Rick's List - Halloween Slasher Films in Context Edition

As I type these words, it's 90 hours 'til Halloween. Unlike Christmas, a day front-loaded with presents opened at dawn followed by a long day of feeling not really sad but sorta irritated and bitter that the presents have already been opened, Halloween is structured so that the tension and excitement builds until dark — at which time the infinite possibilities and permutations of the dictum "Trick or Treat" dazzle like a luxuriant orange and black tapestry unrolled before charismatic young kings!

"Trick or treat."

Have finer words ever been uttered or written by a human? I think not. In fact, on her deathbed, the sublime poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who wrote such lines as, "What I do and what I dream include thee / As the wine must taste of its own grapes," said, "Damn! I missed the stinkin' boat when I didn't come up with 'trick or treat'!"

I get it, Lizzie! As such, from now until the evening of Oct. 31, I will be on the couch, dog at my side, watching a succession of horror movies — the bloodier, the better. Yes, while my wife prefers the gentler examples of "frightening" TV fare — "Bobby Flay Makes Spooky Gumdrops," "Paul Blart, Mall Werewolf" — I am devoutly charmed by slasher epics. In fact, I'm annoyed that slasher films often get unfairly assessed as exploitive, misogynistic, unidimensional, mindlessly visceral and never featuring scores by Andrew Lloyd Weber. (Weber, it should be noted, under a pseudonym, composed the deceptively pretty music and clanging sound effects for the underappreciated movie "Larynx-Ripping Brain-Carvers from the Haunted Cemetery on Murderer's Hill").

BUT! Many reviled slasher franchises in fact have little-known histories that, if publically acknowledged, might cause critics and the public at large to regard them in a more intellectually favorable context:

1. "Hostel" — This dark epic, about backpacking American students who end up in a cheap Slovakian inn that doubles as a resort for sadistic torturers, was financed through bake sales conducted by an Iowa middle school girls' lacrosse team because, as the coach said, "The story just sorta resonated with the kiddos in feel-good fashion." 

2. "Nightmare on Elm Street" — Daniel Day-Lewis desperately wanted to star as Freddy Krueger but couldn't get out of his "My Beautiful Laundrette" contract.

3. "The Human Centipede" — The plot, about a maniac doctor who surgically attaches three kidnapped tourists front-to-rear (if you follow), is based on an unpublished short story that W. Somerset Maugham wrote for his nephew Clive as an Easter gift.

4. "The Sound of Music" — In the first draft of the script, the Julie Andrews character was a cannibal.


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