Icons Firsts: HALLOWEEN!!

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Like all of you fright fiends, the ICONS OF FRIGHT staff all have a genuine love for the genre. We eat and breathe this stuff, and it’s always fun to sit back and think of the first times that we each experienced the classics. Already having covered A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE EVIL DEAD, we felt like it was time to tackle the holy grail, that being John Carpenter’s piece of pure slasher gold, the great 1978 classic, HALLOWEEN. It’s definitely a decent sized article, full of different stories of varying degrees from the Icons crew. So, sit back and enjoy Icons Firsts: HALLOWEEN!!

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Rob G (Co-Founder):Let me just tell you how I started my day. As usual, I’m skimming the usual on-line retailers and bargain sites looking for good Blu-Ray deals. So, Blu-Ray.com, Amazon, etc. When I realize there’s nothing out there that I don’t already have, I end up buying the following: HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS on Blu-Ray, the “Theatrical Edition” of Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN on DVD, and the “Unrated Director’s Cut” of Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN on Blu-Ray. Mind you, I already own at least 2 of those in alternate formats. And yet, I willingly and impulsively purchased a series of sequels I don’t even like very much yet again. I think that explains just how much I love John Carpenter’s original masterpiece HALLOWEEN. That I’d be willing to buy any version, sequel, remake, offshoot in every single format just because as a devoted fan, I feel the need to do so.

That’s also the magic behind that particular film. It’s perfect. It’s flawless. And yet us die hard HALLOWEEN fans obsess over every other film in the series in the hopes that it’ll have at least one scene, one moment, one line that comes close to capturing the perfection that is Carpenter’s film. And what’s funny is I don’t even have a distinct memory of when I first saw the original. As with all the franchise horror, I devoured each movie maniac’s filmography in a short span of time and usually completely out of order. So for me, the HALLOWEEN movie that I have the closest association with is actually HALLOWEEN II. And it’s funny, because somewhere in the basement of my folks place is an old VHS tape where I first recorded HALLOWEEN II off television. Later on, I bought the theatrical version on VHS (no doubt that old Good Times release) and was shocked by how different it was from the one I taped off TV. That was the first time I’d ever understood the concept of multiple takes and deleted scenes and alternate footage was through my viewing of HALLOWEEN II.

I also have a distinct memory of seeing HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS in theaters on opening night. I was 12 years old and by then, I must’ve watched the original over and over again as a double feature with Part 2 in order to prep myself properly for HALLOWEEN 4. And yet, while I appreciated the original, 2 still remained my fave. I think just because of the creative kills, the eerie movement of Michael Myers as portrayed by Dick Warlock (still my favorite of the men to play “the shape”), the wicked slightly different versions of all the HALLOWEEN themes from the original. But I always understood that all these films stood on the greatness of the original, even if at the time it wasn’t my favorite in the series.

Years later, I had flown out to Pasadena for the monumental 25th anniversary of the original HALLOWEEN. I’d been to conventions on the East Coast plenty, but I’d rarely traveled out of state, let alone across the country for one, and one devoted solely to HALLOWEEN. One of the fun tie-in events to the convention were late night screenings of HALLOWEEN and HALLOWEEN 4 at a local theater. Naturally I went and waited hours in line outside the theater, but much to my surprise, it rained on me the entire time. (I didn’t realize it rained in LA ever!) Despite being cold, wet, sticky in my seat and exhausted, I plowed through because this would be my first time experiencing HALLOWEEN on the big screen. And wow. That was when I truly realized it’s power.

As a kid, I’d always futz around my living room when I thought I was on a slow part of the movie, but when playing on the big screen with an audience, the whole movie moved. Every line, joke, nuance, all played like gangbusters. And best of all, the last 20 minutes, some of the most tense in horror movie history played to this particular crowd, a crowd that had already seen the movie 100 times like the scariest thing of all time. Screams, cheers, you name it. I was still soaking wet when the credits rolled and the theme music played out, but nothing can match the experience I just collectively shared with that audience that night. Ever since, HALLOWEEN is of course a film I watch every single year on Halloween morning. And now I appreciate every single aspect of the film. When people ask me what I think the top 5 perfect horror movies are, HALLOWEEN is most definitely at the top of that list. It’s probably the one movie I’ve own more than any other. (and again, I’m not even talking about the sequels, which I’ve also bought in every possible format multiple times.) And ya know what? A new Blu-Ray is on it’s way, and I’ll be first in line for it.

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Jerry Smith (Editor in Chief): HALLOWEEN, to me, isn’t just my favorite horror film. It’s not just another number in my “top 10” list, or anything like that either,..it’s much much more. A combination of so many perfect ingredients (and one of the few movies that I consider a flawless piece of art), HALLOWEEN is also, to this day, the scariest movie I have ever seen.

My relationship with John Carpenter’s classic began in mid-1989, when during being watched by my grandmother, my older brother and I were treated to a trip to our local video store (Major Video, represent!), and given the opportunity to each choose a movie to rent. My brother chose the Coen Bros’ RAISING ARIZONA, and like every other trip to the video store, I headed straight to the horror section, and gravitated towards a film that would not only scare the hell out of me, but would change my life in many ways: HALLOWEEN.

Starting out with RAISING ARIZONA, the night went on, and by the time that film was over, my grandmother said that we had to go to bed, and that we could watch HALLOWEEN the next morning. Well, if you ask any of my former teachers, girlfriends, wives or anyone else, the first thing that they would tell you, would be that I’m a stubborn s.o.b., and that I refuse to let anything deter me from doing what I want. This was no exception, as I waited until my brother and my grandmother both fell asleep, and being the young badass that I was, I put HALLOWEEN into the VCR and was ready to rumble.

What happened that night, was not only the most frightening experience of my life, but also one of the most profoundly personal. Everything about the film left my mouth wide open and my heart racing. This wasn’t a FRIDAY THE 13TH or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie, this was realistic situations happening to realistic characters. I knew those characters, they populated my streets, and throughout the years that followed, they were prevalent in the types of friends I had. To say that I identified with the character of Laurie Strode would be an understatement. Growing up, even from an early age, I never felt like I was a part of something. I smiled and acted like I was confident around friends, but inside I was just a kid that wanted to be liked and wanted to get the girl at the end of the day, much like Laurie pining away for Ben Tramer. I had friends like Annie and Lynda, the confident, cocky types, while I would fall behind a bit and always felt like I didn’t have the courage that they did. It was living vicariously through characters like Laurie that taught me how to stand up to fear and obstacles, and through HALLOWEEN, as cliche’ and cheesy as it probably sounds, I found my strength and voice, and for that, HALLOWEEN defines me as a fan, and in a lot of ways, as a person.

What stood out so much about the film, as opposed to a lot of the other genre films I watched from an early age, is that it wasn’t just about being stalked by a maniac. It wasn’t even about Michael trying to get his sister (I’ve always hated that angle foolishly birthed in HALLOWEEN 2), it was about facing one’s fears and well,..fate. While some might not see the film as that, it spoke (and still speaks) to me on such a profound level, that even as a 7 year old, it meant the world to me, and has been my favorite film of all time since. I’m 32 now, and there isn’t a month that goes by without me watching HALLOWEEN. It came to me at the perfect time, and I’m happy to say it’s still just as brilliant.

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Justin Edwards (Editor): Although I avoided the horror section like it was a clown asking me if I wanted a balloon (I was a total wuss), the magic of pouring through & choosing which tape I got to take home was inherent even at such a young age. My Dad also had a fairly sizeable video collection at home, so my options were plentiful. I knew he knew that I was pretty averse to anything horror related, so I safely scoured through his tapes knowing I wouldn’t find myself staring at a cover that would give me PTSD. Well, I was wrong. Getting a faceful of that unforgettable art nearly killed me, but I was entranced. I had to see this film. I had to see HALLOWEEN.

I never knew terror could take on a physical form until I watched HALLOWEEN. Sure, I’d been scared by stuff here & there like any young spastic kid, but this was on a whole new level. Once you’ve encountered something so frightening, you almost bond with it. That brush with the unknown morphs into a relationship that you’re equally terrified and attracted to, which directly sums up my initial viewing of John Carpenter’s seminal masterpiece. Michael Myers was the embodiment of my fears, a featureless shape (no pun intended) with no clear discernible motive except for the need to stalk-kill-repeat. Despite all the sleepless nights agonizing over if he was coming for me next, little did I know the seeds of my future horror loving days were firmly planted.

Like many, HALLOWEEN is my favorite film of all time. I’ve still got decades of cinema to wade through and discover until my dying breath, but I feel certain this one will never be eclipsed. Carpenter created a timeless film, one I can revisit countlessly throughout the years without evening thinking twice. Dean Cundey’s warm cinematography evokes a specific mood & feeling in me, something that takes me back to being a kid every single time I press play. It’s unique to have such an emotional reaction for a film that still frightens me to this day, and I’d like to think that’s why it’s so close to my heart. HALLOWEEN is everything I want out of a film. It’s subtle, sincere, and scary. I owe a lot to this film for shaping into the person I am today, and I will always be forever grateful for “the night he came home.”

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Brittney-Jade Colangelo (Contributor): Despite what my baton twirling, child beauty pageant upbringing may cause you to assume, I was born and bred on horror. My mother, a self-proclaimed slasher fangirl could never get my father to willingly watch horror movies with her. My father, a local politician, had the task of overseeing our community’s haunted house and haunted hayride around Halloween season. If there’s one thing my father loves to do, it’s scare other people. Between my father constantly scaring me for fun as a child (the man put a ventriloquist doll in my bed while I was sleeping), and my mother forcing me to be her movie buddy to watch Stephen King’s IT at the age of four, there was no way I wasn’t going to grow up and be a total horror junkie.

My fifth Halloween is the first trick or treating experience I can consciously remember. I had spent the evening running around the neighborhood dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West and cackling at children in the street. Even as a kindergartner, I was a big crusader for remaining in character. After the night was overtaken with hooligans intent on smashing pumpkins and stealing candy from unsupervised toddlers, I managed my way back into the front door with my pillowcase filled with sugar dragging behind me. The living room was dim and my mother sat with a wine glass in hand with her face glued to the television. Exhausted, my dad picked up my (at the time) two-year-old sister and retired for the remainder of the night. I poured out my conquests into the middle of the living room and began organizing the horde. After the chocolates were separated from the sweet and sour, my mother extended a makeup remover wipe to me and simply said “Come here, I want to show you something very important to me.”

I climbed on top of the couch and snuggled into my mother’s embrace. The film began to roll, and I don’t think I blinked the entire duration of the film. It was as if some sort of supernatural force had taken a hold of my psyche and forced my eyes wide A Clockwork Orange style without any contraption to hold them open. I sat on the couch paralyzed and my mother just looked down at me and said, “So, what’d you think?” I turned to look back up at her and at full conviction exclaimed, “THAT WAS THE COOLEST MOVIE I’VE EVER SEEN!”

Years would go by and my infatuation with The Shape grew to an almost unhealthy level. I found myself renting the films as much as humanly possible and shutting down my entire evening if AMC were to play it on television. There was an instance one Halloween where a teenager wore a Michael Myers costume and just stood silently in the middle of the street. I couldn’t walk down the block if I saw him there. For as scared as I was, I couldn’t help but hope that I’d see him at the end of the road whenever I turned a corner.

As I grew older and became a virginal babysitter a la Laurie Strode myself, the film took on an entirely new meaning. No longer was I afraid of the boogeyman, but rather the very real possibility that I was responsible for human life and very, very vulnerable as a teenage girl left alone. Analyzing the film today has shown me the true brilliance of John Carpenter and Debra Hill as filmmakers, but the initial impact the film had on a five year old baton twirling/child pageant queen is something no amount of film academia can take away from me.

They say “less is more” and I think Michael Myers is the bonafide slasher version of this practice. He doesn’t grunt, he doesn’t speak, he doesn’t run, and he doesn’t break the tension with snappy one-liners. Micheal Myers simply existed, and genuinely sparked a lifetime of love for masked men with weaponry.

