Four Halloween Films to Meet Your Mood
by Jonathan S. Walker
Halloween is an interesting time of the year for cinephiles, especially if you happen to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The logical movie genre for this time of year would be horror films, but on the whole the genre is godless and dark which is antithetical to what we believe. Additionally, since the advent of the MPAA rating system, it has almost entirely been moved to the R-rated camp. It has become too easy to make violence realistic and many filmmakers can’t resist the temptation. Indeed, they are not even aware that they can still choose to turn the camera as we choose to turn our heads from the gory sights.
Nevertheless, you can find an occasional horror film that-in terms of content-is still appropriate for members of the church. Many of them come from the classic Hollywood era, but not exclusively. However, the real problem I have with the genre is not its availability to me, but its inclination to disregard theme.
Halloween and movies usually conjure up images of slasher films with people being subject to the most hideous deaths that debased humanity can imagine. It doesn’t have to be as bad as all that. This Halloween you may want to be scared by a film without fearing gory images, or you may choose to laugh at the whole monster tradition, or you may like a fantastical children’s story about witches. If so, I recommend these “horror” films.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
A palaeontologist has uncovered a remarkable fossil that might prove the existence of advanced, intelligent aquatic life eons before humans came on the scene. The prospects are much too tantalizing for a collection of scientists and they head up the Amazon to find the proof. Before long, they find that this fossil belongs to a species that still exists-and it isn’t friendly.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon can be rather unsettling and sometimes startling. It’s a great horror film for those who want to simply enjoy a fright without gore or the feeling of evil.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Chick (Abbott) and Wilbur (Costello) deliver a couple of very large mysterious packages for a local fright museum. Abbott refuses to believe that Costello has seen the living Frankenstein monster (Glenn Strange) and his master Dracula (Bela Lagosi). (That’s right, Dracula is his master). Costello insists on getting to the bottom of things just to ease Abbott’s mind. Through their efforts, they find help in the form of a panicked werewolf (Lon Chaney Jr). What follows is a collection of gags that pokes fun at the horror genre.
For those of you who don’t particularly want to be scared at all, Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein is a great “Halloween” film for you. It makes fun of monster films without having any significant danger coming to the characters. (Though, you might split a side.)
The Witches (1990)
Luke’s grandmother (Mia Zetterling) convinces him of the existence of witches. They are grotesque, loathsome, and evil. What’s more, they despise children. While staying in a hotel, Luke (Jason Fisher) stumbles on a witches’ convention where the Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston) proposes a plan to eradicate all the children in England. After the witches catch Luke eavesdropping, he is somewhat disadvantaged by being turned into a mouse. But, Luke is unsinkable and he feels he must find a way to stop the witches.
The Witches is a fun little film that will not likely scare children, especially if you watch it with them. The witches certainly pose a threat, but Luke never acts like he is in mortal danger and so will not likely cause a young audience to feel it either.
Little Vampire (2000)
Tony Thompson (Jonathan Lipnicki) has moved to England and has no friends. Soon, he befriends a young vampire who was running from a vampire hunter (Jim Carter). Tony uncovers a way in which the vampires can become human again, but the hunter is out to eliminate them. (There is one instance of profanity in this film.)
The Little Vampire, on the other hand, makes the vampires enemies of humanity, but not because they are evil. They are merely misunderstood. They would love to shed the “undead” and be welcomed into real society. In that way, Little is really about accepting people for who they are. A warning, though: the make-up for the vampires is actually quite disturbing and will likely frighten young children. Little is not a great film, but your kids may enjoy it.
Anyone who reads our Meridian reviews knows that we believe theme to be at least as important as any other film element. Identifying what the film is saying (not necessarily “preaching”) is vital in understanding how the story might cause us to look at the world. The horror genre is far more concerned about style-or put another way, about how the story will affect us immediately.
The affects of the films-one “scare,” “close call,” or shock after another-is all about manipulating the audience to fear. The whole genre wrenches a sense of security away from the audience. It doesn’t want you to use your mind. It wants you to be caught up in the panic for survival. A hallmarks of the horror genre is a very real possibility of death.
When there are thematic ideas in horror films, they are so detached from the true story that it would be more accurate to call them motifs or even morals. A good example is The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Throughout the early part of the film, we are graced with harangues about how little we really know as human beings and how much science has yet to teach us, but when danger sets in, the ideas give way to film style.
Whether you want to just sit and enjoy a good scary film or light fare with your kids, this Halloween watch a film that will fit your mood.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.