Archive for the Friday Night Knife Fights Category

Friday Night Knife Fights Presents: SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND – Part 3 (of 3)

Posted in 2013, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror-Comedies, Zombie Movies, Zombies with tags , , on April 26, 2013 by knifefighter

PART 3 (of 3)
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back to Friday Night Knife Fights.  Tonight it’s Part 3 of our battle of the zombie comedies, SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND.

So far, SHAUN OF THE DEAD has opened up a very wide lead, as it’s ahead of ZOMBIELAND by a score of 4 rounds to 1.

PAUL MCMAHON:  As it should be.  SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a much better movie than ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA:  Says you.  But that’s what we’re here to decide.

Once again, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane, ZOMBIELAND hater Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund.  Thank you all for joining us tonight.  We’ve got a great panel, and tonight’s the night that we conclude the debate.  Even though SHAUN OF THE DEAD has a comfortable lead, there’s still time for ZOMBIELAND to make a comeback.

Okay, it’s on to Round 6.  

Which movie has the better screenplay?  Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick for ZOMBIELAND, or Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright for SHAUN OF THE DEAD?

SHERI SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: ZOMBIELAND has a better screenplay, I would say.

The plot is less predictable than that of SHAUN OF THE DEAD. As I mentioned, I like SHAUN, but ZOMBIELAND is written better and executed more effectively.

The ending of SHAUN seemed a little odd. Life kind of goes back to normal. It doesn’t really ring true. At the end of ZOMBIELAND, the characters are changed, but there’s no illusion that things go back to “normal.”

MCMAHON:  This is so obviously SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

If you take the zombies away, Shaun was the story of a man whose life was crumbling under his own complacency. He embarked on a journey to win back his girl, distance himself from his mooch of a best friend, make amends with his mom and stepdad and generally “sort his life out.” The zombies made the film awesome, but they weren’t the main focus.

ARRUDA:  Come on!  Do you really think without zombies SHAUN OF THE DEAD would stand as having a decent story?  I don’t think so.  Take away the zombies and you’re left with a bunch of losers fighting over pub food.

MCMAHON:  It’s a better story than ZOMBIELAND.

In ZOMBIELAND, you had one putz following the standard zombie movie plot by searching for his family, you had two brainless putzettes who believed zombies wouldn’t enter amusement parks, and then you had the biggest putz of all on a nationwide hunt for Twinkies snack cakes. Take the zombies out and you’ve got squat.

ARRUDA:  I wouldn’t want to take the zombies out of either movie, actually.  But I think the characters in ZOMBIELAND are just as satisfying as the characters in SHAUN, perhaps more so since they’re so over the top.

MCMAHON:  Nah.  SHAUN OF THE DEAD by a landslide.

ARRUDA:  Well, I think both screenplays work.  Both are hilariously funny, and both manage to be excellent zombie movies to boot. 

How to choose?  While this one may seem too close to call at first, after thinking about it— now don’t fall out of your chair, Paul— but I give the edge to Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright for SHAUN OF THE DEAD.  Their screenplay works from beginning to end. 

MCMAHON:  I told you.

ARRUDA:  While I enjoy Reese and Wernick’s ZOMBIELAND screenplay, their story runs out of steam somewhat as the movie approaches its final act at the amusement park.  And the Bill Murray scenes, while funny the first time, didn’t hold up as well upon further viewing.

L.L. SOARES:  I think both scripts are good. But I think SHAUN is a little smarter.

ARRUDA:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD wins Round 6.  Our updated score is SHAUN 5, ZOMBIELAND 1.

It’s time now for the seventh and final round.

And since ZOMBIELAND is so far behind, the only way now that it could win this contest would be by a knockout.  A knockout occurs when one movie sweeps the round, meaning all the panel members vote for the same movie.  Something tells me, though (looks at Paul McMahon) that that’s not going to happen today.


Anyway, on to Round 7.  Which one is the better movie?

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  They may both be horror comedies, but the movies are very different from one another. 

I did like ZOMBIELAND, overall, enjoying immensely the title sequence using Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

I thoroughly enjoyed both movies and would watch either one again.  The acting and directing were superb in both.  I will give SHAUN OF THE DEAD a slight edge here, however because the characters just feel more real to me.  I do appreciate the fact that it doesn’t go full-on apocalypse, so it’s a bit different than most zombie films. 

So my pick for which one of the two is the better film goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

DAN KEOHANESHAUN OF THE DEAD is a quieter, more subtle film that builds the laugh, and tension, as it goes along, and breaks as many of the zombie “rules” as it celebrates. It’s a British film, so the humor and social references are, well, British. If you’ve never been able to get into their sense of humor, you’d probably say ZOMBIELAND was better, especially as an American film – jumps right into the action, with in your face jokes and humor (and American cultural references – “Twinkies” versus “crisps” for example).

I love British humor as much as American. So my pick would probably depend on my mood at the time.  Yes, this is a long-winded, borderline pompous way of saying, “Neither, they’re just as funny in their own way.”

My final pick:  I call it a draw.  It’s a tie.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I think ZOMBIELAND is an overall better film. The plot works better for me.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD suffers, I think, because the first half of the film is largely expositional. Sure, in ZOMBIELAND, we have “the Rules,” which are expositional, but it’s done in such a funny way that we hardly notice.

SOARES: Yeah, “the Rules” were clever.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: In ZOMBIELAND, we don’t know much about the characters, and we learn about them as they learn about each other. The problem with SHAUN OF THE DEAD is that by the end we can kind of figure out what’s going to happen because it’s all been set up for us.

My choice for the better film is ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA:  This one is a very difficult question to answer.  I tend to prefer ZOMBIELAND because I prefer its in-your-face zombie style to the more reserved British humor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but does that make it a better movie?

I’m not sure.

I think the acting in both movies is equally as good, although I prefer the cast in ZOMBIELAND, so I give a slight acting edge to ZOMBIELAND.  Both directors do phenomenal jobs, but I think Ruben Fleischer is a bit more creative with his style, so again I give the edge to ZOMBIELAND.  I give a slight writing edge to SHAUN, but again the scripts are both terrific.

Based on this model, ZOMBIELAND wins two of the three rounds, so heck, I’m going with ZOMBIELAND.  I choose ZOMBIELAND as the better movie.

MCMAHON (to Michael and Sheri):  Poor misguided souls, the both of you.

Do I have to say this yet again?

SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I’ve seen it twelve times at least.

ARRUDA:  I’m so very happy for you.  What do you want? A medal?

SOARES:  Hey, don’t be rude to our guests!  That’s my department! 

MCMAHON:  In all the time since I watched ZOMBIELAND, I have not once wanted to go back and see it again. The only reason I did was to refresh my memory of it for these answers. I’m still underwhelmed. Without George A. Romero, SHAUN OF THE DEAD wouldn’t exist. Without SHAUN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIELAND wouldn’t exist. Winner: SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

Can you tell I hated ZOMBIELAND?

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I’m beginning to see that, yes.

WANGLUND:  You’ve made it loud and clear.

KEOHANE:  And yet there’s still a modicum of obscurity, a morsel of doubt.  I’m not sure.

MCMAHON:  Very funny.

SOARES:  So it’s my turn, huh? What’s the best movie? Well, that’s very subjective, isn’t it? I would say, from a quality standpoint, SHAUN OF THE DEAD has the edge. But as to “What movie did I enjoy more?” Which movie do I personally like better, that’s more neck and neck.

I guess a good yardstick is which one would you watch again, and my answer this time around is neither. I like both of these movies, but I don’t love them. If I was channel surfing and found one of them, I might watch it, but I wouldn’t consciously sit down and watch one of them from start to finish again. I’m just not that big a fan of most zombie movies.

If I was going to rewatch any zombie flick, it would be either one of Romero’s classics or an especially good episode of THE WALKING DEAD. That’s about it.

So that means I’m the tie-breaker here. Colleen and Paul went with SHAUN. While Michael and Sheri went with ZOMBIELAND. And while I am sort on the fence, I refuse to take the easy way out like Keohane did and call it a tie.

I would say that, as far as pure enjoyment, and both of these films are meant to be entertaining above all else, I would have to go with ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA: Oh my God, I think it’s an upset! That means three votes ZOMBIELAND,  two votes SHAUN OF THE DEAD and one tie for Round 7 – which is the Knockout Round.

