Hello, folks, and welcome to October. A time to whip out classics like Hocus Pocus and
The Nightmare Before Christmas. Or go the horror route and watch a dude’s jaw fall off to Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” in Brightburn. Regardless of rating, these movies have at least one thing in common—they are littered with cliches.
As I don’t want my column cut from the get-go, we’ll hold off on the truly horrific stuff for now. Instead, let’s focus on Halloween movies, those PG-13 testaments to cliched childhood candy/monster hunting. Hop on board, if you dare.
(Spoilers: If you haven’t seen Monster Squad or Hocus Pocus and don’t want the ending ruined, don’t stick around.)
We have to close the portal/reverse the spell before the night ends. Otherwise __________ will infest our world/be stuck like this forever.
As Halloween was originally a pagan festival where Gaels attempted to appease spirits taking advantage of the thin “walls” between the world of the living and dead, I understand the whole portal thing. Even the daybreak time limit, as the walls got...thick again in the morning. Apparently.
What I have a problem with is the demon’s/spell’s lack of strategic preparedness. If an evil genius has been planning to show out on Halloween for the past 100, 500, 1,000 years, why can some ten-year-olds or six puppies spirit block them?
Simple, by following these three easy steps.
Your posse needs to have one outsider who previously failed to defeat the Big Bad.
Whether they’re a ghost boy, ghost dog, a boy who’s a cat, if you want to defeat the great evil, you’re going to need someone who faced off against them before. They usually have some horribly sad story like Cat Boy (His name is Thackery Binx, and I never want to type that again so…) in Hocus Pocus, whose sister got murked by three witches. Those witches proceeded to turn him into Cat Boy, made him immortal, and abandoned him to eternal solitude. Heavy stuff.
But, this depressingly wise character will guide our posse and help them defeat the Big Bad; and maybe the outsider will even find love, or friendship, or other grossness along the way.
You need to “get serious” halfway through and make weapons out of household stuff.
The posse will get their butt kicked by the Big Bad for the first ¾ of the movie, despite the help of the ghost/cat/dog, and finally, realize it’s time to level up. They go home, get their shin guards and softball bats, and make a sick plan. A plan that will defeat the bad guy in the nick of time and give every character the chance to show off how much they’ve grown.
In the movie Monster Squad, for example, when the kids finally get sick of being whooped by Dracula’s dream team, they create weapons to clean the monster's clock. One boy steals his mom’s silver and melts it all down to make silver bullets and another kid...sharpens sticks, I guess. They also find a spell to lock the monsters away, but they need a girl whose “pure of heart” to read the spell; one guy volunteers his sister, and that goes wrong...You get the idea.
The outsider/ ghost guide has to “die.”
In order to win the day (night), one final, self-sacrificing gesture must be made. Or maybe with their unfinished business finished, ghost guides finally move on.
Two of the lowest points in my childhood came from watching those kinds of scenes. The first was watching Cat Boy become a human ghost and walk to the afterlife with his sister. The second was when Frankenstein in Monster Squad sentenced himself to an eternity of suffering to save a little girl he’d become friends with. Watching her throw him her toy rabbit? Sobbing. These twists make a fun movie suddenly serious and tug at the audience’s heartstrings, but they never bothered me as much as the following cliche.
THE PROTAGONISTS NEVER GET CANDY
Like, what? I get they’re fighting the forces of evil, but these kids never snag any sweets? What do they tell their parents? When you get home with no candy, a trashed costume, a handful of silver bullets, and emotional scarring from seeing your friend die, what in the world would you say? Either the movie ends on the way home from fighting baddies, or it ends at school on Monday when they fist bump and say, “Can’t wait for next year’s Halloween!” What?
And what if that year’s Halloween was on Tuesday or something? You’re going to come to school exhausted and sit through sixth-grade math, and then go to lunch only to have Milk Duds from the bottom of your parent's candy bowl to trade? No. I don’t think so.
This is the most idiotic, poorly planned, unrealistic part of a Halloween movie.
Ramblings aside, movies like Hocus Pocus, Monster Squad, and Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy made Halloween Halloween when I was a kid. It’s also important to keep in mind that cliches don’t make something inherently bad, just cliched.
Unless it's the one about no candy. That’s stupid.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did, look for the continuation of Cliches for Days on the website. This was the first installment and I can’t wait to start the next one. If you’ve got any comments, questions, or suggestions, feel free to leave them below. Until next time!
October 1, 2019