B-Horror Dates To Dismember
Magister Matt G. Paradise
The Golden Age
Rosemary Revisited: A Satanic Look
of the Scariest Movies of All Time
by Magister Matt G. Paradise
Satan On Celluloid: The Dark
Force In Film
by Magister Matt G. Paradise
Dates To Dismember
by Magister Matt G. Paradise
(originally printed in Not Like Most #5)
last twenty years have procured some of the best (and, admittedly,
the campiest) slasher films to date, both establishing the man behind
the hockey mask's bogeyman icon and magnifying the very real depravity
behind the eyes of our Ted Bundys and Jeffrey Dahmers. They say
a lot about us as a culture and a species of life; perhaps, more
than most upstanding or politically-correct citizens would want
to admit. These movies are the progeny of our collective psyche,
our secret desire/repulsion capacity, and serve as a pathway to
our occasionally repressed need for eustress.
while few remember the date that Charming Ted was executed, millions
recall the day Jason presides over, or the night Michael Meyers
knifed his big sister and adopted the anniversary as his eve of
destruction on one small town. The decline of SAT scores in the
previous two decades and America's love affair with the Macarena
may be telling at this point.
a distinction lies in the safety net of the screen itself; it keeps
the demons on the other side of the wall, while only mildly hinting
to the real-life, largely less colorful, and comparably less visible
serial murderers of our time. If catharsis is the true religion
of the masses, then it is unquestionably the blood and body which
many take and ingest. From a polite distance, of course.
knows this consumerist fact all too well (especially in the early-Eighties).
The gore merchants of Tinseltown want you to have a memorable experience.
Why not attach a date or holiday to the two-dimensional carnage
to secure this impression? Holidays are relatable, practically unavoidable,
and contain various expectations and memories; all vulnerable to
reinterpretation. Like words reused and put into a modern context,
the redefining of special occasions is the stuff that gives a horror
director a persistent bulge in the nether-region, figuratively speaking.
when you break in that new calendar next year, think of these happy,
good-natured partygoers (who just happen to be carrying bloody chainsaws
around with them) and all of their hard work.
off the sanguine-soaked year is a chunk of celluloid entitled NEW
YEAR'S EVIL (1981), a not-so-memorable auld lang syne centered around
a DJ and a killer; one bit of cinema that makes an eggnog hangover
seem more enjoyable (or scarier).
February rolls in, our black hearts long for love... or the sound
of power tools against flesh and bone. The Canadian-made, MY BLOODY
VALENTINE (1981) introduces us to the blood-crazed coalminer character
(fortunately, NOT a precedent setter) who terrorizes the girls and
boys of Valentine Bluffs. Someone should tell this psycho that gas
masks, though scary, kill peripheral vision.
alas, the winter thaw makes way for the Technicolor splendor of
spring, but showers aren't the only thing that April brings. APRIL
FOOL'S DAY (1986), with quite a bit more reservedness, somewhat
succeeds at the horror-as-humor premise that STUDENT BODIES hacked
to pieces five years earlier. A college coed invites her collegiate
pals to her family's island mansion to pull an elaborate practical
joke on them: each one is sequentially "killed" off, until
the end when the audience discovers that no one died! It's a joke.
Get it? Do you care?
spring flutters to a close and school prepares to let out for the
summer, adolescents around the nation are preparing for the biggest
night of their high school lives: Senior Prom. PROM NIGHT (1980)
resurrects Jamie Lee Curtis to the horror world (TERROR TRAIN, another
Curtis flick, also hit theatres in this same year) in a tale of
teen revenge murder sparked in response to the unintended death
of a little girl years earlier by a group of cruel children (now
teenagers... can you smell the plot yet?). This film would spawn
three incredibly formulaic bomb sequels, which never come close
to comparing to the original (a common horror movie story).
dear, old Mom is dragged into the fray with MOTHER'S DAY (1980),
a cross between I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
(though, not of the same level of fun-fear as the aforementioned).
Two misogynist hillbillies torture and kill coeds for Mama. Isn't
that sweet? (On a related note, the vignette, "Father's Day"
from the movie CREEPSHOW is a fabulously ghoulish sketch of an old
man coming back from the dead to deal out his revenge on his murderous
daughter and the random estate occupant who gets in his way.)
just when you thought it was safe to be a summer camp counselor
comes FRIDAY THE 13th (1980), a box office smash and the grand-daddy
of psychokiller films, spawning a neverending number of imitators
as well as EIGHT sequels, largely directed by a different director
every film (the exception, being that Parts II and III were directed
by Steve Miner). With Jason Vorhees as a household name, even television
couldn't resist (judging by the short-lived TV series based on the
movies). Horror creeps still argue exhaustively over whether Jason
is cooler than Freddy, the child-molester/killer from the NIGHTMARE
ON ELM STREET series of films... and neither chain of movies has
been made recently. That's devotion!
the rise of the harvest moon (and the corporate world's need to
sell candy and plastic costumes) comes HALLOWEEN (1978) and the
all-too-understated killer character of Michael Meyers. This movie
gave birth to five sequels, all of declining quality and massive
formulaic pap. Still, the original serves as one of the most classic
horror movies in Hollywood's history (and spurs Jamie Lee Curtis
into a series of hack and slash motion pictures following. See:
up the year in fleshy ribbons and organ bows comes a cup of Christmas
fear known as SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). This screen opus
focuses on the acted-out predilections of an axe murderer dressed
in a Santa suit, and made way for four sequels. (This movie was
also picketed nationwide.) But, the holiday fun doesn't stop there.
SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1973) is a delightful low-budget romp
through the eyes of an insane asylum escapee/ murderer's slashathon
through a small New England town. And, if THAT'S not enough, put
out milk and cookies for BLACK CHRISTMAS (1975; also called SILENT
NIGHT, EVIL NIGHT, and STRANGER IN THE HOUSE). This last effort
chronicles a killer's Christmas Eve murder spree through a sorority
house. Interesting to note that the season of the most suicides
also provokes an abundance of horror movies related to the holiday
(and there are others on the yuletide theme, rest assured). The
Grinch should be envious.
if you've desperately doubted that nothing is sacred, not even the
anniversary of one's birth is spared. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)
is a sad attempt at horror filmmaking with a rather ambiguous ending.
Canada has served up better slasher films.
as most of these and similar films were made in the 1980s, perhaps
we've seen the end of the holiday-themed horror film. Quite the
letdown for those eagerly awaiting an ARBOR DAY MASSACRE, or the
promisingly quixotic, TERROR ON FLAG DAY. Optimistically, the fine
art of this horror breed may merely be lying dormant, waiting for
the gifted to read the incantation that will resurrect its rustic,
brain-damaged spirit once again. Whatever the case may be, summer
camp, proms, and garden tools will never be looked at in quite the
same way again.