MCMAHON (to SOARES): I don’t believe you just did that, you bastard.

SOARES: Blame Keohane. He couldn’t make up his mind.


ARRUDA (reads the rule book): Errr.. not so fast. I just read the rules. The final knock-out round has to be unanimous. So ZOMBIELAND didn’t win after all.

SOARES: Dammit! I thought it was just whatever won the final round wins by TKO. That’s a stupid rule! If one movie is ahead all the way through, the chances of everyone unanimously agreeing to the other movie in the final round is pretty much impossible.

(Takes rule book from ARRUDA and rips out that page)

ARRUDA: Actually, you’re right, that probably is never going to happen. I guess it is a stupid rule. But, we can’t just change the rules at the last minute.

So here’s the solution. From this point on, the Knockout Round does not have to be unanimous. If a movie is ahead, but the other one wins the final round, then it wins by TKO, unanimous or not. That will make things more interesting.

But for this contest, we really should stick with the original rules.

MCMAHON (jumping up and down): So that means….SHAUN OF THE DEAD WINS!

ARRUDA: It sure looks that way.

MCMAHON: Yay! Now I don’t have to hang myself.

ARRUDA: Which movie is the zombie comedy champion of the world?  Well, tonight, it’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD!

On behalf of L.L. Soares, Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, Colleen Wanglund, I’m Michael Arruda saying so long and thanks for joining us on Friday Night Knife Fights.  We’ll see you again next time.

(In the background, PAUL MCMAHON is chasing L.L. SOARES around with an axe)

MCMAHON: How dare you scare the bejeesus out of me like that!

ARRUDA: Good night everybody!


© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund


Friday Night Knife Fights: SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND – PART 2 (OF 3)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror, Horror-Comedies, Spoofs, Zombie Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2013 by knifefighter

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) vs. ZOMBIELAND (2009) – PART 2 (of 3)
With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back to Friday Night Knife Fights. Tonight it’s Part 2 of the great zombie comedy debate, as our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters takes on the daunting task of pitting SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND. Once again, L.L. Soares and I are joined by Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund. Thanks all for being here, and thank you readers for joining us tonight.

Last Friday, in Part 1 of this debate, Rounds 1 and 2 went to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which now leads ZOMBIELAND by a score of 2-0. This bout has a total of seven rounds, and by the end of those rounds, we hope to declare a winner and be able to choose which one of these zombie comedies is the better movie.

On to Round 3. Which movie treats the horror genre with more respect? 

Okay, Paul, since we already know which movie you’ll be picking, since you’ve made it clear that you hate ZOMBIELAND, we’ll start with you.


ARRUDA:  What a surprise!

MCMAHON:  Aside from it being its own story, there were plenty of homages to George A. Romero’s DEAD movies. From ‘Foree Electronics’ to Ed’s line “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!,” to the argument between Tim and Ed about whether it’s okay to say the ‘Zed’ word.

Reuben Fleischer saw SHAUN OF THE DEAD and decided he could make a zombie comedy, too. That makes ZOMBIELAND  nothing more than a SHAUN knock-off. A top-shelf knock-off, but still a knock-off. Fleischer’s movie rewards ignorance and stupidity, just like we do in this country these days.

ARRUDA:  Ouch!  No need to get political now.

MCMAHON:  I think that inclusion was accidental rather than a considered, purposeful Romero-esque social commentary of our time.

By far, SHAUN OF THE DEAD is more respectful of the horror genre.

ARRUDA:  Well, it’s more respectful of the Romero zombie movies, anyway.

SOARES: Let’s face it, Romero zombie movies – especially the first three –  are the gold standard for zombie horror movies. So it’s pretty much the same thing.

MA: Dan, what about you?

KEOHANE:  They’re both spoofs, of course, but—.

SOARES:  Did you watch the movie this time, Dan?  Do you know it has zombies in it?

KEOHANE (puts on his dark sunglasses):  I see dead people.

Anyway, overall, I think SHAUN has a level up on the horror scale, since you have more of a threat to characters, more a sense of danger especially in the pub scene, than in the chaotic, silly world of ZOMBIELAND’s amusement park.

ARRUDA:  Funny, though, when I re-watched ZOMBIELAND for purposes of this column, I found it less silly than I remembered it. I mean, it has its goofy bits of course, like the whole Twinkie thing, but I found it edgier than I remember.

SOARES:  Dan, give those glasses to Michael. ZOMBIELAND, edgy?  It’s about as edgy as a Twinkie!

(KEOHANE hands dark glasses to ARRUDA who promptly puts them away.)

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  Would you like the walking stick, too?

ARRUDA:  No, I think I’m good. Actually, on second thought, I will take the walking stick. (SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL hands ARRUDA the walking stick.)  This might come in handy later. (Waves it at SOARES.) 

So, Sheri, what are your thoughts on which one is more respectful of the genre?

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:    Both films do the horror genre proud, I think. They both poke just a bit of fun at the genre without showing any disrespect.


SOARES:  You two need to be more disagreeable.

Anyway, I don’t think either one is disrespectful. But I think it’s pretty obvious that SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the one that has more affection and respect for the genre.

ARRUDA:  I think both films treat the genre with respect, and I don’t see either one as dissing horror films. But I give the edge to ZOMBIELAND because at times it worked more as a straight horror film. I empathized with the characters more in ZOMBIELAND, and I was concerned for their safety, even during the silly amusement part scene. I didn’t really feel this way watching SHAUN OF THE DEAD, because I was too busy laughing. I find this amusing because it’s the SHAUN OF THE DEAD characters who die, while the ZOMBIELAND characters survive. SHAUN did such a good job building its comedic world, I never took it seriously.

So, the Round 3 tallies are in, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD wins 3-1, with two abstentions.

Which means SHAUN wins Round 3.

Okay, after three rounds it’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD 3 and  ZOMBIELAND  0 so far.


Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

ARRUDA: On to Round 4.- Which movie has the better cast?   I’ll answer this one first.

I prefer the ZOMBIELAND cast. I like the four principal leads, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. This quartet is more effective than Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield and friends.

Plus ZOMBIELAND has Bill Murray playing himself in one of the movie’s goofier segments. Even though I agree with Paul that this sequence is overrated, it’s still fun to see Murray.

I like Simon Pegg A LOT in SHAUN as the normal guy caught up in the zombie apocalypse, but I like Jesse Eisenberg almost as much in the same type of role. But in addition to Eisenberg, ZOMBIELAND also has tough guy Woody Harrelson, tough babe Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin. While I like the supporting cast of SHAUN, they’re not quite as good as the Fab Four from ZOMBIELAND.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I agree with Michael.

I like Simon Pegg and his gang, but you can’t beat Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee for sheer bad-assery. Harrelson brings a touch of carefree sexiness to the film that SHAUN just doesn’t have. I can certainly appreciate that Shaun manages to overcome his hopelessness and pull himself out of his rut, but having two pathetic guys in one zombie battle is a little redundant.

MCMAHON:  You’re both wrong.

Simon Pegg and crew had some difficult scenes, and they did a fantastic job nailing every emotion called for. The standoff between Shaun and David toward the end was particularly intense.

In ZOMBIELAND, the plot came to a halt for a spell while the characters revealed where they came from and what they’d been through. I saw Tallahassee’s big “reveal” coming a mile away… possibly because I’d recently watched the final M*A*S*H episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which used the same narrative sleight of hand. While Harrelson did okay with the scene, it wasn’t enough to overshadow the acting in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD clearly has the better cast.

SOARES:  I have to go with ZOMBIELAND for this one. While I liked Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in SHAUN, I can’t name anyone else who was in it. All the major characters in ZOMBIELAND are good and memorable, and work as an ensemble. So it’s ZOMBIELAND for me.

KEOHANE:  Personally, I think they’re both top-notch. I became a Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes fan because of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and later their brilliant SPACED television series (1999-2001).

I’ve always enjoyed Eisenberg and Harrelson (and more recently Emma Stone) in anything they’ve done, or at least anything of theirs I’ve seen. They may have sucked in something I simply haven’t watched yet.

I’m calling this one even.

WANGLUND:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD was co-written by and stars Simon Pegg, a British actor who clearly brings his dry sense of humor to the film. Pegg plays a regular guy dealing with some typical issues that most people can relate to when the zombie outbreak occurs.

Most of the cast was unknown to American audiences, and I appreciated that because no one is safe.


