Friday, 17 October 2014

SPECIAL EVENT - Halloween (2011 viewing)

Looking at films and television...

In 2011 a group of friends and I started a tradition of celebrating Halloween by watching three films from the top Slasher film franchises, beginning with the first films from the Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street series.  All three of these films have since been tested against the Slasher Film Rules on my Film Rules blog.

Halloween (1978)

Michael Myers is a cold ruthless, silent killer with no real reason for killing, he just does.  The film makes no explanations or justifications and even outright says (via his psychiatrist Sam Loomis(Donald Pleasence)) that there is no reason and Myers is just pure evil.  And this meaninglessness, silence and unstoppability makes Myers more a force of nature than a mass murderer.  And somehow that's scari34.  Sure, there's an element of punishment for sexual transgression there (although not everyone who has sex dies) but most disaster films like to punish characters for wrong-doing as much as they like to kill randomly.  His disappearance at the end, although it is unexplained benefits from the mystery and adds to the force of nature feel and is the best "it's still out there" ending not feeling tacked on like many others.
The cliché that slasher films occur in isolated cabins in the woods is turned on its head here, as director and co-writer Carpenter has opted for the isolation of the suburbs rather than the easy route of actual cutting the victims off from the world has put them in the "safe" comfortable world that many people live in and highlighted the fact that even there there disconnection from others.  Laurie Strode (Jamie Leigh Curtis) knocks on doors looking for help and finds none.
Laurie herself is the most interesting, easily topping lists of the favourite/best final girl.  She is full of contradictions, in ways that feel real rather than bad writing.  Laurie is repressed and virginal, but it's something she struggles with, both wanting and fearing more from life.  She also has the best fear and strength transformation with her strength mostly coming at the moments of greatest fear coming from the necessity of that fear rather than the necessity of plot.  She also seems the most intelligent not only the "tell" of her books smarts in the beginning, but the "show" of her actions throughout the film.

Friday the 13th (1980)

The Friday the 13th franchise is probably the most generic of the three film series, especially in the early films.  The groups of teens in the woods killed off because of their sexual (and other) behaviours.  It's the model on which a hundred copies were made, both within this series and in many other films.  But as often happens with an oft copied original, it's better than most of the resulting copies.  The killer is a mystery until the end (yeah, the accompanying picture is a spoiler, but so's the first 10 minutes of Scream) and a nice twist (a reversal of Psycho) although some of the red herrings are handled badly.  And the big reveal makes sense of the "punishment" killings, something that most other films of the genre handily ignore.
The film still has flaws, however.  Much of the writing and acting are sub-par and Alice Hardy is a weak Final Girl, only making top ten list of final girls because of the iconic nature of the film rather than her strengths as a character.  Inconsistently portrayed by actress Adrienne King and in the writing the character never finds any real strength and the "it's still out there" ending is weakened by being all in her head.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Really different from the other three films.  The killer isn't a silence hidden thing, he's a wise-cracking in your face killer.  This is the first of the three to be supernatural (although Michael's unkillability and Jason's dream-return hint at it) with Freddy controlling his victim's dreams.
While all the killers have their fans, Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) actually has a personality to be a fan off and if you over think it being burnt alive by the locals and returning to seek revenge on his killers' teenage children makes him a better person than he was before: a random murderer of young children.
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) falls somewhere between Alice and Laurie.  She's certainly smart and shows strength, but comes off and little whiny and annoying at times (probably a more accurate teenager) and there are emotional confrontations between her and her mother that just fall flat, mostly because the acting just doesn't carry it off.
The forced "it's still out there" ending is not only nonsensical but undermines the rest of the film (Yeah, I know it was forced on the director, but we look at what is, not what should have been.)

Together... the three films make a good triple feature.  There are enough differences in styles and details to keep the audience interested.  They are also pretty solid quality-wise.  They're not art (although Halloween may get close) but are classics of the genre, but still with enough laughable moments that the so-bad-it's-good crowd can enjoy them too.
~ DUG.

Do the current poll for the next pair tested in the Competing Film Showdown.

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