Well, they scared me, anyway.
Halloween and childhood are inextricably linked in my mind. Sure, there's the obvious reason: costumes, trick or treating. But it also brings rushing back that pleasant nostalgia for a time when even the cheesiest movies, toys and songs could somehow manage to scare you. (As an adult, when life can actually feel scary, those innocent thrills seem sort of safe and warm.)
Before you hit the bar (or couch for a Halloween movie marathon) tonight, trick or treat with me down memory lane for a few pop culture relics that used to give me goosebumps. If you were still rocking a vinyl Frankenstein costume in the late '80s/early '90s, I bet some of them freaked you too. And then hit the comments section: what now-hilarious relics scared you as a kid?
The "Friday the 13th" Nintendo game
I managed to churn through the entire Friday the 13th movie series by the end of elementary school without blinking a frightened eye. (Dusts shoulder off.) Yet somehow it required nerves of steel to play this 8-bit graphic Nintendo game, in which one inhabits the role of a camp counselor saving kids-in-peril from the evil clutches of Jason Voorhees, who is big and scary and inexplicably: Purple. Wait, why is he purple? He looks like Barney in a hockey mask, and yet I cringed with every Left, Right, A, B button hit as I navigated the intimidating complex of 2D cabins. The synthesizer soundtrack still gives me a little anxiety, if we're being real. Those fake children, they need me! And all I have is rocks!
This HBO Intro
Long before every basic cable package included 1,384 channels, and back when pay movie stations used to mean something, yo, there was something exciting and high-drama about watching relatively recent (you know, 16-month old) theatrical releases from your very own La-Z-Boy. So my heart was already going pitter-patter whenever I'd curl up with mom on a Saturday night to watch a scary flick on HBO. (She'd doze off in 10 minutes, unaware I spent the next 90 watching chainsaws and boobies. Kewl.) Yet it was this "feature presentation" intro that most freaked me out. Something about that Downtown America, USA miniature set that leads to a spooky sunset horizon, accompanied by the swell of an 80s Power Orchestra, was both titillating and terrifying. Maybe because it was scary how the future was so vast, the way now we could do things like watch more movies and make animated lasers and stuff.
Borderline child cruelty. If the Golden Globes had a category for Best Supporting Actress Whose Name You Will Never Know But Face Your Traumatized Childhood Brain Will Never Forget, then this bulldog truck driver-turned-Claymation-ghoul would win by a landslide. Though everything about Pee-Wee's Big Adventure is sort of disconcerting, really. In his major directorial debut, Tim Burton couldn't hide his (awesome) creepy side even in a story about a bow tie-wearing dandy looking for his lost bike.
Nightmare on Elm Street had more dramatic highs and lows. Friday the 13th is occasionally interesting cinematic wallpaper. The Saw movies are, mostly, abysmal.
Among the longer running horror film franchises, Halloween has been the most consistent. The excellent original, which introduced us to pasty faced masked killer Michael Myers, has yet to spawn a perfect sequel. On the other hand, there isn't an outright loser in the lot. With the holiday nearly here, here's my ranking of the series' installments from worst to best. Sharpen your knives, critics, and tell me if I'm wrong.
#10. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
It's not exactly the least entertaining installment of the franchise; Resurrection is stupid, tacky and moves at a clip, and none of these things are necessarily liabilities for horror flicks. And this eighth outing is not the least creative, either; the "plot," in which college-aged reality show contestants are outfitted with webcams and locked inside Michael Myers' spooky childhood home, could have been a good setup for social commentary about These Fame Whoring And Exploitative Times We Are A-Livin' In. (Something Scream 4 successfully tackled ten years later.) But Resurrection is almost certainly the least scary of the Halloween series, and that is its mortal sin. The cringe-worthy deployment of new technologies as plot devices (ooh, fancy texting saves the day!) made the movie feel dated on release. So over a decade hence, watching Bustah Rhymes ham it up as a "Dangertainment" TV producer (screaming "trick or treat, mother-[expletive]" while he spin-kicks Michael Myers like a ninja) is like being waterboarded with Abercrombie cologne while listening to "Sandstorm," so mired is it in early-Aughties awfulness.FULL ENTRY