ZOMBIELAND has a fairly well-known cast that portrays the characters almost to the extreme of their types. Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee takes pleasure in destroying zombies while Jesse Eisenberg is like a scared little boy who you have wonder how he has survived at all (I very much like his “rules”). Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin’s con-artist sisters are believable in terms of how you may have to survive, but I think the characters aren’t as relatable as they are in SHAUN OF THE DEAD. I did like the cameo appearance by Bill Murray which was funny and sad at the same time.

But overall I’m going with the cast of SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

ARRUDA:  So, ZOMBIELAND wins Round 4 with a score of 3 -2 with one tie, which means after four rounds, our score is SHAUN OF THE DEAD 3 and ZOMBIELAND 1.


ARRUDA: On to Round 5.   Which director does better job, Ruben Fleischer on ZOMBIELAND or Edgar Wright on SHAUN OF THE DEAD?

SOARES:  I think they both do a fine job. I’ve liked other things Edgar Wright has done, and I noticed that one Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie that Wright didn’t direct – PAUL (2011)– was painfully unfunny. So, because I just like Edgar Wright better overall as a director, I give the slight edge to him.

WANGLUND:  Edgar Wright, who co-wrote and directed SHAUN OF THE DEAD does a great job keeping the pace of the comedy while still keeping the zombie threat very real and very scary. The end of the film is bittersweet as so many of Shaun’s friends and family do not survive, but life has been able to continue.

I think ZOMBIELAND director Reuben Fleischer did a good job balancing the comedy with the very real horror of a zombie apocalypse.

The directing was superb in both. Even Steven again.

ARRUDA:  While I agree that both directors do a good job, I give the slight edge to Ruben Fleischer. I like the energy he brings to the pacing of ZOMBIELAND. Some scenes are downright frenetic. I also like the creative gimmick of the words superimposed on the screen where Eiesenberg’s Columbus lays out his rules to live by. Sure, this isn’t original, we’ve seen this type of thing before, but it still works here.

But Edgar Wright utilizes a lot of creative touches in SHAUN OF THE DEAD as well.

This one’s very close but I give the edge to Fleischer. Advantage, ZOMBIELAND.

MCMAHON:  From the very first shots of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, you know Edgar Wright is bringing his A-game. A seemingly intimate conversation between Tim and Liz is revealed through camera angles to be happening at a table crowded with their friends. Also, I loved the pre-zombie and post-zombie mirroring of Shaun’s trip to the corner store for a Coke and a Cornetto.

ZOMBIELAND tried to copy the sense of fun by using title cards to keep track of Columbus’s rules for survival, and that was cute, but felt heavy handed to me. Almost like Ruben Fleischer wanted to be sure we knew he was making a comedy.


SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I’m siding with Colleen on this one. Superb direction by both guys.

KEOHANE (feigning ignorance):  Which movies are we discussing again?  Seriously, this one’s too close to call.

SOARES: Yeah, I notice people are saying “both” to a lot of these questions. These two movies are just too close – they’re both decent comedies about zombies. It’s just not a very exciting contest to me, because there’s no real conflict here.

ARRUDA:  I disagree.  I’d much rather have a close contest like this than something like SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. SCARY MOVIE 5.  Where would the fun be in that?  Competition is supposed to be evenly matched.  Otherwise it’s not much of a contest.

All right, then, there you have it. Round 5 goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, with a score of 2-1 and 3 ties. Which means our tally after 5 rounds is SHAUN OF THE DEAD 4 and ZOMBIELAND 1. But ZOMBIELAND could still pull a surprise win out of its hat in PART 3.

That’s all the time we have for PART 2. Join us next Friday night for the final two rounds, the exciting conclusion to our debate of SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND. Don’t forget, ZOMBIELAND still has a chance.

So long for now!


© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund


Friday Night Knife Fights: SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND – PART 1 (of 3)

Posted in 2013, Friday Night Knife Fights, Zombies with tags , , , , , on April 12, 2013 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L. L. Soares, Daniel Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund


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

We have a great panel for you tonight, and the debate is:  SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND.

Will this shape up to be a contest between British humor (SHAUN) and American humor (ZOMBIELAND)?  A battle between fast and slow zombies?  In your face laughter vs. subtle snickers?  Let’s find out.

Joining L.L. Soares and I on our panel tonight are fellow Cinema Knife Fighters Dan Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel, and Colleen Wanglund.  Thank you all for taking part in today’s panel.  Let’s get started.

L.L. SOARES: It’s your yacking that’s holding us up.  Let’s go!

ARRUDA:  Hey, I’m trying to do an intro. here!

Tonight’s contest consists of seven rounds of questions.  Whichever movie wins the most rounds wins the match, and by our special “knock-out” rule, if one movie wins the final round by a unanimous vote, that movie scores a knockout and wins the match regardless of the previous score.

Okay, let’s get this mêlée started.

The first question tonight is which movie is flat out funnier?  Which film did a better job making you laugh, where you laughed so hard you split a gut?

Colleen, we’ll start with you.  Which movie do you find funnier, SHAUN OF THE DEAD or ZOMBIELAND?

COLLEEN WANGLUNDZOMBIELAND (2009) and SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) are both very funny films.

SOARES:  Did you bust a gut watching them?

WANGLUND:  No.  I can’t say that I did.  But they’re both very funny, both fun to watch.

ARRUDA:  So you think both are equally as funny?


SOARES:  You’re not supposed to pick both.  You’re supposed to pick one, but I’ll blame Michael for this, since once again, he’s picked two movies that are simply too close to call.  This is going to be tough.

ARRUDA:  It wouldn’t be fun if it were easy.

PAUL MCMAHON:  It’s not tough for me.  I hated ZOMBIELAND.


SOARES:  How can you hate ZOMBIELAND?  That’s un-American!

MCMAHON:   I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but I still hated ZOMBIELAND, in the way you hate a comedian who constantly repeats old material.


MCMAHON:  I know, I know.  I’m probably the only guy in the world who he hated it.

ARRUDA:  I’m sure there are a few others.

KEOHANE:  I agree with Colleen.  They’re both funny, but in different ways.

When I first watched SHAUN OF THE DEAD I was laughing out loud—.

SOARES:  Did you split a gut laughing?

KEOHANE (counts on his fingers):  Three. Plus a few blood vessels.

But this side-splitting laughter didn’t happen until the latter half of the movie. It’s the kind of movie that creeps up on you, first making you realize things are off, then making you smile, then when you’re on board with the plot and overall feel of the film, you’re busting a gut. Or in my case, guts.

ARRUDA: Who knew laughter could be so brutal?

KEOHANE:  However, as soon as ZOMBIELAND began I was laughing, and really never stopped. Granted, slapstick – and there’s a lot more slapstick in the traditional sense (relentless physical comedy) in ZOMBIELAND – garners more laughs on average I think.

Based on the number of laughs it gets, I’d go with ZOMBIELAND as the funnier movie.


SOARES:  There’s too much agreeing on this panel!


MCMAHON:  I’ll change that as soon as I throw in my two cents.

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  I like both ZOMBIELAND and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but there are more laugh-out-loud moments in ZOMBIELAND.

ARRUDA:  My turn.  I’m actually going to disagree with Dan and Sheri.

SOARES:  Finally!

ARRUDA:  I’m picking SHAUN OF THE DEAD as the funnier film.  I think the jokes work better, and there’s something outlandish about British humor that just makes this one click.

While ZOMBIELAND does have some creative bits, the bulk of its humor is based on scenes of visceral zombie kills and the like.  As Dan said, slapstick, and I love slapstick, but in ZOMBIELAND’s case, there’s really not enough of it.

Re-watching both these movies for purposes of this column, I found ZOMBIELAND less funny than I remember it being.

The laughs in SHAUN OF THE DEAD were the result of creative comic writing, while ZOMBIELAND relied on in-your-face sight gags that didn’t hold up as well on a second viewing.  I found the comic style of SHAUN OF THE DEAD held up better.

Okay.  So, Paul, you have more to say on this question?  You’ve been drooling for a while now.  Here’s your chance to answer.

SOARES:  Here, have a napkin.

MCMAHON:  I prefer to use the back of my hand.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD‘s humor came from the characters as they made efforts to better themselves. These were people who cared about real things and acted out of their own responsibilities toward their relationships with each other.

