Some Thoughts on Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street

I love horror movies.  That’s not to say that I’m some type of horror movie expert, nor do I collect movies or memorabilia to any impressive extent.  I just like watching them because even that bad ones are entertaining.  That really can’t be said for other genres.

Still, the fact that I had never seen Halloween is pretty sad.  Being that the big night is only a week away, I decided to give it a try.  There’s no need for a review here, so I’ll just say that I found it to be pretty scary.  Carpenter maintains tension throughout, thanks in large part to that catchy little theme that pops up with slight variation throughout the movie.  And who knew that John Carpenter wrote the music? I sure didn’t.  Aside from minor flaws that plague all slasher movies (e.g. doors suddenly opening for no reason, the killer having some magic ability to open a locked door, etc.) my only complaint is the complete lack of back story.  He’s evil.  I understand that.  But I would love to hear a bit more of a motive.  If all he wants to do is kill, why does he have to kill in his home town, or anytime any girl gets topless, and what’s his beef with his sister? It doesn’t add up.  On a side note, it looks like there will be another addition to the franchise next year.  In 3-D! Hooray!

The next night I decided to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street.  This one I’ve seen plenty of times before.  And I think there are a few interesting comparisons to be made.  Each franchise has followed a similar progression: The first was a classic followed by a plethora of terrible sequels and remakes spanning three decades.  But classic slasher movies tend to age differently from other genres since the scares have changed over the years.  They’ve become dependent on effects and gore that weren’t available to filmmakers even thirty years ago when these movies were put out.  Still, with only a six year difference these two movies obviously have very different goals.

Freddy is a weirdo.  He’s creepy, sure, but he’s also a bit of a rascal in a way that Michael Myers is not.  This provides some of the humor that really separates the two.  This movie also contains far more gory and gross scenes.  While Halloween stopped short of showing any real stabbing, Nightmare went ahead with plenty of slicing and green blood/maggots come out of bodies.  But the really interesting difference for me is the music.  It’s hard to take Freddy seriously with the cheesy ’80s soundtrack.  Drum machines and bad synth bombs are not the way to build tension.  They shouldn’t be used for much of anything, really.  In fact, I recently watched Smooth Talk, a movie based on a story written by Joyce Carol Oates that was inspired by a Dylan song.  Obviously the source material had potential.  And at the time, this movie received positive attention.  Now, however, any suspense has transformed into comedy.  I’m willing to overlook some of the fashion, but I can’t take anything seriously when accompanied by such terrible music. But, as I’ve already said, the aim here was different.  Nightmare was intended to bring a little humor.  Unfortunately, some of the scares have spoiled over time so that they are part of the comedy, while Halloween doesn’t have this problem, if only because of the musical score.

One final note on the movie deals with this screencap to the left.  Look at the poster on the left.  That’s a kitten.  It may be wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  It’s definitely riding a trolley in San Francisco.  Why this would be in any doctor’s office I don’t know, but I suppose this is the type of medical treatment you receive when your mother’s a raging alcoholic.  Apparently there’s only one other person on this whole entire Internet that thought it worth pointing out.

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About thelittleguysays

Seth lives in Albany
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