You might not have enjoyed Halloween Kills. It’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to reviews, I enjoyed it thoroughly for what it was, a hardcore slasher film. Slasher movies and professional critics do not usually mix. Just go check the Rotten Tomatoes audience score and critic score for some of our favorite slasher movies. So when it comes to professional critics and people writing reviews of them, sometimes they say really unpopular things about our favorite movies. One such case involved a writer from Variety (Owen Gleiberman) and his review of Halloween Kills. (I normally wouldn’t link it, because Variety doesn’t ever source anyone else, but for the article’s sake, we will.)
The writer in question wrote “Halloween as a mayhem-by-the-numbers-knockoff of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre… but let’s leave that topic for another time”. They meant it as an unfunny joke. We all have our misses when writing, but to be so clearly wrong about the history of horror and then to double down, like they did is truly astounding.
In their follow-up, titled “Yes, ‘Halloween’ Really Is A Knockoff Of ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’“, Owen really tried hard to make it seem like the point he was making was cogent and thought-provoking. Because we all know that calling something so famous and well-known a knockoff, is the stuff of high critique. I don’t claim to be an expert on Horror movies, but I know bullshit when I see it.
He Makes His Own Point Moot In The Article
Just for the sake of you being able to read it, his follow-up is linked above. His biggest point is right at the end:
“Halloween” ripped all of that off. But maybe one reason a lot of people wouldn’t see it that way is that “Halloween” so reduced the mystique of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Michael Myers, like Leatherface, is a hulking, overgrown arrested child (I like when he cocks his head back and forth like a kid while looking at the corpse he’s just pinned to the wall with his blade). Yet the mask he wears makes him less a walking nightmare than a shopping-mall specter.
You know how at a Halloween party store, you always see those masks of Michael Myers and Jason (and, yes, Leatherface), and it’s always kind of funny that this is now a costume for 9-year-olds? In “Halloween,” Michael Myers’ mask already was that costume. It was the imitation, the catchy but harmless version, the stoic gray-white visage that anyone could buy, the one that made slasher movies right at home in the multiplex. It was the mask that scared you without necessarily getting under your skin, because in this case there was nothing underneath it.Owen Gleiberman
He also goes on to say that the reason Halloween ripped off Texas Chain Saw Massacre is that they both have killers in masks. Yes. That’s what this boils down to. Not the tone, look, feel, kills, or script, the fact that they both have killers in masks. If that’s the case then everything is ripping off Psycho. And Psycho is ripping off M. And so on down the line. Showing off his slasher acumen, he mentions other films like Black Christmas and A Bay of Blood, so good on him for knowing his history, but he’s way off base here.
Where he really goes wrong is when he mentions just why Texas Chain Saw Massacre is so scary.
And, of course, the creepiness of “Chain Saw” also lies in the fact that Leatherface never takes that mask off. The mask is part of him. It expresses his identity, and his identity is that he has no identity. That’s the horror: that the force that kills you is faceless, and is therefore, when we imagine him, a projection of our own darkness.
Remind Me When We See Michael Myers’s Face In Halloween?
I know we see his face as a child at the very beginning of the film, and during that moment where Laurie seemingly gets his mask off, but outside of that, where do you truly see Michael’s face? You don’t!
Creepiness, fright, terror, they’re all subjective. One thing that’s terrifying to me, is not terrifying to you. We’re not comparing how scary Halloween and Texas Chain Saw are here. Owen is saying that Halloween is a knockoff because the mask that Michael Myers wears in the film is less scary than that of Leatherface. There’s no mystique reduced by Michael Myers existing.
To me, this critique of the Halloween series comes more from Owen enjoying Texas Chain Saw Massacre and it’s slasher villain Leatherface and less from Halloween being a knockoff. He even admits seeing it more than Halloween (20 to 6 views on his count).
To all the people yelling and hollering about Owen to get his horror fan card taken away, shut up. When you really read through his piece, it’s well written, it provides evidence (albeit flawed evidence in my mind), and it shows how much he loves horror. Even with a misguided opinion like “Halloween knocked off Texas Chain Saw“, it proves that we can still have debates about these movies forty-plus years after they release.
It’s Still An Absurd Argument Though
Even through it all, this argument holds little water because of how thin the evidence is. Horror has never been a genre that’s afraid to show subtle (or not so subtle) nods to what came before. Was John Carpenter influenced by Texas Chain Saw Massacre? Who wasn’t. There’s a reason why Tobe Hooper‘s seminal classic is held in such a high regard. It didn’t invent the slasher genre, but it surely popularized it. Halloween didn’t invent the slasher, but it gave it a new chapter, formula, and style.
Comparing the frights of both movies is entirely pointless because it’ll be different for everyone. Using the commercialization of horror as an excuse to bash Halloween is fruitless as well. You can play as Leatherface and fire an M60 assault rifle in Call of Duty: Warzone. You can play as Michael Myers in video games, they both have toys, children’s costumes and more.
Comparing the two films is fun. Seeing how they influenced countless filmmakers and each other at certain points, is truly awesome. Just don’t make a pointless argument about one knocking the other off because you happen to like Texas Chain Saw Massacre more.
They’re both great films, among the best and most influential, let’s celebrate that.
For more on horror, check out the month-plus long Halloween season marathon Fright-A-Thon, or stay tuned to That Hashtag Show.