‘Halloween’ and what makes an excellent horror movie

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That is an audio transcript of the FT Weekend podcast episode: ‘“Halloween” and what makes an excellent horror movie’

Lilah Raptopoulos
Hello, FT Weekend listeners, that is Lilah. You might need seen that we’ve been attempting out a brand new format on the present, and I’m right here with an thrilling announcement, which is that on Monday, November sixth, we’re relaunching this present with two episodes per week as an alternative of 1. It’s going to be known as Life & Artwork from FT Weekend. Mondays can be one-on-one conversations the place we ask questions on life. And Fridays can be group chats with my colleagues the place we’ve a dialogue about artwork. Fridays will sound so much like what you’re about to listen to. The present will nonetheless be on this feed. Additionally, thanks for listening and for all of the methods you all contribute to the present. As I’m positive you understand, making it for you is a complete honour for us, and we’re simply actually thrilled to present you what you requested for, which is extra. OK, right here’s the episode.

Welcome to FT Weekend. I’m your host Lilah Raptopoulos and we’re getting into Halloween week for all of those that have fun. So at present we’re bringing you a particular episode about why we wish to be scared and what scares us. To try this, we’re dissecting the 1978 horror basic, the movie Halloween by John Carpenter, partially as a result of this week marks its forty fifth anniversary. Becoming a member of me from London is Manuela Saragosa, the FT’s government producer of audio and a brief story author who dabbles in horror. Certainly one of her tales was in a Stephen King anthology. Hello Manuela.

Manuela Saragosa
Hello Lilah.

Lilah Raptopoulos
And in addition, you’re gonna hate me for this, however it’s the bogeyman. The bogeyman is exterior. Extra importantly, it’s FT Weekend Journal editor Matt Vella. Hello, Matt.

Matt Vella
Hello. The least threatening bogeyman ever. (Laughter)

Lilah Raptopoulos
OK, so simply to begin, I’ve to inform you each that I actually have all the time hated horror movies. I even have most likely not given them the prospect they deserve, however I simply don’t really feel enthusiastic about being scared. I don’t get why individuals get pleasure from being scared. It feels silly and dangerous. (Laughter)

Matt Vella
Is there some childhood trauma?

Lilah Raptopoulos
I imply, possibly I can’t separate actuality from fiction. However I really actually preferred this film.

[AUDIO CLIP FROM ‘HALLOWEEN’ PLAYING]

Lilah Raptopoulos
So at present we’re right here to speak about Halloween. And that is the take care of this film: it’s debatably thought of one of many first slasher movies ever. It undoubtedly outlined the style. And when Halloween got here out, it was this tiny indie movie. It was 1978. It had a tiny funds. However after it got here out, it unfold like wildfire by phrase of mouth and have become this large hit. And over the previous 40-something years, there have been 12 remakes and spin-offs, and the franchise has grossed over $880mn.

Manuela Saragosa
Loopy.

Lilah Raptopoulos
It’s wild. Matt, are you able to shortly . . . what’s it about? How would you describe what it’s about?

Matt Vella
So, I imply, the quick model is the plot centres on this child, Michael Myers, who’s institutionalised when he’s six years previous for killing his sister with a knife. And a few years later, he breaks out, returns to the city and terrorises the city, killing a bunch of youngsters and attempting to kill Jamie Lee Curtis’s character who, you understand, it’s her first debut function and she or he performs a babysitter.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah, it’s fairly wild to see within the opening credit, introducing Jamie Lee Curtis.

Matt Vella
Yeah, yeah, it’s wild.

Lilah Raptopoulos
So this brings us proper into, like, what you each thought, like, what stunned you about it, what you preferred about it, what was humorous about it. Manuela, that is the primary time you watched it. What did you suppose?

Manuela Saragosa
It was the primary time I watched it. So, OK, I admire the type of handheld digital camera factor the place you see issues from the standpoint of Michael Myers, the villain. And that was all actually, I think about, fairly new for its time.

Lilah Raptopoulos
It was novel, yeah.

