When it comes to movies, some old things are just better. Video stores are better than Netflix. Going to the theater beats your couch. And horror movies belong at the drive-in, especially around Halloween. Think about it: You’re watching a movie about a creepy killer, you’re in a glass-walled vehicle in the dark. You’re distracted by all the smooching – a perfect recipe for jump scares and enjoyable freak-outs.
At least that’s the theory behind the big classic horror movie weekend of double (and a triple) features this Thursday through Sunday. Movies include “The Shining,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “The Exorcist” and more.
Thursday at the Saco Drive-In features two of the scariest horror movies of all time, “Halloween” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” (Gates open at 6 p.m., the show starts as soon as it gets nice ‘n’ dark – around 7:30 p.m.)
“So what’s so scary about two old horror movies from the 1970’s?,” I hear you saying. Well, funny you should ask…
“Halloween” (1979) understands the Boogeyman. Sure, the masked killer (of promiscuous babysitters and attendant horny boyfriends) is named Michael Myers, but he functions as the embodiment of every little kid’s fear of the silent, faceless killer hiding under the bed (or in the closet, or – speaking of the drive-in – the car’s back seat).
Director John Carpenter understands that the childish fears we carry with us are of the implacable, the relentless, the thing that simply cannot be reasoned with – and that can be anywhere.
That’s what most of the sequels and Rob Zombie’s misguided 2007 remake don’t get – the Boogeyman is only scary if we don’t understand anything about him. When Donald Pleasence’s half(?)-crazed shrink Loomis tells the sheriff: “I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil,” the idea (sold immeasurably by old horror hand Pleasance’s chilling delivery) resonates in the hearts of every boy and girl everywhere who simply hid under the covers and prayed that the monster would go away. Because sometimes that’s all you can do.
Tobe Hooper’s ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” exposes a very different fear – that civilization provides far less protection than we think it does. When a vanload of mildly annoying city folk wind up lost in rural Texas, they stop at the wrong-est possible old farmhouse, where a family of demented, inbred cannibals is waiting.
Filmed in the grimiest low-budget style (most of the cast got injured at one or more points), this 1974 film, while not as explicit as its reputation suggests, is one of the most disturbing horror movies ever. (“Halloween” delivers some giggly scares along the way – “TCM” is relentlessly upsetting.)
Ultimately, the film’s escalating nightmare stems from the realization that all it takes is one wrong turn to show that the thin veneer of civilization can be stripped away – revealing that we’re not as removed from the food chain as we imagine.
So gas up the car, call your best girl/guy, and head out to the drive-in. Bring a flashlight – and your security blanket.
Thursday: “Halloween” (R); “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (R)
Friday: “The Shining” (R); “Pet Sematary” (R); “Thinner” (R)
Saturday: “Hannibal Rising” (R); “Silence of the Lambs” (R); “Hannibal” (R)
Sunday: “Rocky Horror Picture Show”; “The Exorcist” (R)
SACO DRIVE-IN, 969 Portland Road, Saco; 284-1016. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. $15 up to three people, $20 for four or more.
Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer