Why You Shouldn’t Watch ‘Halloween’ on Halloween

What are you watching on Halloween? Whether you plan on kicking off the evening with some trick ‘r treating, a haunted house attraction, or a drunken costume party, most...

What are you watching on Halloween?

Whether you plan on kicking off the evening with some trick ‘r treating, a haunted house attraction, or a drunken costume party, most people enjoy ending their Halloween celebrations on the couch with a really great horror movie. To that end, I have been compiling a list of 31 excellent films to watch on Halloween; each day in October, I’ve been dropping a single title, with the list on track for completion on October 31st.

Watching a horror movie on Halloween isn’t the same as watching on any other night. For starters, you’re likely to be part of a group, so you want something with a somewhat broad appeal. While there are plenty of terrifying movies out there, some are best endured alone or only in the company of hardcore gore-hounds (and an intelligent Aficionado knows how to differentiate). While Martyrs may just be the best horror movie of the 21st Century, it’s hardly ideal for a group-watch. This doesn’t mean that a good Halloween movie can’t be scary as hell, but appealing to a group means balancing brutality with other sensibilities (like comedy, action, and satire).

Most importantly, a good film for Halloween night is one that encapsulates the mood and spirit (no pun intended) of October.

For my 31-Day countdown, I decided to list my suggestions alphabetically. So when my list when from Frontier(s) on October 17th to The Hills Run Red on October 18th, a few readers assumed that I was holding Halloween (John Carpenter’s 1979 game-changer) until the 31st as a way of honor it and/or proclaiming it the #1 best Halloween watch ever.

But the truth is, John Carpenter’s Halloween is not being held for a position of honor, nor was its omission a mistake. The honest truth is—I really don’t think Halloween is a great movie to watch ON Halloween.

What did you just say?!?

What did you just say?!?

Before assuming I’m off my gourd, let me explain myself. I’m not saying that Halloween isn’t an amazing film, nor am I attempting to diminish this classic’s position in horror history. Michael Myers is an icon of the highest standing, no doubt, but Halloween is an intense, brutal slasher flick that unnerves much more than it entertains. Which is a good thing! The ability to get under our skin and fester is the hallmark of most great horror films. But on Halloween, in a group setting, this kind of movie can fall flat, or worse, kill a potentially festive mood. Yes, we want to be scared, but we want an experience that will be exciting and amusing when we gather around the big-screen with our friends on October 31st.

Most importantly (or unfortunately, depending on your particular stance) is that the movie Halloween, in my opinion, does not truly capture the totality of the holiday it’s named for. If anything, Halloween the holiday seems like more of a coincidence in the saga of Michael Myers. Sure, he committed his “first kill” on Halloween and returned to kill again on another Halloween, but this is no different that any number of slashers who kill on a specific date and/or anniversary (Jason in Friday the 13th, for example, and the Miner from My Bloody Valentine). While Halloween is intrinsically spooky, the Holiday itself had nothing to do with the motivation for Michael’s first kill. Halloween does little more than allow Michael to walk around town in a mask for a single day without raising too many red flags.

I’d even go so far as to say that Michael Myers is a bit guilty of riding Halloween’s coat tails and as proof, I offer these four words: Season of the Witch. The fact that John Carpenter originally planed on retiring Michael at the end of Part 2 confirms that he was never meant to be the poster child for October 31st. Carpenter realized that Halloween is bigger than a single slasher or even a single plotline—Halloween is incredibly nuanced and multi-faceted.

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When I think of the spirit of Halloween, I imagine all manner of Boogymen, it’s true, but I also think about partying and pranking. That’s why, on Halloween, I suggest picking a film that truly embodies the broader essence of what this day is really all about.

If you’re looking for a great film to watch on Halloween that actually takes place on Halloween, well, there’s really only one choice these days: Trick ‘r Treat. Keep Michael Myers on the shelf for a rainy day.

Sam from Trick 'r Treat

Sam from Trick ‘r Treat

 

Josh Millican is the founder of Blood and Guts for Grown-Ups, a blog for intelligent Horror Aficionados. You can see his entire list: 31 Fantastic Films to Make Your Halloween Scream (which concludes this Friday): HERE.

2 Comments on this post.

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  • Evan A. Baker
    2 November 2014 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    Interesting take. I think that the Halloween setting establishes a tone and atmosphere for the movie that couldn’t exist on any other night, regardless of whether it has any special significance to the plot or Michael’s nature as a killer, and that it is enough of an enjoyable thrill ride to please a crowd without veering into a realm that is too intensely disturbing. And it’s a movie that one can generally count on everybody in a horror-loving audience to have seen before, so it’s a good party movie in that people don’t feel obligated to be completely quiet and attentive for every moment of it, to the detriment of enjoying the company; it’s familiar and comfortable, without losing its spook value. I find it just about the perfect Halloween night group viewing experience.

  • Josh Millican
    2 November 2014 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    You mention that the Halloween setting “establishes a tone and atmosphere for the movie that couldn’t exist on any other night” but did you know that Carpenter wrote the script under the title “The Babysitter Massacre”? The idea of having the film take place on Halloween was an afterthought, as a way of ensuring that the action took place in one night. Still, I can hardly argue that the Halloween connection is crucial to the film’s staying power and Michael Myers iconography. You make some really good points here!

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