Horror 365 Movie 330: Halloween

330 posts in, 35 to go. Not a particularly auspicious milestone, but it does fall on Halloween. And I did go to see the original Halloween at Naro Cinema last night for their last Fright Night for this year. And after all, like Psycho, who’s gonna pass up a chance to see one of Carpenter’s masterworks on a big screen?

But this isn’t a review so much as a commentary. I’ve seen Halloween loads of times since that day in 1978 when I had to buy a different ticket and sneak in cuz I wasn’t old enough for R rated movies.

There’s a lot to love. It’s a nicely paced 91 minutes with steadily building tension and some decent scares with surprisingly little blood. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without its problems. Can’t help it. Seeing anything as much as I’ve seen Halloween is gonna reveal a few shortcomings.

Let’s start with a series of small things. How come the two kids what are gettin’ babysat don’t go trick-or-treating? I guess they may have earlier, but it’s not clear. Relatedly, why do Laurie and the kids make a jack-o-lantern after all the trick-or-treat stuff is over? Why doesn’t Loomis report the state vehicle stolen? Why doesn’t he look around the abandoned repair truck when he finds Michael’s hospital gown? Why is Annie placed in front of Judith Myers’s headstone?

Also, Michael is one strong dude, and not just “wow, you must work out” strong. He strangles Annie from a position that’s gonna give him no leverage whatsoever. He stiff-arms Bob to a door, and Bob flails at his hand like it’s carved outta granite. Then Michael lifts him by the throat with one hand. How did he get this strong? I’m guessing the fitness equipment at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium is thin on the ground. Plus wasn’t Michael unresponsive for 15 years?

Something else that always puzzled me was how Annie and Laurie drive to their babysitting gig with absolutely no idea they’re being followed. And I don’t just mean being tailed. No, Michael is literally driving right behind them. Okay, they were smoking a joint, but come on. Speaking of which, the way Laurie holds a joint is freakin’ hilarious. And how is it even remotely possible that Annie’s dad doesn’t smell anything when Laurie rolls down the window?

And the car thing, even more than Michael’s sanitarium escape, brings up perhaps the biggest, most plot-breaking problem—how the fuck Michael Myers learned to drive? I know some of the more conspiratorially minded of you out there will be quick to bring up The Cult Of Thorn from Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers. The story goes that Dr. Wynn, the head of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, was part of this cult and responsible for Michael’s “creation” and escape.

On the surface, that all might seem plausible. Ultimately it doesn’t hold up. On one hand, according to Loomis, he’s basically catatonic. On the other hand, were he teachable, he’d more than likely kill anyone in the passenger seat. I dunno. So unless the cult sacrificed a number of instructors to achieve this…

Lemme be clear, these things are, at least to me, minor inconsistencies and not movie-ruining structural defects. If I do have one major charge to levy against this bright star in the slasher movie sky, it would be that if we didn’t have Halloween, we never woulda been subjected to Scream. Oh well. It’s a small price to pay.


SKULLS- 13
BODIES- 6 onscreen
Streaming- AMC, AMC+, Fubo, Hoopla, Indie Flix, Philo, Prime, Roku Channel, Shudder, Sling
Rent- Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, YouTube

Horror 365 Movie 329: Scream

I’m sure that, as a person, Wes Craven is a lovely human being. I’ve never heard him tooting his own horn about any of his movies, and I’ll even admit that I’m a big fan of some of his lesser known titles. But there are 3 in particular that I just can’t deal with, first because I don’t think they’re that great, and second because I’ve grown pretty damn sick of hearing about how great they are.

So what are The Big 3? Last House On The Left, A Nightmare On Elm Street, and Scream. Now, lemme make short work of the first two because it’s Scream, admittedly through no fault of its own, that’s managed to get on my absolute last nerve today. Admittedly, I sometimes wonder if, I dunno, maybe it’s me. I am the common denominator in the following equation. But surely I can’t be that wrong about all of these. Right?

I’ve stated elsewhere that Last House On The Left is just not a great movie. It has a frequently ill-fitting score and comes off as graphic and gross just for the sake of being graphic and gross. I’ve never understood how Roger Ebert was able to praise this movie only to later turn around and condemn the equally bleak and depressing I Spit On Your Grave.

