They’re the movies that keep you up at night double checking inside the closet, under the bed, right over your shoulder. They’re the movies that make you scream, and capture your imagination. They’re the most terrifying movies ever made. But why? What do these movies do to your brain? What primal emotions do they tap into? What is about them that gives you… one good scare?
In 1978, John Carpenter had established himself as a young filmmaker to watch and was given the opportunity to make a horror movie. His remit: it had to be about babysitters. From there, he and co-writer Debra Hill created the perfect embodiment of evil in Michael Myers, and established what would later be known as the “final girl,” a staple of ’80s slasher movies. Oh, and just for fun, they set it at Halloween, a holiday that surprisingly had almost no horror movie representation. But why is Halloween as good as it is, and why has it stood the test of time? Why is a painted William Shatner mask and a theme in 6/4 time still the gold standard for a whole genre?
To help me get to the bottom of this, I’m joined by several experts in the field of scary things: James Allen McCune, the star of this year’s Blair Witch; Margee Kerr, a sociologist who studies fear and the author of Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear; Ryan Turek, a longtime horror journalist and current director of development at Blumhouse Productions; Clarke Wolfe, the host of Collider Nightmares and a friend and correspondent of this parish; Jill Killington, a horror author and director; and Daniel Montgomery, the artistic director of Creep LA, Los Angeles’ preeminent interactive horror experience. Everybody came to the movie in different ways and we’re all scared of it for different reasons, but we can all agree on one thing: This movie is frightening as hell.