It’s finally October, which is my favorite month because it includes my favorite holiday of the year – Columbus Day. (What can I say? I’m a proud American who takes pride in geographical miscalculations and three day weekends.) October also includes my second favorite holiday, Halloween. I may not get Halloween off from work, but I get to wear lingerie and bunny ears to the office without it being casual Friday. Also, I can decorate my cubicle with pumpkin-assorted paraphernalia while trying to pass off my stale Valentine’s Day chocolates as recently purchased. (Those aren’t pink hearts… they’re disfigured, faceless Jack-O-Lanterns. Covered in blood.) Halloween crept up on me this year, mostly because the Rob Zombie remake of the classic 1978 Halloween was released in August. Whose genius marketing campaign was that? Is the same man responsible for Kelly Clarkson releasing an album called My December in June? Or for originally programming Friday Night Lights on a Tuesday?
October is the Scariest Time of the Year – it’s when I finally realize I’ve got only two more months to shed all that weight from my New Years resolution. It’s also the month where the most scary (as in “numerous” and “very scary”) movies air on cable, all ripe for the picking. And there’s nothing I enjoy more than being frightened by things that ultimately don’t hurt me. Give me a horror movie, an upside down rollercoaster, a late menstrual cycle – anything to get my heart racing a mile a minute!
I developed my love of fright from my mother, who loves nothing more than a good horror film (or a good bad horror film). Over the course of my childhood, my mom and I shared many bowls of popcorn watching the cinematic works of Stephen King: The Shining, Carrie, Misery, Cujo, Pet Sematary, IT. She wouldn’t let me go outside alone long enough to check the mailbox and I wasn’t allowed to use the toaster-oven until I was fifteen, but for some reason her overprotective nature did not feel it was necessary to shield me from zombie cats or rabid dogs. While I played upstairs with my toys, it wasn’t unusual for her to yell up to me, “Poltergeist! Channel 12!” and I would toss my Pound Puppies and My Little Ponies aside to watch little Carol Anne be literally sucked inside her television while I was figuratively sucked inside mine.
My mother even took me out of my second grade class early so we could go see a matinee show of Child’s Play 2. (Today: child abuse; Then: family outing!) I was still at the age where the Tooth Fairy didn’t seem so implausible to me, but I wasn’t afraid of Pennywise the Clown - or Kathy Bates! (This was before her nude hot tub scene in About Schmidt.) My childhood innocence of the world kept the monsters and murderers and ghosts in my television, and kept me safe and sound in my den where nothing truly terrifying could ever get me. By eighth grade I was making weekly trips to the video store for The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Friday the 13th and Seven, where the bored teenagers working there didn’t care that I was five years shy of the legal age to rent R-rated films. Watching endless amounts of horror movies growing up turned me into the true cinephile I am today, as opposed to a psychopath. It was a coin toss, really.
I recently saw The Exorcist at a movie screening that took place in a cemetery, which was almost as fitting as the time I saw Chicago while on vacation in Chicago. I realized a graveyard is the only setting to watch what I insist is the most satisfying horror film of all time. The movie not only succeeds in being genuinely disturbing and suspenseful, but it’s well-acted, well-written, and overall well-crafted. It was probably the most fun I’ll ever have surrounded by thousands of dead bodies (I hope – it’s never too late for the psycho gene to finally show itself). Horror movies nowadays rarely possess any of these qualities, and generally fall into one or all of these categories:
So Bad It’s Entertaining But Ultimately Still Bad: These are the movies that are badly written, horribly acted, and cheaply produced (in terms of quality, not budget), but still lack any of the energy or fun you’ll find in an Evil Dead movie or anything from Troma Films. Re: Snakes on a Plane, House of Wax, Resident Evil.
Torture Porn: These are for people who enjoy spending money and eighty minutes of their life watching pretty girls get tied up and gagged. Or disembowled. Or beheaded/delimbed/deflowered. In a giant maze of glass and barbed wire. I’d call these types of people who find torture entertaining sadists, but really they’re masochists, since they voluntarily subject themselves to movies that aren’t very good. Actually, I’ll call them “your average American moviegoer.” Me, I'm stickin' with good ole regular porn. Re: Saw 1-4, Captivity, Hostel.
BOO!: Things jump out unexpectedly at the screen and scare you. Although these movies may look good, the story and characters are flat and shock replaces suspense in just about every heavily-background-scored scene. Re: The Ring, The Ring 2, The Grudge, The Grudge 2, The Hills Have Eyes, The Hills Have Eyes 2.
Call me a cynic, a snob or a traditionalist, but I don’t have time to develop the acquired taste necessary for enjoying the unappetizing Saw franchise or the endless amount of The Grudgy Ring Has Eyes sequels. October only comes once a year, and if I plan to enjoy my thrills and chills the right way, the power of Christ compels me to stay out of the multiplex and stick with The Exorcist. My mom would be proud.