A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
As of right now, it’s two weeks until Hallowe’en, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to take much more of this. Make no mistake: I love Hallowe’en. It’s my favourite occasion after Christmas, St Paddy’s Day and the Summer Solstice (I think I was a Druid in a past life.) The problem is, like a lot of good things on this planet, idiots have got hold of Hallowe’en and they’re hell-bent on ruining it. Every year it’s the same: one minute after Columbus Day, they trot out the Horror movies. Then it’s wall-to-wall gore until the sugar shock wears off November 1st. For the last nine days, our 500 channel universe has been turned into a butcher shop, and it doesn’t look like the carnage is going to let up any time soon. So far, I’ve managed to avoid Friday the 13th in about 20 of its repetitious incarnations, Nightmare on Elm Street parts 1 through 35 and the entire Halloween franchise — except for about three minutes of Resurrection when I got the wrong Mike Myers. If I don’t see a decent movie soon, I swear I’m going to buy Netflix.
Let me put this into perspective so we’re all on the same page. Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, what’s-his-name with the hockey mask and anybody else with a chainsaw, pick axe or pointy stick have nothing to do with Hallowe’en. These guys and their horrible movies were invented by Hollywood to cash in on the universal need for teenage boys to get close to teenage girls — who are looking for an excuse to let them. (This little drop of human nature BTW, hasn’t changed since the Stone Age, but now it’s worth millions.) That’s where horror movies came from — not from Hallowe’en. Hallowe’en has never been about half-naked young women and dumbass young men getting their entrails splattered from here to Main Street. Nor is it about the lunatics, maniacs, evil spirits and just plain nasty folks who stalk them. These are all modern creations designed to separate unsuspecting youth from their money.
For the record, here’s the Twitter version of how Hallowe’en came about in the first place. Despite all the ghosts and goblins, Hallowe’en actually started out as a quasi-religious holiday, back in the way back days. This was at a time when Christians were battling Pagans for the collective souls of the European multitudes. Religious marketing was at its cutthroat best. As I’ve said before, the early Christians weren’t stupid and they incorporated a lot of pagan traditions into their rituals to ease the masses into accepting Jesus as their personal saviour. In those days, pagans (and most Christians) believed that unsatisfied souls walked the night, and they could, on occasion, mete out some pretty mean-spirited (pun intended) retribution on the living — if they saw fit. The church decided that November 1st, Hallowmas, a day that already honoured the saints would be a good opportunity for people to pray for the souls of the recently dead, thus, aiding their journey to heaven and getting them away from the God fearing living. Since midnight masses were de rigueur in those days, the church services took place at night or on All Hallows’ Eve. (Sound familiar? We know it in its corrupted form as “Hallowe’en.”) However, the nouveaux Christians of the day continued to hedge their bets. On their way to church, they wore cloaks, masks and even costumes – all to disguise themselves from the assembled apparitions who were hanging around consecrated ground, awaiting prayers of deliverance. In addition, some of the poorer members of the parish would accept coins or food from the wealthier patrons to add their prayers for the dear departed. That’s it: the time, the place, the costumes, the tricks and the treats. There’s a lot more to it, but for bare bones it serves our purpose.
If you notice, there were no chainsaws, axes, heavy mallets or ball peen hammers. There were no knives, swords, machetes, garden forks, shovels or soup spoons. Nobody got stabbed, jabbed, poked or prodded. Nobody was torn limb from limb, dismembered, eviscerated or even bruised. It wasn’t a bloodbath, nor even a slight rinse. Originally, and for most of its history, Hallowe’en was spooky, creepy, perhaps even a little frightening, but murder and mayhem were never on the agenda. It’s only recently that it’s been turned into a three-week multi-channel splatterfest.
Next Week: How to Write a Horror Movie, and Whatever Happened to Spooky?