ZOMBIELAND was full of brainless asshats trying to find Twinkies and get laid. And don’t ‘But Bill Murray’ me. First off, I’ve never understood the pop-culture deification of the guy. I can’t see that he’s any funnier than any other comic actor of his time.

SOARES: Hey, I love Bill Murray!

MCMAHON:  They sent the guy, dressed like a zombie and acting like a zombie, to surprise a nervous kid with a rifle. I don’t see what’s so funny about the scene at all.

ARRUDA:  I kinda have to agree with you on that one.  I’ve never found that scene funny.

MCMAHON:  What did they think was going to happen? Dumb scene, dumb characters, dumb movie.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD is the funnier movie.


SOARES:  I think that both movies are pretty good, and that they both have good casts and funny moments. But I’d have to give a slight edge to SHAUN OF THE DEAD, mainly because it’s a bit smarter and more aware of the history of zombie movies. There are references to George Romero movies that I thought were clever, and the script was just a tad better written.

I think it’s a close call, but I give this one to SHAUN.

ARRUDA:  Okay, after one round, SHAUN OF THE DEAD  jumps out to the early lead  and leads ZOMBIELAND 1-0.

On to Round 2.  Next question:  Which movie has better zombies?  Sheri?

SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL:  The ZOMBIELAND zombies work best for me because they’re not the classic shuffling zombies. It makes things a little more challenging for Tallahassee and the crew.

ARRUDA:  I agree. I liked the zombies better in ZOMBIELAND, too.

I liked how they moved faster and seemed vicious and ferocious, as opposed to the more traditional, slow-moving lumbering zombies found in SHAUN OF THE DEAD.  I will add, however, that in both movies, the zombies look great.

SOARES:  I would say they’re about equal. But if I had to choose, I’d give a slight edge to SHAUN, if only because it stuck more closely to Romero’s creations.

WANGLUND:  I thought the special effects in both movies were equally well-done.  I liked the zombies in both.

ARRUDA:  You just won’t rock the boat today.

WANGLUND:  Smooth sailing so far.

SOARES:  Screw that!  I want a tsunami!

WANGLUND:  The Geisha of Gore doesn’t joke about tsunamis.

ARRUDA:  Let’s move along before we all get seasick.  Dan?  How about you?  Which movie’s zombies do you prefer?

KEOHANE:  Since both films have the more traditional, lumbering zombies, there’s not a lot of comparison.

ARRUDA:  Actually, the zombies in ZOMBIELAND move much faster than the traditional movie zombies.

SOARES:  Weren’t you paying attention, Dan?  We just said the zombies in ZOMBIELAND were quicker.  Did you even watch the movie?

KEOHANE (feigns sheepish sadness and shame):  I remember them being typical lumbering zombies.  What can I say?

SOARES:  Maybe you should look at the screen the next time you watch the movie!

ARRUDA: I’m sure in some scenes they moved like traditional zombies.  Let’s cut Dan some slack.

SOARES:  I’ll cut him a new pair of eyes.

ARRUDA:  You were saying, Dan?

(SHERI hands DAN a pair of dark sunglasses, and COLLEEN hands him a walking stick.)

KEOHANE:  Very funny.

As I was saying, SHAUN tends to poke less fun at the monsters than the human survivors, whereas it’s just the opposite in ZOMBIELAND, so in that regard, SHAUN’s zombies are a tad better.

The zombie clown from ZOMBIELAND.

The zombie clown from ZOMBIELAND.

MCMAHON:  Eh hem.  When is it my turn?  Are you relegating the ZOMBIELAND hater to the back of the line?

SOARES:  Shut your pie hole and go back to drooling!

ARRUDA:  It’s just a coincidence that you’re last. Go ahead.

MCMAHON:  Years after watching SHAUN I can remember the big zombie twins, the cashier girl, the one-armed-zombie, Tyres from Spaced, and the big black guy with the vinyl record sticking out of his head.

I remember seeing a clown crawling under a bathroom stall door in ZOMBIELAND, and I remember a generic zombie getting crushed by a piano, which struck me as stupid because that’s a one and done defense unless you’re holing up in a piano distribution warehouse.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD clearly has the better zombies.

ARRUDA:  So, Round 2 goes to SHAUN OF THE DEAD which means after two rounds, the score is 2 to 0, in favor of SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

That’s all the time we have for PART 1.  Join us next Friday night for PART 2, when the SHAUN OF THE DEAD vs. ZOMBIELAND debate continues.

Good night everybody!


© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Daniel G. Keohane, Paul McMahon, Sheri-Sebastian-Gabriel and Colleen Wanglund

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

Posted in 1960s Horror, 2012, 70s Horror, Alfred Hitchock Films, Classic Films, Friday Night Knife Fights, John Carpenter Films, Plot Twists, Psychos, Slasher Movies with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2012 by knifefighter

With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Pete Dudar, Dan Keohane, and Paul McMahon


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back folks, to the conclusion of this month’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.  This installment will decide the winner of the battle of the iconic horror movies. It’s PSYCHO (1960) vs. HALLOWEEN (1978).

So, 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. So far, HALLOWEEN leads 3 to 2. But this time, anything can happen.


Okay, it’s Round 6.  “Which director does a better job at the helm?  Alfred Hitchcock, or John Carpenter?”

NICK CATO:  Can I say that this is a stupid question?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  You can say whatever you want.

L.L. SOARES:  Someone has to say it.  It’s about time it’s someone other than me!

NICK CATO:  Okay, then.  STUPID question!

It’s Hitchcock. No one had created that type of suspense before he unleashed Bates on the world.  Carpenter doesn’t come close.

DAN KEOHANE:  I think it depends on what you want out of the movie.

L.L.SOARES:  What is this, a psychology class?  Pick a director!

DAN KEOHANE:  Easier said than done.  This is one question I can’t honestly answer one way or the other.

L.L. SOARES:  What—did you change your last name to Dudar?

PETE DUDAR:  Hey, stop giving me a hard time!

DAN KEOHANE:  Hitchcock is a master at the subtle, without getting boring doing it.  Sure, the first third of THE BIRDS (1963) is pretty dull before it rockets up to its intense level, but that’s the exception.

L.L. SOARES:  Hey, I love THE BIRDS! There’s not a dull moment in that movie. It’s called “building a story.”


(L.L. SOARES punches a wall in disgust)

DAN KEOHANE:  Carpenter is just having a ball, and it shows in this film (and most of them). He’s got the fast-paced thrill ride down, without ever having to rely on over-the-top gore to cover his blemishes.

L.L SOARES:  So, you’re going with Carpenter?

DAN KEOHANE:  Nope.  I can’t decide.

(L.L. SOARES screams loudly)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We are really having a hard time making up our minds today.

PETE DUDAR:  I told you this thing was impossible!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I have to admit, this is a very tough question.  Which director does a better job at the helm?  I don’t know.

L.L. SOARES:  Not you, too!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  This one needs examining.

Let’s start with Alfred Hitchcock.  In 1960, he’d been making successful movies since the 1930s, and really had just come off an amazing decade, the 1950s, where he became one of the most celebrated and popular movie directors of his time.  Needless to say, when he made PSYCHO, he was at the top of his game.  And with PSYCHO, Hitchcock doesn’t disappoint.  It’s one of his best efforts.

He does nearly everything right in PSYCHO.  You’ve got the infamous shower scene, the most famous sequence from the movie, but there’s so much more.  I love the sequence after the shower scene, when Norman Bates cleans up after his “mother’s” crime.  The end sequence where Vera Miles and John Gavin arrive at the motel is also memorable.

But you can make the argument that John Carpenter did an even better job at the helm of HALLOWEEN.  For starters, HALLOWEEN doesn’t have the same strong story PSYCHO has, and yet, it’s an incredibly scary movie, and most of the credit for this belongs to Carpenter.  The opening murder scene is a gem, shot from the point of view of the killer looking through a Halloween mask.  The whole sequence is superb, from the actual murder to the revelation that the killer is a little boy.

The scene near the end, where we believe Jamie Lee Curtis has killed Michael Myers, and he’s lying down “dead,” and Curtis is sitting in the foreground, exhausted, and it’s silent, and in this silence, Myers sits up, turns his head, and the music blasts, and we’re on our way again.  It’s a phenomenal scene.

And there are so many neat scenes where Myers appears like a phantom in and out of the shadows.  One second he’s there, the next, he’s not.  It’s a masterful job by John Carpenter.

