Here are some thoughts on the horror and horror-adjacent movies that Beth and I watched this month.
Halloween in a Box – This documentary is about the cheap costumes that came in what looked like pie boxes, made by Ben Cooper, Collegeville, and Halco. Based on all kinds of licensed characters, they consisted of a plastic mask and a poncho. While the mask design tended to be decent enough, if obviously limited by the packaging, what was really bizarre was how the ponchos generally had a picture of the character and an identification of who they were, because of course Davy Crockett would wear an outfit with his name on it. I never wore any of these, and really was never that familiar with them, although Beth did a few times. I always had kind of a weird snobbery about costumes, where I never liked the ones that screamed out, “This is a costume!” I appreciate creativity and attention to detail, although my costumes were usually made by my mom from a sewing pattern, so it’s not like they involved much creativity on my part either. Apparently Star Wars was what really started kids dressing as characters from movies and television instead of scary stuff, although there were certainly some before that, like Davy Crockett, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro. Some of the people interviewed said it was basically the beginning of cosplaying, although that became more of an individual thing down the line. I can’t say I’m entirely sure why a Zorro costume in a box would be better than just wearing a mask, hat, and cape; but I still find masks of human characters to be kind of a strange idea. But then, a Captain Kirk mask WAS instrumental in the creation of Michael Myers. The movie covered the history of the costume companies over the years, and how they were eventually bought out. Halco apparently makes Santa suits now, and high-quality ones too, not plastic masks accompanied by a smock that says “Santa Claus” on it. It covered how there was a bit of a slump around 1982, when tainted Tylenol was discovered at drugstores, and parents were afraid the same would happen to candy. It was also around the same time as the razor blades in apples. This led the to competing costume makers collaborating on safety tips for Halloween, Still, they never totally recovered. There was also an interesting aside about how Ben Cooper made a suit similar to Spider-Man’s some time before that character’s debut, and the rumor is that Jack Kirby designed it and Steve Ditko was later inspired by it, perhaps not even consciously.
Q: The Winged Serpent – A 1982 film that was recommended to Beth, it features a monster loosely based on Quetzalcoatl from Aztec mythology hanging out in New York City and living in the Chrysler Building, occasionally going out to kill people on the rooftops. While the police try to figure out what’s going on, an awkward small-time crook runs into the monster after a jewelry store robbery gone wrong, and tries to extort the city with his knowledge of the creature. Ultimately, Q is killed and one of his eggs destroyed, but there’s another egg shown hatching right before the closing credits.
Dead Hooker in a Trunk – We saw the Soska Sisters, twins who make horror films, at Monster-Mania in March, so we thought maybe we should see some of their movies. This was their first, done on a very low budget. It’s pretty much what it says in the title, with four friends trying to figure out how the hooker ended up in the trunk of their car, and there’s some cowboy pimp who’s trying to kill them. The characters are all written as stereotypes and never even call each other by name, and none of them are particularly interesting. I really can’t say it grabbed me; I think a movie with that title might have worked better if it had been campier.
American Mary – The Soskas’ second film is a definite improvement on their first, but still not all that engaging. The main character, Mary Mason, is a medical student who’s in debt, and a chance encounter at a strip club leads to her performing extreme body modification. Apparently a lot of incels have that done, but that wasn’t what the movie was about. Many of the actors were actual members of the body modification community. She’s also raped by one of her professors who acted inappropriately with her even before that, so she has him kidnapped and uses his body for practice on her modifications. It was sort of the story of her downfall after getting involved in something illegal and dangerous for ostensibly good reasons, then getting good at it and more corrupt, but I don’t know that it was realized all that well.
When a Stranger Calls – Based on an urban legend, everyone knows the twist to it, except the twist on THAT is that the bit about the call coming from inside the house comes twenty minutes into the movie. I’m really not sure why it wasn’t done as a short, because that opening part is really effective, but then we get an hour or so of a mediocre manhunt story with the cop who traced the call chasing after the caller, who escaped from a mental institution. The movie does come back to the babysitter at the end, with her now being twelve years older with her own kids, and the caller terrifying her again; but it’s not like they do anything all that interesting with it.
We also watched the latest Simpsons Treehouse of Horror, and I don’t know if it’s just the gradual increase in commercial time, but these episodes seem so rushed nowadays. It starts with a brief take on The Omen, with Maggie as the Antichrist, and it’s decent enough, including a spoof on Fox’s new ownership. Then there’s a Stranger Things parody, and a pretty specific one. As I’ve only seen maybe two episodes of that show, I didn’t get any of the references except the general theme of stuff from the eighties. Beth has E.T. for the Atari, and their portrayal of it was accurate. “Heaven Swipes Right” had Homer once again die of choking, after which he ends up in Heaven, which is pretty boring as it’s been taken over by Google. Since he isn’t supposed to have died, he’s able to put himself the bodies of other people who are supposed to have died. I really think they could have done more with the premise, and probably would have if they’d used the same one years ago. “When Hairy Met Slimy” also parodies something I haven’t yet seen, The Shape of Water, although I don’t know that the references were as specific as in the Stranger Things segment. They’ve done so much with Selma marrying unlikely people that it’s not at all surprising she’d hook up with Kang eventually, and they both have some funny lines. There wasn’t that much of a plot, though. I did like the Bob’s Burgers episode with Tina being haunted by the ghost of a fetal pig.
Tomorrow night, we’re going to see Halloween III at the Alamo Drafthouse. That should be interesting. It’s one day ’til Halloween, Silver Shamrock!