The Halloween season is here and in the run up to the big day I decided to examine what is considered “scary” in the world of horror movies.
Going with Rotten Tomatoes list of the 31 scariest movies, I decided to compare each film with another horror film from the same year to determine which one I found more scary.
For day 3, the supernatural world gives way to the age of the slasher film with two movies that are classics in the genre with the original Halloween going up against I Spit On Your Grave.
On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six year old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.
Halloween set the tone for all slasher films to come with its mood, setting, music and a chilling protagonist in Michael Myers. Completely devoid of emotion, identity or reason, Myers stalks the screen like a shark hunting its prey. The cold, emotionless energy of the character makes him more scary because there is no predicting what he will do next.
Michael Myers is an undeniable presence on screen without saying a single word.
The score, written by Carpenter, is haunting, scary and beautifully simple.
Dr. Loomis doesn’t waste time trying to analyze Michael Myers and explain his pathology to everyone. He know Myers is a threat and is prepared to put him down.
Laurie Strode is no shrinking violet. She is terrified, but determined to survive and Jamie Lee Curtis gives a performance that engages the viewer to root for her survival.
The direction and cinematography are fantastic. There are so many great shots where you look for Michael Myers in the background or wonder if he’s going to jump out at you.
A great story that gets to its plot deliberately without wasting time on unnecessary things and exposition.
Like most slasher films, everyone in the cast is expendable except for the “final girl” so there isn’t much incentive to care about the characters.
How did a mental patient locked up for murder at the age of six learn how to drive a car?
Like most slasher movie villains, you could potentially get away by just running.
I Spit on Your Grave
After a young writer (Camille Keaton) is brutally raped and left for dead by four men, she systematically hunts them down one by one to exact a terrible vengeance.
Meir Zarchi’s revenge thriller biggest horror elements come from its premise and many of the director’s choices regarding what to shoot and how. The story of a female writer alone in a cottage is an already terrifying premise, but when rape is added to the story, it can be horrifying. Jennifer’s subsequent quest for brutal and violent revenge is justified to the audience based mostly on what was graphically shown to them previously.
The isolated location plays to Jennifer’s terror as she tried to escape an area she knows little about and her attackers know too well.
There is a sense of satisfaction when Jennifer decides to fight back and how unrelenting she is in her revenge.
The director makes the choice to forgo any tension in his build up to Jennifer’s sexual assault and instead makes it uncomfortably graphic, negating any opportunity for the audience to feel anything but revulsion at what they’re seeing.
In the wake of the character’s assault, the story decides that the only agency she has to seek revenge on the men who raped her is to use her sexuality to draw them out.
The director spends a huge amount of screen time on depicting Jennifer being raped by multiple men, but the revenge she gets on them is short and unsatisfying.
Slasher movies, at their best, show the audience all too human terrors that can lurk right around the corner, at the corner store or in the house next door. They scare us with possibility and make it hard to dismiss them as pure fantasy. So with that in mind, the winner of this showdown is…
What are your thoughts on one or both of these films? Which one do you think is better? Let me know in the comments below.