You can’t take away what Hitchcock did with PSYCHO, but I’ve seen him better (NORTH BY NORTHWEST, 1959, Hitchcock’s previous film and arguably his most ambitious, includes many more of Hitchcock signature touches).  I know some people don’t consider HALLOWEEN to be Carpenter’s best work, but it’s up there.

L.L. SOARES: Of course it’s up there! Who doesn’t consider HALLOWEEN one of Carpenter’s best movies? That’s a ludicrous statement! HALLOWEEN is the movie that put Carpenter on the map and made him a household name.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yes, I know that, and you know that, but there are some people who feel otherwise.  I know people who think THE THING is Carpenter’s best film, for instance.

L.L. SOARES: Hell, I think THE THING is his best film. But that doesn’t mean HALLOWEEN isn’t great, too. In many ways, HALLOWEEN is more iconic and important to horror movie history.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: PSYCHO has such a strong story, that even with a lesser director, the film may have been a hit.  I don’t think you can say the same for HALLOWEEN.  Without John Carpenter at the helm of HALLOWEEN, that movie just isn’t the same, and I doubt it would have been the classic it is today.

L.L. SOARES: You’re selling Hitchcock short! The story is so good it would have still turned out well without him?? But HITCHCOCK did make PSYCHO and nobody could have done it better. Why dismiss the guy because he did a great job? What kind of logic is that?

MICHAEL ARRUDA: I’m not dismissing him.  He did a terrific job.  I’m saying the story itself is so good, a lesser director could have made a decent film out of it, on the strength of its story. Terence Fisher, for example, Hammer Film’s best director—no Alfred Hitchcock, mind you, but a talented director all the same—could have made a very good film out of PSYCHO.

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, I’m sure he could have. But it wouldn’t be the same.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: So, after some thought, I’m going with John Carpenter on HALLOWEEN.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Sorry, Michael, but I just don’t see it that way.  I’m going with Hitchcock.

Hitchcock is regularly listed among the best directors of all time, while Carpenter is listed among the best “horror” directors.

As innovative and groundbreaking as HALLOWEEN was, it wasn’t Carpenter’s best work. He doesn’t really break with conventional filming techniques or storytelling rules. Hitchcock made tons more unorthodox and unexpected decisions in PSYCHO.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I don’t know about that.  I’m not taking anything away from Hitchcock’s work on PSYCHO, but I think Carpenter does break with conventional filming techniques in HALLOWEEN.  There are so many cool scenes in HALLOWEEN thanks to Carpenter’s direction, like Michael Myer’s mask appearing in the darkness where you see only the mask, or the aforementioned opening murder scene.

PAUL MCMAHON:  Good scenes, but Hitchcock’s work on PSYCHO is better.

L.L. SOARES: Look, this one is a no brainer. I love HALLOWEEN and I think it is among Carpenter’s best films. It is powerful, it triggers a great response, and it’s a director at the height of his powers. I am not going to say anything bad about Carpenter in this context. He did an amazing job.

But Alfred Hitchcock was one of the top five directors in the history of cinema. I just watched PSYCHO again recently, and it holds up very well. It’s atmospheric, powerful, and strongly acted. Hitchcock is just in another league when it comes to directors. He was an artist.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Okay, after six rounds it’s HALLOWEEN – 3, PSYCHO -3. We’re now neck and neck.

PETE DUDAR:This is getting exciting.


MICHAEL ARRUDA:  On to Round 7.  “Which film has done more for the genre?”

I’ll start by asking where would the genre be without PSYCHO?  While it’s technically not a horror film…

L.L. SOARES: Says, who?  It’s a goddamn horror film. A horror classic.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well, it is scary, and did an awful lot to make horror movies more mainstream.  It made them more adult.  Alfred Hitchcock was not a kid-friendly director.  Kids didn’t flock to see his films.  Adults did.  When he directed PSYCHO, he expanded horror’s audience.  In other words, a lot of the folks who went to see PSYCHO were not the same folks who would have gone to see FRANKENSTEIN or KING KONG.

L.L. SOARES: I complete disagree. People who love great movies would have gone to see all three of those.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  He also reinvented the conventions of the movies.  His lead actress is killed midway through the movie.  What’s up with that?  The “hero” Norman Bates, turns out to be the killer.  What’s up with that?

Where would the genre be without HALLOWEEN?  We wouldn’t have had to suffer through all those awful slasher movies had HALLOWEEN not been so successful.  So, maybe it’s hurt the genre!  Actually, I’m kidding.  It helped the genre because it made a ton of money, and it led to John Carpenter getting a lot of financing so he could make a lot of other cool movies!

I think they’ve both helped the genre, since they both established franchises and iconic characters, Norman Bates and Michael Myers.  Today, I think you hear more about HALLOWEEN than you do PSYCHO.  I think HALLOWEEN has done more for the horror genre directly because it’s a horror movie, pure and simple.  PSYCHO is really a mystery that has a lot of horror elements.

L.L. SOARES: Horror elements? That means it’s a damn HORROR MOVIE!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Ever so slightly, I give the edge to HALLOWEEN.

DAN KEOHANE:  They both exploded the genre, but in their own respective decades.

Both were unique when they came out, and both got a somewhat apathetic audience’s pulse revved up, opening the door to more films and books.

Both of them equally helped the genre.

PAUL MCMAHON:  There was a very slow build of slasher movies after PSYCHO‘s release in 1960.

When HALLOWEEN came out in 1978 the slasher sub-genre really took off. PSYCHO may have kicked things off, but HALLOWEEN got them going.


L.L. SOARES: You people are high!

Without PSYCHO, there would be NO HALLOWEEN! While Michael Myers does have a supernatural component, he also started out as a little boy with psychological problems. No matter what he became, he began as a psychopath. Just because a movie is older doesn’t mean it’s less relevant. To be honest, the opposite is probably more true. PSYCHO was the pioneer, the trailblazer. It made the word “psycho” a part of our language. It made the serial killer film a mainstream genre.

HALLOWEEN is more the little engine that could. It was a small, low-budget movie that overcame its humble beginnings. I remember it was in theaters for over a year when it first came out. It seemed to stick around forever. It was a smash hit, as commercially important to the horror genre in its way as PSYCHO was.

But Michael is right in one respect. HALLOWEEN spawned as many horrible rip-offs as it did worthwhile horror descendants. It worked because Carpenter did it, but way too many bad directors proved that it wasn’t easily replicated.

They’re both great movies with different strengths, and I am still pissed off that you’re making us choose between them, because they’re both just as vital to the horror genre. But which one has done more for horror? The fact that there’s any debate baffles me. It’s PSYCHO. Period.

NICK CATO:  While HALLOWEEN paved the way for countless imitators in the 1980s slasher film uprising, PSYCHO (1960) was the model and is STILL imitated to this day.

I disagree with Michael and Paul, and I say PSYCHO has done more the genre.

L.L. SOARES: Now there’s a smart man!

MICHAEL ARRUDA: That means this round is a tie. Wow, this is going to be interesting.

It’s now time for the eighth and final round, and if one film should win this round unanimously, then that film scores a knockout and wins the entire bout, regardless of the score up until now.

And the final question is:  in your humble opinion, if you had to choose, which film, PSYCHO or HALLOWEEN, is the better movie?


Constructed better, stronger and with so many twists and turns that even today people viewing it for the first time are surprised by how it develops.  I’m going with PSYCHO.

PETE DUDAR:  PSYCHO was a groundbreaking masterpiece. Filmed in 1960, Hitchcock’s black-and-white adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel reminded post-war America and the baby-boom generation that crazy people were, in fact, our neighbors.

HALLOWEEN, on the other hand, is a whole other candy-apple. PSYCHO is loosely based on real-life killer Ed Gein. HALLOWEEN is the logical progression of an urban myth, one about the ‘babysitter killer.’

As I said earlier, in terms of story and characterization, PSYCHO wins, but in terms of longevity and ability to still deliver sheer terror, my vote goes to HALLOWEEN.

NICK CATO:  I’m not sure which film Pete just voted for.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Join the club.

NICK CATO:  Technically PSYCHO is the better film, but again, HALLOWEEN holds up better to repeated viewings and to me isn’t as slow moving. If I had a butcher knife pointed at my head I’d go with HALLOWEEN.

