It’s about time you admit it: that Halloween party you throw in your room every year is unbearably lame. Besides, the person you’re inviting solely for the purpose of hooking up with will probably wear the yellow jumpsuit from Kill Bill, and let’s face it—he/she is no Uma Thurman. So stay in and watch a movie with your dorky hall tutor and his whiny twentysomething friends. Just tell all the losers you e-mailed that you couldn’t get a flu shot and you vomited all over the wallpaper in the Lowell JCR.
Selecting the appropriate films, however, is often problematic. Usually organizers of Halloween movie parties will labor for weeks over which scare-fests to screen, yet ultimately descend due to frustration into the abject world of Freddy Kreuger marathons or the Scream trilogy with the disclaimer, “I swear guys, it’s ironic.” But remember, the election is Tuesday. This should be a year of change, newness, non-George-Bushness, freshness, etc. So on October 31, 2004, mix it up a bit. Below are a few alternative choices for Halloween 2004. You may not think it from glancing at the DVD jackets for these titles, but I can assure you—these could be among the most frightening films ever made.
Armageddon: The state of contemporary American cinema is morphed into an apocalyptic nightmarescape in this 1998 film from famed Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay. Some of the most horrifying images every committed to celluloid leap off the screen, including Liv Tyler bemoaning her father’s sacrificial heroics and Ben Affleck crying. One sequence, however, stands out as eliciting a primordial fear in literally every audience member. In the scene, Affleck playfully animates an animal cracker “crawling” across Tyler’s exposed mid-section to an undisclosed location. But we’ve all seen Child’s Play. Bay deftly blankets the sequence with attractive, flirtatious cinematography, but the sinister gaze of the animal cracker rules the mise-en-scene. The suggestion that the seemingly benign cracker could come alive and sell the two actors into slavery to Jerry Bruckheimer makes this brief romantic interlude truly terrifying.
Additionally, Armageddon is an important piece of art. Bay’s neo-baroque aesthetic prioritizes the primacy of visual language over plodding dialogue. For example, instead of commenting on current debates in the field of cosmology, Bay sends a small asteroid flying into Grand Central Station. Brilliant.
The Passion of the Christ: The suspense in this film could be cut. With a knife. Any sane viewer of Mel Gibson’s neo-noir thriller will be on the edge of their seat from the moment the Sinead O’Connor-esque Satan figure appears. Will Jesus die? The answer to this question requires two hours of scary, seat-jumping sequences that will leave you disturbed for days. It’s hard to know where to begin with the scares in The Passion—but highlights include 2000 year-old stereotypes about Jews and visuals to rival even the sketchiest of snuff films. Some viewers may think they can’t handle it, but sitting through it is irresistible, because you must know what happens in the end. I can assure you—it’s even better than the end of The Village. You won’t believe the surprise.
Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones: What if George Bush was creating a clone army designed for the destruction of all who do not vote for him? This is the question of SW2:AOTC, George Lucas’s powerfully cautionary political treatise. Within the mythos of the Star Wars universe, Lucas imagines a world of chaos and political upheaval, that could be, yes, similar to the world of today. SW2:AOTC will leave you shaken, particularly due to the parallels it finds between contemporary American politics and the ever-encroaching designs of the super-evil, ultra-bad and mega-nasty imperialistic Sith warlords, who possess an uncanny command of the Dark Side. The relationship to nuclear proliferation that Lucas draws in this respect is stunningly insightful, and terrifying in its implications.
SW2:AOTC is also notable for its poetic language—especially near the middle of the film when Lucas exposes the curious dialectics of rough/coarse and soft/smooth. Framed within the grand love story of the film, young Anakin Skywalker compares Natalie Portman’s skin to the harsh sand of his home planet Tattooine. Lucas puts the ball in the audience’s court as he asks: What is the nature of smoothness? Roughness?
None of these films will disappoint any serious fan of scary movies. Just be sure to keep a light on during the shot of Satan’s child in The Passion. It’s freakish.
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