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[Remember This?] Siskel & Ebert Defend ‘Halloween’!

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I had actually never seen this clip before today, which provides an added dimension to the “remember this” tag since I’m literally asking you if you remember something this time. Because I don’t. In this instance, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert discuss Halloween a few years after the film’s release within the larger context of other slashers. While I truly love and value what these two men did for cinema and the conversation around it, I didn’t always agree with them (a notion you can take up a few notches when it comes to horror).

And there are elements to their argument here that I don’t agree with, primarily their fundamental dislike of the slasher subgenre, which happens to be my absolute favorite kind of horror film. Still, the rest of what they discuss here is quite compelling. Their overall sentiments about Halloween aren’t exactly new, but the way they discuss it in terms of its cinematic language is inspiring (and increasingly rare as the current debate about critics not being able to discuss form indicates). It’s a quick four minutes, but you might come away with an added appreciation for a film you already love.

Think about the TV critics and personalities we have today. Do they even have the ability to discuss film in this manner?

  • Lemonade

    They are also huge fans of Scream 2. YouTube that one.

    I agree with them with the differences between Halloween and something like Friday the 13th, despite still enjoying both “kinds”, so to speak.

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  • mobstar67

    The whole “horror hates women” argument that these guys were on the soapbox about was bullshit then and its still bullshit today…
    these guys could not deny John Carpenters Halloween’s success both artistically and the box office….
    It took these guys three years to recognize… unimpressed
    I always liked Siskel & Ebert but thought there posturing against the horror genre was over the top…

    • macguffin54

      I don’t think horror hates women, per se, but the movies (especially 80′s slasher) very often do make their money by objectifying them (just read any review or comment on this or any site and guys approval of a film frequently will increase exponentially if there is a lot of nudity, and often nothing else, whether it is gratuitous or not) and putting them in peril. Men, especially with the cheaper slasher flicks, are seldom the center of the killers’ intentions. And I know I have seen a bunch of cheesy slasher films where they DO treat women horribly, with such brutality, that just crosses a line. It is a generalization to say all horror, slasher or otherwise, “hates” women, but it is certainly also a generalization to say it is warrantless claim for many horror films (especially 80s).

      • macguffin54

        Also, it didn’t take them 3 years to like it (at least I know Ebert liked it from the get-go). They were just referencing it as it was (and is) a good example of how to do (slasher) horror well, whereas other movies (not all, but the 80s was certainly ripe with stinkers). More importantly, they were referencing Halloween 2-3 years later (I heard the film didn’t really take off until ’79) because they types of bad horror movies they were panning were the (mostly terrible) Halloween-clones that came out in the early 80s. On a side note, I never really liked Siskel, as he was generally snooty and looked down on fun, crowd pleasing movies, even if they were good (he critiqued Aliens for using the “cheap” stunt of putting a child in peril, yet he like Poltergeist, which does the same thing…) Ebert, though, was more fair-minded and even if the movie didn’t have much “artistic” value, he saw that a film could be good in other ways and for other reasons.

  • 80sScreamQueen

    Totally over the top. I agreed with Ebert on most other genres, but when it comes to horror, he can’t seem to wrap his mind around it. Halloween was not the only good horror movie at the time. They only paid attention to it because of how famous it became.

    • macguffin54

      No, it wasn’t the only good horror movie at the time. They were just using it comparatively to show the differences between a good one and a bad one.

  • ThunderDragoon

    That’s really cool.

  • Jonny-Horror

    Awesome. Siskel and Ebert knew it. How could you not recognize how brilliant a film like HALLOWEEN is ? My all time fav horror film if I really had to pick. Perfect on every level.

  • Mr.Mirage

    On the original topic, while that kind of thoughtful reflection is rare in any discussion, in film criticism it has become a forgotten art form. If anyone cares, there is a brilliant book called Men, Women and Chainsaws: gender in the modern horror film by Carol J. Clover. I have read it several times, and it is a good, entertaining read but with a great deal to say about the genre, especially about the gender issues that are often bandied about but rarely examined to the depth as in this book. (No, I am not Ms. Clover.)

    If you’ve ever encountered the term Final (or Last) Girl, it came from this book. To my knowledge, that film theory shorthand term never appeared anywhere until she coined it, although many of the genre fandom were well aware of it. (Sexist? How? The survivor is almost always female! Because she kicks ass, that’s why!)