Friday, October 11, 2013

31 Days of Halloween: Stop Showing Me the Boogeyman by Beth V

If you've read anything else I've written you'll know by now that I love horror movies. If you haven't read anything else I've written then get yourself into Phantom's archives, and get back to me. We all on the same page now? Good.

Now have you ever been walking alone late at night through an empty parking deck or similar creepy area? The poor lighting is casting weird shadows everywhere, and there is a decidedly rapey looking van parked far closer to your car than you'd like. Suddenly, you hear a noise behind you. Was that a footstep, a less than stealthy ghost, the owner of that windowless van? Trying your best not to look like a helpless victim you turn your head ever so slightly, as casually as you can manage, only to see... nothing. Everyone has been in some sort of situation like this, and if you're completely honest you'll admit that you were at least momentarily freaked out. Even after you realized that nothing was there you probably picked up your pace just a little bit. Once safe inside your car you might laugh at yourself, but the human imagination is a bitch. I'm not saying a guy in a hockey mask wouldn't have been alarming, but it's hardly likely is it? The point is; since you didn't see what it was, you can't say what it isn't. Your imagination can come up with an infinite number of unlikely and gradually more horrifying scenarios. Your stupid brain has you convinced that you're about to be the next victim of a serial killer, or a deranged grandpa on a Hoveround, or whatever. Not knowing or seeing what's really happening is what makes it scary. This is what too many movies don't understand.

Too few movies try it, and those that do most often don't get it right. The Blair Witch Project springs immediately to mind. The husband and I bought into the pre-movie hype, and saw it opening weekend in a theater full of d-bags. The type of people who tuck their polo shirts into their shorts, and enjoy ruining movies for everyone else. They ever so loudly bitched and moaned about wanting to see the “witch”, and how it wasn’t scary at all. The times that we were able to tune them out we were really and truly scared. Not seeing what the characters saw made the tension higher. I'm also very strongly against the “shakey-cam” film style in general, but it really worked for me in that movie. I think it was also one of the first times I really saw it used so it hadn't had a chance to irritate the crap out of me at that point yet. Now it just makes me a little nauseous. But anyway, if I'd seen it with a different crowd (or an empty theater) I would have left that movie seriously freaked out. Sadly, it's like The Sixth Sense in that you can only see it one good time. Once you know how it's going to end it's just not that compelling anymore.

Most recently the poorly named The Conjuring came oh so close. Seriously, who conjured anything in that movie? If a witch that died a hundred years ago made some sort of deal with the devil that now affects the family living in her house it should not be called The Conjuring. The Bad Investment or The Family That Doesn't Know How to do Research on a Property They're Considering Buying would be more apt. I almost didn't even see it because the silly name and the previews made it look like just another haunted house/possession movie. I've seen a lot of those already, and didn't really feel like I needed to see any more. I had enough friends whose opinions I trust see it, and really like it to convince me to give it a chance. I'm really glad I did. Right up to the point where Lili Taylor was physically possessed I was genuinely unnerved. No easy task with me. Once she went all Linda Blair the tension was gone, but up to that point, damn. It also probably didn't hurt that we saw it late on a dark and stormy night in an almost empty theater. Driving home that night our senses were on high alert as the wind blew around, and made spooky whistling noises through the trees. We were slightly jumpy, and turned on every light in the house when we got home. That's the sign of a good horror movie.

The Paranormal Activity movies get props for trying, but they were just silly. It takes more than random doors closing on their own or someone possibly possessed but maybe sleepwalking to frighten me. I'm sorry if you were one of the people who thought they were scary, but they just weren't. In fact, if you did think they were scary I kind of envy you. It's like having a low tolerance for alcohol. It doesn't take much for you to be a fun date. When I Googled images for these movies everything that came up was people sleeping or just standing around. Not exactly nightmare material for me.
Movies with corporeal killers are a mixed bag too. You know, guys in masks. The terror is still faceless, but much more real because it has a butcher knife. You can tell someone is after you, but you still don't exactly know who or why. Michael Myers was pretty freaky in the first Halloween, but the many sequels ruined everything. The Rob Zombie remake made it even worse. I liked the idea that Michael Myers was just a little kid in a clown costume that went balls-out crazy one Halloween night. I didn't want to see his family as white trash who drove him to kill just because they were awful white trash.

