You may not know this, but when I first moved to LA I worked in an insurance company for 3 years. Sure it was a horrible soul sucking corporate job- but in some ways it wasn’t so bad- kind of a nice interlude between horrible soul sucking non-profit jobs. Anyhow, during my brief stint in the Private Sector- I learned a few important things:
- The phrase “that’s your holiday bonus right there” isn’t just used as a bitter sarcastic joke (e.g. “Hey, pass me a doughnut?” “Sure- that’s your holiday bonus right there” or “Who the hell just left an enormous turd in the toilet???” “Ha, that’s your holiday bonus right there”)- but actually refers to actual money. That they pay you. As a “Bonus”! ON THE HOLIDAYS!! CRAZY!!!
- They drink. I mean, sure, everybody drinks, but insurance people drink like it’s their job- which, for many of them, it is, since the only things you need to know in order to sell insurance are how to drink, how to golf and how to lie.
- Corporate types go koo-koo for Halloween. Now, a lot of people probably think that a theatre is a pretty great place to work on Halloween, but the truth is we kind of mostly ignore it. I’d like to say that it’s because our work is soooo creative already and that we are already all engaged in making art at such a high level that the cheesy costumes and props of Halloween are practically an insult to our sacred craft- but the truth is we’re in the middle of tech and who the fuck has the time and get out of my face with that shit. But, yeah, we deal with costumes and props all the time, so expecting theatre people to get all giggly about Halloween is like expecting insurance professionals to get all excited about National Health Insurance Day where kids go from door to door asking for a little more money each year and then tell you that you can’t see your doctor and your referrals are no good (aka Open Enrollment). Oh wait, who am I kidding? Insurance people would fucking love that. Weirdos, the whole bunch of them. But they also really like Halloween.
At my old company, each Department chose a theme and they would all dress accordingly and decorate their little corner of the cubicle farm. They would put so much effort into this that the company only allowed us to celebrate Halloween every two years to minimize the loss of productivity (I did mention the “soul sucking” part of this job- right?). On the off years, there was just one lonely new IT guy who showed up in blue hair and a “nobody told me- fuck those jerks” look on his face and a sad little pumpkin shaped bowl of Kit-Kats and candy corn outside Betty’s office in Loss Control (“let ‘em fire me if they don’t like it” said Betty, who’d been there for 30 years and drove her 97 Mustang like she feared retirement less than death.) When we did celebrate, though- it was such a big deal that the 80 year old founder of the company himself took time out of his busy schedule of golf, tennis and skin cancer removal to come officiate at the costume competition. He stood in the break room by the glass case with the labor laws posted and said wildly inappropriate things (“Where are all the cats? Used to be all the pretty girls would come dressed up as cats. How come you gals don’t dress up as cats anymore? Didja all get too old and fat?”) while the helmet-haired uber-blond HR director, whom Martha Stewart once referred to as “goysiha”, stood next to him , a smile frozen on her face like a rictus of death, wondering whether she could push the Halloween celebration to once every three years until the old Walking Sexual Harassment Lawsuit dropped fucking dead on the golf course.
Anyhow, my point is that Halloween is a really big deal to some people- hell, it’s the Atheists’ Christmas. The perfect opportunity for people that enjoy kitschy holiday decorations but aren’t sure how they feel about that Jesus guy to pump oodles of money into the Chinese economy (and worse yet, Wal-Mart) by buying tacky plastic holiday crap. Plus there’s none of that peace on earth, goodwill towards blah blah bullshit. On Halloween, the only peace that matters is Reese’s Pieces and Goodwill is a place that you shop at for last minute costumes. It’s great! Who wants to celebrate a holiday where you have to pretend to be a better person, when you can celebrate a holiday that lets you pretend to be whatever you want. From Slutty Hilary Clinton to Zombie Ted Cruz- you can dress up as anything you can imagine for Halloween, just as long as it’s some variation of “Slut” and/or “Zombie” according to new Federal Regulations. Damn that Obamacare! Just please for the love of God don’t wear blackface. Seriously, I don’t care who your favorite Orange is the New Black character is or how funny funny funny you think it is to debase the memory of a murdered kid- it’s 20-goddamn-13- if you’re wearing blackface and you’re not in the cast of Scottsboro Boys then just go kill fucking yourself now. Don’t worry about us, Julianne Hough, we’ll be totally fine without you.
