Halloween is Coming

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My time away from the blogosphere wasn’t all bad.  Yeah, a lot of crap went wrong, but most of it has been taken care of.  And lest the Universe be listening to my complaints, please remember that I am grateful for all the good that fills my life every day.

One good thing coming up is Josh Ritter on Wednesday at Fingerprints (expect at least a couple Ritter posts in the next few days).  And I made plans to enjoy one of my all-time favorite scary movies at a theater with the lovely and dear Rarasaur at the end of this month.

John Carpenter’s classic Halloween is being shown on movie screens again for one night only on October 29th, just two days before the titular holiday.  Luckily, one of the theaters showing it is literally just down the street from my home (I’m not kidding; I could walk there).  Now I love this movie.  Halloween is probably the best of the slasher flick subgenre of horror, mostly because it basically invented slasher flick.  Oversexed teenagers getting picked off one by one by some faceless, masked killer who seems unstoppable, only to be defeated by the one good girl of the bunch.  (Many years ago, I read a great article for a class about why the heroine of these movies was always sober and virginal, and usually given a boyish name like Max or Sam; if I ever remember where that was from, I’ll add a link.)  Michael Myers was one creepy villain, and the tension of this movie is almost unbearable.  Or it would be if it weren’t so much fun getting scared.  While others of this genre have degenerated into ever more blood and titillation, Halloween set the bar with style and spook.

Part of the film’s success, I think, rests on the limited budget.  John Carpenter made this independent masterpiece for $300,000 dollars.  Because of that, much of the awfulness is kept in the shadows or not shown at all, which heightens the terror Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie feels as she discovers all the bodies and is stalked by Michael.  And like any really good horror movie, it takes some time to build up, so you get to know the characters.  I will always contend that the movies that wait to scare the pants off you work better because you actually have a chance to care about what’s happening.

One other thing the tiny budget for this movie gives us is the unmistakable theme music.  Since he couldn’t afford a fancy score, Carpenter composed and performed the music himself.  It’s one of the greatest scary themes of all time, largely because of its simplicity.  There’s no over-embellishment or Pop star singing some dumb song.  It’s just that same intense series of notes, over and over, coming at you with the same relentlessness as Michael Myers.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“Monster Mash”

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You know, it seems kind of silly that I haven’t posted this for Halloween before.  I loved this song when I was a kid, almost as much as I loved old monster movies.

Kudos to Gary Ramey for creating this video for the song.  It’s pretty darn cool.  Happy Halloween to y’all!  Don’t eat too much candy.

Happy Halloween!

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I’m the first one to admit that Halloween is not one of my favorite holidays.  I enjoy giving candy to the little monsters and superheroes and princesses that show up at my front door, but that’s about it.  I don’t dress up anymore (ghost socks don’t really count).  But I like scary things.  Our family went to the Universal Halloween Horror Nights a couple of years ago, and while it was kind of fun (we got to walk right next to the house from Psycho), people dressed up as “creepy” monsters jump at you from behind things just gets old after a while.  That’s not genuinely scary; that’s just getting startled.  A lot.  It’s a little bit like having my cat drop down on my head from the shelves that sit behind my computer chair.  Repeatedly.  Not so much fun.

But really, genuinely scary things–movies, books, songs–can be fun in the right doses.  As a kid, I read the books about haunted houses and ghosts. There’s some Stephen King novels that still make me a little nervous.  And Edgar Allen Poe’s stories freak me out.  I slept with the lights on for a solid week after I saw Blair Witch Project.  The Exorcist and Paranormal Activity are good spooky fun.  And I’ll never forget the feeling I got after I watched The Ring on cable and the phone rang.  (It was my dad, I think.)  That’s fun.  You know it’s not real, but you still can’t help looking over your shoulder, just in case.  I’m still spooked by the classic creepy household things: dark corners and unexpected noises . . . mirrors at night . . . rocking chairs.  Closets must be kept closed at all times (that’s practical, too; keeps the cats out).  Curtains and blinds stay shut after sunset.  Just in case, you know.

I love a good ghost story.  One of my personal favorites is the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.  It’s not scary (although when I was a kid, there were these screaming heads that jumped out from behind everything; I hated them), but it is fun.  Some of the best F/X in the park.  It’s hard to find good video of it, though, because it’s so dark (this was pretty much the best one I found, because it uses a track from an album about the ride as narration).  But it’s one of the best rides in the park, full of fun and music.  So hop in a Doom Buggy and enjoy the ride.