Halloween. Candy. Halloween. Costumes. Halloween. Horror. Halloween. Just the word itself conjures any number of expectations for fun or dread. Many people would actually say that dread is fun, so there might be an argument right from the start as to whether dread and fun are even two different reactions.
When I was a kid, Halloween was most certainly a celebration of all things sugar. Sure you got to put on a cool costume, but the main reason for that was to load that bag up with enough sugar to reach a respectable orbit just above the atmosphere. Hey, you knew you’d crash at some point, but life’s about the journey, right? Of course, having a history twisted together with witchcraft and rituals (or so I thought as a kid) sometimes created a concern that this holiday was anything but a children’s celebration. In the early 1980s, there was a huge scare concerning Tylenol laced with a dangerous drug and this led to scrutiny of Halloween candy including x-rays to check for pins and sharp objects. Many organizations and towns started safe Halloween activities like “Trunk or Treat” to take some of the worry away from parents. Whether you approach Halloween with excitement, dread, or fear, its arrival is sure to elicit some type of reaction.
One thing that is sure when it comes to Halloween is that the movies have become an integral part of the experience of the season. In fact, just saying the name, Halloween, almost immediately brings to mind the seminal 1978 film of the same name by John Carpenter. Originally titled THE BABYSITTER MURDERS, Carpenter eventually changed the name to HALLOWEEN in order to capitalize on the season in 1978. This simple change, and the fact that HALLOWEEN became one of the most successful, independent feature films of all time, created an instant link between the kids costume night and the teenager and adult desire to be scared. This is an oversimplification of the history of the holiday overall, but for many people my age, this is exactly how it happened. We simply grew up with this film burned into our brains and it was forever tied to the holiday.
Turning Halloween into a night of terror would forever alter the celebration of the season in a variety of ways. HALLOWEEN the film gave rise to the slasher genre that took over cinemas in the 80s. Michael, Freddy, and Jason ceased being common boys names and forever became known as three of the most iconic movie villains ever created. Even now, decades past, these characters prime. Children show up at my door on Halloween with Freddy claws, hockey masks, and the ghost-face from SCREAM. I can’t help but wonder if these young children have actually seen these movies or if their parents have simply shared the stories with them and the kids want to represent them on the night where candy flows as freely as fear?
The Halloween season for many horror movie fans starts on October 1st with any number of groups and sites now hosting month long celebrations of all things spooky. Social media is full of people posting their scary movie selections nightly leading up to the 31st. AMC has been hosting Fear Fest for over 20 years and even launched the incredibly popular THE WALKING DEAD TV show on Halloween night — October 31st, 2010. There is an amazing sense of community amongst horror movie fans as evidenced by the sheer number of films available as well as the merchandising surrounding the films. Masks, props, haunted houses, toys, TV shows, independent films, and the never-ending repackaging of the HALLOWEEN films (what’s more indicative of the season than throwing more money at the next remaster or new cover?) show just how devoted fans are to their favorite characters and franchises. The number of successful franchises in the horror category is testament to how much horror film fans love our villains. We never seem to tire of the next story that features our favorites, even when those stories so often disappoint. We tend to be a forgiving bunch when our beloved characters show up in a new film that stumbles and doesn’t live up to the images we have burned in our brains. When a new sequel is announced, we secretly hope that this time it will be done right and we can experience that sense of dread all over again. Case in point, HALLOWEEN. David Gordon Green (director of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS?!?) is on board along with Jamie Lee Curtis using a script written by John Carpenter, Danny McBride, and Gordon to bring us a new entry in the venerable series in 2018. Gordon’s filmography doesn’t scream “horror master” by any measure, but I have my ouija board and candles out to ask the movie gods for a new classic.
Horror has risen and fallen over the years like any genre, but it never really goes away. Fans are living in a great resurgence right now with horror on television and the latest version of IT just becoming the highest grossing horror film of all time. While IT is certainly not the scariest or grossest horror film ever made, it is a fine example of what the genre can be. The film takes itself seriously, takes special care to be respectful of the genre, and puts believable characters on the screen. The horror community is always ready to champion a film that treats its audience with respect, especially in a genre that many times does just the opposite.
Horror, the genre that inspires a million conversations. Its face and form may change, but its basic intent to frighten us will always live on. Who is the best villain? Who would win a fight between Michael and ??? (I always go with Michael). What’s your favorite horror movie (I always go with the original HALLOWEEN)? What is the horror release you are most looking forward to (easy for me: the Hi-Def Ninja Black Label SteelBook release of SUSPIRIA!)? I really just posited these questions and answered them myself because I know how passionate the horror community is. There will be many disagreements and that’s as it should be. We often resort to name-calling when someone labels a movie as horror when someone else thinks it’s a child’s film. We love to hear about the next big thing or seek out a little gem that others haven’t heard of. We love to argue because we love what we’re arguing about.
Welcome to Hi-Def Ninja’s Halloween Fest 2017! Celebrate the scares you love by posting what you watch, sharing your latest “find”, and arguing with others about the best, scariest, or grossest, whatever you think that is. Got any new action figures or statues to show us? What are you dressing up as for the big night? Is your house the most horrific in the neighborhood? It’s a good thing that horror fans are not really the characters we love to argue about. Can you imagine? I don’t think Pennywise lurks in these forums or in the dark recesses of the web, but what do I know? Do you think he does? Believing is seeing. Maybe you’ll float too?
Happy Halloween to and from the whole HDN family! May the best candy and the scariest movies find their way into your homes this month.
- Eric Presson