RIP Wes :(
What a great Halloween's Eve lineup for Midnites for Maniacs. And an exploration of horror meta-films.
Of course we start with some horror trailers from the 80s before the first film, including HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME and FRIDAY THE 13TH...forming the hidden message of Happy Birthday, Jason?! And by the end of the night it was! I have no idea if Jesse Hawthorne Ficks even knew my birthday is Halloween, but I like to think either he did it on purpose or whatever dark forces were guiding him were sending me Birthday wishes. Either way, on to the films.
SCREAM (1996): This is the movie that catapulted meta-horror movies into the mainstream, and can rightly be considered a classic now, although I remember when it divided audiences back when it was first released. The idea of a movie playing with the clichés of horror films just wasn't an idea everyone was on board with. But it gives everyone a chance to feel smart for a moment when they get a reference. And then realize how little they don't know when they realize how many references the film made that went right by them. And then to give everyone all the rules they needed to supposedly figure out who the killer is...and then still surprise them. That's fantastic, masterful horror filmmaking. And makes me want to see a Wes Carpenter film.
WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994): And then this one is even more overlooked than SCREAM but you can see some of his ideas about meta-horror bursting out in this one. We don't start with Freddy and his prime target from the first film, Nancy. We start with Heather Langenkamp, the actress who played Nancy, and who now has an adorable but troubled little boy. And we start with Robert Englund, the actor who played Freddy. And we start with Wes Craven writing again, because he's having nightmares again. And it's an exploration of why we tell scary stories in the first place. Wes Craven's monologue about how evil exists, and it can be trapped by storyteller's should be taught in film school (or at least studied by anyone interested in making horror films.) It's brilliant...and more importantly, true. The world is an evil place--at least sometimes. And scary stories are the way we practice being scared for when reality is actually scary. Jesse told an amazing and moving story about that when introducing the film--about his best friend and trick-or-treating buddy who fought off bullies for him, and then tragically passed away at 19. It also reminds me of something I heard Neil Gaiman say once about why his stories ostensibly for children (specifically Coraline) were so scary. He told of how scary stories are our way of practicing for when life is scary (yea, I borrowed that line from him) and about how when he is doing book signings he'll often see young women, very shy, gripping a well-worn copy of Coraline and--if they can bring themselves to speak--they'll tell him stories of the most awful, abusive childhoods and how reading Coraline was the one thing that gave them both escape and strength. Stories are powerful. More than that, stories save lives.
Oh yeah, I forgot to talk about the story of NEW NIGHTMARE. It was great, that's all you need to know.
And we ended the night with trailers of (nearly) all of Wes Craven's career. Excellent.
Total Running Time: 223 minutes
My Total Minutes: 407,661