Manuela Saragosa
Yeah, it was actually novel. However I believed the pacing was off. I believed it was fairly uninteresting, really. I believed loads of it was uninteresting. I used to be actually anticipating. I sat down pondering, proper, I’m gonna be anxious. I’m gonna be scared, can I say shitless? Scared shitless. And I simply wasn’t. I simply wasn’t. I simply thought, oh, and truly my daughter got here downstairs and she or he stated, oh, we could watch it? And I stated, no, don’t hassle.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Wow.

Manuela Saragosa
Yeah, I do know. It was simply, it was only a quiet spot. And in addition, I believed the entire thing about these, this, it was so sexist. And seeing it now from our standpoint right here, you understand, what number of 40 years later and also you see it and also you suppose, oh, all of the sex-crazed youngsters get killed, that the virginal lady is saved . . . it’s simply so dated. It’s so dated. Individuals say, oh, it grew to become well-known as a result of it actually did an excellent job of hamming up the strain. And I didn’t get that in any respect.

Matt Vella
Yeah. Yeah. I imply, the music is fairly good tension-wise. However yeah, I utterly agree, even for those who, like, examine it to a few of Hitchcock’s movies that are a lot older, the strain when one thing like Rope and even Psycho is method larger, even for those who’ve seen it already. I imply, a part of that’s like all motion pictures from the ‘70s appear to be, like, actually slowly paced, and that will need to have some type of technical motive. However I didn’t discover myself bored a lot as I simply thought it was hilarious.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah, it was humorous.

Matt Vella
I imply, probably the most absurd second for me was kind of in direction of the top. There was a teenage couple who’re having intercourse in someone’s dad and mom’ mattress in an empty home. After which the boyfriend goes downstairs, Michael Myers kills him downstairs, and he comes again as much as the girlfriend who’s ready in mattress. And he slowly opens the door and he’s bought a white sheet over him.

Manuela Saragosa
Was he sporting glasses?

Matt Vella
He’s sporting the boyfriend’s glasses on high and like, I actually couldn’t think about how that might have been scary. And I simply couldn’t cease laughing. I simply thought it was hilarious, you understand.

Lilah Raptopoulos
I felt that method additionally, in direction of the top, Jamie Lee Curtis stabs Michael Myers with a knife and she or he’s like stress-free and thinks that she lastly killed him and might loosen up. After which, like, out of the blue behind her, like . . . urgh! He similar to comes up . . . 

Manuela Saragosa
That scene actually aggravated me as nicely since you kill somebody, otherwise you suppose you’ve killed somebody, and then you definitely flip your again on them? I’m simply, I imply . . . 

Matt Vella
So many characters on this film try this. But additionally the best way he, like, comes up, it’s just like the Bela Lugosi, like, vampire factor and it’s simply, it’s so hammy. It’s bought like a ham-handed high quality to it, which could be very humorous.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. Yeah.

Manuela Saragosa
I can think about if I’d seen that again within the ‘80s, it most likely would have actually scared me and I might have been, you understand, it will have made a deep impression, significantly as a result of it takes the acquainted and it makes it unfamiliar or scary. And I believe that was most likely fairly new as nicely on the time, fairly a brand new factor to do to take acquainted settings and issues and provides them a very completely different spin.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah, precisely. I believe what each of you might be saying is what I felt too, which is that, like, I actually had bother separating the nostalgia of watching a ‘70s film from having the ability to, like, critically have an opinion about it in any respect. As a result of there was, like, loads of pleasure in simply watching younger Jamie Lee Curtis, like, sporting these bell-bottoms and smoking weed along with her good friend within the automotive on the best way to babysitting. And I might type of solely see it like a historic doc. I additionally actually, like, respect that it was one of many first motion pictures that got here after The Exorcist and after The Texas Chain Noticed Bloodbath, and it was one of many first motion pictures that, like, type of took the horror and introduced it to your neighbourhood. Like, it wasn’t supernatural, it wasn’t completely implausible. It was simply this loopy man who was bizarre and he escaped an insane asylum and he went to a standard neighbourhood and, like, stabbed you or choked you along with your cellphone twine till you died.

Matt Vella
Yeah. I imply, it’s a type of issues the place you see it and you may see all the foundations that have been, that it’s establishing for possibly motion pictures which can be extra watchable that got here after. So you may admire it on that degree, however it’s arduous to kind of like not be type of shouting on the TV. One other scene that simply made me giggle a lot was when, one level Jamie Lee Curtis seems exterior and he’s standing within the, like, watching her from the laundry.

