Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

October 31, 2012

A ‘Frankenstorm’ and classic horror films make a spooky Halloween

I will admit I didn’t expect to spend the morning before Halloween digging out from upwards of 10 inches of snow. Blame it on Frankenstorm, also known as the superstorm and the storm of the century. It will take weeks for the East Coast to recover from the horrific disaster that was Hurricane Sandy, which became a rare hybrid storm when it combined with two cold-weather systems to form a nightmarish superstorm of snow, rain and powerful winds.

When you think of Halloween, you don’t normally think of a West Virginia blizzard. In fact, a number of other thoughts normally come to mind. A spooky but serene street setting with falling leaves and little trick or treaters going house to house. Bags of candy being distributed at the front door of lighted households across the region. The glowing jack-o-latern sitting on the front porch. Not this year, however. All we have is a lot of snow to dig out from.

Whether kids will be trick or treating in this mess later tonight is anyone’s guess. Most of the sidewalks are still covered — so it could be difficult and a little dangerous. I would hope most parents would err on the side of caution and keep their kids in tonight.

While kids love to go trick or treating, those of us who are older adults normally prefer a good scary movie. And Halloween is a great night to take in a horror flick either at the theater or at home in the comfort of one’s own living room.

I — like millions of other youngsters at the time — had the misfortune of growing up during the “Friday the 13th” era. I was only 11 years old at the time that the hockey-masked maniac known as Jason started to make a killing at the box office. Yes, I know it wasn’t really Jason who was doing all of the killings in the first movie. It was his mother. In fact, you never actually saw Jason until the final few seconds of the movie when his hand came out of the lake and grabbed the woman sitting in the boat. But that’s what made the original movie a bit of a horror classic. It was a horror film but also a mystery. You didn’t know who was doing all of the killings. But, of course, everything went downhill from there with the multiples sequels. Soon Jason was in 3-D. Then there was an impostor Jason who was doing all of the killings. Then Jason decided to crash New York before heading to outer space in the absolutely awful flick called “Jason X.”

But by 1984, a new — and arguably cooler — bogeyman had arrived to create nightmares for those who enjoyed a good horror flick. His name was Freddy Krueger. He had a disfigured face, and a pair of sharp claws on his hands. He was able to invade people’s dreams thus bringing an almost science fiction touch to the horror genre. I still remember — explicitly — watching the first “Nightmare on Elm Street” in a high school science class. The movie was viewed over two days, or two class periods, with the teacher hitting the fast forward button on the VCR to skip over one inappropriate scene.

As was the case with Jason, the Freddy movies got progressively worse with each passing sequel. Eventually, we ended up with a real dud of a film that pitted Jason against Freddy.

However, the best Halloween flick of modern times is arguably John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic “Halloween.” I didn’t see this one at the theater at the time, as I was probably a little too young for Mom to take me to see a horror flick on the big screen, but I was later able to catch the movie on home video. The Halloween theme, and the struggle between Jamie Lee Curtis, who played Laurie Strode, and her psychotic brother Michael Myers, was in many ways a precursor to the Friday the 13th movies of the 1980s.

 Michael Myers returned for far too many sequels as well — ultimately cheapening the 1978 classic. The lone exception was 1982’s “Halloween 3: Season of the Witch,” a goofy sequel only by name that didn’t include Michael Myers or any of the characters from the previous two “Halloween” movies. Just the same name and sound track.

The Halloween movies of more recent years have been just about as bad as the old “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” flicks. The “Saw” serious was disturbing — I’m not sure how else you can describe those movies. I stopped watching them after the third one. Several additional sequels did follow. And now you have the “Paranormal Activity” series, which follows the same shaky camera route as the old “Blair Witch Project” movies. So if you don’t want to see a movie told through the eyes of someone holding a video camera — or, in most instances, a shaky video camera — it is best to avoid the “Paranormal Activity” movies. Personally, I didn’t find the first one to be very entertaining or scary. But it made a ton of money, as did its sequels. So apparently someone out there enjoys the movies. They just aren’t for me.

You can expect to see plenty of scary movies on television tonight. Watching a scary movie on Halloween night is a tradition for many. If you aren’t looking for a scary movie, keep flipping through the channels. You will eventually find something on the tube that doesn’t have a supernatural flavor to it. If all else fails, you can always watch the Weather Channel or ESPN.

But don’t worry. Halloween is only one night. Come tomorrow morning, all of the ghosts, goblins and lighted jack-o-lanterns will be packed away into storage until next year. And we’ll still be digging out from the Frankenstorm. Happy Halloween. I hope you have electricity.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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