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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Slasher Clash, Round 5: Michael Myers Versus ET

Sometimes inspiration is found in the unlikliest of places. This latest installment of Slasher Clash was inspired by the recent press junket for the upcoming Disney film YOU AGAIN, of all things. During one of the interviews, co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver discuss their respective roles in the classic horror films HALLOWEEN and ALIEN. Here’s a listen:



The actresses’ discussion got me thinking about putting these iconic films up, head-to-head, for a little slasher-clasher. Which film is better: HALLOWEEN or ALIEN? Now, before my faithful readers get all technical on me and start denouncing ALIEN’s status as a slasher film, we’re going to employ some latitude here and look at the film within the framework of the classic slasher formula:

  • A group of unsuspecting victims is lured to an isolated location under false pretenses;
  • The killer’s destructive force is reactivated;
  • The killer (in this case an alien creature) is kept in the shadows for most of the film while systematically stalking a group of victims;
  • The killer appears to be unstoppable;
  • There is an underlying vice (in this case corporate greed) at play here so that the killer’s actions against the interlopers are “justified”;
  • The cast is whittled down to one remaining “Final Girl”;
  • Final Girl does battle with the killer;
  • Killer is seemingly killed and Final Girl survives;
  • Hint/foreshadowing that the Final Girl is not really free from the horror she’s just survived (more implied in the case of ALIEN).

Although the fit is loose, the slasher cap fits well enough on the head of ALIEN for the purposes of comparison. So, how does John Carpenter’s iconic holiday-themed slasher measure up against Ridley Scott’s classic outer space screamer? Here are some of my thoughts:

TAGLINE:

HALLOWEEN: “The Night He Came Home”
ALIEN: “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream”
WINNER: ALIEN

SETTING:

HALLOWEEN: Everyday middle-class suburbia in autumn
ALIEN: Deep space, season indeterminate
WINNER: Nothing beats the stark reality and fa├žade of our own suburban childhoods in HALLOWEEN.

MUSIC:

HALLOWEEN: John Carpenter’s synthesizer-laden score reflects the low-budget aesthetic of his film.
ALIEN: Jerry Goldsmith’s moody, minimalist sound echoes the isolation of deep space.
WINNER: Hard to deny the adrenaline rush that comes from Carpenter’s thumping escalation.

FINAL GIRL:

HALLOWEEN: Jamie Lee Curtis as the virtuous high school babysitter Laurie Strode.
ALIEN: Sigourney Weaver as the tough-as-nails spacecraft Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley.
WINNER: Duh. (Like there was a doubt in your mind where I’d fall on this one!)

KILLER:

HALLOWEEN: A stoic, masked killing machine – 6+ feet of pure evil personified.
ALIEN: A highly aggressive extraterrestrial killing machine – 7+ feet of pure alien terror.
WINNER: Tough choice, but the ambidextrous, multi-mouthed, chest-bursting ET-on-steroids wins by a hair – if only for its sheer unpredictability at the time.

SUSPENSE:

HALLOWEEN: Creepy set pieces, killer POV shots, effectively stark music, and a solid 45 minutes of foreshadowing, and Carpenter skillfully ratchets up the tension with each passing minute of the film’s running time.
ALIEN: An almost claustrophobic sense of isolation, an unpredictable life form, eerie, ambient music, and Scott’s near-flawless execution of the Dallas-with-a-flamethrower-in-the-air-shaft sequence was cause to nearly climb out one’s seat in the movie theater.
WINNER: It’s a draw. Two perfect examples of cinematic suspense.

CAST:

HALLOWEEN: A deliriously over-the-top Donald Pleasance and a cast of relative unknowns, including the film debut of Curtis.
ALIEN: Seasoned cast of character actors including Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and the then-relatively unknown Sigourney Weaver.
WINNER: Hard to beat the thespian pedigree of the Nostromo’s ill-fated crew.

BODY COUNT:

HALLOWEEN: Five…plus a dog
ALIEN: Five via titular creature…plus one robotic man who is decapitated with a fire extinguisher.
WINNER: Again, it’s a draw. Violence in both is more implied than actually scene, although one could imagine the ALIEN deaths being far more gruesome and painful.

FINAL CHASE SCENE:

HALLOWEEN: After discovering the dead bodies of her friends, plucky babysitter Laurie limps, gimps, and hobbles her way through two houses, is trapped in a flimsy closet, and throttled before uttering the classic line “Was the boogeyman…”
ALIEN: After discovering the still-breathing bodies of her cocooned crewmates, determined Ripley grabs the Calico kitty and makes haste for the escape pod – only to battle ‘ole ugly post-launch.
WINNER: Ok, so Curtis frustratingly drops the keys too many damn times, but for its sheer unrelenting, unrepentant pace and duration, HALLOWEEN wins this one hands-down.

Vince’s Final Score:

HALLOWEEN: 4
ALIEN: 3
TIED: 2
WINNER: By a butcher knife’s length…HALLOWEEN.

Alright, now it’s your turn to weigh in. To refresh, in this corner, weighing in at 91 minutes and made on a shoestring budget of $320,000, the story of butcher knives and beleaguered babysitters in HALLOWEEN:



In the opposite corner, clocking in at a hefty 119 minutes and a heftier $11 million price tag, the tale of the crew of an ill-fated spaceship and the extraterrestrial nasty that climbs aboard in ALIEN:



Now, it's time for you to weigh in below. HALLOWEEN or ALIEN? Vote in the poll and leave your comments below. Let the boxing gloves come off...


Disclaimer: No slasher film was hurt in the making of this blog.

3 comments:

jasonk said...

Great post, Vince, loved it. Did you know there's a book coming out, specifically about JLC's work in the genre? I just got an email about it in The Terror Trap's inbox. Can't speak to whether it'll be good or not, but considering how much you dig her, thought I'd pass it on...

Here's the link:

http://bearmanormedia.bizland.com/id514.html

Cheers,
Jason
The Terror Trap
www.terrortrap.com

Vince Liaguno said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jason! And thanks for the info on the JLC book. I liked Grove's work on the F13 book, so I'm anxious to check this out.

James said...

I agree with Jason, Vince - great post! And such a treat to see JLC AND SW together in an interview. Both women are icons within the genre. Interesting to put a 'slasher' spin on Alien, too - I guess in so many ways it really does resemble a slasher movie in space. Now where did I put my copy of Jason X?? ;o)