So AMC's been playing their Halloween Scares movies pretty much all day lately. Saw a flick called Sabretooth the other day ... well, sort of. I was cleaning the apartment and it was on. To the best of my knowledge it was about a sabre toothed tiger who travels forward in time for some reason. Its best friend was a talking pie. The pie was its heart. Anyhoo, this is what I took away from it. That, and it ate the pudgy guy from Indiana Jones. Rhys somebody. He was also the dwarf in Lord of the Rungs (that's a typo, of course, but I'm leaving it there ... in fact, it's inspired me to write a trilogy about a group of ladder salesmen who travel back in time for some reason ...)
Also, I watched Halloween III: Season of the Witch. The Halloween movies never really freaked me out (although John Carpenter has done some very scary movies: The Thing and Prince of Darkness legitimately freaked me out, and Starman, Escape from New York, They Live and Big Trouble in Little China are just effing awesome flicks. They Live gave us the classic line, delivered with great panache by Rowdy Roddy Piper: I came to kick ass and chew bubble gum ... and I'm aaaaaaaall out of bubble gum! I have used this line myself, usually just before absorbing a hellacious ass-kicking. Also, that line from BTILC, delivered by David Lo Pan: This really pisses me off to no end!)
... anyway, where was I? Oh, yes: Halloween 3. As any horrorphile knows that series is all about Michael Myers, the congenial Brampton-born comedian who goes a little soft in the attic on Halloween, dons a cheese-white mask and lisps his signature catchphrases such as "Yeah, baby!" and "Schwing!" as he hacks apart nubile teens with a big cleaver ... no, no, it's actually crazyperson Michael Myers who Ernst Stavro Blofeld is forced to track down and eliminate in the first movie and its endless sequels.
Anyhoo, that all changes in Halloween 3. Michael is nowhere to be seen. It's not a slasher film at all. I actually tried to explain it to my girlfriend, who I'd watched the first two Halloween's with lately. My summation was something like:
"Well, there's this weird Halloween mask company that's, I don't know ... there are these weird masks that have got little bits of Stonehenge sprinkled on them and ... uh, and when someone puts the mask on and watches this TV commercial the mask sort of melts onto their face, or rots or something, and then their head transforms into crickets and snakes and ... and there are these robot-men, I think, controlled by the evil mask-maker. One of them pulls a homeless man's head off while he's eating a spray-cheese sandwich ... not the robot-man, it's the homeless man who's eating the sandwich. And then it sort of ends."
Which is the most viable explanation I can offer. It really doesn't fit with the whole Halloween series at all. It would be as if, when George Lucas decided to make Return of the Jedi, he'd set it in present day and it detailed the travails of a Sandwich Artist at Subway who maybe had sort of a thing for his sister. I mean, I wasn't a fan of the Halloween series anyway, but if I was I'd consider it something of a kick in the teeth.
So I thought I'd list my Top-5 Movies that freaked me out. Fact: I am easily scared. So these are the movies that, for whatever reason, scared the piss out of me at one point in time or another.
5. THE EXORCIST. This just makes me one the 500 million or so people who were scared out of their wits by this flick. It hardly even needs to be said WHY it freaked me out, but suffice it to say some people are freaked out by stalkers/slashers/serial killer-type flicks like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Silence of the Lambs etc. Not me. Crazy people with knives don't freak me out ... I mean, in real life, sure. If I saw Michael Myers coming at me I'd be pretty creeped out. But they're always such PLODDERS. Y'know? They're just kind of plodding after you in their big heavy boots with the wonky gaits, a bit like Frankenstein. I always thought a great movie would be, like, Halloween 12: The NY City Marathon. You see, then Michael would never catch anyone ... well, maybe a straggler or two, the people who didn't train and who were all, like, "Hey, it'd be sort of fun to run a marathon just to say I did it. I don't care if it takes 8 hours to finish." Those buttery day-tripping idlers would get hacked to bits.
But the REAL marathoners would just keep up a steady pace, never gassing, just jogging along going: "Oh, there's that weird butcher back there with a knife," but they've got such good cardio that they just keep bopping along, drinking power gel or whatever. Michael might be able to hack up a few inattentive bystanders or the people who hand out Gatorade or whatever, but eventually I'm sure he'd go: Ah, fuck this shit. I'm going to get a pizza.
