Old Man Hallowe’en

by ryankl

I grew up a child of horror. I was watching John Carpenter flicks….well, way before I should have been. I segued into Cronenberg and Argento phases before most segued out of their safe kid animation phases and found (what they thought were) subversive cartoons. And so, Fangoria became a word I’d use to represent my identity for my youth. I lived and breathed the 80s works of Landis and Dante and Bottin and Raimi. I was the horror kid.

And I was the horror kid mostly because that’s what was around – with two older brothers – but also because I dug the hell out of those flicks, and I dug the shocks and scares. I think back to watching AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON repeatedly, or THE EVIL DEAD, or even old slasher fare like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or schlock like Troma flicks, and I realise I liked most of them because of the craft. Look at the way Carpenter holds suspense in THE THING, or Cronenberg makes you squirm in VIDEODROME by pushing your nerves past their breaking point, or how Raimi uses that camera in THE EVIL DEAD. I followed the horror fare of auteurs because they did new and exciting things. You cannot tell me Landis tells the story the same way from AAWIL to TRADING PLACES. His camera work in the Underground as the werewolf stalks is insane. There’s nothing like that as Eddie Murphy wheels himself around in that suitcase/wheelchair.

Horror is a genre that’s always allowed innovation, and incorporated it into structure and tone and effect. But it’s also prone to cheap flicks and while Teen Ryan didn’t mind some really terrible stuff – a steady enough diet of ‘video nasties’ and slasher flicks kept me afloat – I realise the ones I still watch today are the horror flicks with craft behind them. Jason Voorhess, while a fun dalliance for the time, isn’t someone I wish to revisit because there’s nothing there for me now. And why are those thin fun horror flicks done in casa de Lindsay? Well, because I had kids. Once I had kids – these little people who gave me the sole purpose of keeping them alive – I stopped thinking how cool it is to sit and digest the myriad ways the world will eat them up. And yet that’s exactly where horror has steered into.

I came into horror with THE THING, and loved the sci fi-locked room-terror laced mash up it is, and I think I last really dug on Wes Craven’s double tap of NEW NIGHTMARE/SCREAM – deconstructions of the horror feeling, a swan song to an era. Then I completely zoned out about halfway through HOSTEL and kind of never looked back. I realised Scorsese and the Coens and Nolan and Russell were going to reinvent cinema without having to gloriously kill people slowly on screen – though maybe Scorsese is the closest to just doing real life horror but in my mind there’s a thin skin between horror and crime – while criminals are horrific, they’re…I don’t know, they feel disconnected from me. Horror is about the horrific entering my world, the suburban world, whereas criminals kill each other and cops (he said, naively).

I don’t watch anywhere near as much horror as I used to. VIDEODROME was on this week so I taped it, and will no doubt devour it soon enough, I loosely keep up with THE WALKING DEAD – but zombies will always inexplicably be my jam – and I was pointed towards and then thoroughly loved PONTYPOOL but anything else that’s just crazy people chopping up innocent peeps, or is simply gorno for the sake of it will rarely get a run with me anymore. I’m a scaredy-cat now, and while the finest of the horror cinema blend will carry on with me, everything else in the genre is dead to me. I can’t handle seeing this stuff and then having my mind think of the world my kids are going into. It’s a crazy emotional fault gap that I’m not prepared to jump across, for fear of falling into it.

So for now, my Hallowe’en consists of a little writing, some coffee, a sitcom with the wife, and no scaredy flicks for me, no thanks. I’m in this weird Old Man Hallowe’en “get off my lawn” phase I truly never saw coming.

And yet I really look forward to the kids growing up because once they get past a certain age, I know I’m going to share Scooby-Doo episodes with them, and watch stuff like THE GOONIES, and then when they are much older, I’ll get out the good horror, the top shelf stuff, and we’ll appreciate it on a craft level. And if they wanna watch 3D found footage slasher trip-hop on their own, power to them. If they are like their old man, it’ll last until they have their own kids, then they’ll truly fear what goes bump in the night and give it the wide berth it deserves.