PETE DUDAR: So, it would take a butcher knife to your head for you to make a decision, and you guys are giving me grief!

L.L. SOARES: At least he’d be able to make a decision if forced to. If someone put a butcher knife to your head, it would just let out all the confetti and sawdust.

PETER DUDAR: No it wouldn’t (sticks out tongue)

L.L. SOARES:  I happen to have a butcher’s knife handy if you need help making a decision, Pete!

DAN KEOHANE:  No butcher’s knives needed here, although an axe might come in handy.

L.L. SOARES:  I have one of those too.  Right here under my seat.

DAN KEOHANE:  I’m sure you do.

Anyway, overall, for me, it’s PSYCHO.

But HALLOWEEN is a close second.  (smiles)

NICK CATO:  If anyone needs help making a decision, it’s Pete.

PETE DUDAR:  I stand by my answers.

L.L. SOARES:  What answers?  (Laughter)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I love both movies, but if I have to pick which one is better, without an axe to my head, I have to go with—  PSYCHO.

PSYCHO has the stronger story— it has an amazing story, while HALLOWEEN has just an average plot.  It has one of the best all-time performances in a genre film: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates.  Bates is a much more interesting villain than Michael Myers.  It has a stronger cast.  While I like Jamie Lee Curtis a lot in HALLOWEEN, no one else in the cast really delivers a strong performance.

Sure, I think John Carpenter’s directing effort is second to none in HALLOWEEN, but Hitchcock is strong throughout.  Carpenter put HALLOWEEN on his back and carried it to the finish line.  Hitchcock didn’t need to carry the film all by his lonesome.

True, I prefer Carpenter’s music score over Bernard Herrmann’s score, but by percentage points.

I prefer HALLOWEEN on a lot of points, actually, but taken as a whole, especially because of its incredibly strong story, I find PSYCHO to be the better movie.

HALLOWEEN shows off John Carpenter’s directing talents, his music score, and a fine performance by Jamie Lee Curtis.

PSYCHO shows off Alfred Hitchock’s directing talents, Bernard Hermann’s music score, Anthony Perkins’ powerhouse performance as Norman Bates, strong performances by Janet Leigh and, in a supporting role, Martin Balsam, and a deep, resonating script by Joseph Stefano based upon a novel by Robert Bloch, a story credit that HALLOWEEN just doesn’t have.

The numbers favor PSYCHO, and so I’m going with PSYCHO.

L.L. SOARES:  Look, I already made my case. HALLOWEEN is above-average for a slasher film. It thrust John Carpenter into the public eye, and rightly so. It’s a classic of its kind. And I hate having to compare it, and I hate having to saying anything negative about it, because I do think it’s one of the best horror films ever made.

But it’s a no-brainer, folks. PSYCHO is the better movie. It’s close to being a perfect movie.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well, that’s it for Round 8, and PSYCHO has won the round.  I can’t say that it won unanimously, due to a couple of obscure answers, but that’s no matter.  The two movies were tied 3 ½ – 3 ½ going into the final round, and so the final tally is PSYCHO – 4 ½, HALLOWEEN – 3 ½.

The winner of tonight’s bout is PSYCHO!

But that certainly was a close one! I really had no idea what would happen until the last round. Which made this one a real nail-biter.

Thanks to everyone who participated. Thanks for making this FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT a good one!

Good night everybody!


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

Friday Night Knife Fights: PSYCHO vs. HALLOWEEN (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in 1960s Horror, 1970s Movies, 2012, Alfred Hitchock Films, Classic Films, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror, John Carpenter Films, Psychos, Serial Killer flicks with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2012 by knifefighter

Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Pete Dudar, Dan Keohane, and Paul McMahon

(PART 2 of 3)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back folks, to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.  This time, we continue with Part 2 of our battle of the iconic horror movies. It’s PSYCHO (1960) vs. HALLOWEEN (1978).

L.L. SOARES: Why isn’t Rob Zombie’s version HALLOWEEN (2007) part of the debate?

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   Come on!  This is supposed to be a serious debate.

L.L. SOARES: Okay, okay.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: So, 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. So far, HALLOWEEN leads 2 to 0. Let’s see if it maintains its momentum this time around.

Okay, Round 3.    “Which film is scarier?”

I’ll start this one off myself.

I think HALLOWEEN is scarier, but not by much.  The last 20 minutes of HALLOWEEN, from the moment Jamie Lee Curtis decides to check out the house across the street, to the film’s closing credits, is among the most suspenseful last 20 minutes ever put on film.  I love it.  And there are lots of scary, make-you-scream-out loud moments interspersed throughout the movie.

PSYCHO, on the other hand, has the huge jolt, the shower scene, early on, where lead star Janet Leigh is killed off, shocking filmgoers who based on prior movie experiences, simply didn’t see that coming.  And it’s a frightening scene, even today.

And PSYCHO is also blessed with a suspenseful sequence towards the end, where Vera Miles and John Gavin go to the Bates Motel to solve the mystery, mistakenly believing that Bates’ sick old mother is the all-important witness they need to speak to regarding Janet Leigh’s disappearance, and of course, this sequence ends with the huge shock, the dramatic revelation, that Norman Bates is one sick dude.

I love how this sequence plays out as well, because the audience thinks they’re in the know, but they really aren’t.  Vera Miles is searching for the sick mother, who the audience mistakenly believes is the killer, when in reality, it’s Norman, who up until the end audiences viewed as a good guy.  It’s great stuff!

But when it comes to scares, HALLOWEEN is simply scarier.  The bulk of PSYCHO plays out like a drama and mystery—a superb one, at that—while HALLOWEEN is much more of a genuine horror movie.

“Hello? Myers residence.”

DAN KEOHANE:  I’m going with PSYCHO.  But you need to sit still and watch it. It pays off, so well, if you let the mood wash over you.

HALLOWEEN is more exciting, however, so you can be making out on the couch and look up for the scary bits without missing the point.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  So, you’re saying that you need to pay attention to PSYCHO, but HALLOWEEN you can miss a lot of it but still enjoy its scary parts?


L.L. SOARES:  Enough with the double-talk.  Which one’s scarier?

DAN KEOHANE:  I said PSYCHO.  (leans over towards LS)  “eeeh eeeeh eeeeh!”



L.L. SOARES:  Is there a reason why Dudar is even here? He sure isn’t adding a lot to the conversation.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Oh come on, stop picking on him.

PETE DUDAR: Yeah, you big bully.

PAUL MCMAHONPSYCHO may have scared the hell out of viewers back in 1960, but watching it with my parents when I was fourteen it had little effect on me. HALLOWEEN gave me icy “I-almost-wet-myself” terror, especially when Laurie Strode hides in the closet– perceived as a safe-haven by children everywhere—and Michael hammers through the slats of the folding door to get at her.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Yeah, that’s a great scene.

L.L. SOARES: Just don’t wet yourself here, okay?

PAUL MCMAHON:  I’m going with HALLOWEEN as the scarier movie.

The killer attacks! From PSYCHO.

NICK CATO:  While PSYCHO has a few tense moments (least of which is the iconic shower sequence), HALLOWEEN has an overall scarier tone, and holds up much better to repeated viewings.  Based on this, if I had to choose, I’d pick HALLOWEEN as the scarier picture.

L.L. SOARES:  You guys keep talking about the shower scene in PSYCHO, and sure, it’s great, but it’s not the only scary scene in the whole movie. There’s the great scene where Martin Balsam gets stabbed in the face. And the very end, where Norman’s voiceover, as his mama, says “They’ll say I wouldn’t hurt a fly,” is just creepy as hell the first time you see it. The way everyone talks, it’s like the movie just has one big, scary moment, and that’s not true.

But I have to go back to my argument about generational responses. When PSYCHO first came out, nobody had seen a movie like that before, and I’m sure it freaked a lot of people out. I remember when I was a kid and I first saw it on television, it had a real effect on me, especially that creepy ending about the fly.

But this one is difficult because I have to look at both of them and decide which one is scarier now. Which one holds up the best. And while I think PSYCHO is smarter, and better at delivering big as well as more subtle chills, I have to admit that HALLOWEEN holds up better as a solid, scary movie. Maybe because it’s not as smart—its triggers are more emotional. This round, I have to give it to HALLOWEEN.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Another round goes HALLOWEEN’s way, and it now leads PSYCHO, 3 to zero!  I have to admit, I didn’t see this coming.  I thought things would be closer than this.

