Effective comedy in a horror movie can lighten the mood and, by contrast, make the horror elements all the more potent. Sounds simple enough and people have been saying this forever. Funny thing is, it’s really hard to do well. For every genuinely amusing moment in a horror movie, I’m pretty sure I’ve found at least 100 others that fall flat. Most often, the best laughs are inadvertent. This isn’t to say that I get off on laughing derisively at these movies. The majority of these pages are filled with subtle nuances that may not have been intentional but, for one reason or another, have tickled my funny bone.
I love not being able to tell if a filmmaker meant to do something hilarious and today’s addition is an example of that. Here’s how it happened:
After being shot several times at the end of the first film, Michael Myers is skulking around some backyards. He slinks into a house with two elderly people. The man is asleep in front of a television and the woman is cutting slices off of a hunk of ham with a large kitchen knife. Michael sneaks in, takes the knife, and smears some blood on the cutting board for good measure. The old lady (Mrs. Elrod) reaches for the knife and finds the blood instead; she screams. Nothing too notable so far.
We then cut to a teenage neighbor, Alice, chatting on the phone. The aforementioned scream is loud enough to be heard next door and through the phone. Alice goes outside to make sure everything is okay, but she doesn’t put too much effort into it. She just sort of hollers over but doesn’t seem too bothered when she receives no response.
Her reasoning is sound enough:
There was someone screaming next door…Yeah, Mr. and Mrs. Elrod. His wife’s always picking on him. He probably got angry and decided to start beating her…Big deal!
Alice is so nonchalant about the whole thing – hmmm, he beats her or he doesn’t beat her…
It’s a quote and delivery like this that make me realize the huge differences between movies made now and movies made then Political correctness was in an entirely different place in the early 80s than it is in 2015. It’s easy to see in crazy clips where Bugs Bunny pretends to be a slave and begs Yosemite Sam not to beat him:
But clips like this one in Halloween II don’t raise red flags as quickly as old racist children’s cartoons do. Perhaps it’s because it’s an R rated movie to begin with or maybe it has more to do with the blase delivery. Whatever the reason, I watched this movie regularly for years before I picked up that there was anything even unusual about a line like that. It’s interesting to note how the climate of political correctness has changed even within my lifetime.
I usually pick moments that amuse me for this collection. This is no exception. That’s not to say that I think domestic violence is funny but this line cracks me precisely because of how not funny domestic violence is. I hope that makes as much sense in print as it does in my head.
It should be noted that Michael does kill Alice here. This seems a little out of character as Michael usually has a bit more focus – he doesn’t often kill people that aren’t either his target or somehow getting in between him and his target. He doesn’t even attempt to kill the Elrods – and that would have at least made some sense as he wouldn’t want them making a ruckus over the missing knife. He went completely out of his way to kill Alice for no discernible reason. He watched this despicable conversation and decided domestic violence was no laughing matter.