And then there are the movies. Christmas movies are typically stories of faith, hope and redemption. Now, I like a good story of faith, hope and redemption as much as the next guy who can’t fucking stand a good story of faith, hope and redemption but what I really enjoy are the horror movies of Halloween. And I’m not talking about new school torture porn like Saw 54 or ancient school 50’s b-movies like Son of Frankenstein vs. the Swamp Thing at Transylvania Party Beach. I’m talking about the horror classics, or, let’s be honest, “classics” of the 70’s, 80’s and, oh what the hell, 90’s. I’m talking chainsaws, bloody knives, hot pants, synthesizer music, oversexed teenagers, unstoppable killers in arbitrary masks and totally innocuous first names (Jason, Freddy, Michael- it’s like all the nose picking boys in my second grade class grew up to be horrible murderers.), hilarious wisecracks at tragically inappropriate moments, victims who don’t understand when to just LEAVE THE FUCKING HOUSE- DON’T GO UPSTAIRS- WHY ARE YOU GOING UPSTAIRS????? WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING????? GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT!!!!!!!!, buckets of blood, gore galore and acting so bad that it’s scary. Here are three great ones you should really have watched this year. And if you haven’t seen these movies- don’t worry about spoilers. Most of what I saw is wildly inaccurate or made up.
Every horror movie is a cautionary tale. Friday the 13th warns teenagers to take care of the children in their care and not neglect their responsibilities; Nightmare on Elm Street warns parents that their children will suffer for the crimes they commit; and Child’s Play warns consumers to ALWAYS PAY FUCKING RETAIL. It’s a little known fact that the movie was actually produced by Coleco to prevent parents from buying knock off Cabbage Patch Kids (this fact is “little known” because it’s “not true”.) If you haven’t seen it, Child’s Play is about a hard working single mom who can’t afford to spend $100 to buy her angelic blond son Andy a “Good Guy” doll so she buys one cheap from a homeless peddler in a back alley no-questions-asked. Naturally, the doll comes to life because it’s possessed by the soul of a dead serial killer and goes on a massive killing spree, which is the same thing that happened to me with those stupid knock-off Oakleys I bought in Chinatown. Now, keep in mind, this was the 80’s and special effects were rudimentary, so in order to make the doll seem more life-like they cast Chris Sarandon as the male lead. Anyhow, little Andy basically spends the entirety of Child’s Play and Child’s Play 2 and probably Child’s Play 3, 4 & 5, although I haven’t seen them (had to salvage a modicum of self-respect at some point) telling adults the truth about Chuckie and being cruelly punished for it. Here’s my impression of every other scene in the movie:
Adult: Oh my God! This is terrible! Who murdered these people??
Andy: Chuckie, my doll, came to life and killed them.
Adult: You wicked, lying, murderous child! I’m going to lock you in a weird 19th Century style mental institution and make them give you electroshock therapy until you bleed from your eyes! You’re really evil.
Which means that the real moral of the story here is NOBODY LIKES THE TRUTH- ALWAYS TELL EVERYONE WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR. And what better lesson can there be for a young American white male to learn? Here’s how Andy should have handled the situation:
Adult: Oh my God! This is terrible! Who murdered these people?
Andy: Gang bangers on PCP
Adult: Of course! Just as I suspected! You’re such a brave young man for telling the truth about this. Why, you’re an American hero!
See how Andy handled that? Rocked it like a young Bill Clinton. Hell, our current president could learn a thing or two from him- case in point- take a look at this scene:
American Public: Healthcare.gov is a disaster! Why is the site so messed up? We demand answers!
Obama: Uhm…I don’t know. I presume there were technical problems due to the enormous complexity of the code. I know it’s frustrating but we’re committed to fixing it.
American Public: Unacceptable! ! Impeach Obama! No technological product or service in human history has ever been rolled out with bugs in it!
