The horror, the horror

By Tom Chick

Boo. Sorry, but I had to do that. Halloween, you know. Me and Trevor are working on our costumes. We're doing a trial run. Trevor is going as Darth Maul, but he's having trouble getting the little goat horns to stick to his hair. He is wearing black dress slacks, a black turtleneck sweater, and a black sheet as a cape. With the red and black face paint, he looks like a confused mime or a Washington Redskins fan. We're also talking about horror movies.

"Who's the best horror director?" Trevor asks.

"Sam Raimi?" I venture. "You can't really beat Evil Dead 2."

"Raimi? No way, he makes comedies. You want a horror movie director, I have one word for you: John Carpenter." Trevor is using a mirror and some kind of water-soluble rubber cement to glue one of the little Darth Maul goat horns onto his bald spot.

"John Carpenter? The guy who did Prince of Darkness, In the Mouth of Madness, and Vampires?"

"Don't forget Halloween, The Fog, Christine, and The Thing. He's got a better batting average than anyone else." I suppose Trevor has a point. Most horror directors have made some awful movies. Early Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper is almost unwatchable: pointless shock schlock and grainy rape scenes from back in the 70s, when there was no such thing as good taste. Stuart Gordon made exactly one decent movie (Re-Animator), one 'ehh, it's okay' movie (From Beyond), and then a string of awful movies. There are some Italian guys who make horror movies, but, well, they're Italian.

As far as I'm concerned, Carpenter's sins have outweighed his accomplishments. I paid full price to see Chevy Chase in Memoirs of an Invisible Man. If you thought Hollow Man was awful, well, you ain't seen nothing yet. "The scariest movie John Carpenter has made is Escape from L.A.," I tell Trevor.

"I rest my case," he replies. "Aren't you going to try your costume on?"

I'm going as Sancho Maul. Trevor says this is Darth Maul's squire. I've never heard of this character, but Trevor says he's in one of the scripts for the next Star Wars movie that was leaked out on the internet. Trevor says Sancho Maul is one of the coolest characters in the next movie. He says Sancho Maul wears a Jedi kilt, a pirate shirt, and a Jedi headband. When I asked him what Sancho Maul actually does in the movie, Trevor wasn't very specific.

"What's the best serial killer movie?" Trevor asks.

Good question. Silence of the Lambs is probably the most popular. Psycho is probably the original. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is probably the most grim. American Psycho is probably the funniest. Man Bites Dog is the most French.

"That's a tough one," I finally say.

"Naw, it's a no-brainer," Trevor tells me, "Friday the 13th, the original."

"That's a slasher movie. You said serial killer movie."

"Same thing," says Trevor, "Slashers are just serial killers who've gone professional. Friday the 13th was the first movie about a professional serial killer who's so good, not only does he never get caught, but you can't even stop him by killing him."

"What about Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street?"

"No way. Those guys are just posers. What kind of name is Michael Meyers for a serial killer? Ohh, scary, Austin Powers by day, Jamie Lee Curtis stalker by night? As for Freddie Krueger, he's just the Crypt Keeper meets Wolverine."

"Okay, what's the best undead movie?" I ask.

"Deadly Friend, with Kristy Swanson as a robot zombie," Trevor says without missing a beat. He's sitting at the computer looking for pictures on the internet to see whether Darth Maul wears a belt or not.

"What about Night of the Living Dead?"

"It's in black and white."

"What about Return of the Living Dead?"

"Come on, how can you take a movie seriously where the lead characters are named Burt and Ernie?"

"It's supposed to be funny."

"Then it's a comedy. And if you're going to talk about best horror movie comedy, it would have to be Scary Movie."

"You didn't even see Scary Movie."

"$100 million can't be wrong. Does it look like Darth Maul is wearing a belt in this picture?"

"It looks like more of a sash to me. What about From Dusk till Dawn?"

"Don't be an idiot; that's a vampire movie, not an undead movie. Where am I going to get a sash?"

"Maybe your mother has one. What about Dellamorte, Dellamore?"

"Speak English. We're talking about movies, not cinema."

"It's also called Cemetery Man. It's with Rupert Everett."

"That foreign film that you used the word 'existential' to explain it to me?"

"I was trying to tell you what happened after you fell asleep."

"It did have that really hot naked undead chick in the first part. Okay, that one is in second place behind Deadly Friend. What's the best monster movie?"

Another tough question. "I would have to say Alien. No, wait. Jaws."

"Wrong. Lake Placid."

