Laughing Screaming
by William Paul

Abusing Children

. . .[Speaking of Night of the Living Dead (1968)] There is, then, peculiarly for a horror movie, a mobilization of conflicting antipathies set up in the audience - one that is conventionally felt against the monster, but also, in an anti-genre move typical of Romero, one that is unconventionally felt against a victim who has otherwise engaged audience sympathies up to this point. ¹ There could be a suggestion that all-forgiving, unquestioning mother love is more monstrous that the monster it creates. The mother is simply abdicating her authority as parent in trying to placate this thing she still insists is her "baby." It might be better were the mother to attack the daughter, and in this context the resultant violence would probably be as satisfying for the audience. the film posits the horror of hierarchy run amok. It is the loss of authority that is the terrible thing to contemplate . . .(p. 266)

¹[This is not to say that we don't ever feel some victims get what they deserve in horror films. This, in fact, may frequently be the case for victims in the earliest stages of the narrative since those who die off first are clearly disposable. Generally, the rhetoric of horror fiction requires some way of keeping us distanced from the victims, which may be accomplished by creating a sense of just desserts. Andrew Tudor has noted an ambivalent response toward mad scientists like Dr. Frankenstein in films of the early 1930s: we might value science, but since science may also go too far, we may feel a sense of justice in the scientist threatened by his own creation. And Robin Wood sees in "teenie-kill" films like Friday the 13th (1980) a comparably divided response: "The satisfaction that youth audiences get from these films is presumably twofold: they identify both with the promiscuity and with the grisly and excessive punishment."]

The Revenge of Oedipus

. . .Halloween does not belong to the "evil children" cycle, but the power of its opening is not merely a matter of bravura filmmaking; it clearly depends on the shock in its revelation of the killer's identity as a six-year-old boy. Although the film was greeted for its originality and is seen as the primary influence in subsequent "slice-and-dice" movies like the Friday the 13th series, much of it follows a pattern of established three years earlier by Black Christmas (1975). . . As critics commented at the time, the virgin is the only main character who remains alive at the end of Halloween (as if that were a sign that she should be saved from Michael's predations). But she is also the only babysitter in the film who actually does her job, who stays focused on the children and who knows how to talk to them. And it is only the children that she cares for who can see the murderous Michael most clearly. Something like this will turn up in the original Friday the 13th (1980): again, the sexual activity that seems the primary cause of violence has an underlying trigger. The murderer is avenging her son's death; he was neglected by the very people who were supposed to take care of him because they were selfishly engaged in sexual activity. Keeping all this in mind, we might pay a little more attention to what else is going on in Halloween's opening tracking shot. . .(p.320 & 323)