Thirteen Days to the Suicide Woods: Day 3 — The Texas Chainsaw Breakfast Club or I Don’t Like Mondays

Several years ago, a friend asked if I’d be interested in writing a story for the new issue of the genre lit magazine he was editing.1 The issue was meant to be ’80s horror themed, and while I’m not a big fan of ’80s nostalgia, I said yes because it sounded like fun. I was stumped though. When I was a teenager, I enjoyed the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises along with all the others like them. But as an adult, they haven’t aged as well for me as have the movies from my favorite period of film-making, the ’70s. I’m much more into a Shivers, Last House on the Left aesthetic than I am a Chucky or Freddy Krueger kind of guy. When I did finally alight on an idea related the ’80s, it was one I thought hadn’t been deconstructed by a horror scalpel before: The Breakfast Club.

There’s a very sinister undercurrent running beneath the surface of The Breakfast Club which is visually hinted at early in the movie and pays off toward the end.

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This bit of graffiti doesn’t seem like much, when shown in the first moments of the film. It appears for only a second or two in a quick cut establishing the scene at the empty high school where the kids are going to be serving their detention. If you’re a fan of the Boomtown Rats, maybe it makes you think of the song. And maybe if you’re a big fan of that band, you know where they got the song title from. When I see this, the quotes around it make it feel like less than a lyric than someone trying to say something thematic, like an epigraph at the beginning of a book.

The line itself was spoken by Brenda Spencer. On January 29th, 1979, Spencer used a rifle her father had given her to kill two adults and wound eight kids at the elementary school across the street from her house in California. When police finally arrested her after a standoff they asked her why she did it; she declared, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”

Take this image at the beginning of the film and couple it with Anthony Michael Hall’s confession why he is in detention, despite being a “parent’s wet dream,” and I think there’s at least one very sinister subtext in the film which is, sometimes school is a place kids don’t survive.

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And that’s the thing, there’s a survival horror vibe to TBC. Though they are dancing and trashing the card catalog and getting high, the guidance counselor is a force of doom, stalking them. He’s the threat keeping them captive, and if any of their small rebellions are discovered, he’s promised to end their futures. But he’s not alone as a source of threatening. All the adults either appearing in or spoken of in the film, provide the key to the detention kids’ dread. Expressed in the language of children, the nerd’s parents are going to kill him for getting an F, the jock’s parents are going to kill him if he doesn’t win the wrestling meet, the burn out’s dad might literally kill him one day, and the princess’s parents’ indifference is presently killing her too. Like the guidance counselor, it’s the parents’ very existence that guarantees their children’s doom, because the kids can see what they’ll become if they survive their youth.

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And the end is even darker, because, while all the kids have had a personal revelation, none of them have changed their circumstances. In the movie, the basket case literally has to nullify everything unique about herself and pretend to conform to a conventional standard before the jock will recognize her as a person. The princess and the basket case are never going to be best friends, because of the judgmental clique that holds them both emotionally bound. The nerd is pressed into service by them all to satisfy the force of adulthood keeping them captive (and he still has an F), and the burn out, though he got to kiss the princess, still has to go home to the man who puts cigarettes out on his skin and beats him.
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It’s a very dark film… with a lot of laughs. So I tried to write my homage that way. Very dark, with some laughs. But to be honest, I think my story ends with much more hope than John Hughes’ does. His kids walk away from their monster, knowing it still has power and that they must return to its lair when the weekend is over.

Is it any wonder they hate Mondays?

The Woods Have Been Waiting

NEXT STOP: Sympathy for the Devil

 

 

His magazine ended up folding and the story didn’t get published until a couple years later when it was rescued in a very wonderful way by Jack Bantry over at Splatterpunk Zine.  If you’re not reading Splatterpunk, you need to be!

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~ by poǝןɔɐɯ uǝʞɔɐɹq on 03/03/2017.

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