Friday Night Knife Fights: PSYCHO vs. HALLOWEEN (Part 1 of 3)

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:  PSYCHO (1960) vs. HALLOWEEN (1978)
Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Pete Dudar, Dan Keohane, and Paul McMahon
(PART 1 OF 3)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. 

And this time I really do mean knife fight!  It’s the battle of the knife murderers: Michael Myers vs. Norman Bates! The battle of the classic music scores: Bernard Herrmann vs. John Carpenter! And the battle of two top film directors: Alfred Hitchcock vs. John Carpenter!

Tonight we bring out the heavy hitters, as two of horror’s heavyweights go at it in what we hope will be a memorable bout. Hold onto to your carving knives, it’s PSYCHO (1960) vs. HALLOWEEN (1978).

Which one of these two is the better movie?  That’s what our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters assembled here tonight plan to find out.

Welcome everyone, and let’s get started.  Tonight’s bout features eight rounds of questions.

L.L. SOARES: Eight? What is this, the SATs?

MICHAEL ARRUDA: The first question tonight is this:

“Who is the more iconic villain, Norman Bates or Michael Myers?”

Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in PSYCHO (1960).

PAUL MCMAHON:  Norman Bates.

As the psychologically twisted serial killer, Norman is the one the general public thinks about when strange cases of serial killers are revealed in the news (at least he was until Hannibal Lecter took that honor away from him).

Michael Myers, when he’s thought about, is usually an afterthought to Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I like Michael Myers much better than Jason or Freddy.

L.L. SOARES:  Who cares which one you like better? (laughs).

PAUL MCMAHON:  You may like Michael Myers better, but I think among most fans today, he’s third behind Jason and Freddy.

NICK CATO:  Getting back to the debate at hand, gentlemen, Norman Bates vs. Michael Myers, while I love Norman’s loner-bird-stuffing psychotic schtick, I always found Myers more terrifying. As Dr. Loomis said, he’s evil incarnate.  So, I’m going with Michael Myers.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Good choice, Nick!

L.L. SOARES:  Oh come on! Myers is okay, but Norman Bates is the gold standard of horror movie serial killers. He was the first “psycho” to really burrow into the mind of the general public, and what made him so scary was that was very plausible for the most part. He was, after all, based on a real life murderer, Ed Gein. Someone like Norman Bates could really exist in the world. Michael Myers was more of a boogeyman.

PETE DUDAR:  Norman’s a lunatic, but he’s a conflicted lunatic…actually showing signs of fear and remorse.

Michael Myers is a different breed of monster. The whole set-up through Donald Pleasance’s expositional spiels indicates that he’s pure evil, with no emotional or mental faculties to speak of.

I don’t know who’s more iconic.

L.L. SOARES: Well, Michael Myers was in WAYNE’S WORLD (1992) and AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY (1997). So he is pretty iconic.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Very funny.  I wondered how long it would take before someone mentioned Mike Myers, the comedic actor of AUSTIN POWERS fame.  Well, we’re not talking about him tonight.  We’re talking about Michael Myers, the psycho killer from the HALLOWEEN movies.

L.L. SOARES: There’s a difference?

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I think Mike Myers has a better sense of humor.

L.L. SOARES:  Not by much

In a lot of ways, I think it’s a generational thing. Older horror movie fans will remember how Norman Bates was a game changer. The shower scene in PSYCHO was one of the scariest film scenes of all time, and people actually avoided showers after seeing the movie. It really shook up the American public at the time.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Deodorant sales must have increased!

L.L. SOARES :  But people who grew up with HALLOWEEN might feel the same way about that movie. The thing is, PSYCHO came first and influenced all of the serial killer movies that came after it. Thus, it’s the more iconic.

DAN KEOHANE:  It’s a tough question to answer.  Who is the more iconic villain, Norman Bates or Michael Myers?

Iconic?

I’d have to say Michael Myers.

Personally, I think Norman Bates is a hundredfold creepier, but come Halloween time more kids are wearing Michael Myers masks than dressed as a twitchy guy with mother issues (though most of the ones behind the mask are like that in real life.  Brooh ha ha ha!!!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I agree with Dan.

Michael Myers from HALLOWEEN (1978).

I mean, it’s a tough call, but based on what I hear from today’s audiences, I’d give the slightest edge to Michael Myers.  I think his image, and his name, are more recognizable today among fans of the genre, and among people who aren’t fans of the genre.

Bates was obviously the bigger icon in the 1960s, and Myers was the bigger icon in the late 1970s into the 1980s.  I’m not sure if either one of these characters remain iconic today among today’s audiences, although like I said, I think Myers is more known.  Visually, Myers, with his mask, is more striking.  His look is more iconic than Norman Bates, but then, who can forget Anthony Perkins’ sly smile at the end of PSYCHO?

Still, I go with Michael Myers.

So, Round 1 goes to HALLOWEEN, as three of us chose Michael Myers, two chose Bates, and one, Mr. Dudar, remained undecided.

On to Round 2 and the next question.

“Which film has the better music score?  Is it Bernard Herrmann’s PSYCHO score or John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN score?”

NICK CATO:  This one’s simply impossible to answer.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I disagree.

While it’s true that I love both music scores, and that they’re both among my favorite film scores of all time, right off the bat, without thinking about it for too long, I’d say I prefer John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN score, for a number of reasons.    I like the actual tune better, for one thing.  Whenever I watch a HALLOWEEN movie, I have the HALLOWEEN theme stuck in my head for days, and this is not a bad thing.

