(Spoiler Warning: Plots of films from the last 20 years are discussed. Read if you dare!)
Your Halloween plans are highly dependent on your current life situation. If you have elementary-age children, you’re probably marching around your neighborhood reminding them to say “thank you” after each Trick-or-Treat. If you’re single and hoping to mingle, you might be party- or bar-hopping in a creative costume.
But if the idea of going out doesn’t appeal, there’s nothing better than staying home with your favorite strain or edible to enjoy a night of movies, whether you’re looking for scares, laughs or something in between.
Frequent marijuana users haven’t always been depicted as the most resourceful characters in movies. Beloved as they are, characters like Floyd in “True Romance” or The Dude in “The Big Lebowski” couldn’t be counted on in most horror movie scenarios.
In recent years, however, the stoners have been faring better surviving masked murderers, apocalypses and various other things that go bump in the night.
Well, they’re at least doing better than poor Jack Black (performing a particularly embarrassing Rastafarian bit) in 1998’s “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.”
Consider Fran Kranz’s pothead Marty in director Drew Goddard’s spectacularly twisty “The Cabin in the Woods” from 2012. Marty may be deemed ‘The Fool’ by the gods of slasher film lore, but his knowledge of horror, as well as his likely-cannabis-influenced paranoia, kept him alive until the end. If only Chris Hemsworth had listened to Marty, Thor may not have exploded himself into the side of a mountain.
Frequent marijuana usage seems to be the best way to at least deal with cataclysmic supernatural events. Shaun and Ed in “Shaun of the Dead” don’t always have the best ideas during the zombie apocalypse (you can’t just head to the pub and wait until things blow over), but the pair nevertheless live to see another day on the couch playing video games… well, more or less.
And pot pin-up Boy Seth Rogen continues to show remarkable resolve in the face of dire situations. “Pineapple Express” leans more into action than horror, but still contains ample opportunities to die a horrific death. And Rogen is one of the few to come out on top, as it were, during the Biblical apocalypse depicted in “This is the End.”
Marijuana almost ends up being the saving grace for several characters in “Scary Movie,” the 2000 Wayans Brothers’ spoof of “Scream” (which was already a spoof of slasher films, but whatever). Rather than murdering Marlon Wayans and his stoner friends out, the film’s Ghostface decides to party with the group rather than murder them. Unfortunately, then he accidentally slashes most of them during an energetic freestyle rap.
While pot users aren’t always depicted in the best cinematic light, at least popular culture has long abandoned the idea that marijuana usage itself should be the subject matter of a horror film. Yes, movies still mine hallucinatory trips to put characters through scary ordeals, but it’s always because of some other not-so-legal narcotic.
The days of “Reefer Madness” are well-over, though extreme drug use in movies like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Trainspotting” and “Requiem for a Dream” are scary enough to keep many away from any substance that can mess with your brain, marijuana and alcohol included.
Oddly, the trend of bad trips in movies leans toward comedy, with notable insanity from Neil Patrick Harris in the “Harold and Kumar” films and in this summer’s acclaimed teen comedy, “Booksmart” from director Olivia Wilde.
Even “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” a shockingly watchable live-action adaptation of the preschool series, “Dora the Explorer,” recently included a scene where Dora and her teenage friends accidentally inhale spores from an unknown flower, transporting them into an animated world of talking maps and backpacks.
Canvassing a few opinions from regular consumers/moviegoers, being under the influence doesn’t seem to make the experience of watching horror movies any scarier. In fact, if anything, you might feel a little more relaxed when seeing Michael Myers lumber out from the shadows.
A notable marijuana user who requested anonymity mentioned being terrified by “Requiem for a Dream” under the influence. Perhaps that movie and its depiction of heroin and amphetamine addictions should be the anchor of a new D.A.R.E. program.
One wonders is whether talented filmmakers can somehow create better scary content with regular marijuana use. Unfortunately, there isn’t much evidence to examine, as filmmakers tend not to divulge how much they’re smoking while overseeing multi-million dollar projects.
Kevin Smith tried his hand at a few horror movies during his ‘heavy daze’ years, and the output included a pretty good serious effort in “Red State,” but also the regrettable one-two punch of “Tusk” and “Yoga Hosiers.”
He’s headed back to safer territory this fall with “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” unless he somehow manages to resurrect that poop monster from “Dogma.”
As cannabis continues to push into the mainstream, we can definitely expect to see more diversity in both the filmmakers behind the camera and the characters they choose to depict. Some will be heroes, some will be cowards, and others will be murderous supernatural clowns. Maybe “It” wouldn’t need a Chapter 2 if someone just gave Pennywise a few chewies.
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