L.L. SOARES: I still say, in some ways, this is a stupid comparison. Both movies are very important, and effective, in their own ways.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Would you rather we compare a great film to a dud?

On to Round 4: “Which film has the stronger cast?”

DAN KEOHANEPSYCHO.  No question. In fact, the script requires a strong cast because there’s so little else besides some cool, dark sets.

L.L. SOARES: PSYCHO, without a doubt. Not only are the main roles played by great actors like Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, and of course Anthony Perkins, who is unforgettable here; even the smaller roles are great, like Martin Balsam as Detective Arbogast. And there are even cameos by cool people like Ted Knight from the MARY TYLER MOORE show(1970 – 1977) as a cop toward the end, and Simon Oakland from THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) as a psychiatrist who gives a rundown at the end of what’s wrong with Norman. It’s just a great cast from beginning to end.


L.L. SOARES:  This guy is really starting to get on my nerves. (to Dudar) Why did you even bother coming, anyway?

PETE DUDAR:  The free food.

L.L. SOARES:  What free food?

 PETE DUDAR:  You mean you missed the buffet?

L.L. SOARES:  I guess I was too busy preparing my answers!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  I’m also going with the cast of PSYCHO.   You’ve got Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Martin Balsam, and they’re all great in this movie.   Perkins delivers one of the all-time great performances in a genre film.    His Norman Bates is creepy, unsettling, and yet he’s actually likeable at times.  It’s a terrific performance.

Janet Leigh is also strong as Marion Crane.  Vera Miles and John Gavin are less impressive, but Martin Balsam makes his brief stint as Detective Arbogast a memorable one.  The cast also includes Simon Oakland as Dr. Richman in a small role at the end of the movie. As L.L. mentioned, Oakland appeared alongside Darren McGavin in THE NIGHT STALKER movies and TV show, as Carl Kolchak’s boss, Tony Vincenzo.

The HALLOWEEN cast isn’t as strong on paper, with Donald Pleasance being the only established star in the cast, but they handle themselves well.  The best performance in the film is by Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut, but head to head, Perkins’ performance as Norman Bates is stronger than Curtis’ performance as Laurie Strode.

Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis in HALLOWEEN.

L.L. SOARES: Yeah, I don’t want to imply the HALLOWEEN cast is bad. It’s not. Everyone does a really good job in that one, too. I just think PSYCHO is that much better.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Strangely, I wasn’t all that impressed by Pleasance’s performance as Dr. Loomis in HALLOWEEEN, as he comes off sounding like a crackpot. I actually like him better as the series goes along.  Nancy Loomis does well as Strode’s best friend Annie, and Carpenter favorite Charles Cyphers does a nice job as Annie’s father Sheriff Bracket.

L.L. SOARES: And don’t forget the great B-movie actress P.J. Soles as Lynda!

P.J. Soles as Lynda in HALLOWEEN.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: But Michael Myers is nothing more than a killer in a mask, a mindless monster, and he’s not on the same level as Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates.

So, in terms of who has the stronger cast, I go with PSYCHO.

NICK CATO:  Another hard one to call.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be fun!

NICK CATO:  Perkins is amazing, as is Leigh in her brief role.

Jamie Lee Curtis set the stage for the babysitter in peril thing, and Donald Pleasance provided a smart and sneaky hero. I’m stuck on this one, too!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   Can’t make a definitive call?

NICK CATO:  I’m afraid not.

PETE DUDAR:  See, I’m not the only one having a hard time here!

PAUL MCMAHON:  I’ve made up my mind.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   What did you decide, Paul?

PAUL MCMAHON:  This one goes to PSYCHO, hands down.

Not only does it have a better cast—Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam– but it used one of the most popular actresses of the day, Janet Leigh, in what felt like the lead role… and then killed her off at the end of the first act. Unprecedented for the time.

Donald Pleasance is great fun to watch in HALLOWEEN, and Jamie Lee Curtis shines in her movie debut, but they’re no match for the list of Hitchcock’s players.

PSYCHO.  No contest.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:   So, Round 4 goes to PSYCHO, which means Hitchcock’s classic finally gets on the board.  We’ve reached the halfway point of our contest, and after four rounds, it’s HALLOWEEN – 3, PSYCHO – 1.

On to Round 5.  “Which film has the better script?”

PETE DUDAR:  I’m going with PSYCHO.

L.L. SOARES:  The wooden dummy speaks!

PETE DUDAR:  Shut up!

I choose PSYCHO because in terms of story and characterization, PSYCHO wins hands down.

NICK CATO:  I agree with Pete. It’s easily PSYCHO. HALLOWEEN is a by-the-numbers stalk and slash film, whereas PSYCHO has more depth in its villain.

L.L. SOARES:  Well,I wouldn’t go so far as to call HALLOWEEN “by-the-numbers.” It does transcend its genre. It has a lot more there than most slasher films. But most of what works about it is visceral—more a mood and an emotional response rather than a powerful script. So, script-wise, PSYCHO is another level completely.

PAUL MCMAHON:  This is another tough one.

I’m going to say PSYCHO. It broke with a lot of conventions of the times and challenged the way stories were told. Though HALLOWEEN was the father of the unkillable boogeyman, spurring the likes of FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and other franchises, PSYCHO is the “mother” of all slasher films.  (laughs)


PAUL MCMAHON:  So, which film has the better script?  PSYCHO.

DAN KEOHANE (looks at camera):  Eeeeh eeeeh eeeeh!

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Hands down, PSYCHO has the better script.

To me, the weakest part of HALLOWEEN has always been the script by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, which comes as no surprise, since a lot of early Carpenter movies didn’t have the best scripts.  The story for HALLOWEEN is nothing to brag about.  It’s just a standard tale about an insane killer who attacks teenagers, and whenever it tries to explain the truth about who Michael Myers is and what his motivations are, it never makes sense.  It’s one of the reasons why Donald Pleasance sounds like a crackpot in this movie.  The lines he has to say are insane!  What makes HALLOWEEN the classic that it is, is the amazing directing job by John Carpenter and Carpenter’s music.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in HALLOWEEN.

PSYCHO, on the other hand, has a phenomenal screenplay by Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch.  As such, it has a literary connection noticeably absent in HALLOWEEN.  The PSYCHO story blows the HALLOWEEN story out of the water.  You have the whole Marion Crane storyline, followed by the mystery of her disappearance and the investigation into finding her, all interesting plot points in their own right, and I haven’t even mentioned the main plot point yet, the weird world of Norman Bates and his “mother.”

PSYCHO has a deep, rich, rewarding story that I seem to enjoy more each time I see it.  HALLOWEEN, as much as I like the movie, has just an average story.

Round 5 also goes to PSYCHO.  It’s now HALLOWEEN – 3, PSYCHO – 2.  Things are starting to get interesting.  Three rounds of questions still to come.

We’ll be wrapping this up next week. So don’t forget to check in for the conclusion of this month’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT!

L.L. SOARES: Y’all come back now, you hear?

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

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

Posted in 1960s Horror, 1970s Movies, 2012, Alfred Hitchock Films, Classic Films, Friday Night Knife Fights, John Carpenter Films, Serial Killer flicks with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2012 by knifefighter

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?


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 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

Friday Night Knife Fights: NEAR DARK VS. THE LOST BOYS – PART 3

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Friday Night Knife Fights, Staff Writers, Supernatural, Vampires with tags , , , , , , on July 27, 2012 by knifefighter

NEAR DARK (1987) vs. THE LOST BOYS (1987)
PART 3 of 3
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Good evening everybody, and welcome to Part 3 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Tonight it’s the final segment of our NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS debate.

Up until now, it’s been all NEAR DARK.

LS: That comes as no surprise!

MA: After three rounds, it’s NEAR DARK 3, THE LOST BOYS 0. It’s time for the final rounds, where we’ll see if NEAR DARK continues its shut-out performance, as it hasn’t allowed THE LOST BOYS to score even one point yet. Or, will THE LOST BOYS finally muster some strength to get on the scoreboard and fight its way back to a comeback victory? Stay with us and find out.

Once again, I’m joined on our panel by L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh. Thanks again for taking part.

MO: No problem.

LS: I say we skip the rest of the panel and grab some beers. We all know which movie is going to win.

PM: I don’t know about that, but the beer part sounds good to me.

MO: Me, too.

