DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:
“Slasher Franchise Movies”
Let’s end October strong with piles of bodies as far as the eye can see. Speaking of eyes, let’s pluck them out of their sockets and use them as soup crackers. I’m talking one of the base support structures of Halloween: the slasher franchise. The big names that can scare you just by their mention. The titans of titillation that act as this next generation’s version of Dracula and Frankenstein (yes, the monster). We love to go to horror movies because we love to be scared. Sometimes you don’t need a complicated plot or an identifiable villain, sometimes you just want your date to jump and hug you that much closer. With body counts that rival plagues and gimmicks that would make a snake oil salesman proud, I present to you the kings of calamity, the sultans of sequels, the slashers of October time. Here are my picks:
1. A Nightmare on Elm Street
Yes, this movie gave us Johnny Depp, but it did a lot right as well. One of the more recent installments on this list, Freddy Krueger was a horrifying villain that you biologically couldn’t run away from. The false hope afforded to the young victims in each successive sequel that they could defeat Freddy was as sweet as it was bitter. No matter what dream warrior you were, no matter what you did to Freddy in the “real world,” he’d always come back. The knife-claw, the bad puns, the red striped shirt…it all came together to a name-brand of horror that got eight sequels and a reboot, if you count Freddy vs Jason in there. Which you should.
As funny as the films became, there was always a thread of horror that felt right. As I said, it all stemmed from the false hope that someone could defeat him. My personal moment of sadness is in the third film of the series, where a wheelchair-bound boy named Will tries to take Freddy on. Will realizes he’s in a dream and takes control by standing up and shooting electricity at Freddy. It appears that this geek who potentially is in a wheelchair due to a suicide attempt has channeled his love of dungeons and dragons into the ultimate weapon against the darkness. And then Freddy kills him. That kill just stuck with me, it was such a rollercoaster of hope and dismay.
The Halloween franchise is wonderful, partially because it’s title is so simple and beautiful, but also because it’s villain is so simple and beautiful. Like in the list last week, Michael Myers is just evil. He’s not supernaturally evil, or evil due to a tragic backstory (shut up reboot), he’s just evil because evil exists in this world and Michael is that evil incarnate. The franchise has eight movies if you count the third one that has literally nothing to do with any of the others, a reboot and even a sequel to that reboot. The franchise gave us Jamie Lee Curtis and for that we thank it eternally. Not many people would ever consider a rubber William Shatner mask as the face of evil, but thanks to this franchise, it is.
What’s sad is that in the eighth film of the series, Jamie Lee Curtis is just plain killed in the precredit sequence. It’s not the final death of the film in some blaze of glory, it’s not even a spectacular death. After almost 25 years of making the audience care about her survival, she just gives up and dies. Then Rob Zombie reboots the series. The whole thing just ended unceremoniously.
3. Friday the 13th
Now we’re racking up the body-count! Jason Voorhees is a wonderful slasher, because like many of the best horror villains he has a code. The people he kills usually deserve it in some fashion. Whether it’s the teens that didn’t watch him when he was drowning in Crystal Lake, or teens boning that remind him of the teens that didn’t watch him while he was drowning, Jason grabs his signature hockey mask (after an awkward period with a burlap sack), his trusty machete, and the noise starts. You know, the “cha cha cha, kish kish kish” noise that lets us as the audience know that shit is about to go down. To be scared while having a smile on your face is the hallmark of a great scary flick.
The sad part is the motivation of the killer in the very first film, which many remember wasn’t actually Jason. His mother wielded the various murder tools, getting revenge on those who allowed her son to die. With that on the table, and as a father myself, I kinda root for the bad guy in that one. Unlike Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees wasn’t evil but rather born deformed. After years of ridicule, he died alone. I’d want to murder some teens after that as well.
This franchise became a Halloween staple for seven years, because that’s how many films there were and they came out each Halloween ON Halloween. I remember one year in college all my plans fell through and I ended up going with my girlfriend to see that year’s installment. It was a wonderful night. This franchise introduced us to a new kind of murderer – one that doesn’t kill you but rather puts you in survivable situations if you’re willing to suffer. This makes the Jigsaw killer unique among all his killing peers, since none of them have a loophole that allows you to be spared. A killer with a conscience, and a killer that devises such beautiful Rube-Goldberg devices that you can’t help but hope he survives. In fact several of the sequels have him already dead, yet the plans he set in motion continue to unfurl. The perfection of that first film though, the twist at the end with the signature music…soo good.
The sad part is that in the end, the franchise just started throwing things at the wall to see what would splatter. Characters came back for no reason other than to waive at the camera, the plot became so complicated that you had to have a Wikipedia page open while you watched them, and the connection between the final film and the first became tenuous at best. The potential this series had at the beginning elevated it to classic status, the final installment was no better than a Paranormal Activity P.O.S.
5. Child’s Play
This series has six installments and rumors of a new one in the works. The interesting thing with this one is that it looks at its peers going for nubile teens and says “We can go younger.” The intrinsic plot requirement of a serial killer’s soul imbued into a children’s doll is that you have to have a reason for one of the main characters to have a children’s doll, i.e. you have to have a young child. There’s something so primal and horrifying with having a toddler being the potential victim of a murderer, or even having people murdered around them, and this franchise (at least at the beginning) really explored that. As the foul-mouthed plastic murderer racks up his victims, we see the psychological damage being done to the protagonist child.
Again, as a father or even someone who’s had casual contact with anyone under 10, it’s clear that this franchise is the scariest of them all. Maybe not to an adult, but to a child who accidentally walks downstairs as their parents are watching. Murdering teens is one thing, murdering family members another. But one of your toys that you hold tight when you’re self-soothing? Getting up and trying to hurt and kill the very people you depend on for life itself? I want this franchise to un-exist due to it’s scariness.