are more pathetic. The fact is that deep inside, I’ve always wanted to go back to taking part in such a fun venture but the way my family/culture raised me, my preference to keep my own persona intact at all times, the above incidents, the lack of money or resources, all pointed me to just avoiding it. But I’ve already thought it through and decided “Yes, this will be fun.”

So, as I watch G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box, a movie with a very amazing costume-juggling and hairstyle character performed perfectly by Louise Brooks (a suggestion to all you ladies out there who like to knock-out the old-fashioned), I come to my list of costumes that I think would make a splendid suggestion to myself or my film-viewing peers…

  • Max Fischer (Rushmore) – The easy one. Just make a uniform and patch for the character and go about in it. It’s not an outrageous character, but the costume is distinctive still in that way Wes Anderson makes his characters distinctive. I’d do Steve Zissou’s team as well, since they have a costume worth trying but nobody would recognize that one at all.
  • Eric Draven (The Crow) – Besides being the not as epic version of black metal band Immortal’s frontman Abbath, Eric Draven is pretty much the one superhero I’d like to go as, and a gothic one at that too. His wrapping in black leather and face paint in order to evoke his soul’s pain with black slashes across him and outright evoke the titular animal that revived his life to avenge his and his fiance’s murder insists a mood to be reached before attempting to become such a character. He’s melancholy in all the attractive ways and still a lover deep inside. It adds a bit of spook to the costume when pointing out the fact that this was the role that killed Brandon Lee (son of martial arts legend Bruce) before he could utilize his showcased talents in this film to kickstart his acting career.
  • Mr. Orange (Reservoir Dogs) – If I had the money to ruin a nice black suit, I’d so do this. I’d put fake blood on me, go to a Halloween party (even though I’m not a party guy) and just lie on the floor instead of sitting in a chair in pain. Freak people out? Most definitely. But I’d be having fun and that’s the main point, right? As long as I don’t scream “FUCK YOU, MAN! I’M FUCKING DYING HERE!!!!”, I’m in the cool.
Worst C-section ever… (Okay, that joke is in bad taste)
  • Frankenstein/Dracula/The Wolf Man/The Mummy/The Invisible Man/The Creature from the Black Lagoon/The Phantom of the Opera (Universal Studios Monsters) – Ranging from the impossible to the minimalist, these movie monsters were real cinematic attractions to my young eyes and I love to tribute them in any way possible. The only tough thing (other than making the costumes) is figuring which one to choose. Dracula, with the luxurious aristocratic look of his count status, has always been my favorite, but I have been recently taking a liking to Lawrence Talbot aka The Wolf Man, the fuzzy evil teddy bear look getting ready to tear you to shreds. Though I have yet to see it (a fact I intend to change soon), The Invisible Man’s iconic sunglasses with head wrapped in gauze to allow his presence known and have some kind of a dialogue with the characters is easy to try (unless there’s more to the costume I unaware of yet). Ugh, even the Creature from the Black Lagoon is crazy awesome. Of course, I’d have to bring a date as The Bride of Frankenstein.
  • Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (The Big Lebowski) – Oh, do shut up, you guys saw this coming. It’s one of only two fictional characters I ever aspired to be like. The Dude is less likely for me given my infamously violent and and angry persona, but he’s just so enlightened and funny and cool as a person from everything to his beard, his appetite for White Russians to his robe and his laziness. Everything’s alright when the dude’s around. That’s why the Dude’s a boss. Who doesn’t want to be the Dude? Go away.
The-dude
Also I get my own dance with it.
I call this move Logjammin’, asshole!
  • The Cowardly Lion (The Wizard of Oz) – I don’t know, I just love the big fuzzballs. Chewbacca, The Grinch (Jim Carrey’s version, though Boris Karloff’s voice is easily classic), they all just get to me no matter how mean they act. The best part about The Cowardly Lion is you know up front what’s up with him, it’s just an act. He’s just looking for some bravery. While others line me up for the Tin Man, I must say The Cowardly Lion is my favorite character in one of my favorite movies. And that little bow on his head after the people of Oz are done grooming him is so adorable… Did I lose my mean motherfucker status yet?
Just the dandiest king of the forest!!!
  • A Ghostbuster (Ghostbusters) – Doesn’t matter which character. I’d be myself but I’d be running around with a proton charger assuring everyone they’re safe because I’m a professional. A goddamned Ghostbuster. Fuck superheroes, they’re too perfect and alienated from society (unless you count Spider-Man but his relation to real society is through his problems not his personality. He invents web-shooters, dammit!). A Ghostbuster is the movie’s central working man focus. People have firefighters, they have doctors, they have police officers and then they’d need to have a neighborhood Ghostbuster. Who’s afraid of ghosts?
  • Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange) – I believe I would be biased. As a drummer, my two biggest influences are the late groove-master John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and right below him the infamous genre-versatile Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater/Liquid Tension Experiment fame (now involved in the great bands Adrenaline Mob and Flying Colors). Portnoy takes great pleasure in his work, especially tributing his idols like Ringo Starr (The Beatles), Keith Moon (The Who), the afore-mentioned Bonzo, and, possibly his outright God, Neil Peart (Rush). I am proud to say I have a DVD of one of his tribute performances – Hammer of the Gods, the one for my favorite band, Led Zeppelin. In it, Portnoy dresses as one of the Stanley Kubrick film’s sadistic Droogs and I don’t why he did it, but I liked the style and I immediately wanted to do that outfit despite the Droogs being horrific in their deeds for the most part. Yeah, okay, hate me… It’s a movie costume for a non-movie related reason. I’m a sucker for Mike Portnoy and Led Zeppelin, when the two are mixed together, I am their Droog now and forever.

