Friday Afternoon Movie: Halloween Double Feature

As many of you may be aware, tomorrow is Halloween, that magical day of the year where children are obligated to dress up in costume and gorge themselves on candy and where adult women are likewise, it seems, obligated to dress up like trollops. It is to the credit of the costume industry that they have managed to produce sexy derivations of almost every character type. I fully expect to see a salacious Mr. Belvedere walking the street this year; pinched and pushed cleavage heaving beneath a dapper moustache. That is neither here, nor there. The FAM is not so much interested in near nude women running through the streets in the guise of 80s TV stars unless, of course, it is part of an overarching thematic element. So let us get on with it.

Today’s FAM continues last week’s indecisiveness and results in a Double Feature, comprised of two classic and time-tested horror movies: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist both based on novels, by Stephen King and William Peter Blatty, respectively. These two are well trod ground, and if you have never seen them you are, I would say, in the minority. In that regard, I doubt I will be able to say anything about these two films that has not already been said, both of their corpses being well and truly picked over.

To start in reverse, The Exorcist is (and here I no doubt fall into cliché, but it’s unavoidable) the scariest movie I have ever seen. It is, indeed, the only movie that still scares me. No doubt this has to do with the extremely inappropriate age (7) at which I saw it. It is so ingrained into my consciousness that, even now, any rationality I may possess seems to flea, leaving me disturbed and twitchy. It’s simply fantastic, and I continue to marvel at the film’s ability to frighten even after repeated viewings. It’s a masterfully constructed film, horror or otherwise; a harrowing tale of invasion, loss of control, and utter powerlessness.

The Shining is a film of a different sort. Its atmosphere is one of tension and foreboding. Whereas The Exorcist puts itself squarely in the day-to-day lives of its participants, The Shining secludes its characters, putting them in an almost typical haunted house scenario. Within this framework is a constantly spiraling descent into madness, Kubrick always alluding to greater and greater depths as opposed to Friedman, whose horror is unafraid to show itself completely, almost defiantly. My favorite thing about this movie (besides the shadow of the helicopter in the beginning) is how different people seem to have different scenes that creep them out. Mine comes near the end (the 3:58 mark on part 13 on this playlist), Shelley Duvall (as Wendy Torrance), having run through the hotel as it disgorges the evil it has accumulated over the years, comes to the top of a staircase. Looking down the hall she sees what appears to be a figure leaning over another. Both figures slowly lean into the doorway and the camera focus in on a person in a bear suit who was, it seems, fellating a man in a tuxedo; and both of them stare…right…at you. There’s no explanation for it and the viewer can’t help but wonder why exactly the hotel has chosen to reveal this scene to Wendy, but it certainly has the desired effect.

And with that, the FAM bids you goodbye. Have happy Halloween and what not, and try not to eat too much candy, sexy or otherwise.

2 Responses to “Friday Afternoon Movie: Halloween Double Feature”

  1. Joshua Ellis Says:

    The bear suit (acually a dog suit) guy is part of the book’s plot, not the movie. I’ve never understood why Kubrick put that shot in there, but it scared the SHIT out of me when I saw it as a kid.

    I’m a big fan of the novel THE SHINING, which I think is one of King’s best novels from a literary perspective. The movie just guts the novel completely, but I think I’ve finally begun to understand what Kubrick was doing, and appreciate it on its own terms.

    His stated goal was to make a horror film with *no suspense*. That’s why he hired Jack to play the main character; he wanted you to know, from the moment you laid eyes on him, that he was going to snap. And the only really suspenseful moment in the film is when Scatman Crothers takes an axe to the gut. (Another thing that’s not in the book, btw; that character survives.)

  2. jp Says:

    The tuxedo and bear suit guys are my creep-out moment, too. It’s my go-to retort when people say the movie is too cerebral or not scary. “What about the guy in the bear suit?” I say. Then I start shaking uncontrollably.