The scene in the original first movie where he stabs the guy into the wall and then tilts his head to the side to look at him is iconic. You don't know what he's thinking right there. It could be wonder, remorse, or even “Hey, a knife is holding him up right now. Neat”. You just don't know because of the mask. The first Friday the 13th had some good moments, but was really just slasher trash. I'll admit that it did mess me up a little bit when I first saw it, but I put that down to growing up in an isolated house in the woods next to a lake. As I wasn't a randy teen neglecting children under my care I really didn't have anything to worry about, but I was pretty young the first time I saw it. The Strangers was a bit of a sleeper, but so good. It was tense, unnerving, and no happy ending. Crazy people just randomly decide to kill two people in a house. Not just kill though. They have to mentally and physically torture them first. And it is some first class torture. The killer do eventually take their masks off, but I like to think it's because they know when they've stopped being scary. If you've been stalking someone all night with a weird mask you hardly need it once you've got them duct-taped to a chair. I didn't think I'd buy Liv Tyler as a scream queen, and I don't care for Scott Speedman but it was really good. We still occasionally search for it on Netflix hoping that they'll have it streaming. It was good enough that even though I know how it ends the stuff leading up to the ending was totally worth another viewing.

I realize that different things scare different people, and so these movies might not all hold weight with you. Hell, you may not have even seen them all. But shame on you if you haven't. Just think for a minute about the scariest horror movies you've seen. I'll bet they weren't the ones that showed you all the monsters or spoon fed you all the answers like the ending of The Sixth Sense (-1 respect point for anyone who didn't figure it out before the “here's what you should have tipped you off” ending). Most likely the movies that scared you were the ones that kept you guessing, that made you think, or that used your own imagination against you. What scares me is what I can't see. The zombie apocalypse that I'm not at all prepared for. The unknown and lethal things lurking around the corner, under the bed, or anywhere that I'm supposed to feel safe. That's what scares me at least. That, and birds. They have reptilian claws and dead eyes. Some of them can even talk. That's messed up! Who are you to judge me?

I leave you now with the most “oh shit!” moment I have ever seen in a movie:
-Beth V

