Norman Bates, Freddy Krueger, Enda Kenny & Me
This piece appears in Chicago’s Irish American News for June, 2016
“Would we be better off without slasher films? I don’t think it really makes the Top Ten of things we would be better off without. I think that we would be better off without politicians who lie. I think that we would be better off without avarice or greed.”
So said the director of Graduation Day, Rabbi Herb Freed in a documentary I was watching last night — Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film.
That quite made my day. Why hadn’t I thought before of mentioning the monstrous aberrations that pass themselves off as politicians in the same paragraph as horror movies?
I’ve loved horror films for as long as I can recall. In fact I’ve loved them for much, much longer than I’ve detested politicians. Well, horror and science fiction; but mainly horror. These days, when I’m talking to my dear old mother, now 80, she no longer even asks whether I’ve ‘grown out of it’. And in any case she knows that I always place the blame squarely on her: after all, she let me stay up at the tender age of around nine years old in order to see the 1931 Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. That was back in 1968/69. And, along with the wonderful childhood that she and my father gave my brothers and I, that’s one more thing to thank her for.
I would finally grow out of football but I never got over that introduction to the classics. And horror gave a lot to me over those early days. For example, discovering the writings of the Pale Prince of Providence, H. P. Lovecraft, only a couple of years later would finally lead to an appreciation of more socially acceptable Literature with the capital L.
And much younger than I should have been, seeing Roman Polanksi’s version of Macbeth –arguably very much a horror movie – was an experience that, in conjunction with having a terrific English teacher, gave me a permanent appreciation of Shakespeare.
Anyway…I’ve always loved films in general; but my soft spot is for horror movies. And if I’m honest, I also like the fact that so many film snobs look down their noses at the genre.
And when they find one that they just can’t ignore it’s a hoot to watch them turn themselves inside out because they’re damned if they’ll admit that they HAVE just enjoyed a despised horror movie.
Take The Silence of the Lambs: a guy is so vicious that his jailers have to wheel him around straight jacketed on an upright trolley whilst he’s forced to wear a mask and mouth restraints to stop him from eating the tongues out of nurses: and HE’S being used to help in the hunt for a lunatic so twisted that he’s cutting the skins off women and making a dress of female flesh for himself.
But it stars respectable people like Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, so it can’t possibly be a horror movie – instead, we’ll call it a ‘psychological thriller’. Give me a break.
I would be Old School, my preferences running to the classics: that rich black & white Universal – in more senses than one – mythology of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolf Man. I get as much enjoyment today out of them as that long-ago child of nine did. More, perhaps. But even though when it comes to modern horror films, I prefer the ones which are relatively gore-free (that eerie masterpiece The Others with Nicole Kidman springs to mind), I’ll keep up with almost everything that’s out there.
Almost. I’m not really too gone on that other sub-genre that’s known as torture-porn and best exemplified by films such as Saw or Hostel. That’s just a personal thing, I’m not judging: I just find them rather devoid of imagination and certainly completely without charm.
For me, there is an innocence and – again, yes – charm in the best of horror cinema that has kept me watching for almost fifty years.
Wrong-Doing Varmints & Macho Blowhards
Isn’t it amazing that I never turned into a serial-killer? I mean, according to some of our hysterical, nosy nanny-types, wasn’t that supposed to have happened by now? Total desensitization followed by a mad need to injure small animals and abuse women. Or something. That’s the theory, anyway.
I’ve often wondered why this never seems to apply to…say, Westerns. Why don’t we warn people that a steady diet of Western movies will be responsible for guys being so brainwashed that they’re likely to slap a Marshall’s badge on their lapels and run around arresting wrongdoing varmints and no-good critters.
Of course, come to think of it, maybe that’s what happened in the ’60s: perhaps it was young men watching too many John Wayne movies that led to mass instances of draft dodging. All inspired by Marion Morrison, the head draft dodger himself.
(Ah, calm down, Wayne admirers, I’m just having a laugh. Just not a fan, myself; or of macho blowhards in general, come to think of it.)
Well, all of this is by way of taking my mind off of our woes here in Ireland, where after 70 days there was finally patchworked together a completely disreputable, raggle-taggle band of chancers, gougers and axe-wielders that would put a Jason Voorhees, a Norman Bates or a Freddy Krueger to shame.
We have watched solemn promises (heh!) being torn asunder before a government has even formed; and in true horror film style have witnessed ‘Independents’ transforming themselves en masse as the Curse of the Golden Trough took effect on them.
Whoever first coined the term ‘Endapendents’ is a genius, by the way.
Of course, the box-office takings would make lap dogs and traitors of men and women who were made of stronger stuff than our self-serving swine. Into their greasy pockets this month went €583,003 for travel and expenses – to cover the cost of the Dail sitting a sublime total of twice – and no work at all being done whilst they hammered out the best deals… for themselves.
The figures for Irish Water continue to mutate to a terrifying 50s Monster Movie degree as they throw out wildly varying ones that are supposed to make objectors feel bad – and that’s not working, I can promise them.
Not to worry: as Sinn Fein noticed when they had to step in recently to correct the sums of these geniuses they don’t really differentiate between a billion here and a billion there. Not as long as they’re not paying, anyway.
And to top it all off, we have the pathetic excuse that is Enda Kenny having to plead all around him but now able to say that he is doing a second term and never mind that the country hates his guts.
AND… once again, ladies and gentlemen, his attendance record at European Council meetings is 100%. So we know where his heart is – a nice cushy job in Europe. And he’ll get it because he has done what he has been told for as long as he has held the little bit of power that his masters allowed him.
Also never mind that people are still dying homeless in the streets; and that people are still being left in agony and without dignity on hospital trolleys; and that evictions are now back on with the elections done, dusted and democracy manipulated in order to keep the same pigs at the trough; and that suicides amongst those who live in fear of yet another bill are still through the roof.
“Would we be better off without slasher films? I think that we would be better off without politicians who lie”.
Absolutely right, Rabbi; absolutely bloody right.