As people, we hold some truths to be self-evident. One of those is "bacon goes good with everything," and the other is "the opinions of younger generations will always sound completely insane to those older than them." Case in point: For a small study judging the primal impact of John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween, Yahoo! Movies polled ten college-aged participants from around the country who had never seen the film before. As you can imagine, today’s media-saturated youth didn’t really find the film all that scary. Cue the synthesized piano.
The study comes as the film reaches its 35th anniversary, marked by a new Blu-ray release. It’s much harder to imagine that this seminal genre landmark is 35 years old than to think all viewers will appreciate the subtle observations of Michael Meyers for what they were. A group of ten is hardly a wide sampling, but their opinions are undoubtedly exemplary of a larger population.
On a scariness scale of 1-10, the average of the group was 5.4, with a high of 7.5 and a low of 2. Hopefully that last person has a weird brother who doesn’t give up, no matter what. "I found it immensely more comical than scary," said UCLA senior English major Ryan Eclarin. University of South Carolina student Savannah Walker said, "Honestly, it didn’t scare me. I wasn’t startled by any of it." And while others gave it credit for a tense beginning and for some shock moments, it "got redundant" and didn’t leave the viewer "afraid to go to bed, or babysit."
Sure, I presented that in the same biased way that Yahoo! did, but they also had an intern in the mix who found herself "gasping a lot." For compliments, South Carolina psychology sophomore Joseph Sewell said, "It was cheesy by today’s standards but I certainly see why it was so well received when it was first released." Everyone’s attitude may have been summed up most astutely by NYU social worker Ty Atkin, "After a movie introduces something that is unique," he said, "it gets a lot of attention and then many other movies use similar techniques and styles, so it becomes less sensational."
As someone on the in-betweens of generations, I watched Halloween at a young age with the same context of many other horror films of the era, classic and otherwise. And I love Halloween for blowing a genre wide open for creativity. But Carpenter did the same thing to many other would-be sub-genres, and it just so happened that the "ominous stalker slasher" flick took off after this movie, rather than the "eye-patched badass saving the lower 99% from post-apocalyptic land-mongers" mini-genre. It doesn’t hold up as well for me as a film standing alone against everything else, but it’s impossible to take it down even the tiniest of notches for what it is, plain and simple. And that little tiny notch was made from your own fingernail, trying to escape the plain-faced monstrosity of Michael Meyers.
You can go and read all of the notable quotes at the Yahoo! story, but it’s worth noting that in the list of films that the subjects thought were more frightening than Carpenter’s film, no one mention the abysmally grisly and careless Rob Zombie’s Halloween. But they did mention 2006’s The Omen, so there’s no accounting for anything. Ever.
How scary do you think Halloween is? Has it lost its groundbreaking P.O.V.?