Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Feature of the Month: Favorite Halloween Films

It is Halloween, a time known for causing thrills, chills and wondering what goes bump in the night and we all have different things that scare us or at least cause us great tension; this is why movies in the horror, suspense and thriller genres can endure for so long and become indelible franchises. It is to those thrills, chills, tense moments and genuine frights that we dedicate this month’s Feature of the Month to – our favorite Halloween movies. These can be anything from the horror movies you’re familiar with to the suspense films you wouldn’t think of as scary, but part of the fun is seeing why we love them so. For this month you may or may not be surprised to learn that my favorite Halloween film is Scream by Wes Craven.

I tend to not easily scare at movies so I really enjoy when a movie surprises me or keeps me guessing what is going to happen – Wes Craven did that for me in this film. I don’t remember ever being truly scared by Scream but the first time I watched it the film did keep me on the edge of my seat; it’s one of the only films where I wasn’t able to guess the ending and was fully satisfied by every aspect of the plot – in a world where my only experience in the “horror” genre was Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein it was a breath of fresh air.

The thing that is different about Scream is the fact that it defies the traditional “rules” and conventions of horror films while somehow managing to pay homage to all of them, Craven even manages to create a new horror convention – the character that dies in the opening act, the character you assumed was a crux of the film. Everyone remembers Scream for its brilliant marketing campaign that favored Drew Barrymore so much, and the shock it created when everyone found out that she didn’t last more than fifteen minutes into the film – it was a whole new way to use a McGuffin and set your audience on their toes. On top of this unsettling new development Scream created, the film is filled with characters that seem to know they are in a horror film.

What Scream is now truly known for is beginning a trend of self-aware horror films; suddenly horror movies began to copy Craven and Kevin Williamson and try to play with conventions and have characters that knew the conventions of horror and that trend slightly continues to this day. The only problem is that so many films who tired this approach ended up being just plain derivative or in spoof territory and Scream managed to avoid that trap; Scream is a smart film that defies conventions and has a reason and purpose for everything that happens to the characters and plot.

The best example of this self-awareness would have to be the character of Randy played by Jamie Kennedy. Randy is the character that works in a video store, has a vast knowledge of horror films and is the person who constantly tries to compare life to film. The best known scene in Scream is attributed to Randy: the scene where Randy lays down the rules for surviving a horror film as we see the actions he warns of being played out on the video the teens are watching and with the characters in the room who scoff at his set of rules. Throughout the entire film Randy is able to predict every aspect of the serial killings as they happen and is of course laughed at or ignored by almost every character.

However, equally important to the intelligence of the film is the main character Sidney Prescott played by Neve Campbell. Sidney is a smart teenage girl with a tragic past who refuses the role of helpless victim and takes on every challenge she meets instead of shying away from it – she is a character that refuses to sit down and be beaten. This does not make Sidney a flawless character; Sidney is close to the killer without knowing it and of course her most memorable scene is when she talks to the killer on the phone telling him that she hates horror movies because the women are always “running up the stairs when they should be running out the front door – it’s insulting”, then before the scene ends she herself ends up fleeing from the killer by running up the stairs when she can’t get out the front door.

I can thank Scream for many things: it introduced me to the horror genre, an admiration for Wes Craven and the realization that a “horror” movie can be so much more than gore, jumps and a building body bag count. Scream was a very influential film for me and I think it will be remembered among the classic horror films of this era. To this day Scream is the only horror franchise where I made sure I saw each sequel in the theatre as close to opening day as possible.

Recommended Halloween Viewing: Halloween, Scream, Night of the Living Dead, Young Frankenstein

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gotta respect a film where the movie geek is the hero for once....even if he is the second banana. XD