  • Doc Emmett Brown (Back to the Future) – Well, I had to imitate him for a school project favor I was doing for some classmates. Which is great because while everybody wanted to be Marty McFly, I wanted to be Doc Brown. He’s wacky and off his cranium that he was just fun to want to be. He made science more than fun than almost anybody… ALMOST anybody, you’re still in the STinG’s childhood hall of fame, Billy Nye. So I wouldn’t make it a secret that any chance to be Doc Brown for Halloween would elate me significantly. In fact…
I’m already halfway there.
  • Jake and Elwood Blues (The Blues Brothers) – Icons that were really really cool to watch and even more cool to dress as. Unlike the Mr. Orange one, I wouldn’t have to ruin the suit, but I will have to get a stylish hat and another friend who can evoke John Belushi’s most lovable, commanding, seductive convict. They’re soul men. They’re on a mission from God. And they’re a good role model for the children. In the immortal words of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, The Blues Brothers is for the chillun’.

  • Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) – I had flirted around with this possibility with another metalhead I knew but we eventually avoided it as it’d have been a bitch and a half to find the dated outfits required and we also were stuck in argument as to who gets to be Ted (I guess we all love Neo, don’t we?). So that never came about, but I never lose hope. Also, the bigger incentive to me is just having those clothes, because I not be wearing them solely on Halloween. That’s a style you don’t see anymore and it ended before my time so I’d really love to get my own shot at it. Despite the strange looks. Hey, be excellent to one another!
So narrowing down my choices to those, which out of these costumes did I select? Well, in truth… none of them… Suckas…
  • BONUS: Jesse Custer (Preacher comic series) – Essentially, I decided THIS is the one I’m going as. With the Dude being the film character I wish to be like, Jesse Custer is the only OTHER fictional character I’d love to be. An ass-kicker who doesn’t take any shit, always wins a fight and yet is still deep inside a romantic who would do anything for his girl whom he loves “until the end of the world”, Jesse Custer is the ultimate man. He’s had more shit thrown at him than Job and yet doesn’t not lose who he is and is nowhere near a pathetic character. He just keeps on his spiritual and physical journey pretty much, through all the horrors, the worst of American culture and human society. He knows he’ll get an answer for them soon enough. Utilizing an eyepatch for when God bites his eye out halfway through the series, while grabbing a reverend collar and other casual effects and growing my hair back to its semi-curly glory, I won’t get any recognition for my character, but walking around as my favorite comic book hero is satisfaction enough. And it may be cheating because he’s not a movie character (yet), but it’s well-known I’ve always intended to make this series into a mini-series. That is if Warner Bros. doesn’t utilize their owning of the DC properties to make it first, since the film rights pretty much exist in Time Warner’s hands. Regardless, I won’t go as a badass motherfucker, so I compromise as THE badass motherfucker. Not much of a change?
EDIT: Now that was in the past for my costume…

Like a boss…. I think…

But this year, my costume is actually one of the few pop figures who I looked up to. A man who kept his battles to himself, but never found an apathy when dealing with his losing fight. A man who is considered the greatest singer of all time (and I’d agree that he is one of the best singers ever). A man who was shy and impersonal off stage and yet on stage a big ball of energy who never let the fun drop. An Eastern kid like me who had grown up in the West as a man of both cultures and all seasons.

I am of course talking about… Farrokh Bulsara aka Freddie Mercury.

Daayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-O!

At first decided as a costume simply for the promo of my radio show A Night at the Opera (combo-breaking my co-hosts as the Marx Brothers), I decided I may as well go along with this as well. So I did.

Be safe, y’all! And keep the reel rollin’!