I walked into my local Sainsbury’s yesterday to be met with a display of cartoon ghosts, fake cobwebs and posters saying things like “enter…if you dare”. Although not particularly noteworthy in itself, this had been put up where the baskets normally are, which meant I had to walk a bit further to get one. As well as creating a minor diversion, it was also a mallet-over-the-head way of telling me that Halloween is on its way.
It’s been on its way for a while. Since the start of the month there have been violent, gruesome nods to its imminent arrival. Even if your supermarket hasn’t replaced its entrance and basket storage area with the ubiquitous pumpkin face or witches’ hats, you’ll know it’s coming because of the rise in trailers and posters for horror films. The one I’ve seen most of is Annabelle. I gather from the trailers it’s about a doll, which is probably possessed, which is highly likely to infiltrate an otherwise happy family, which will kill some arbitrary characters before maybe killing someone in the family but leaving enough people alive for the sequel. Except apparently it’s a prequel so there’s already a sequel. I guess they’ll just keep spinning it off, sequel and prequelling it until it’s as dead as the spirit that possessed Annabelle.
Perhaps it’s not like that at all. Perhaps it’s a really well thought out plot with a new and clever approach to the tired haunted-killer doll routine. Maybe someone’s taken the horror genre and tried something different. A bit like Saw, which as a standalone film was pretty good, and because it had the audacity to be pretty good and do well at the box office it got franchised to death. I don’t know how many sequels got made in the end. I think I watched up until four and that was as much as I could bear. They’re probably still making them as we speak. It’s a simple enough format once you’ve gone past the point of giving a shit whether it makes any sense; elaborate death scenes, wheel out that creepy puppet at some point and reference that dead or dying bloke from the first one. Bosh; Saw film in a nutshell.
I’m sure there are legions of Saw fans who would see me strung up in some messy death-machine game against a ticking clock before correcting my brutal generalisation of their very favourite torture porn series, so I’ll have a pop at Hostel while they’re making their way over here. Although I like to watch a film that challenges me and gives me something to think about, I draw the line at watching something that makes me feel like being sick in my hands, which is what Hostel did. I felt revisiting such emotions would be unnecessary so I didn’t bother watching Hostel Part II. I found my limit after watching a straight to DVD movie called Rest Stop. At that point I felt I’d seen enough hacked up torsos and limbs. The sound of my own retching was starting to drown out the dialogue, superfluous though it was, and that was the end of torture porn for me.
That’s not to say I don’t like or won’t watch a good horror film. I like a scare as much as the next person. And sometimes that scare will come from something you really don’t expect to be that bad. For me it was Jeepers Creepers. Yeah, that’s right. A shit monster film. Even if you felt the shit monster ruined the film, you can’t deny the first hour was a pretty impressive build-up of suspense and scares. It did what a good horror film should do; you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen because you were in such a nervous state of anticipation of what the fuck was going on. Not like Saw II-XXXVI, and Hostel I & II and Rest Stop where you had to turn your eyes away from the screen lest you bring up your popcorn. Cinema snacks are bloody expensive, they’re not something you want to waste.
Halloween is actually a legitimate thing. Well, in so much that it’s based on an ancient pagan tradition of celebrating the dead, so it really depends how much stock you put in paganism and/or tradition. It’s celebrated around the world and in some countries for more than one day. In countries like ours and the States it’s become a festival of getting dressed up and trying to mug sugary treats off your neighbours, and if that’s how you choose to celebrate it then you’re free to do so. Because we’re fortunate enough to live in countries where we are ultimately free to do as we please.
Whether you spend it covered in fake blood in a bar you’ve had to buy a ticket for to listen to Thriller on a loop, or you spend it in a cinema watching nubile young things get their clothes ripped off and their throats ripped out, spare a thought for those of us less adapted to such celebrations. Spare a thought for those of us not organised enough to buy a ticket, and not arsed enough to buy a costume, and those of us who lack the cast-iron stomach required for the current rash of film releases.
We’ll just be sat at home quietly counting down the days to Guy Fawkes’ Night. At least it’s at the start of the month so we don’t have to wait very long. So, penny for the Guy, anyone?