In honor of Halloween, I usually take the days surrounding it as opportunity to watch my horror film- favorites. The truth is, I could watch a scary movie any time of the year, but there’s something warm and fuzzy about All Hallows’ Eve…crunchy red and yellow leaves on the sidewalk, storefronts decorated with paper skeletons and black cats, the harvest moon and signs on the highway for fresh corn from the husk. It makes me feel gushy to watch a nice, classic horror film.
However! TV networks will play several movies during this time of the season — none of which anyone admits they want watch in-full: the ‘One does not look like the other’, Halloween: Season of the Witch, the ‘Biggest joke in sequel history’, Jaws: The Revenge, and a true ‘I can’t believe someone thought this up’, Pet Cemetery.
Deep breath. I’m going to say this slowly. Halloween…is not Halloween…without Michael Myers. Season of the Witch was the third installment in the Halloween franchise, and many Carpenter lovers will agree that without the label, it would have just been another name in a long list of cheap, ’80s slasher flicks. Think of this movie as if it were a kid in school who slacked on all of his exams and cheated his way through, with the help of a credible girl, who basically saved him from banishment for a second. Halloween: Season of the Witch is that boy. And Jamie Lee Curtis is that girl. (Duh.)
Now, Jaws: The Revenge isn’t saying much, but did you really think ocean creatures didn’t know that you changed your address? They know. It’s telling us we better watch out, because a breed of sharks not only harbored the smell of death for the Brody family at their home in the seaside town of Amity, but are now following Mrs. Brody to the Bahamas to hunt her down. I repeat: The Bahamas. Nevermind the fact that Roy Schneider jumped ship at this point (no pun intended.) The problem is, and always will be: the insatiable taste for more candy, when you should just be satisfied with the first piece. That’s why I always took great liking to Carrie, despite its eventual sequel decades later. It’s why films like Piranha, The Shining, and The Thing are either loved, hated, or totally unknown to people. Movies with a long line of continuing storylines and cheesy tag-lines like that of Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th stand alone, regardless. Their remakes and sequels open up wounds and secrets and backdrop that may be too hard to resist, but always fall short for one huge reason: a great horror film only needs the mark of one day, in one film, with one big ending. The minute you drive off the not-so-beaten path, you are confusing the original intention with supernatural, cheap, up-to-date resonance that we don’t need to taste. No one can handle the rhetoric of what we’re given, they need more. But a good classic first film will never become stale, dull, or stagnant. It will be good, and classic. Still, the invention of the cliffhanger, the false-ending that produces the, “Ah-ha! There’s going to be a sequel” moment, we could never go back to Crystal Lake and take that back, so we must go forward, expecting that moment, in all horror films, just before it fades to black.
So, fine, let’s get to it then. Let’s air out Pet Cemetery. What scares me the most is that when I typed in the words: “Pet Cemetery” into Google, results for actual animal burial grounds appeared. Creepy? Just a bit. Here’s the thing. It’s morbid. Killer sharks, killer Amazonian fish, killers in your basement, killers in your dreams…that’s one thing. Nothing plush about it. But, killer pet animals? It’s almost as depressing as those Humane Society jars they used to put out on ice cream shop counters. Point is: no one wants to see that. You will sleep with one eye open for weeks, just wondering if your dog is possessed, even if he didn’t die and he’s sleeping right there. You will tell yourself he’s looking at you a lot differently. How any film should make you question that sacred friendship, is the greatest horror of all.
So, incase you just need a little more fill on this night of the living dead, please get back to your roots: plug in your rotary dial land-line, pop some corn, and take Carrie to the prom, watch Michael Myers terrorize Haddonfield, and don’t take Drew Barrymore’s word, it was Mrs. Voorhees…she was the original killer, not Jason. Haven’t you kids watched the originals?