Manuela Saragosa
Yeah. From the online from the neighbour’s yard the place the laundry is hung up . . . 

Matt Vella
Yeah. It simply seems ridiculous. It could possibly be The Pocket book, you understand, like, you would, like, see, like, a distinct model of that the place it’s, like, the music is completely different. I imply, a part of it’s as a result of he’s type of a meme character at this level, proper?

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah, yeah. It’s really actually fascinating that it feels just like the horror will get much less horrific over time. And it’s not simply because, like, there’s higher expertise now that makes issues look extra practical or extra scary, however it looks as if it’s possibly one thing extra too, like possibly what we expect is happening within the film adjustments over time. What do you guys suppose?

Matt Vella
Yeah, I imply, I really feel like watching it this time, to me, it was like, it regarded like a film about suburbia, proper? Like all, what I walked away and fascinated with was these — it takes place in Illinois — so it’s these huge empty streets. The whole lot is flat. The whole lot is type of regimented. There are not any individuals, like every part is empty. And it felt actually like, it felt just like the commentary about what was occurring in suburbia on the time in the USA. That appeared refined to me and fascinating and fairly slicing. Like, there’s a degree the place a grave digger is exhibiting the physician round and he says, each small city has a narrative like this, referring to the six-year-old who chopped up his sister. And I’m like, what sort of, like, what city is that this? What small cities is that this Haddonfield or no matter it’s known as close to? Like, that’s insane. After which at a degree afterward, like, the sheriff is simply describing the city and it appears like he’s describing a cemetery. You realize, like, I can’t keep in mind precisely what he says, however he’s describing one household subsequent to one another, subsequent to a different, subsequent to a different. And it’s imagined to be like this dreamy description of the suburbs. But it surely’s really precisely what you get in a cemetery, like one plot subsequent to the subsequent plot, which is similar dimension because the plot that, you understand, it’s not comforting in any respect. It appears like, actually alienating. I left questioning, like, did a Hollywood run with quote unquote, like, horny women, a knife, like, killer with a knife, when really there might need been a film about, like, the alienation of suburbia or no matter.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. OK, so this can be a film that I really preferred, partially as a result of it didn’t scare me. And Manuela, you didn’t actually prefer it, partially as a result of it didn’t scare you. And it didn’t scare any of us. So what would have made it scary?

Manuela Saragosa
I believe a extra fleshed-out villain. I believe there was no again story to that villain in any respect, Michael Myers. It was utterly mindless. Like, what’s he doing? You realize, what occurred to him earlier than the age of six? Did his dad and mom not realise he was a psychopath? You realize, all of this type of again . . . So there was a lot extra they might have achieved. And it felt very type of, it was a bare-bones script, wasn’t it?

Matt Vella
What would have scared you, Lilah? Because you’re probably the most . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
So what would have scared me extra . . . actually? Bloody faces, chainsaws, stringy, disgusting hair, you understand. I anticipated — it’s known as a slasher movie, I anticipated as a class that it will be extra gross, and people are the issues that I hate probably the most. Jeepers Creepers, The Ring, you understand, Exorcist. It didn’t do any of that.

Manuela Saragosa
I imply, I believe it’s gore, isn’t it? And it’s low-cost thrills, bounce scares, that type of factor. That’s the purpose of these type of horror motion pictures fairly than this kind of heightened nervousness that drags on for kind of one and a half hours of the movie the place you type of don’t know the place it’s going. You type of know from the start of this movie what’s going to occur. It’s so apparent. There’s no shock there. So the magic of the movie, I suppose, is within the bounce scares and the kind of, you understand, opening the door and there he’s and he comes by means of the door and so they weren’t anticipating it.