Versus this scene:
American Public: Healthcare.gov is a disaster! Why is the site so messed up? We demand answers!
Obama: We were hacked! Hacked I tells ya! By Syrian Al Queda terrorists using weapons of mass destruction. Global war on terror! This will not stand! Also- gangbangers on PCP.
American Public: Of course! Just as I suspected! Kill the terrorists! United we stand! Boston Strong! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
See- look how much better things can be if you can just look people in the eye and lie to their face. It’s inspirational, really.
Thankfully for Andy, most of the adults who don’t believe him end up getting murdered by Chuckie – which means they all have exactly the same thought as they die: “Goddamn it. That stupid kid was telling the truth. Boy is there egg on my face. Also- gushing arterial blood”. But Andy isn’t smug at all about this- in fact, he’s so remarkably cool he even tries to help them when they are being attacked by Chuckie and never once says “I told you so”. There’s no way I could be that gracious. I’d be all “Oh- I’m sorry. Are you screaming for help? Why- whatever possibly could be happening to you? Surely there’s no way that my doll Chuckie has come to life and is trying to kill you. Why that’s insane! Anyone who thinks that should be locked up in a weird 19th Century style mental institution. That’s right, don’t worry, it’s ALL in your head….which is now severed from your body and rolling around on the ground. Asshole.” But Andy- he never says any of that, which is why maybe the real lesson of the movie is DON’T BE A DICK.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
If Child’s Play is about the dangers of telling the truth to authority figures, then I Know What You Did Last Summer is about the dangers of lying. With an all-star teen-ish cast of rejects from Scream, IKWYDLS tells the story of four recent high school graduates in North Carolina, who bonded when they were put in a special class for kids with no discernible Southern accent, who run over and kill a young man (or, rather, think they do) on a deserted road late at night on the 4th of July. Rather than report the accident to the authorities, as the DMV recommends, they choose to dump the body in the ocean and never speak of the matter again. This actually turns out great for them and they go on to have wildly successful and happy lives- one even becomes a Peabody Award winning children’s book writer, and another rescues baby ducks from oil spills! No, wait, that’s not it- oh right- they’re hunted down and killed by the guy they actually hit with their car- and didn’t actually kill- which is why the DMV recommends that you always makes sure the person you hit with your car is actually dead before disposing of the body.
Look, I totally get the impulse to lie in order to avoid trouble. Hell, I did it all the time as a kid. I didn’t admit to breaking a plate til I was 27. I still have the impulse to lie to my wife when I get busted – case in point:
My Wife: Who left the seat up?
Me: Gangbangers on PCP!
My Wife: Really?
So, yeah, I understand why they chose not to confess to their crimes. But there comes a time when you just have to grow up and take responsibility for your actions, no matter how serious the consequences. And that time is about 5 minutes after you run over and kill some dude on a deserted road on the 4th of July. Or 30 seconds after your wife wakes up in the middle of the night for a seriously unpleasant surprise. But then, if they had confessed, that would have made for a much less interesting movie- because, as we’ve known since time immemorial- bad ideas make good drama- or, as Oedipus once said “Dude, I’m so marrying that hot chick who looks just like my mother.” But then again, what makes IKWYDLS worth watching isn’t the plot, it’s the sheer wonderful 90’s-“whatever”-ioisty of it all. It reminds us that, before Kevin Williamson was the soulless, cynical hack behind The Following, he was the soulless cynical hack behind Dawson’s Creek – and the driving force behind the gentrification of the WB. IKWYDLS is right up there with Williamson’s other 90’s horror “classic”, Scream. It’s got all the great 90’s stuff- unnaturally articulate self-aware teen-dialogue (almost as good as Scream), steady steam of pop-culture references (cute and all, but, come on, it’s no Scream), a female lead who was also a cast member on Party of Five (Jennifer Love Hewitt, who, let’s face it, isn’t fit to lick Neve Campbell’s AirWalks). Actually- you know what- don’t watch this movie- it’s terrible- you should totally just watch Scream instead. Sorry I wasted all your time reading about it- but, honestly, Kevin Williamson’s the one who should really be apologizing. For everything- I mean, except for Scream- cause that’s awesome.