The music score for HALLOWEEN also does more for the movie than Herrmann’s PSYCHO score.   Without the music, HALLOWEEN just wouldn’t have been as effective.  In fact, I read once that when John Carpenter initially screened HALLOWEEN, trying to get a distributor, the film was rejected.  He then added his music score, showed it to the same people, and the film was accepted, the viewers saying they were pleased with his changes, when in fact the film was exactly the same, and the only difference was his music score.

But the longer I think about it, the less sure I am.  Bernard Herrmann’s PSYCHO score is also instantly known as soon as one hears it, and can you imagine the famous shower scene without Herrmann’s score?  And when you watch PSYCHO, the score is so much more than just the iconic staccato notes of its main theme.  It’s a rich and powerful score throughout.

Yet, I’m going to stick with my initial choice.  I like Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN score a wee bit better, and I think it helps the movie more than Herrmann’s PSYCHO score.  I can’t imagine HALLOWEEN with a different music score, but I could see PSYCHO working with different music.

Bernard Herrmann, composer of the score for PSYCHO.

L.L. SOARES:  I love both scores and I think they are very effective at what they do. But I’d have to give a slight edge to Bernard Herrmann’s classic score for PSYCHO. It pretty much showed everyone else how to do it. I hate to keep going back to the “movie that came first” argument, but the truth is, the first of its kind is the one that everyone else strives to imitate or surpass. And everything about PSYCHO is pretty much perfect. But in a weird way, I agree with Michael that I think I like the HALLOWEEN score a little better. It’s something I’d prefer listening to on my iPod. But for the sake of this argument, I have to go with Herrmann’s as the better score.

DAN KEOHANE:  Oooohh… you know, to be honest, there must be something to Herrmann’s score, since I can’t remember it at all except for the famous “eeeh eeeh” part, and the music for the  credits.

Carpenter’s score is admittedly more melodic and creepy in that it stays with you. Back to the iconic question, though, Herrmann’s “eeeeh eeeeh eeeeh!” killing score with the strings (yea, I have such a way with words) is far more iconic. Everyone knows what that is.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Since you can’t remember the PSYCHO score, you’d better pick the HALLOWEEN score.

DAN KEOHANE:  I remember the “eeeh eeeeh eeeeh!” part.

L.L. SOARES:  Enough with the “eeeh eeeeh eeeeh!” already!

DAN KEOHANE:  I do prefer the Carpenter score, so I’ll go with that.  (Turns and pretends to stab LS, crying out,  “eeeh eeeeh eeeeh!”

John Carpenter not only directed and co-wrote HALLOWEEN, he also wrote the music.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Interesting question.

The screeching violins of the shower scene is what most people remember when they think about PSYCHO, but that music was just a tiny part of the overall score, the rest of which most people, like Dan, don’t remember. As proof, I offer that the PSYCHO score Bernard Herrmann wrote was re-orchestrated for RE-ANIMATOR (1985).

The “trivia” section on IMDB.com says Richard Band “borrowed heavily” from Herrmann’s PSYCHO—but having just watched the openings to both movies back-to-back, I can say that Richard Band flat-out ripped Hermann off, and Herrmann’s name appears nowhere in RE-ANIMATOR’s credits. I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve met who recognize the music was originally from PSYCHO.

 

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  You can count me as one of those people.  It’s one of the reasons I initially disliked RE-ANIMATOR so much, because I recognized the music score and realized they had ripped off Hermann’s PSYCHO score.

L.L. SOARES: I recognized the “similarity” in the music, too, but unlike you guys, I don’t really care. I love everything about RE-ANIMATOR, even the more iffy aspects like the music. It just all works for me. Besides, I’m sure Mr. Band would clarify things by saying it was a “homage.” (laughs)

PAUL MCMAHON:  By the same token, if someone were to “re-orchestrate” Carpenter’s score for HALLOWEEN, not only would it be immediately recognized, fans would cause a stink that would dominate the Internet for days.

L.L. SOARES:  So, what’s your point?

PAUL MCMAHON:  My point is that HALLOWEEN has the better music score.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Pete, how about you?

PETE DUDAR:  Could you have picked two more iconic horror films to juxtapose? This is like asking “Which is better? Hot fudge or butterscotch?”  (Everyone on the panel shouts out one or the other.)  See what I mean?

I think picking between these two movies is simply too difficult.  So, I don’t really have anything to say about the music.

I’ll save my answers for the final question.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Ah, a rebel.

L.L. SOARES:  A wimp is more like it!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Round 2 also goes to HALLOWEEN, with three for John Carpenter’s score, one for Bernard Herrmann’s PSYCHO score, and two undecided. HALLOWEEN enjoys an early lead, 2-0.

L.L. SOARES: That’s ludicrous.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: And since HALLOWEEN has jumped out to an early lead, I just want to remind our audience that, even if one movie has an insurmountable lead going into the final round, that movie can still lose if it falls in the final round.  It’s like a knock-out in boxing, where the fighter who’s losing the fight on points can still win in the final round if he knocks his opponent out.  Of course the difficult part is that the movie must win the round unanimously to score a knockout.

L.L. SOARES:  Yeah, yeah, they’ve heard the rule before.  You don’t have to repeat it every time.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I just don’t want the folks to tune out if one movie builds a big lead, but something tells me that in spite of HALLOWEEN’s early lead this one is going to be close.

So HALLOWEEN is in the lead. What will happen next? Come join us next Friday and see!

L.L. SOARES: See you next week.

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Peter N. Dudar, Daniel G. Keohane and Paul McMahon

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