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Josh Soriano (Contributor): I saw HALLOWEEN in its first run on cable with both of my parents sitting behind me on the couch, during the day, while eating lunch. My father had taped it off the television and I sat there, with my grilled cheese, unaware of the terror looming ahead. The film terrified me on a deep psychological level and claiming it only “scared” me would be doing it a gross injustice because it did so much more. It was the scene where Dr.Loomis and the nurse catch a glimpse of the patients roaming the grounds of the asylum on a rainy night that first really creeped me out. From then on, it continued to tap into the simplest of my innermost fears and even introduced me to some new ones that I would carry on with but it was the first full reveal of that mask that sent me into a mortified panic. Immediately, the expressionless face became anything I could possibly fear. There were no eyes behind it and no driving motive–this guy just wanted to kill you and, before he finally did, he was going to menacingly play with your head by patiently stalking you. Make no mistake, even with as slow as he walked, there was no possible way you would escape.

Never could I have imagined anything could resonate so deeply with me. I mean, I had seen A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with Freddy Krueger, a guy even the bravest of viewers were frightened by, and HE didn’t even scare me–but Haddonfield was my town; at least, it may as well have been. I’d seen those streets in the fall, recognized those muted colors, seen that dilapidated house where “something terrible happened”. Add the fact that I lived in Illinois, which only made the movie that much more personal. By the end I was excited to see Michael finally defeated, his reign of terror on my psyche put to an end. Then, to my (and many others) horror, he escaped into the night. After the closing montage to the sound of Michael’s heavy breathing, I realized that he could very well be watching me from across the street as trick-or-treaters scurried by or that someday I could easily run into him while leaving the school grounds. It was daytime though, I’m sure this fear will have subsided by bedtime..right?

Many people think I’m over exaggerating when I say that, after watching HALLOWEEN, I slept in my parents bedroom for a month straight..but the truth is, I’m not. Even in the safety of their presence, for the first few nights, I still had this lucid nightmare that I would open my eyes in the pitch dark and The Shape would be standing there in the doorway, staring down at me; I would be frozen in fear, unable to call out for help. To this day, when I hear those four menacing notes of Carpenter’s score, a shiver still goes down my neck. Growing up, every dark room had Michael somewhere in the background watching me and, at night, any open door or window could be a way for Him to get in. John Carpenter changed the way I looked at the holiday itself for the rest of my life. In a strange twist of things, I am now obsessed with a film that I initially never wanted to watch again after my first viewing and it forever remains, in my opinion, the best horror film of all time and equally the most brilliantly crafted one. There will always be those that disagree but I think we can all agree on one thing..babysitting is the deadliest. job. ever.

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Natty (Contributor): With a special thanks to my Grandfather, I had seen almost every horror film known to man by the age of 5. My mother, of course, did not approve, so I had to wait till I was a little older (or at least till I stopped chasing other kids at play dates and yelling “My names Chucky, Wanna play?”), until I finally outgrew that phase. She decided it was time to show me HALLOWEEN.

When I started 5th grade, my Mother and me started a Halloween night tradition. Since my dad and brother didn’t care for horror films, it was just us girls. We would feast on pizza, watch movies, and hand out candy. She bought HALLOWEEN on VHS, and I remember tearing off the plastic cover and shoving the tape into my VCR as fast as I could. I was not disappointed.

HALLOWEEN blew my mind in so many ways. Immediately, I found it to be creepy. It was a different type of creepy, not the same monster or creepy I was used to, it was much more than that. The scene that stuck out to me the most and still gives me the chills, is the scene where Dr. Loomis and Nurse Marion are driving and they see the psychiatric patients wandering around outside. Dr. Loomis leaves Marion alone in the car; Michael Myers crawls up the back of the car, attacks her till she runs out and leaves him to steal the car and he drives away. To this day, every time I am driving alone at night I think of that scene. Another thing about this film I vividly remember that freaked me out is the fact that no matter where you hid, or how fast you ran, Michael was always there. When you think it’s safe, no…the theme song plays and there is Michael. After watching HALLOWEEN as a kid, I felt part traumatized, and part fascinated. He was silent, weird, and everything I imagined him to be. I fell in love with this movie. To me, it was and still is one of a kind.

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