Matt Vella
I imply it appears like, you understand, the style’s like gotten a lot wider and there are most likely 1,000,000 kind of variations on . . . slasher might be not likely even a helpful time period anymore simply because there’s so many micro genres or no matter you wish to name them. Like, I believe stuff that’s actually gory, that’s about physique horror, Noticed type of issues, I don’t discover them scary. I simply discover it type of gross and (inaudible). Yeah, however then there are like, there may be the entire style of type of excessive, high-tension horror motion pictures. There have been loads of incredible ones. All of Jordan Peele’s motion pictures type of function on that frequency the place you type of know what’s gonna occur, however then it’s the insufferable pressure of getting there.

Manuela Saragosa
Instantly after I completed watching Halloween, I watched The Babadook, which I believe is likely one of the greatest horror motion pictures ever made, you understand, simply . . .

Lilah Raptopoulos
Why?

Manuela Saragosa
I believe as a result of it’s psychological, however it’s horror. There is a component of supernatural in it. And it’s about grief and it’s kind of about grief personified. It kind of haunts this mom and youngster. She’s misplaced her husband in a automotive crash and this being haunts them and it’s really her grief. But additionally she turns towards her youngster. So it’s so unnatural and it’s so, and also you don’t know what’s going to occur. Then you definately suppose, oh my God, what’s she going to do? But it surely’s so nicely achieved and it’s so well-written. And it was such a distinction to Halloween.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. The Babadook is an Australian psychological horror movie. It’s from 2014.

Manuela Saragosa
Sure, it’s. Sure.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Babadook is actually an fascinating instance. And in addition, Matt, Get Out is a very fascinating instance as a result of it’s a film that, like, takes one thing that you understand, like, you understand, like a white man who says, I voted for Obama each occasions after which brings it in to kind of probably the most excessive instance of a factor that lots of people really feel day-after-day and sticks with you without end. Or that film sticks with me. I give it some thought on a regular basis. So what are we pinpointing right here? Like, what makes a film good at scaring individuals? What makes a scary film, like, good at its job?

Matt Vella
I believe the best way that the reply to that adjustments is kind of telling us what’s occurring on this planet as a result of like Halloween is simply this considerably, I imply, you understand, we don’t actually know his back-story, as you stated, and he’s only a type of supernatural pressure. And I believed one factor that was fascinating is that this film comes out, like, a yr after Star Wars, I believe, and it’s like very Darth Vader. Like, each time you see his perspective, you hear that respiration and there’s one thing type of, like, terrifying on a Freudian degree about that respiration. It’s, like, dying shouldn’t be the scary factor. It’s not having the ability to die that’s a scary factor. And that breath is that, like, you understand, it’s the relative who gained’t die. That’s the horror. However you don’t, like, none of that’s scary as a result of a supernatural dude in overalls and a masks shouldn’t be scary to us in 2023.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah.

Manuela Saragosa
It depends upon the state of affairs.

Matt Vella
Yeah, I suppose. However not in the identical method that Get Out is, like, wrecks you as a result of, kind of, liberal racism or no matter you wish to name it’s one thing that’s, you understand . . . 

Lilah Raptopoulos
Insidious and all over the place and present . . . 

Matt Vella
Yeah, we’ve all been type of attempting to determine that out, or lots of people have been type of unpacking that. And it’s fascinating that each one of Jordan Peele’s motion pictures, they’ve that kind of social relations factor is the core, like, scary factor, fairly than, like, some man with a knife, which is frightening however I believe our relationships between one another is, like, the supply of all our nice horror for the time being, or grief, as you stated about The Babadook. Like, that’s a type of interpersonal factor.

Manuela Saragosa
I believe you’re proper. And issues that choose up on kind of social problems with the day, like racism, they type of take these primal fears and turbocharge it in horror motion pictures. So even individuals who may not have thought of it in any nice element can definitely really feel it once they see a film like Get Out. You realize, chances are you’ll not have been subjected to prejudice, however my God, by the top of that film, you understand what that appears like.

Matt Vella
Everybody has been someone in that film.

Lilah Raptopoulos
Yeah. It’s fascinating to listen to you each clarify this. It’s really making me like the thought of scary motion pictures extra as a result of after I was brainstorming this earlier than, I had all of those concepts of why individuals would possibly like scary motion pictures that I used to be gonna throw at you want, is it that it triggers adrenaline and we really feel alive afterwards? Is it that it, you understand, helps us discover darkish stuff by means of one other storyline? But it surely sounds prefer it’s one thing completely different, like, it’s greater than that. Prefer it’s really taking fears or anxieties that we have already got and simply making them fairly literal so we are able to take a look at them higher. Does that sound correct?