MA: Well, as good as it sounds, we don’t really know which film is going to win. There’s always room for a comeback. Let’s finish the panel.

LS: You’re never any fun!

MA: It’s time for Round 4. Which film’s director does a better job at the helm?

I’ll go first.

THE LOST BOYS was directed by Joel Schumacher, and the best thing I can say for it is the movie looks good. It’s a slick professional directing job by Schumacher. Too bad no one reminded him that he was directing a horror movie. I think he secretly thought he was making this for Disney, as it plays like PETER PAN: VAMPIRE.

LS: Good one!

MA: I can’t say that I liked the job that Schumacher did here. His work on THE LOST BOYS reminded me a lot of his two Batman movies—BATMAN FOREVER (1995) and BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) —and that’s not saying much.

(The sound of someone gagging in the background)

MA: My favorite Schumacher movie is probably FALLING DOWN (1993) starring Michael Douglas, a movie I like much better than THE LOST BOYS.

LS: FALLING DOWN is a good one. I also enjoyed TIGERLAND and 8MM (both from 1999). So the dude is capable of making good movies. But the majority of his career has been garbage.

MA: So, it goes without saying, that I prefer the direction by Kathryn Bigelow on NEAR DARK. She did what Schumacher and the others who worked on THE LOST BOYS didn’t do: she took the subject seriously. NEAR DARK is a much more serious vampire film, and as a result, is a more rewarding experience, especially for the horror fan.

LS: But LOST BOYS does take some of its story seriously. It just completely drops the ball when it feels the need to add the Coreys’ lame storyline.

As for which of these two movies had better direction, I’ll put it this way. Joel Schumacher ruined vampires in LOST BOYS, and he ruined Batman. Just keep this guy away from BATS!

Schmaucher has been working for decades and never seems to get any better at directing. Kathryn Bigelow is another level. Another league! You can’t compare them.

NEAR DARK all the way.

MO: These are two very different films.

I thought Schumacher made a wise choice showing almost all the flying from the vamp POV – especially when we see the terror on the security guard’s face (and taking the car door with him was badass) or the couple necking in the car.

MA: That was terror? I thought he looked constipated.

LS: He’s right about one thing, though. Flying vampires look pretty goofy. The POV scenes made them less so.

MO: But the bar scene in NEAR DARK, with the beer mug of blood, death by spur, etc., and the bits like the “old” kid downed on his bike or Paxton picking up lovelies… and the aforementioned bleakness… I go with Bigelow. It’s funny how you can see NEAR DARK leading to THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and THE LOST BOYS leading BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997).

MA: Very true. Good point!

LS: One trajectory is leading up, and one is leading down. Guess which is which.

Jamie Gertz plays Star in THE LOST BOYS.

PM: Joel Schumacher made an interesting choice in casting the vampires of THE LOST BOYS as teenagers. Even if he only did it to heighten interest among moviegoers at the time, it was still something that hadn’t been done to death yet. He also blends the younger and older actors pretty well. A lot was done to make it all seem” cool,” in an effort to soften the horror. Scenes that should have packed an emotional wallop were glossed over for laughs. Did I mention that the film ends on a friggin’ punch line? I agree with Mark. You get a premonition of Schumacher developing into the director who would put nipples on Batman.

Kathryn Bigelow sets an evil mood in NEAR DARK, gritty and dusty with big open spaces and lots of leather and Stetsons, calling up the Western tropes she was going for.

LS: There’s even a scene with a horse and a tumbleweed, for chrissakes! (laughs)

PM: She blends the elements of the story together smoothly, and gets solid performances out of all of her cast.

At the end, she seems to lose control of the material, though. She uses some ridiculous ‘Hollywood’ explosions to wrap things up (a tanker truck doesn’t even finish jackknifing before it blows sky-high), and like I’ve said, Jesse and Diamondback seem to just give up. As much as I hated the punch line ending of THE LOST BOYS, it’s only a few seconds and doesn’t interfere with what’s come before.

I’m going with Joel Schumacher and THE LOST BOYS.

MA: Wow. I agree that the ending to NEAR DARK isn’t all that great, but you think Grandpa coming to the rescue is better? I think you just might have been distracted when you watched this one!

LS: I’ll say!

MA: Okay, Round 4 goes to NEAR DARK, even though Paul tried yet again to get THE LOST BOYS in there.

Which means that after 4 Rounds, it’s NEAR DARK – 4, THE LOST BOYS – 0.

LS: Can we leave and grab those beers now?

Jenny Wright as Mae in NEAR DARK.

MA: Not yet! Because now it’s the moment everyone’s been waiting for. The fifth and final round. And let me just remind everyone how the scoring works. With this final round, should we all choose THE LOST BOYS, then that’s considered a “knock out” and THE LOST BOYS would win this bout, even though it has yet to score a point.

MO (points to LS): That means he would have to choose THE LOST BOYS over NEAR DARK?

MA: Yep.

(They all start laughing.)

LS: I’m telling you, let’s go grab those beers!

MA: Not yet! Hey, stranger things have happened, but don’t quote me on that. I’m not making any predictions!

The final question is: If you had to pick, which film do you think is better?

Mark, take it away.

MO: For jokey, family fun (with some good makeup effects), I’d go with THE LOST BOYS. It’s also a good time capsule for 80’s fashion.

But, if it’s straight-up horror with style (my preference), I’d go with NEAR DARK. So, it’s NEAR DARK for me.

One final note: I don’t mind vampire films setting up different rules than the ones we are used to, if they adhere to them—on the TV series BEING HUMAN I am fine with vamps being out in the sunlight, but prefer vamps like those in TRUE BLOOD or NEAR DARK, where the sun is death.

THE LOST BOYS also sets that up, but seems to break several of its own rules when Edward Hermann casts a reflection and is not affected by holy water—I thought this was a cheap device to throw us off his scent as lead vamp—that lame “Don’t ever invite a vampire into your house, you silly boy. It renders you powerless.” quote by Edward Hermann doesn’t excuse this sloppy writing.

MA: I completely agree. It’s one of the lamest moments in the movie. It’s one of the lamest moments in the history of vampire movies, period!

MO: Finally, I will say the Eddie Munster reference in THE LOST BOYS made me

laugh. It’s probably the only line that did make me laugh.

LS: That’s funny. That’s the only line that made me laugh, too.

MA: Lucky you. I didn’t laugh. Paul?

PM: THE LOST BOYS tried too hard to be a comedy, and as such never really punched the fear or danger buttons for me. There’s nothing there to earn the R rating. If the film were released today it would be PG-13 without changing a frame.

NEAR DARK was more of what I want from a vampire flick—more evil, more danger, more blood, more creepiness. NEAR DARK doesn’t try to be “cool” and doesn’t shellac the scariness with jokes and wacky characters. Plus, if it came out today, it would definitely keep its R.

My pick for the best movie is clearly NEAR DARK.

MA: Truth be told, I’m not a fan of either movie.

I saw THE LOST BOYS when it first came out, opening to strong reviews, but I hated it. I thought it was silly, the humor a misfire, and I couldn’t get into it.

I saw NEAR DARK later, after word of mouth had proclaimed it an excellent vampire movie. I saw it, but wasn’t wowed. In terms of 80s vampire movies, I like FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) much better.

But to choose between the two, there’s no comparison. I’d go with NEAR DARK, hands down. I like its story better, and the overall feel of the movie is much more to my liking. It’s scary, gritty, and realistic. THE LOST BOYS is ruined by its goofiness, and simply put, it’s a joke that I didn’t find funny.

LS: Yeah, we don’t need to belabor this, do we? NEAR DARK is head and shoulders (and everything else) above THE LOST BOYS. And I think it’s better than your beloved FRIGHT NIGHT, too (even though it did have Roddy McDowell in it). But that’s another argument for another time.

MA: Yeah, maybe we should have done that one! Because FRIGHT NIGHT is way better than NEAR DARK! But like you said, that’s for another time.

Well, that’s it, folks. The final tally is—NEAR DARK – 5 and THE LOST BOYS – 0. NEAR DARK pretty much smoked THE LOST BOYS the whole way. It was never that close.

LS: I’m exhausted. Can we those beers now?

MA: Yes, now we can relax and have a drink. Okay, everybody, thanks again for joining us! And thank you Mark and Paul, for taking part. Until next time—.

Good night everybody!


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon