This was originally going to be for Nathan over at Son of Celluloid. He asked me for a post about what Halloween means to me. I got going and realized – too late – that I had veered off the path somewhat. Maybe not necessarily from what he wanted, but from what I had wanted to write. It happens sometimes. I tucked this one away, started over again, and sent him that one.
The opening few paragraphs are very similar, so if you go read the one on his site (which you should) it will sound familiar. But they do diverge at some point. As you know if you have been reading Needless Things for any amount of time (or at least since last Thursday), I am not one to waste words once they have been written. So here’s the original version of my Son of Celluloid post:
My name is Phantom Troublemaker and I am a big fan of Halloween.
I mean, obviously. Why else I would I be here on Son of Celluloid during the big month? Talking about Arbor Day?
I used to live for trips to my grandparents’ house. Mainly because they made the rules there and there pretty much were no rules (for me, anyway). Not that I was some kind of wild kid, but I got to stay up late and do whatever I wanted. During the day Papaw Troublemaker would drive around Wilmington, NC (a city with its share of spooky history) on my earliest Toy Hunts looking for whatever was the hot toy at the time – most often GI Joe. At night, though, I would stay up late with Granny and watch the horror movies that came on TV.
I don’t remember what channel they were on or what the format was, but I specifically remember watching old Hammer Horror. Christopher Lee is my Dracula. Nobody else is even half as scary. I saw Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter when I was too young to be watching such a thing and I loved it. It’s still one of my favorite movies of all time (second only to Big Trouble in Little China). Those Hammer movies were my first foray into visual horror, and the dark atmospheres, gaudy color, and heaving bosoms definitely made an impact on my psyche. I hold Hammer up as a sacred institution and I am thrilled that the revival of the last few years has retained the atmosphere and quality of the movies I grew up with.
Later on when VCRs got big we would rent movies from Blockbuster, but as my taste grew more modern and more visceral, Granny grew less interested. It’s probably best that my first viewing of I Spit on Your Grave wasn’t with my dear, sweet grandmother.
Then there were the books. They came about because of the one rule that did exist up there – when Granny got tired, the TV had to go off. That was when I would raid her stash of books; all of which were horror. Robert R. McCammon, Dean Koontz, Robert Bloch, Peter Straub – all of those greats resided in the wicker basket that sat beside Granny’s recliner. And every night when the lights in the rest of the house went out and every other living soul was sleeping, I would pull those musty paperbacks from the used book store out and read them until I passed out. Up until a few years ago when the demands on my time changed severely I was a voracious reader. When I first started reading Granny’s paperbacks I would get through one per visit. As my vocabulary and comprehension grew – thanks to the great fiction writers, not to any effort by the government school system – so did my pace. One book per visit became two, then three, and so on until I was reading a book a night. I maintained that pace up until my recent lifestyle change. It got to the point where Granny would stock up before I got there.
I love all of the authors above to one extent or another, but the one man that taught me more than any other - the one that I consider to be one of the greatest American legends – is Stephen King.
Stephen King’s words have given me a more intimate knowledge of terror – both supernatural and mundane – than any other medium. No movie, no television show, no comic book has given me a more impactful and raw glimpse into the possibilities of evil and chaos. There seems to be literally no end to the well of ideas that spring forth from that man. And the language he uses to create these tales is simple, majestic, and accessible. No other author I have ever read draws you in quite the same way King does. I don’t love everything he’s written, but the ones I do love are the best things I have ever read.
To get back to movies – because this is, after all, a movie site – my taste simply hasn’t evolved much over the years. I still like blood and guts and monsters and titties. But I can enjoy a pretty broad range of stuff. The words “good” and “bad” simply don’t mean much to me. I think judging movies by those standards is the sign of a limited mind. I want to be entertained, and there are all kinds of ways to do that. On some level, I can enjoy a crapfest like Sharknado as much as I can a masterpiece like The Exorcist (maybe even a bit more, because let’s face it – Blatty moves a little slow sometimes…). One of my favorite movies is a no-budget flick made by a couple of Canadians. It’s called THINGS and I can’t recommend it enough. I did a full write-up on my site.
And then you’ve got remakes. Remakes are a bone of contention amongst the cinephile community and even the mundanes. Personally, I go back to my Stephen King training on this one.
As we all know, the adaptations of King’s works have tended to range from Unwatchable to Not Very Good. There are a few exceptions – Misery, Stand By Me, Salem’s Lot among them. And then there are adaptations that were good unto themselves but veered so far away from King’s work that they almost ceased to have relevance to it.
Okay, yes – that’s pretty much just Kubrick’s The Shining.
Side Note: If you haven’t seen the documentary Room 236 yet, you need to. It’s about all of the wacky conspiracy theories people have come up with regarding Kubrick’s movie. It’s fascinating – if a bit clumsy – and I guarantee by the end you’ll be considering at least a couple of them. And it does feature actual footage from the film, so it isn’t hard to follow.
