October 20, 2014

Movie Review: The Terminator is a Horror Movie

With Halloween bearing down on us, I have been having some fun watching horror movies, many of which I had not seen before. While I enjoy horror at any time of the year, there is something about the chill in the air, the dying of the leaves, and Halloween that just amplify the effects. With that said, tonight's movie is a little off the beaten path. It is a movie that you do not normally see listed with horror films, but if you stop and think about it, there are a lot of similarities and you will how well it fits in. The movie is none other than The Terminator. I sense some of you are giving the screen your quizzical face. I get it.

I am not really here to review the movie, you should already be pretty familiar with it. If you aren't, what are you doing reading this? Go watch it. We'll still be here when you get back. Seriously, this movie is pretty amazing in what it is able to accomplish on a limited budget. It creates its own universe and delivers some strong characters in and around some explosive action.There is a reason why this is a classic.

The Terminator sees writer/director James Cameron take a page out of the growing horror playbook and adapted the slasher formula to a science fiction/action movie. Now, while this is most associated with the action and science fiction genres, this definitely has some horror leanings to it and can certainly be considered a horror film. I am hardly the first person to notice this, but when you watch it as a horror film, it takes on a different tone. A more horrific tone. The movie can be considered pretty darn scary.

Think of it as the science fiction/action counterpart to Halloween. Instead of Michael Myers, you have Arnold in the title role, instead of Laurie Strode, you have Sarah Connor, instead of Lynda and Bob, you have Ginger and Matt, and you can even switch out Dr. Loomis for Dr. Silberling. It is pretty fascinating how everything lines up. You even have the scene where you think the killer is dead, only for him to rise up and continue his slow moving, relentless pursuit.

Even without the character role similarities, you can look at the plot. We get a prologue that outlines the origin of your bad guy, plus the bad guy is inhumanly strong, determined, and impossible to stop. You have a heroine who is an every day girl with an ordinary life that gets turned upside down in the course of a single night. The first portion of the film sets up our killer, gets some victims tossed in, introduces our heroine, and even has a wildcard in Kyle Reese, whose motives are a mystery. The final act of the film is an all out chase for survival. Just like in a slasher film, our final girl is forced to do things she never thought she could do in order to survive.

It may not be a traditional horror movie, but it does have all of the elements. The action may be what is remembered for, but it is the terror that helps make it work so well. This is horror brought to the mainstream in sneaky fashion. I suspect Cameron new exactly what he was doing when he made this movie. It is shot with an apocalyptic grimness, full of harsh lights and rundown locales. Even the synth-laden score, by Brad Fiedel, feels like a horror film.

I now see The Terminator in a whole new light. In a way, it is like watching it again for the first time. Watching how horror subverts action, how formulas can cross genres and infect them in a way that makes something new. Man, this is a good movie and now it has even more layers. There is a lot of tension in this film, it clamps down on your spine and puts you in the edge of your seat. That isn't the action talking, it is the horror.

Highly Recommended.

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