"You're kidding."

"Lake Placid is all about the monster. Jaws spends too much time on people. It belongs in the Drama section with My Dinner with Andre. Talk talk talk. And the shark looks fakey. As for Alien, you barely see the monster. They were too cheap to afford special effects."

"But you barely see the alligator in Lake Placid."

"Yeah, but when you do see it, you can see the whole thing. In Aliens, I can never tell what I'm looking at. Is that an arm or a leg or a tail or what? In Lake Placid, that scene with the cow rocks. And Betty White is awesome in that movie. She was always my favorite on Golden Girls."

"You watched Golden Girls?"

"I had to. My Mom wouldn't let me change the channel. That's the only reason I watch Rosie O'Donnell, you know. What's the weirdest horror movie?"

"Hmm. Maybe Jacob's Ladder. Or Exorcist III. Or Phantasm. Is Lost Highway a horror movie?"

"No, it has Baretta in it. I guess I'd have to say the weirdest horror movie is Sleepy Hollow. At the end, that woman is trying to explain everything that happened and I got confused and it never really made sense. It was like Mystery on PBS, but with Christopher Walken. How do I look?"

"You should bunch the sheet up some more around your belt. Do you have anything without such a big buckle?"

"Maybe I could wear the buckle in back."

"Your eyes still aren't very red. Try putting more lemon juice in them."

"Dude, this is just a trial run. Best vampire movie? And don't say Twins of Evil."

"Twins of Evil."

"You know, the chicks in that movie are like eighty years old by now."

"I don't care."

"That's like looking at pictures of your grandmother in her underwear."

"I don't care."

"They can't even act."

"I don't care. Yes they can."

"Grand Moff Tarkin plays a pilgrim."

"He's a Puritan."

"Grand Moff Tarkin plays the Quaker oats guy."

"He's a witch hunter."

"Then why is he in a vampire movie?"

I don't have an answer for that one, so I relent and suggest Near Dark as the best vampire movie.

"Nope," Trevor says, poofing out the sheet around his waist, "the best vampire movie is Jack Palance as Dracula."

"Jack Palance played Dracula?"

"It was made for TV even before Salem's Lot. He was even better than Frank Langella. I saw it when I was a kid and it scared the hell out of me."

"Don't you think it's probably a little dated by now?" I ask.

"That's really rude, you know, considering that Jack Palance just died."

"He did?"

"Didn't he?"

"I'm pretty sure he's still alive. Maybe you're thinking of Walter Matthau."

"Oh, yeah, you're right; I am thinking of Walter Matthau. Now how do I look?"

"You look too much like a vampire. Are you sure Darth Maul has fangs like that?"

Trevor's 14-year-old nephew Donny comes down into the basement where we're fixing our costumes.

"Hey, Donny, check it out," Trevor says, taking up the dual headed lightsaber he made from two flashlights and a tube from inside a roll of wrapping paper. He strikes a Darth Maul stance.

"Darth Maul is so uncool this year," Donny says, "My friend Nicholas at school knows Rick Baker's son. Rick Baker's gonna do our costumes. I'm going as a guy with an axe in his brain."

Donny looks at my outfit: a Jedi kilt, a pirate shirt, and a Jedi headband. It's actually a black denim skirt, a puffy blouse, and a sweatband. "What, are you in drag?" he asks.

"I'm Sancho Maul."

"Yeah…" Donny pauses for a second. "You know, I was a Power Ranger a couple of times when I was a little kid. You can use one of my old costume if you want." Donny looks at my laptop, where I'm working on this column.

"Hey Donny, what's the best vampire movie," Trevor asks with his head in the sink, trying to wash the paint off his face.

"Vampires are like the romance novels of horror movies," Donny reads from the screen, "They're for chicks who want sophistication and seduction instead of horror. Vampire's Kiss, with Nicholas Cage, exposes vampire mythology as merely a psychotic pathological state. Plus, Cage eats a live roach."

"Yeah, I guess you have a point. You're pretty smart for a kid. Hey, this red stuff isn't coming off."

Looking at the bottle, we realize it's a dye that's not supposed to be used for make-up. "Avoid contact with skin," it reads. Trevor's face is covered in splotchy pink patches for the next four days, almost as if he had one of those horrible birthmarks. We both end up borrowing Power Ranger masks from Donny and wearing colored outfits to match the masks. We flip a coin to see who gets stuck with the pink Power Ranger. Even though I lose the coin toss, I still think it beats being Sancho Maul.

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