Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 29, 2012

TIDBITS: The scariest time of the year

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Spooks, ghouls, fairies and witches will be taking to the streets Wednesday, asking for candy and treats from friends and neighbors and warning of dire consequences if they aren't pleased.

I don't know what "trick" they might pull, but I fully intend to offer the best of chocolaty treats with all my favorites, including the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup minis. I like to play it safe, and will make sure there is plenty for my usual five trick-or-treaters.

But having so few visitors on the spookiest night of the year means I'm free to explore some of the best movies the horror genre has to offer. From Micheal Myers to anything with Vincent Price, and more recent offerings of Saw and Paranormal Activity, there's a lot of bone-chilling films out there.

And then there's the absolutely absurd.

American Movie Classics has been helping folks get into the Halloween spirit with its Fear Fest, which continues through Halloween night. They've offered up all the classic slasher films and sprinkled in some short documentaries on truly disgusting phenomenon. Experts also chime in with the back story on some of the greatest horror movies of all time — like John Carpenter's Halloween or anything with Vincent Price.

I'm a late comer to the horror genre, having avoided all the classics in my youth. I've never seen Chucky or a single Nightmare on Elm Street.

In college, my roommate decided a vast portion of my education had been neglected and she sat me down to watch the original Halloween.

I watched half of it through a fear filter — where you cover your eyes with your hands, but then leave room to see through the fingers because, you know, it's much less scary that way.

Then there was the sequel. Where Halloween left me scared to turn out the lights in case the Boogeyman was standing there, Halloween II had me laughing hysterically with ever more gruesome, and hilarious, murderous scenes.

I suppose no sequel can live up to the reputation of the original movie, except perhaps Godfather II. But that's hardly a horror film. In the horror genre, sequels become more and more outlandish, absurd and funny. Yes, they'll have a few things thrown in that might actually be scary, and they'll use the music to build suspense, but the plot is always going to be a hack version of the first masterpiece.

Of movies I've seen, I'd have to say the worst offender is the Friday the 13th franchise. The first movie is truly scary, and has a twist ending that many didn't see coming. That first film was written by Victor Miller and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, neither of whom returned for any of the subsequent films, so that explains part of the problem. There were 12 films in all, and the Wiki reports the films grossed more than $465 million at the box office world wide.

I skipped installments two through nine, stopping back by in the early 2000s to witness the debacle that was Jason X, and was at the theaters for Freddy vs. Jason, cheering for Jason the whole time. He is, after all, the more sympathetic serial killer. I should have kept it that way, but AMC would not have it. A few weeks ago, horrible Friday the 13th sequel after horrible sequel was on the air and even those innocently channel surfing were sure to get scarred by the bad acting, gratuitious violence and '80s hair-dos and clothing. There really is nothing more terrifying than day-glo clothing. The term cheesy just doesn't seem strong enough.

While none of these movies will ever likely reach the top echilon of cinema, they do have a place in our society. These movies are great to curl up on the couch with a big bucket of popcorn and laugh through your fear filter. And because there is no plot, you can easily stop the movie when the kiddos come knocking for their candy.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Enjoy it, and remember, don't get to chummy with the tall guy in the hockey mask.

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Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.