Friday, January 25, 2013
What's Gone Is Gone
I'll confess, though - it wasn't just the gore and the scares that attracted me but at a formative age these films performed the valuable service of offering a window onto the next stages of life I was heading towards - high school, college, young adulthood. For a socially stunted young person curious about what lay ahead in life, movies like Prom Night and My Bloody Valentine were fascinating to me, regardless of how poorly written or acted they might've been. Deeper critical assessments didn't occur to me. I just craved the view into the everyday lives of older kids and young adults that slasher films offered - even if that glimpse would always be truncated by an axe, or machete, or the whole tool shed.
One thing I loved about slasher movies was their ordinariness. You know, even when they were about nerds and outcasts, the John Hughes films had a Hollywood sheen to them but slasher films never had an once of glamminess. He Knows You're Alone (1980) is a perfect example of that. It all takes place in semi-shabby New York locations. Everybody's working class. These were people I recognized.
Hell, they even had glasses from McDonald's!
Watching He Knows You're Alone back in the day used to make me want to live in that world with those people - well, sans the knife wielding maniac, of course. But the rest of it, going to the ice cream shop, the amusement park - all of that was ideal. Now, thirty-plus years later, it all fills me with nostalgia for a world that's vanished. Oh sure, there's still plenty of ice cream shops and amusement parks to be found but the mood is different, the world just isn't the same.
It's ironic that He Knows You're Alone, which was part of such a notorious, controversial trend in movies, now plays as such an innocent - practically gentle! - film. Yes, there's the requisite slasher movie murders to be had but there's not a mean bone in this movie's body. Caitlin O'Heaney plays such a regular person here, the kind of "girl next door" that doesn't really exist on film these days. Horror heroines aren't allowed to be so normal and down to Earth anymore. The same goes for all the people around her who are uncommonly relatable by today's standards - even her kid sister isn't precocious.
It's so rare (impossible?) now to see movie or TV characters who genuinely like each other and who enjoy each other's company without being out to one-up each other in hipster snark or strained, bizarro behavior that the simple friendships and (mostly) innocent courtships portrayed in He Knows You're Alone feel so appealing in their uncool, unfashionable sincerity (even though one of O'Heaney's friends is up to sexual hijinks with their married college professor, it doesn't come across like such a moral blemish on her character).
Back when I started watching slasher films, I was on the brink of adolescence. Now, I'm middle aged. I don't have my whole life ahead of me anymore. But He Knows You're Alone connects me to that time when I still did and when life seemed full of promise and possibilities.
And for that, I continue to love it.