King’s stance on adaptations is that he really doesn’t care who makes what of his work because the original is still intact and remains to be enjoyed; regardless of the quality of the adaptation. I feel that this applies to remakes, as well. And to be honest – I’ve enjoyed an awful lot of horror remakes.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the Jessica Biel one, not the recent sequel; though I loved that too), The Hills Have Eyes, My Bloody Valentine, and Friday the 13th were all worthy entries and sit on my shelf. Not only are they fun new interpretations, each of them gave a new filmmaker the opportunity to show skills on a level that they never would have gotten on an original film. And besides, half of the early Chainsaw movies were pretty much remakes anyway.
So I’m down with remakes, and of horror movies in particular. You know why? Because horror movies more than any other genre are dated and defined by their time. There is a tendency not only to draw upon and reflect the pop culture of the era, but also the political atmosphere. So much of horror – particularly zombie flicks – has that political undercurrent that may seem subtle at the time, but that with age becomes more apparent and in many cases naïve and even silly.
That’s why I think updates are okay. To be able to take the premise of an older movie and bring it into modern times is a fun and interesting experiment. To see how a characters’ actions and motivations have changed due to technology, economics, or any number of other factors makes for an interesting study. As a matter of fact, I bet that’d be a very interesting piece – comparing the tone of remakes and originals against the societal atmosphere they occurred in.
Unfortunately, I’m not smart enough for all of that. If you are, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phantom Troublemaker vs. 31 Days of Halloween
I’m changing the format a bit this year in order to more accurately portray SyFy’s schedule and also to preserve my sanity. I had the genius idea to cut and paste the schedule directly from SyFy’s page rather than typing it out in my own format. This has saved me an awful lot of time and also means that individual episodes are listed rather than blocks of programming like previous years. So what I’m going to do is provide commentary where I feel it is needed rather than posting next to every single entry. Don’t worry – you’re getting the same amount of hilarious, then kind of funny, then labored, then thoroughly disenchanted Phantom content. Just in a different way.
Like last year, I am covering the programming from the time this posts until the time of the next post. That means that on Fridays you are going to be treated to a shit-ton of this stuff.
Let’s do it!
Oct 2 11:00 AM Ghost Mine, Season 2 Wandering Spirits
I probably said as much as I need to say about Ghost Mine in yesterday’s post, but since it looks like SyFy is going to be serving up this falderal and flim-flam repeatedly throughout the month, I had better have plenty more. Today I’ll point out that there was apparently a big flap over the fact that the redhead on the show is an actress and not an actual paranormal investigator. This is, of course, the silliest thing I have ever heard. That’s like being mad at somebody that told you they’re a penguin masseuse when in reality they are a sock inspector.
Oct 2 12:00 PM Paranormal Witness The Wolf Pack
Oct 2 01:00 PM Paranormal Witness The Saint Of Death
Oct 2 02:00 PM Paranormal Witness The Lynchville Secret
Oct 2 03:00 PM Paranormal Witness The House On The Lake
Oct 2 04:00 PM Paranormal Witness A Ghostly Affair
This is a much better show than Ghost Mine because they don’t even pretend they’re showing you real stuff. They’re Dramatic Reenactments. What that means is that it isn’t immediately obvious when the people are totally full of shit and you actually get some scares.
Oct 2 05:00 PM Fangasm Beam Me Up, Stan
Oct 2 06:00 PM Fangasm A Date With A Supermodel
I still have not, as yet, watched this show. I have seen more spots for it and I have to say that it seems relatively harmless. The part where the main geeky guy grabs George Takei’s face is actually kind of endearing. Sometimes when you meet somebody that big you just don’t know what to do. I guess I’ll watch this if I ever have a spare minute.
Oct 2 07:00 PM Paranormal Witness The Innocent
Oct 2 08:00 PM Paranormal Witness Through The Eyes Of A Killer
Oct 2 09:00 PM Paranormal Witness The Coven
Oct 2 10:00 PM Ghost Mine, Season 2 Ghosts Of The Geiser Grand
Oct 2 11:00 PM Paranormal Witness The Coven
Oct 2 12:00 AM Ghost Mine, Season 2 Ghosts Of The Geiser Grand
Oct 2 01:00 AM Syfy Original Movie Manticore
“Manticore” is reminiscent of so many rad things – the mythical beast, my son’s Imaginext toy of said beast (I am still blown away that this exists), the evil organization from Dark Angel. Chances are this movie will not add to the list of radness. I’m also a little curious as to how Halloweeny it really is.
Oct 2 03:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Hydra
What, exactly, is the difference between a “31 Days of Halloween” movie and a “Syfy Original” movie? Because I think these are both SyFy Originals. They certainly sound like it. Maybe this is a typo.
On a slightly related note, I still haven’t seen the remake of Clash of the Titans. Not because I have any aversion to it (obviously). I just haven’t watched it. The Harryhausen one is one of my fondest childhood memories. My point here is that I’d really like to see a revival of movies based on Greek mythology. Judging from the box office on the sequel to Clash and the Percy Jackson movies I’m thinking that’s not going to happen. Looks like the only big screen Hydra I’m going to get is the one led by Red Skull. Which I guess is not the worst thing ever.
Oct 3 08:00 AM Fangasm A Date With A Supermodel
Oct 3 09:00 AM Syfy Original Movie The Lost Future
This sounds more like a Twilight Zone episode than anything remotely Halloweeny. SyFy – I am questioning your commitment to the season. You had better have some good stuff in store for the rest of the day…