Monday, January 15, 2018

i don’t even know how to use this thing

When I wrote about Halloween II before, I referred to my younger self, standing around watching the scene in which Loomis tells Sheriff Brackett that he shot Michael 6 times being filmed as "a wee little, impressionable child." Today, when someone on Facebook asked people to post an image of a fictional character that impacted their life, I posted an image of Michael Myers, atop the stairs at the Doyle house in the original Halloween.

I wrote about my impressionable self and then I talked about Michael's psychosexual fury (Clover 1987 1992). The slasher film is explicitly tied to visible acts of sex. The kind of thing my mother would try (and usually fail) to cover my eyes for. Not the kills, which were more gory than the original.

(I actually only just now learned that the decision to add more gore than the original was Carpenter's decision, not director Rick Rosenthal's. Carpenter supposedly even directed some scenes to make them bloodier. Since the original film, other horror films had included more gore--compare, for example, the arrow up through the throat in the first Friday the 13th, to Michael's killing of Annie in the original Halloween the year before; between the fogged windows and the camera angle, you can barely tell that Michael cuts her throat.

Carpenter did write this one, ostensibly to earn the pay he thought he was owed for the first one. In Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, he says,

I will say that what got me through writing that script was... Budweiser. Six pack of beer a night, sitting in front of the typewriter saying, "What in the hell can I put down?" I had no idea. We're remaking the same film, only not as good.

They hadn't intended to make a sequel. But the studio offered enough money and Hollywood birthed a franchise that wasn't supposed to be a franchise. The third film, Season of the Witch, was, of course, an attempt to turn the Halloween name into an anthology series. Future films could have been Halloween: Prince of Darkness, Halloween: Body Bags, Halloween: Ghosts of Mars, and if he wanted to roll adaptations into it, Halloween: In the Mouth of Madness and Halloween: Village of the Damned.)

Quite an American parent, that way--my mother. I mean, she'd occasionally try to keep the gore from me--I mentioned before how she tried to keep me from seeing the expected (but alas, not present) shot of the Nazi getting his face ripped off by the propeller in Raiders of the Lost Ark--but mostly it was the nudity and the sex. Which, I'm sure had a strange effect on how slasher films worked on me. At the time, anyway. Until years later, really my only slasher films were these two Halloween films, and random horror films rented on VHS or seen at the Academy theater in Pasadena that used the same tropes. Of course, it was the 80s so sex and nudity was in just about every horror film, not just the slashers. And in thrillers. And many comedies.

For many reasons. Low-budget movies could get more butts in the seats by offering sex and nudity (plus more gore). Direct-to-video movies--and the 80s were HUGE for direct-to-video--could benefit as well, and get away with a whole lot. And, mainstream movies--that's where things were strange. Like the Cold War and the impending doom of World War III had everyone desperate to fuck, be fucked, or watch people fucking, because it made everyone feel more alive. Even though we had a conservative president. (Even though my parents were conservative.) Go through plenty of my blog entries regarding slasher films (basically, all of October 2014) and you will see that slashers films are inherently conservative, as well. While John Carpenter has been quoted about not deliberately connecting sex and death in the original Halloween--rather, it was distraction and irresponsibility (visualized in Annie going to pick up Paul, Linda having sex with Bob)--the inclusion of sex and nudity is usually a direct link to impending death; like the way Dennis Miller described AIDS in a comedy special--it's not a nuanced line, but it was the phrasing that came to mind--"You fuck, you die." Randy in Scream calls it "the sin factor", lumping sex (rule 1) and drug use and drinking (rule 2) together.

I wish I could remember at what point I got that connection. Not just slasher films. But, in any horror film, taking that moment to take one's clothes, off, taking the time to have sex, means vulnerability. And availability. The Girl Scout babysitter who is always paying attention--she's going to be the Final Girl. Even when she's got a cracked bone in her ankle and she's on painkillers and in shock from having seen her dead friends, she can still outlast nurses and doctors because she has peripheral vision and doesn't try to have sex in the therapy tub when she should be working. But, at what age did I make such connections? At what age--certainly several years after 1981, after I had seen a whole lot more slasher films (my first time seeing a Friday the 13th all the way through was when Jason Takes Manhattan was in theaters in 1989)--did I see the underlying themes? Was Michael Myers even more of a frightening presence because I didn't make such connections? Prior to (and aside from) his attempt to kill Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, there is no reason to think Michael would kill children, but trust me, I was frightened of Michael Myers. There was a tree next to that same yard where I stood to watch them film that "I shot him six times" scene that, at night, looked like someone was standing behind it, just barely leaning out; the trunk bulged just right. And, because my sister's in-laws lived in the house there, and for a few years, my sister lived across the alley, I was around that tree many times. That alley was forever linked to Michael Myers for me, even though I only saw Loomis and Brackett there. And, there, behind that tree, quite often, was Michael Myers. The street I grew up on was dark. There was one streetlight on the entire block at the time, and during the day, the white globe atop that light looked through the edge of the tree next to it like Michael Myers' mask when he's standing behind that station wagon or by the clotheslines in the original film. At night, in the dark, outside or inside the house, there was always potential for Michael Myers to be standing in the next doorway, waiting until I saw him before he came after me. (Because, he's kind of a dick like that.)

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