What Does Halloween Mean To You? (Part One)

The question is simple: What does HALLOWEEN mean to you? I asked the members of the Arrow in the Head staff - and myself - this question, as the weekend finally arrives when the world gets reacquainted with Michael Myers thanks to David Gordon Green and Blumhouse's HALLOWEEN, a direct follow-up to John Carpenter's 1978 film. The question is fairly broad, but more than anything it seeks to find out what each individual's relationship with the slasher classic is: Have you always loved it? Did it take years to grow on you? Do you think it's overrated to this day?

Below you'll find some of our answers (Part Two will be online next week), but obviously we don't want to limit this query to the handful of us. Below in the comments section, or on social media if you prefer, we ask you let us know how the original film, and the franchise as a whole, has altered your horror-loving heart. Whether you think it's the best movie of all time or one that needs to be taken down a few pegs, we all have a special relationship with HALLOWEEN. And everyone's entitled to one good scare. 

ERIC WALKUSKI, Managing Editor

It's funny to think back on how unshaken I was by the horror classics when I was a kid. I recall seeing THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE at a pretty young age, maybe 11 or 12, and being fairly unfazed by it. I knew the movie's title and reputation, so I was expecting something unbearably brutal. What I watched was, okay, I guess, but barely left me reeling with nightmares. Weren't there supposed to be grisly chainsaw murders every five minutes? Why was it so funny at certain points, was that intentional? Years later, as a more mature (arguably) movie viewer, I watched it again and was rocked by it. My teenaged self saw the unflinching horror of what was going on, while 11-year-old me brushed it off with no problem.

I had the same experience with HALLOWEEN. My initial viewing was was probably around the same age, 11 or 12 (when I was watching anything and everything), and it was on cable, USA or TNT. Seeing a movie like HALLOWEEN on cable television is unfortunate, of course, but what the hell did I know? I first saw THE FOG, HELLRAISER and THE EXORCIST the same way. In any event, HALLOWEEN, commercials and all, failed to startle me the way I assumed it would. I appreciated the mood, the unnerving atmosphere John Carpenter built, and the simple fact it was taking place on Halloween; I loved the holiday as much then as I do now. But did it freak me out? No. You could surmise that it was the comforting buffer zone the commercials provided, but the content of the movie didn't do a number on me. Not unlike CHAINSAW, HALLOWEEN promised, I thought, gore galore, and all I got was, what, a handful of bloodless stabbings?

I don't remember when my next viewing - my first real viewing - was, but by that time I had already become familiar with HALLOWEEN's sequels. I found HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS to be my favorite; I identified, or at least sympathized, with its young heroine, Jamie Lloyd. By that time, I loved horror movies quite a bit, ate them up, truly dug the slashers and some of the really schlocky stuff. At a certain point, it occurred to me that I should familiarize myself with the "real" classics of the genre, and that entailed going back and reeducating myself on some titles that hadn't made a big impact originally. That included TEXAS CHAINSAW, and that included HALLOWEEN. I finally procured a commercial-free copy of HALLOWEEN, and while it still didn't scare the hell out of me, it had the intended effect on my psyche. The creeping calmness of the first act; the eerie sight of Michael Myers and his blank mask just standing there, staring; the chilling deaths of young people who, while somewhat annoying, didn't deserve such ugly fates. And I recall the power of Jamie Lee Curtis' performance: Laurie Strode's gentle timidity throughout was engaging, which made the anguish she experienced in the third act that much more painful to handle. It was hard to believe I didn't see how damn disquieting the whole thing was, but like I said, what the hell does an 11-year-old know.

Halloween is my favorite holiday, so HALLOWEEN and its many sequels - the ones from the 80s, anyway - are therefore an inextricable part of October. Yes, I still watch them when they're on cable, even though I own them in 20 different formats, but that's just another part of the tradition. HALLOWEEN is one of those movies that still has the power to unsettle, no matter how familiar you are with it; it still draws you in, lulls you with its autumnal ambience and relatable characters, and then it carves you up once the boogeyman goes back to doing what he does best.

CODY HAMMAN, News Editor

There was a time when I would have named HALLOWEEN as my favorite horror movie, but while other classics have leapfrogged over it in the decades since those days, I still have a deep respect for the film. I enjoy it for the same reasons so many others do - the atmosphere, the visual style, the score, the performances of the cast, the memorable dialogue, the creepiness of Michael Myers and his awesome mask.

Recently I realized another reason to admire the film: the fact that this was a work-for-hire project for director/writer John Carpenter and producer/writer Debra Hill, but they managed to take a concept they were provided by executive producer Irwin Yablans, the idea of a killer stalking babysitters on Halloween, and turn it into a film that is purely their own creative vision. Lots of filmmakers could have been handed this idea and most attempts probably would have leaned toward being trashy, but Carpenter and Hill turned it into one of the greatest horror movies ever made. No one else would have brought Yablans' concept to life in the way they did.

None of the sequels have managed to live up to that first film. HALLOWEEN II cloned the style but fell short in the story department, while adding in the unnecessary sibling twist, which is something that I've come to strongly dislike. A desperate attempt to add substance to a sequel there was no real story for has been dragging down the franchise ever since. That's not to say the HALLOWEEN films haven't had their entertaining moments while following the path HALLOWEEN II set them on. One of my favorite slashers to watch is HALLOWEEN 4; I enjoy how it's the first film all over again but bigger and happening in the '80s. Director Dwight H. Little also managed to capture a wonderful autumnal feeling in that movie, and the title sequence is one of my all-time favorites.

It remains to be seen whether or not I'll like the new HALLOWEEN that's being released this month, but I'm already thankful that it's disregarding the HALLOWEEN II twist.

The movies that followed HALLOWEEN have their ups and downs (and those downs dip very low), but that original film really is an incredible artistic achievement and is a movie I like to revisit during the Halloween season. It may not be my #1 favorite anymore, but it's still an essential part of my viewing rotation.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this feature, it will hit next week. In the meantime, read our review of David Gordon Green's HALLOWEEN and share your fond memories of John Carpenter's original below!



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