Ask a Dork: Halloween Films
“Halloween is fast approaching. What makes a great Halloween film to you? Do you prefer sinister or cheesy in the genre?”
Goodness, do I ever love the Halloween season. Kiddos dressing up like the things that go bump in the night, tons of miniature chocolate bars, and thousands of Horror movies to potentially revisit; it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. A time that is made even more slick when you incorporate the appropriate movies on the night of Samhain (All Hallows’ Evening to you non-pagan folk). Of course, in saying that, I’m going to have to quantify what exactly constitutes an “appropriate” Halloween movie. In my incredibly partisan (and in no way humble) opinion, it all boils down to the degree of content that actually relates to this festival of the dead.
Sure, Horror movies full of scares go hand-in-hand with the trick-or-treat montra of Halloween, but I wouldn’t realistically consider a Saw film to be an excellent Halloween movie unless a new entry was released in which victims were cut or poisoned by unchecked candies. Halloween movies really have to be about Halloween. Their content really should be focused on kids going door-to-door, the myths and legends of the season, and eating copious amounts of candy. That’s not to say that these films can’t have Horror influences (John Carpenter’s Halloween is a shining examples of this), but films like The Shining, Psycho, House on Haunted Hill, and Friday the 13th aren’t implicitly Halloween movies because they involve scares and gore.
All of that said, my favorite Halloween movies are those that appeal to my childish side while still incorporating horror elements. Michael Dougherty’s Trick r’ Treat (my favorite Halloween film) is a perfect example of this. While there is an overarching tale within an isolated universe, the film is actually an anthology of myths and urban legends that carefully use suspense, gore, violence, and childish humor to wrap you into the narrative. At no point does it feel like it is meant for children, but at the same time the film has several nods to the audience’s youth. I’d never go so far as to call these nods cheesy, but many of them are lighthearted without detracting from the mature nature of the film’s narrative. That is what makes a good Halloween film, and its a formula that I would implore other Writer/Directors to explore.