The continued use of Halloween in cinema, and indeed the traditions that have sprung up around it have become part and parcel of this now multi-facetted holiday.
The use of Halloween in cinema for adults (as opposed to adult cinema which, frankly, has used it just as often but those witches would simple freeze their bristles off wearing so little on a broomstick at several thousand feet) has almost become hackneyed in its ubiquity. From slasher horror flicks to spooky-yet-heartwarming-and-slightly-romantic movies, its presence has become an almost expected plot device to work in the latest fade for the supernatural.
Horror Films Help Halloween
• Horror genre separates the fear from the kids
• Halloween big time at the box office
• Slasher films hark back to earlier era of tale telling
Of course the absolute pinnacle of this came as far back as 1978 when a director whose previous two films were a hippy sci-fi adventure into nihilism, and a gritty cop-on-crim thriller, decided to make what became a mainstay of the horror genre and one so often repeated it seems implausible anyone did it well in the first place. The fact is John Carpenter did, when he made Halloween, a film with a plot now as archetypical as many of the other Halloween rituals and observances.
This tale of a psychotic murderer who has spent his life incarcerated for the death of his sister being pursued by his doctor through the dark streets as the deranged killer stalks a group of teenagers, spawned copy-cats, ripoffs and direct homages in equal measure. From Friday The 13th to Scream the principle plot is almost entirely the same time after time, with but few cosmetic changes. In Halloween Carpenter had hit the right notes perfectly.
The tales of the departed back from the dead to haunt us, the mischief and misfortune caused by the Celtic spirit fairies, the demons and gods of human sacrifice were all concentrated into a single character led story, told with all the panache only a master of cinema can provide. The cinema might be gambling news of its demise is much exaggerated, but it never has to worry about betting on a horror release at Halloween.
The Horror, The Horror…
The horror genre in cinema has a long and illustrious history that probably begins somewhere around the silent classic “Nosferatu” from 1922. This early visual telling of a vampire story kicked off what would become a largely self-contained genre of cinema designed specifically to scare or disturb its audience and the best release time for a movie of this ilk has always been seen to be towards the end of October to coincide with Halloween.
Obviously the social dynamics of the horror film provide for both a limited audience and a somewhat hemmed in selection of source material, but these are both at once expanded by Halloween, as the spirit of the season will drag even the most hardened horror-adverse movie goer to attempt to sit through a shocking tale of disturbing images and what appears to be quite copious quantities of a substance one would have to swear looks far more like strawberry syrup than anything else.
The source material however much now clichéd can be excused in precisely the same way people excuse the dodgy costumes, the rampant commercialization and the abomination upon humanity that is Candy Corn. No one goes to a horror film expecting a sparkling script, stellar acting or even very plausible special effects, the holiday in of itself lowers the minimum standards so that even the most laughable horror film becomes acceptable.
This acceptability of horror per se has meant that the lesser incarnations of horror, the mere traditional stories that make up in suspense and fear inducement what they lack in graphic violence and strawberry syrup, have become not only an acceptable seasonal motif but almost a mandatory one. With even mobile casinos as prestigious as Royal Vegas Online Casino getting in on the act with their Spooktober promotion, it would appear we have compartmentalized the horror in some way.
Keeping It Away From The Children
The excesses of the horror movie genre have almost inoculated us against the former basis for Halloween. Why fear cackling witches, hoards of goblins from hell or the ghosts of your dearly departed coming back for the evening when there are psychos going around slashing the throats of pretty girls? The plausibility of the latter obscuring even further the remote possibilities of the former, we have taken Halloween’s supernatural origins and substituted them for a false reality.
No one objects or finds it amiss when pumpkins in the form of jack ‘o lanterns (representation of a goblin’s face) are used to sell everything from fast food to free spins in a online casino in the US because we no longer fear goblins. We no longer believe the “doors between worlds” are ajar at this time of year and let through the horrors of the dark dimensions beyond our physical world, we have everything we fear right here.
We turned a piece of historical imitative magic into a children’s amusement, goblins now dismissed with fairies and witches, consigned to a piece of culturally significant yet entirely erroneous belief that we participate in as a vehicle to amuse children and giving them the one day a year we need as an excuse to prevent them dressing up in silly costumes the rest of the time. Horror movies retain the fear inducement of Halloween’s origins, and keeps it out of the reach of children.
Whether or not you’re a fan of horror movies their role in Halloween’s social development and acceptability should not be overlooked. It might seem like a cheap and simple cash-in to release another pretty-teen laden slasher in October but these are now as much a part of the Halloween holiday as the trick-and-treating, the dressing up and the candy. In fact it is possible there would not be so much of those were it not for the silver screen’s catering for the horror fans.