A Nightmare On Elm Street, I’ve also mentioned before, is just off-putting and dumb. The wise-cracking Freddy comes off as cutesy and annoying, and it should be far more troubling than it is to remember that he was killed for murdering children. This is disappointingly overshadowed by his banter and trademark one-liners.

And that leaves Scream. Really the main reason Scream is even on my radar today is because of a Vox article by Aja Romano sent me by a lovely and talented friend/fellow blogger over at fifty-two whose intentions were, I’m sure, benevolent not malevolent and not meant to take an opener to such a sizeable can o’ worms.

The piece itself, starting with its very title (linked in case anyone is curious), Scream Broke All The Rules Of Horror—Then Rewrote Them Forever, raises a number of things I gotta take issue with. Now, I will concede that ” it’s important to recognize the role Scream played in the genre’s evolution,” but that hardly makes it the horror genre’s be-all and end-all.

Hang on. Y’know what? Now that I think about it, maybe it really isn’t all that important to recognize this since it’s been yammered about for 25 fucking years.

And that’s the first problem. For most of us, “This ain’t,” to quote Penn Jillette, “our first goat-fuck.” We’ve heard all this before, so expounding yet again on the supposed importance and influence of Scream is, frankly, some seriously low-hangin’ fruit. But that’s not the most egregious flaw. Let’s talk about the term “meta.”

Scream is constantly touted for its self-referential metanarrative (a word I cringe to type). Well, “meta” is A) not new by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “That’s soo meta” swung about like a pretentious cudgel with which to bludgeon the hapless schmoe who has the misfortune of talking to some hipster cinephile or testosterone-addled filmbro. The only thing worse is the insufferable overuse of the word “trope.”

And 2) Scream’s use of metanarrative (*eyeroll*) was nowhere close to being the first, never mind the best. Don’t believe me? Here’s a wee list.

  • In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)- Lovecraftian metafiction a year before Scream
  • Popcorn (1991)- Slasher movie that hinges in part on the constructedness of movies
  • Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)- Frequently breaks the 4th wall with pop culture references
  • Monster Squad (1986)- Dracula is real and assembles other classic monsters who are in reality also real in a bid for world domination
  • Fade To Black (1980)- If we’re gonna talk about movies that refer back to other movies, this is a fine place to start. Movie nerd Eric Binford starts killing people while made up as his favorite classic film characters
  • Psycho (1960)- If you watch Hitchcock’s promo spots for the movie, you can’t get any more self-referential than that, plus there’s Norman’s 4th wall break at the very end

Then there’s the relationship, tenuous at best, that Romano suggests Scream has with Get Out:

Get Out followed Scream’s example in that it, too, explicitly used its audiences’ understanding of the genre to further its narrative goals. Where Scream’s aim was to use the horror genre against itself, Get Out used horror to illustrate and explain aspects of modern racism.

Uh, I’m not seeing it, Peele’s claim of Scream’s influence notwithstanding. I fail to see how Scream is somehow instrumental in let alone partly responsible for Get Out’s commentary on race. Chronology doesn’t imply cause and effect. Just because Thing A precedes Thing B in time doesn’t mean Thing A caused of influenced Thing B. That’s just a standard post hoc fallacy.

But what stands out as the article’s weakest claim is that “After Scream, movies were free to examine the role horror plays in the real, post-9/11 world.” Huh? What does that even mean? And how does an overrated 1996 movie become a lens through which to view horror in a real post 2001 world? And how “real world” is this if it’s a slasher movie couched in the language, plot devices, and mythos of other slasher movies? This makes zero sense.

My point is, Scream didn’t do much of anything first, better, differently, or really even all that cleverly. Nor did it do much to further, as Romano posits, “the audience’s genre awareness.” As features like Fade To Black and Monster Squad would suggest, this awareness dates back to at least the 80s.

So, without marginally entertaining Scream, would we have movies like Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil or Cabin In The Woods? Probably. I hate to hafta say it (okay really I don’t hate to say it all), but ulitmately Scream just isn’t that original.

