"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes."
I've never been a fan of Shakespeare, but I do admit the Bard came up with some memorable quotes. The one above is from Macbeth, and as I recall from my high school English daze, it was one of the witches telling her sisters that by the tingling in her fingers she knew King Macbeth was coming to see them. Who knew stirring cauldrons caused carpal tunnel syndrome? Anyways, Macbeth was the "something wicked"; a man who committed regicide to become king, and then continued killing to hold on to his power before descending into madness and ultimately losing his own life.
But this blog is not about Shakespeare. It's about scary movies. For the whole month of October it's hard to find a movie on television that isn't schlock-gore, especially on AMC that proudly trumpets Gory Matters Here. The celluloid monsters of my parents' generation were primarily misunderstood creatures. Dr. Frankenstein's experiment in reanimation was actually a gentle soul who yearned for human contact, but was shunned because of his appearance. My generation brought forth the slasher genre with Michael Myers, Jason, and Freddy Krueger; men who were either born psychopaths or bent on revenge. And now we are overrun with the current monsters du jour: flesh-eating zombies and sparkly vampires.
I enjoy horror films, but I am not a connoisseur, by any means. To be a true horror film buff, you have to be willing to take repulsion to the next level, and I have my limits. If reviews for a movie on Netflix contain too many warnings, I won't watch it. I Googled "top horror films" and found lists from real connoisseurs that contain movies I've never even heard of. On one such compilation (Time Out London), I've seen only 23 of the 100 films listed, plus a couple I think I remember watching. I guess that doesn't say much for those two movies, does it?
Here are the films that stand out for me, with a little commentary. They are in no particular order and may have spoilers:
The Shining: (Quote: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.") The Overlook Hotel high in the Colorado Rockies is full of deviant ghosts, rotting corpses, and dead children. But it's not the blood and gore, of which there's not much, or the supernatural moments that makes this movie so scary. It's watching Jack Nicholson's portrayal of a man, a struggling alcoholic, slowly succumbing to madness from the months spent isolated with his family in the spooky old place. No one, but no one, plays deranged with the same manic glee as Mr. Nicholson. In the book, Jack Torrance's character constantly swung between his bad self and his good self. Even at the very end, as he is bent on finding and killing his own son, the good self, the loving father, surfaces briefly to implore Danny to get away. In the movie, however, there was nothing likeable about the character.
The Exorcist: (Quote: "You @^#&+!? !*#?&@#&!") I'm not sure which is more horrifying: seeing Linda Blair violate a crucifix, or listening to the vulgar language spewing, no pun intended, from her child's mouth. And when you depend on closed-captioning like I do, having to hear AND read it at the same time kind of rips your soul. The first time I saw this movie, I was in high school. I was with my best friend and it was a squirmy business watching it with her. My husband had no such luck. He saw it with...get this...HIS PARENTS. Me, I would have packed my bags, left home, changed my name, and never seen the 'rents again, because how can you possibly face each other after sitting through something like that? I still cannot get over how incredibly stupid he was, but he blames his sister. She, apparently, raved on and on about the film, and actually encouraged her parents and brother to go see it. I don't think she meant "go see it together", but she quite obviously left out a few pertinent facts.
It: (Quote: "Want a balloon?") Richard and I made the mistake of watching this movie when our older son was just a toddler. Needless to say, he has hated clowns ever since.
Xtro: (The following quote is attributed to yours truly: "Oh, geez...turn it off...TURN IT OFF!") We happened to catch this little gem on television late one night, probably around 1984. A woman has an encounter with an alien and gives birth about five minutes later to a full grown man. Trust me, the scene in Alien where the infant monster hurtles out of the guy's abdomen is nothing...NOTHING compared to this. I've never been able to erase that memory.
Psycho: (Quote: "A boy's best friend is his mother.") The first time I ever saw Psycho was on television. I was with a friend who was babysitting some neighborhood kids. We'd managed to corral the kiddos in their beds, and settled in to watch the movie in the downstairs den. At the end of the film, when Norman's mummy swivels around in her chair, I screamed. That woke the kids up and it was the last time Shannon ever asked me to keep her company while she babysat. I guess she figured she didn't need another child to look after.
Alien: (Quote: "Bring back life form. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.") I have always loved Alien's PR tagline: In space, no one can hear you scream. Alien, for me, was not about searching for and eliminating a drooling, reptilian life form with a double set of jaws and a nasty disposition, but about how space can be unimaginably vast and claustrophobic at the same time.
Halloween: (Quote: "Was it the boogeyman?") This was the very first movie Richard and I saw together, back when we were dating in college. Every time we see it he has to remind me of this little fact. His best friends, Tom and Lennerd, went with us, so I can't qualify this as a real date. Anyhoots, there are two things I like about this film. First, the violence is not graphic. The director, John Carpenter, relied on a lot of false startles to ramp up the nerves, and also on the audience's mental eye to supply the blood and gore. Secondly, the music score, a simple piano melody, was practically a character in its own right. I sometimes watch the movie just to hear the music.
The Omen: (Quote: "Look at me, Damien! It's all for you!") Before Jason and Michael there was Damien, an angelic-looking young boy who had an ungodly penchant for attracting all kinds of mayhem. The latter half of the film was a thriller, as Damien's father tried to unravel the mystery behind his son's birth. The movie's tie-in with the verse from Revelation makes it especially chilling: "Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred, three score and six." (Rev. 13:18)
Macbeth laments at the end, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Kind of like this blog.
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