Look, Michael, I get it- I have two sisters, too. And most days I love them, but, sure, some days, I also want to slap on that William Shatner mask and go on a killing spree- hell, homicidal fantasies and red wine are the only things that kept me going when we planned my mom’s last birthday party (Ha Ha! Just Kidding! It was gin.) But you can’t act on those impulses- you’ve gotta sublimate those into strenuous exercise or creative expression or a really filthy and incoherent blog post (hypothetically)- I mean, come on man, that’s the type of stuff your therapist should be telling you. Or, at least, would be telling you if he wasn’t so busy trying to kill you all the time.
Halloween tells the story of a Homicidal Maniac (Michael Myers), his Estranged Sister and O.G. Scream Queen (Laurie Strode) and the World’s Worst Therapist (Dr. Loomis). After six year old Michael murders his older sister on Halloween because she was having sex with her boyfriend and not totally just paying attention only to him (he’s the O.G. Millennial), he was sent to a mental institution where he spent the next 15 years. Because Michael Myers is sullen and uncommunicative, Dr Loomis concludes that he must be pure evil. Clearly Dr. Loomis had never met a teenage boy before. On Halloween, 1978, Michael finally escapes from the institution and goes off to reconnect with his younger sister, Laurie. Unfortunately, Dr. Loomis was too busy trying to convince everybody how evil Michael was to teach Michael how to use his words, so Michael uses a butcher knife instead. And since the only way he knows how to relate to his loved ones is through homicide, the touching reunion goes a little bit awry and a whole bunch of people get killed. This actually happened to Dr. Loomis a lot- like when he treated Ted Kaczynski for bedwetting, Jeffrey Dahmer for an eating disorder and David Berkowitz for making polite small talk with the family dog.
But Halloween is more than just a withering critique of Dr. Loomis’ clinical skills. It’s the archetypal horror movie of its’ era- it’s the, oh what the hell, I’ll use this expression again – O.G. Slasher Flick. It’s not high art- but it’s the product that defines the brand- like the Big Mac or Coca Cola. It’s the Maxwell House Instant Coffee of horror movies- good to the last trope. To say that it’s clichéd or corny is like saying that Eve eating the apple is trite and predictable or Cain killing Abel is totally lame. And I know that Rob Zombie was just trying to help by remaking the movies to make them more relevant to a new generation- but- no thank you. Halloween doesn’t need him any more than the Old Testament needs a rewrite by Kirk Cameron to stay fresh. Both are fine just as they are- even with shortcomings like foreshadowing moments so painfully obvious they are like hot air balloons in the shape of a plot point (Halloween), weird endless passages about stuff you can do with lepers (Old Testament) and disturbingly violent motifs of inflexible divine justice for relatively minor infractions of morality (uhm, kinda both, I guess).
So, there you have it. Just in time for a few days late for Halloween- three fine horror “classics” you must watch. Except, you should actually watch Scream instead of IKWYDLS. And really, all the good stuff in Halloween actually happens in Halloween 2 (thank God Haddonfield built their only hospital in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing where no one can hear you scream. It’s the perfect place for a killing spree. They must have hired the same firm that did Camp Silver Lake and the Tom Bradley terminal at LAX), and Child’s Play- well, come on, it’s a movie about a doll that comes to life, so really it’s pretty dumb. Plus, I didn’t talk at all about Basket Case which is better than all of these movies put together times a million. So, really this is a terrible Halloween movie wrap up. Sorry about that. I suck. I’m like the parent that gives out erasers instead of candy on Halloween. You know what I mean. An asshole. So, sure, I guess you can TP my house if you want- but keep in mind I’ve been seeing Dr. Loomis for my anger issues- so you may not want to do that right now. Just ask my sister – IF YOU CAN FIND HER! She’s got two kids and a full time job so she’s seriously busy and hard to get ahold of. What did you think I meant, sicko? Dude- you’ve been watching too many movies.
Happy Seriously Belated Halloween!