 SKULLS- 4
 BODIES- 8
 Streaming/Rent- don’t care

Horror 365 Movie 328: Full Moon Friday, Baby Oopsie

Alrighty, the first Full Moon Friday request goes out to Film Miasma who thought Baby Oopsie looked particularly promising. Looking around on The Interwebzes, opinion seems divided as to whether this is another Demonic Toys sequel or more like a spin-off. Based on the view from up here in the cheap seats, it seems like a decent mix of both.

So, Baby Oopsie (who first shows up in 1992 in Demonic Toys as Baby Oopsy Daisy) starts off with Sybil Pittman, a vlogger who restores dolls. She shares a house with her drunk, gross, abusive aunt Mitzi and a border, Kristy.

Sybil regularly gets packages (from, she assumes, viewers)  full of doll parts, clothes, etc. One day she gets a doll head that looks like it’s been torched and hacked up (likely over the course of the Demonic Toys movies).

She begins the restoration but runs into a snag with its voice feature. As fate would have it (don’t it always?) she receives a mysterious gear with a pentagram on it which she of course puts into the doll. Like ya do.

The result is a perverse, foul-mouthed, baby-sized baby doll that is, frankly, terrifying (to be fair, probably not any more terrifying than an actual human crotch goblin/poop machine, but I digress).

Now, as we all know from Rule #5 of The 13 Rules Of Horror, Dolls Are Evil. Always. This one though…damn. It’s not CGI and not stop-motion. It just looks like some old, discarded doll you’d see in some abandoned house somewhere. And that is where some top-tier primo creepiness lies.

Makes me wonder though. What the hell is Charles Band’s deal with evil dolls and toys? Cuz there’s a shit-ton of Full Moon flicks about ’em. Anyway, Baby Oopsie comes to life, or I guess back to life, and goes on a killing spree, first offing everyone who causes Sybil any degree of misery, all of which is, on one hand, pretty standard, but on the other hand, really entertaining.

Be on the lookout as well for invective-laden one-liner references to Devil Doll, Talking Tina (Twilight Zone), The Exorcist, hell even The Wizard Of Oz. Sadly, that’s also one of the movie’s shortcomings. It’s tough to have a profanity-spewing doll and not evoke Chucky. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still funny, just not particularly groundbreaking.

Welp, spoilers, turns out all these packages have in fact been coming from Sybil’s fan/friend/neighbor Ray Ray. He’s been planning this all along so that, with Sybil’s unwitting help, he can create a Toy Hell on Earth. And really, why not?

#lifegoals

So in looking over what I’ve had to say thus far, it’s clear that I really like this movie. It’s super campy and, if you go in with the right mindset, entertaining as hell to watch. But don’t misunderstand me. In no way do I mean to imply this is good. It ain’t. In fact, it’s dumb as a box of rocks, but everybody knows this, including Charles Band and director William Butler. And that’s precisely why it’s So. Much. Fun.

Baby Oopsie also raises the interesting idea a twisted little cinematic universe. Think about it. If we start with Stuart Gordon’s Dolls (1987) and Puppet Master (1989), there’s already a continuity just between those too. And there’s plenty of Demonic Toys/Puppet Master crossover already. What that means is that Dolls, Puppet Master (Puppet Master Vs. Demonic Toys), Demonic Toys, and Dollman (since there’s a Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys) are already in the same universe.

So yeah, this has been goin’ on for a minute. But let’s go one better. Ooga Booga (Doll Graveyard and Ooga Booga), Gingerdead Man (Gingerdead Man) and Jack Attack (Demonic Toys) all show up in The Bong World from Evil Bong. That means ALL these movies are connected! And I’m willing to bet that, without much effort, there’s a way to connect Tourist Trap as well some time in the future.

Man, this is good. Charles Band needs to call me.

 SKULLS- 7
 BODIES- 5 onscreen including one by toaster oven meets bathtub
 Streaming- Full Moon, Pluto
 Rent- Prime

PS- I’ve got a few lined up, but anyone else who’d like to request a Full Moon title, please do in the Comments!