Aaaanyway, demons scare me. Devils and suchlike. So that's why The Exorcist freaks me out. Also, The Exorcist 3 is freaky, for two scenes: the old woman crawling on the ceiling and the scene in the hospital where the nurse gets her head chopped off with garden shears. You know what I'm talking about! Oh, no? Okay then:
2. HELLRAISER 2. Clive Barker is a tremendous writer. Really, he's a tremendous artist in all senses of the word. Whatever he turns himself to he seems to do well at. Art, films, plays, whatever. He's in my Top 5 in terms of writers. Now Hellraiser (based on his novella The Hellbound Heart) was not really THAT freaky to me. I mean the idea of the cenobites, their weird physical distortions (everyone always remembers Pinhead but the other three cenobites, listed at IMDB as "Chattering Cenobite" [naked teeth/no lips], "Butterball Cenobite" [its future was so bright it had to wear shades] and "Lady Cenobite" were just as creepy-brilliant.) Nobody envisions horror the way Clive Barker does, except maybe HR Giger of Alien fame. It's that awful fusion between the mechanical and the flesh.
Anyway, Hellraiser 2 was probably the worse movie of the two but it was more gruesome and it freaked me out much more. There was what can only be called a "Pain Chamber" that opened up and sucked in the evil surgeon ... anyone who has seen it remembers this. Again, it was the fusion between organic and metal ... the box seemed to weep somehow, or extrude some kind of slime, and then there were the buzzing saws and needles and it was all so cramped and brutal and it looked somehow moist and warm and mothering at the same time ... SHEESH! Hideous. Then the surgeon comes back later and a giant tentacle rises out of the hell-mist and opens like the petals of some gruesome flower and inside are chittering saws and it comes down on his head and ... well, pretty rough stuff. Freaked the hell out of me in the clean sane light of day.
3. THE LAST STARFIGHTER. I know, I'm pathetic. I was young! Well, why make excuses for my vivid imagination? The movie itself wasn't so freaky but there was this interstellar hitman, I guess, who tries to capture and kill the Last Starfighter. It had the head of a shark or something, I recall, and it fell off the roof of a convenience store onto the Last Starfighter as he was playing a videogame.
Now I saw this at a birthday party. Those were pretty popular back when I was 10, 11, 12---and consequently, they led to the scariest movie I've ever seen. I'd get invited to these parties and the kid would open his presents, then we'd go to a matinee, get our loot bags and go home. Nowadays every parent would be told what the movie was and there would be some hemming and hawing, I'm sure, but back then it was a lot looser (it's also how, at 11, I ended up watching Bachelor Party at my friend Reuben's sleepover, thus introducing me to boobs, asses, and the fact that a male stripper called Nick the Dick might put his penis in a hotdog bun to titillate the ladies ... to this day I'm unsure if that REALLY is a method of titillating the ladies. A large part of me thinks it's a way to get oneself embroiled in a protracted sexual harassment lawsuit).
So I go to the Last Starfighter and get a quick glimpse of this hitman thing and whisper to my friend: I'm closing my eyes. Tell me when it's over. And of course my shithead friend says: It's over precisely when it's not over, so I end up seeing it in all its sharky be-tentacled glory.
What an asshole that kid was. Not that I wouldn't have done it myself.
2. DESTROYER. I could also put THE RING here, but I'll go with the little-known (for good reason) prison slasher flick starring Anthony Perkins and former NFLer Lyle Alzado. It takes place at this deserted prison where Perkins is filming a "Women in Prison" jiggle-fest movie ... what he doesn't know is that Alzado's character, a psycho mass-murderer who was so tough the electric chair couldn't fry his ass, is still lurking about. I remember Lyle jack-hammering someone to death, and then he showed up at the end after everyone thought he was dead---the classic horror standby---and he was all covered in electricity burns and mutilated. Anyway, my brother and I watched this when we were kids, back when you could rent R-rated movies from unscrupulous convenience store owners everywhere (they'd squint at you and say: "Are you eighteen?" You'd tuck your shirt in an say: "Yes, sir. Yes I am." They'd go: "Good enough. You want some smokes to go with that?"). It scared the piss out of us. Literally, I seem to recall.
1. GHOSTBUSTERS. I know, I know. It's a comedy. I was 10! No, 9. Still, I guess that's no excuse. It was another one of these fucking birthday party/movies. Damn me for being so dang popular, earning all those invites! I mean, those dogs busting out of their stone butresses ... that woman in the library ... Slimer ... Gozer ... the Keymaster ... ZOOL! It was not good. I just about collapsed into a quivering puddle of fear right there in the theater. What a horrible experience. It plagued me for years ... sincerely! I don't know. I'm over it now.
All best, Craig.