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 11 11:00 AM Friday The 13th: The Series The Inheritance
Oct 11 12:00 PM Friday The 13th: The Series Doctor Jack
Oct 11 01:00 PM Friday The 13th: The Series The Great Montarro
Oct 11 02:00 PM Friday The 13th: The Series Shadow Boxer
Oct 11 03:00 PM Friday The 13th: The Series Hellowe'en
Oct 11 04:00 PM Friday The 13th: The Series Root Of All Evil
Oct 11 05:00 PM Friday The 13th: The Series Tales Of The Undead
SyFy continues their tradition of playing a Friday the 13th marathon as close as possible to the appropriate date. I love this show and think you should watch if you can.
Oct 11 06:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Night Of The Demons
Oh, look – it’s this again! I wonder if I will have watched it. I do know that as I am writing this I have Rage of the Yeti on the Phantom Zone DVR. If I haven’t made it through that yet I know I won’t have caught this one.
Oct 11 08:00 PM WWE Smackdown
Featuring the exciting return of Ciclope, Halloween, and Damien 666! Okay – not really. I would actually watch if that were true.
Oct 11 10:00 PM Haven The New Girl
I had every intention of checking this show out just so I could produce some sort of commentary about it. I just haven’t had time.
Oct 11 11:00 PM Being Human I'm So Lonesome I Could Die
I’ve never seen a full episode of this show, but the few minutes I have seen here and there seem pretty good. Plus, I saw the cast on a panel on Dragon Con TV a couple of years ago and they were great. So I’ll get around to watching this someday. Maybe.
Oct 12 12:00 AM Haven The New Girl
Oct 12 01:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Halloween H20
I don’t want to not like any Halloween movie, but I just hate this one. As happened with many things in the late 90s, the franchise got Scream-ified with a hip, young cast and suffered greatly for it. Yeah, yeah – it’s great that they brought Jamie Lee Curtis back. And her role is totally solid. But this movie is terrible.
Oct 12 03:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie An American Werewolf In London
Amazing, kickass horror classic. 5 out of 5 stars and a must-watch every single Halloween.
Oct 12 05:00 AM Deals From The Darkside Executioner's Sword
Oct 12 05:30 AM Deals From The Darkside Hangman's Hood
Oct 12 06:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 12 09:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie An American Werewolf In London
Oct 12 11:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Halloween H20
Oct 12 01:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
I still think this one is a genuinely great movie. And still want to host a movie night with this and Top Gun as the double feature.
Oct 12 03:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
I don’t know why the fuck SyFy is skipping over the single greatest entry in the Nightmare franchise – Dream Warriors – but whatever. I love ‘em all. I know they got really, really campy and I don’t care. They never got bad. Robert Englund is always there as Freddy Krueger, turning in whatever kind of performance the script demanded. So Freddy was always Freddy.
Oct 12 05:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Personally, I think this is the weakest entry in the franchise. Despite the presence of Baby Freddy. But I still love it.
Oct 12 07:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Freddy Vs. Jason
Didn’t this movie make, like, a bajillion dollars? How did we never get a sequel? I guess it was so they could make the reboots. As much as I liked the Friday the 13th remake, I would much rather have had Freddy vs. Jason 2. And no – I wouldn’t want Michael Myers, Pinhead, Ash, Chucky, or any other horror icon involved. This might end up being a whole post.
Oct 12 09:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Fright Night (2011)
This was an absolutely fantastic remake. Every actor was a ton of fun to watch, the tone was different enough to warrant an update, and it was just amazingly well executed. If you’ve avoided this because you have remakitis I strongly suggest you check it out. I mean, not the commercial-laden, censored SyFy version, obviously. But find it and watch it.
Oct 12 11:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge
Oct 13 01:30 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Oct 13 03:30 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
Oct 13 05:30 AM The Twilight Zone Walking Distance
(Twilight Zone video)
Oct 13 06:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 13 09:00 AM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie 9
I… don’t know what this is. Really. No idea.
Oct 13 10:30 AM Syfy Original Movie Leprechaun's Revenge
Oct 13 12:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Leprechaun
Okay, SyFy – bad enough you’re showing your New Year’s specialty The Twilight Zone during Halloween, but now we’ve got St. Patrick’s Day’s one-and-only stalwart Leprechaun as well? There are thousands of horror movies you could be showing here. How about the remake of It’s Alive? That was remarkably bad. I bet people would love it. Next thing you know you people will be showing Silent Night, Deadly Night or Santa Claws.
Oct 13 02:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days
I never watched this one. I liked 30 Days of Night the first time I saw it, but it didn’t hold up to repeat viewings. As much as I like the idea of the story, the execution on film just didn’t work for me. So I just never bothered with the sequel. Did any of you guys watch? Is it any good?
Oct 13 04:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Freddy Vs. Jason
Oct 13 06:30 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Fright Night (2011)
Oct 13 09:00 PM 31 Days Of Halloween Movie Blade II
Non-stop, kickass, total pump-up, gory, awesome, ACTION.
Oct 13 11:30 PM Fangasm Beam Me Up, Stan
Oct 14 12:30 AM Fangasm A Date With A Supermodel
Oct 14 01:30 AM Fangasm Take Me To Your Lee-der
I’m never going to watch this. I’ll just go ahead and admit it now.
Oct 14 02:30 AM Ghost Hunters, Season 9 Undying Love
Oct 14 03:30 AM Ghost Hunters, Season 9 Prescription For Fear
Oct 14 04:30 AM Ghost Hunters, Season 9 Permanent Residents
This is a weird departure. They’re doing two mini marathons of shows from midnight on. I don’t think I’ve seen this before. It’s not really significant or anything. I just thought it was worth noting. Also I don’t like Ghost Hunters.
Oct 14 05:30 AM Tz: Cable In The Classroom The Fear
Oct 14 06:00 AM Paid Programming
Oct 14 08:00 AM Deals From The Darkside Cruel Shoes
Oct 14 08:30 AM Deals From The Darkside Jack The Ripper's Knife
Oct 14 09:00 AM Deals From The Darkside Harem Belt
I have to admit that the titles of these episodes each makes me curious. Is “Cruel Shoes” about a pair of those shoes they make Chinese girls wear to keep their feet tiny? How full of shit will the guy presenting “Jack the Ripper’s Knife” be? Will “Harem Belt” be about a sexy article of clothing or some kind of sinister cockblocking device?
Oct 14 09:30 AM Syfy Original Movie Dark Relic
At least they waited a while before showing this one again. Personally, I’d like to see something called “Dork Relic”. It would be about two disparate factions of LARPers fighting over a prototype foam sword that never got produced before the company that was going to make it went out of business.
Call me, Hollywood.

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