Matt Vella
Yeah. I believe that it’s fairly insightful, like, nobody needs to, like, actually take into consideration demise, proper? It’s not that enjoyable, to understate the case, however to have the ability to type of see it on display screen and to have the ability to both giggle at it or to love, escape it, that looks as if a reasonably apparent . . . 

Manuela Saragosa
And truly, speaking about that, a few of the funniest motion pictures I’ve seen have been horror comedies, like, The Return of the Dwelling Useless. I keep in mind seeing that as a youngster, I used to be completely in hysterics. And I discover additionally that whenever you’re frightened, already frightened, you giggle much more. So it’s kind of this hysteria type of factor.

Lilah Raptopoulos
In order we kind of begin to wrap up, I’m curious, what’s it then? Why do you suppose we like being scared?

Manuela Saragosa
Yeah, I believe it makes you’re feeling issues extra intensely, if that is smart. Undoubtedly the horror motion pictures I’ve loved probably the most have made me suppose as nicely. Made me suppose and see issues barely in a different way in a method that I hadn’t thought of them earlier than. What about you, Lilah, why do you hate horror?

Lilah Raptopoulos
Effectively, I used to be fascinated with it, and I realised that really a part of what I hate about it’s simply that, like, I do know that, like, individuals like horror once they really feel, like, type of secure and so they can detach what’s taking place from actuality. However as a toddler, I watched Titanic from exterior of the theatre, I might need bother detaching what I see from actuality. And so even when there’s like a scary man strolling round in the course of the suburb . . .

Matt Vella
I’m sorry. What? You have been fearful of what was gonna occur in Titanic?

Lilah Raptopoulos
I didn’t need them to die. I simply, it’s simply an excessive amount of empathy, Matt. I’m too good of an individual.

Matt Vella
However you knew the boat was gonna sink whenever you walked into it.

Manuela Saragosa
I keep in mind watching that film and pondering for the primary one and a half hours it didn’t sink, and we have been all in there, we have been a bunch of, you understand, younger individuals simply ready for this boat to bloody beginning sink, I believe, oh, come on, simply, are you able to sink already?

Lilah Raptopoulos
Oh, no. I used to be able to go after it began, after the iceberg confirmed up. However I do really feel such as you guys are convincing me of one thing, which is that these horror movies enable us to have a look at issues which can be arduous for, like, us at a sure time on this planet or a time in society to have a look at and actually make them fairly literal and make them fairly tangible in order that we are able to really type of grapple with them and stroll away and truly really feel like one thing is staying with us that we are able to be taught.

Manuela Saragosa
I believe you hit the nail on the pinnacle there.

Matt Vella
Yeah, completely.

Lilah Raptopoulos
I believe we did it collectively. OK, Matt and Manuela, thanks a lot. This has been such a pleasure.

Matt Vella
Thanks. Thanks.

Manuela Saragosa
Thanks, Lilah. Thanks.

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Lilah Raptopoulos
That’s the present this week. Thanks for listening to FT Weekend, the Life & Arts podcast of the Monetary Occasions. We now have some hyperlinks to some spooky Halloween content material within the present notes. These hyperlinks will all get you previous the paywall on FT.com. We even have unimaginable reductions in order for you a subscription to the FT. These gives are at FT.com/weekendpodcast. Be certain that to make use of that hyperlink. If you wish to say hello, we love listening to from you. You possibly can e mail us at FTWeekendpodcast@ft.com. The present is on Twitter, or I’ll begrudgingly say X, @FTWeekendpod. And I’m all the time right here to talk with all of you on Instagram @LilahRap.

I’m Lilah Raptopoulos and right here’s my unimaginable staff. Katya Kumkova is our senior producer. Lulu Smyth is our producer. Our sound engineers are Breen Turner and Sam Giovinco with authentic music by Metaphor Music. Topher Forhecz is our government producer and lover of the movie Halloween. And our international head of audio is Cheryl Brumley. Have a beautiful weekend and we’ll discover one another once more subsequent week.

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