Halloween is nearly here, and I've got the Skittles in me belly to prove it. Last night Mrs. Word Player and I watched our annual scary movie to prep for the big night: 1963's THE HAUNTING.
As you may have noticed, everyone and his brother has a "Top Horror Movies" list going on their site, and Robert Wise's adaptation of Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel "The Haunting of Hill House" made it on most of the lists. Add to that a personal recommendation by a knowledgeable horror movie fan, and it was Netflixed like Chex Mix (The Movie).
Boy, did it feel like a movie from another era. The era where movies didn't have to make sense as long as the production values were up to snuff. THE HAUNTING looked great in sharp Panavision B&W and infrared, and the sprawling gothic manse itself was plenty creepy to serve as the setting for a haunted house chiller.
One one level, it was fun to see a film that, stylistically, inspired future possessed addresses in THE SHINING, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, and POLTERGEIST. On the other, the movie so unequivocally failed to deliver on its juicy premise and character setups that I felt betrayed and bewildered.
As the film slowly descended into its arbitrary and vague climax, I started thinking of another Halloween movie night several years ago. We hosted a couple for a double feature at our tiny flat on Horatio Street in NYC. We the gents made two selections we thought couldn't miss- Boris Karloff in THE MUMMY (1932) to be followed by Tobe Hooper's groundbreaking THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974). I had only seen MASSACRE once before, in college late at night in a room full of woozy dudes, and couldn't wait to see it again in a clearer state of mind.
After some wine and grub and MUMMY, we turned the lights off completely and popped in MASSACRE.
Turns out it's not at all geared towards the ladies. What I hadn't remembered is that the second half of the film is basically the terrorized heroine running for her life in the dark with Leatherface and his demented kin nipping at her heels. My friend and I wound up feeling awful for subjecting the ladies to such a grueling viewing experience, but to the girls' credit they watched it to the bitter end.
And then, of course, they let us have it. What kind of assholes would subject their wives to a movie like that?!
I hadn't thought of that night for years until Mrs. Word Player recounted it at a dinner party hosted by another couple here in LA, much to the delight of Host Husband, a horror fan with an encyclopedic enthusiasm for the genre.
As luck would have it, several months later the same Host Husband was picked up by a friend to attend the premiere of his writer friend Dan Madigan's new horror film SEE NO EVIL (2006) starring the hulking wrestler Kane. On their way to the premiere they picked up one more person- MASSACRE director Tobe Hooper. In the car, Host Husband told Hooper the story of how Mrs. Word Player was so shaken up by that long ago Halloween viewing of his film, and he replied that he was genuinely touched that his movie was still able to deliver the goods all these years later.
I gotta tell ya, it felt super cool when Host Husband told me that Tobe Hooper was tickled to hear about Mrs. Word Player's reaction to my disastrous Halloween night movie pick! I knew there was a reason I made it!
4 days ago