Unlike the haze of a lot of childhood memories, I remember exactly � vividly � the first time I watched John Carpenter's Halloween
. It was all the sweeter because I was not supposed to be watching it. My best friend was over, and we snuck downstairs and bravely viewed it with the folks being none the wiser.
I can't honestly answer what it is about Halloween
that makes it so captivating � so hypnotic. We can fumble around for words, but the truth is that if anyone knew the real reason, they'd be able to recreate it and every movie would be so commanding. What I do know is this: It's still scary as hell. The setting isn't the ocean, or the woods, or some factory in a far off country. It's suburbia. It's where we grew up, where we live. The mundane becomes sinister. Every alley, every driveway could be harboring danger and death. It's as though John Carpenter sat down and said, "Okay, what is everyone's worst fear? How can I press those buttons that will freak us out on a daily basis? What will give people the urge to run, not walk, from their garage to their door when they come home at night?"
Which brings me to Michael Myers. The lack of humanity, the almost robotic manner in which he glides through the neighborhood the way a great white shark patrols the waters makes him so perfectly scary. You can't reason with him, you don't know what his motives are, or what he's thinking or feeling. Is he even feeling?
Now, the timing couldn't have been better. I was in first grade when I saw Halloween
, and my friend's dad cut the trailer for John Carpenter's The Fog
, so I got to hear all about that too. Who was this John Carpenter guy? He jumped the ranks into George Lucas territory in my young brain � maybe not living in the same manor house as the Flanneled One, but at least squatting on his property. My young brain couldn't distinguish between A-movies and B-movies. Revenge of the Ninja
was orbiting the same sun as Raiders of the Lost Ark
...movies were movies. I had no inkling about budget, shooting days, distributors. So, in the pantheon of cinema gods it was George Lucas, Steven Spielberg...and John Carpenter.
A few years after I saw Halloween
I was starting to make Super 8 films (yes, that makes me feel old). My first foray wasn't a slasher movie though, it was a ninja movie. There were a few attempts at horror, but I didn't really work up the nerve to try and emulate Carpenter until my sophomore year in high school. We made a 40-minute epic slasher movie (shot on video) in which the killer stalked suburbia, wore a mask, didn't talk and never, ever needed to run after his victims when walking would suffice. Nothing says confidence like the calm gait of an omnipotent serial killer. Our killer didn't sport a William Shatner mask, but rather a cheap yellow skull mask with fuzzy black hair. We lovingly dubbed him "Bones." The body count was high, and we absolutely ripped off some shots from Halloween
and Halloween 2
. Ironically, some of Bones's victims (my former classmates) went on to become Hollywood agents. I see them at industry parties or movie premieres, wearing their slick suits and polished smiles but all I really see is them staggering around in my mom�s flower bed with a fake railroad spike sticking out of their forehead, covered in Karo syrup and red food color.
Thank you John Carpenter, life and movies wouldn't be the same without you.
Ryan Schifrin is the writer-director of Abominable. He is currently co-writing Spooks - a comic book he co-created with Daniel Alter - for Devil's Due Publishing with Larry Hama.
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