A reflection on this past Halloween night, brought to you by Abnormal Use:
It was Monday night. All Hallows’ Eve. I was nestled in my chair, in front of the TV, finding myself disappointed for yet another year. Why, you ask? Because there it was, Halloween night, and I was struggling to find a good Halloween movie on anywhere in the 2 million or so channels I apparently get now.
No, FX, Ghost Rider, starring Nicholas Cage, doesn’t count, if for no other reason than mere principle.
No, Biography, Halloween: The Inside Story is a poor substitute for what is otherwise an excellent holiday choice. At least you get the right idea.
No, VH1, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is . . . in a class by itself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
No, Ion, despite the name of the movie, Bloodsport is about Jean Claude van Damme kickboxing his way through Thailand. I’m sorry you’ve been misled. PS: what does your channel even do? I’ve never really been clear about that, and I’m not even sure why it’s on my channel list.
No, National Geographic, Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide is not even close to being relevant. If you went with “The Ghost of Bigfoot” or “Bigfoot: Man or Demon?,” I could give you credit. And let’s be honest, Nat Geo, if you’re going to compromise your credibility enough to show a documentary on the definitive guide to bigfoot, there’s no further compromise necessary on your end to re-imagine bigfoot as a ghost or demon.
No, Documentary, showing Ghost Bird, the true-life search for “the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker,” is outright fraud. In a just world, the fact that you would try to pass this off as appropriate Halloween programming would be actionable.
No, FX — what, we’re back to you again? No! Twilight is an abomination! Under no circumstances should you be showing this. “But it has vampires and werewolves,” you say, “What’s more Halloweenie than that?” Give me a [RADIO EDIT] break. If your programming director were here, I would hold my hand out and demand that he choke himself. If he had any decency, he would.
On the flip side, Turner Classic Movies, where were you? I thought out of everyone, I could count on you that night. Turns out, not so much.
So this had me all worked up. In a world where Christmas decorations start coming out the day after Labor Day, all I ask for is one night when the storytelling of true masters of suspense can be showcased. What about Nosferatu? Where’s Vincent Price? How about the original Friday the 13th?, House on Haunted Hill, or Amityville Horror? I remember when I was younger, every Saturday night TNT would broadcast “MonsterVision,” which consisted solely and exclusively of the worst B-movies from the 1950s. And it was excellent.
These old Halloween classics had something for everyone. Suspense, cheap scares, horror. There’s even a tie-in with products liability. Macabre was directed by William Castle, who was arguably a better marketer than movie-maker. For the release of Macabre, Castle offered a $1000 Lloyd’s of London life insurance policy to each person who purchased a ticket, just in case they died of fright during the film. He also paid nurses to staff the lobbies of each theater showing his movie and had hearses parked outside. Normally when we talk about products liability, we think of products which are not intended to cause harm to their user. Castle embraced the idea that his movie would frighten the audience to death and carried it to the bank.
The bottom line is that with so many suspenseful classics to choose from, it defies credulity that every network would choose to show exactly none of them on the one day that’s most deserving. Thanks, TV, for letting us down again.