A holiday celebrating a number of different things, including monsters, ghosts, autumn, harvests, and fun. Originally, it was Samhain, a pagan festival marking the end of summer and remembering the spirits of the dead. Later, it became a religious festival when the Catholic Church designated it as All Hallow's Eve and All Saint's Day. After that, it was a harvest festival, then a celebration of pranks, and nowadays, primarily a celebration for celebrating.

There are many, many different ways to celebrate Halloween. Children like to dress up in fanciful costumes and go Trick-or-Treating for candy. Adults like to dress up in fanciful costumes and go drinking in bars. You can also attend or participate in haunted houses, watch lots of horror movies, host storytelling parties, drop acid in a cemetery, decorate your house and yard to spook the kiddies, listen to spooky music, and much, much more.

Here's the cold, hard truth: Halloween is the best and most important holiday of the year! Better than Christmas, Easter, New Year's Day, Independence Day, April Fool's Day, St. Patrick's Day, or even Arbor Day. Everyone gets sick of all the others, but no right-thinking person ever grows tired of Halloween. Scary costumes, candy, and spooky episodes of your favorite sitcoms are all one needs to survive.

But nowadays, Halloween has enemies...

Some people want the holiday banned out of concern for their children. Some say Halloween should be banned because it keeps kids up on school nights (Puh-leeze. Let's ban nightmares, too -- they can keep kids up 'til morning, ya know). Some want the holiday banned because it's gotten too dangerous (actually, the vast majority of reported incidents of Halloween candy poisonings are hoaxes, perpetrated either by the children reporting the incidents or by adults trying to cover up for other crimes). Concern for your children's safety is commendable, but let's not ruin the holiday for the rest of us.

And some people want to ban Halloween because they say it's a Satanic holiday -- a claim that is pretty clearly untrue. While there are people who consider Halloween to be a religious holiday, the overwhelming majority of them are Wiccans and other neo-pagans -- very definitely not devil-worshippers. As for the dodgy logic of wanting to ban a secular holiday because a small number of people attach religious significance to it... good luck, kid. You got an uphill battle ahead of ya.

And of course, Halloween certainly does have its origins in many pre-Christian and pagan customs. If that's enough to warrant the end of the holiday, then you better get ready to say good-bye to Christmas and Easter, too. Both of them include popular customs which originated with pagans -- including Christmas trees, Easter eggs, Santa Claus, and even the date of Christmas itself. That's because, centuries ago, the Catholic Church had a policy of adopting pagan customs into church ritual in order to make it easier for the pagans to convert to Christianity and stick with it. So the date of the winter festival was converted to Christmas, the druidic veneration of evergreens was adopted as the Christmas tree, and ancient customs of appeasing the spirits of the dead in the autumn were sanctioned by the church as part of All Hallow's Day and All Hallow's Eve. And if you're a staunch enough fundamentalist to want to get rid of all holidays that have pagan origins or customs, well... again, good luck. This is just not your day.

On the bright side, despite the various enemies of Halloween, they are a very tiny minority with very little real support. Most people view Halloween as a fun and fairly innocent holiday, a welcome dose of thrills and chaos in a dull and ordered world. It's going to be around for a long, long time.
film, 1978, directed by John Carpenter
Starred Jamie Lee Curtis.

One of the truly great horror movies ever made, mostly because of what it does not include:
a cheesy title
a comfortable conclusion
a dull beginning
a "fake ending" with shocker ending later

Halloween is simple in that it is a story about fear of this holiday and the Boogeyman at a time when this holiday was becoming cutesy and "safe" in the United States. There are frequent moments in this film that you think things are going to be "bad" for characters involved, because of the typical camera angles and "scary" background music- but nothing happens.
For a moment. Then when you relax, 20-30 seconds later, YIKES! Still, like Psycho and similar movies (Alien,etc) much of the violence occurs off screen and we are left with our own imagination.

Don't watch this alone.

Somewhere in that silent space
Where words become forgotten prayers
A child sits with tatterred toys
Shaking beneath hypnotic stares

The cancer rests within her bones
Demon skulls her eyes reflect
Eucharist placed upon her tongue
Graying product of long neglect

How many children lay dead inside
The corners of the human mind
Little bones and broken hearts
Relics too obscure to find

On the bridge the hero stands
Empty briefcase in his hand
Ten minutes until All Saints Day
Ghosts and goblins in heart of man

What do you do
When you run out of places left inside
Or of warm nights
Or of nice dreams
What are you supposed to do

And the dead come forth one by one
And tears well within his empty eyes
And pieces of him join their ranks
The final, solemn compromise

-Uberfetus

El Dia de los Muertos and dancing in graveyards with the souls of the dead. Chills lick the back of your neck sending spasms of blissful fear racing through your limbs. The orgasmic sensation of knowing that your mind is experiencing a plethora of stimulation caused from elements entirely non-human. Teasing your spine like its a xylophone the spirit of your ancestors do a soft shoe in a circle around you, heightening the skin all over your helpless body. You are lost in your darkest fears and your most desired dreams all at once. This is Halloween. This is Samhain. Blessed be.

The festivities begin. Will you walk away with your soul intact...or will you be changed? Will Death lay his hands upon you and whisper his secrets in your ear tonight? You hope so. Oh god, do you hope to feel his icy touch, to feel his breath against your goose pimpled skin. He’s in the air, cooling the fire which you stare into. You feel him in every breath you breathe. The air is thick tonight. As you breathe it in you feel it filter your blood. This same air has filtered others’ blood, those who have come before you, and those who will come after. All are present tonight. You can feel their air mixing with your air. Your blood mixing with theirs.

On this night time ceases to exist. The future and the past merge into one mauve blur. Colors and faces swirl before you. Yes that was your great grandfather’s childhood figure who passed you that dandelion in your hand. Doubt it not.

We come with no intent to harm, merely to celebrate your life. We are your life and you are ours. The body that lies decomposing under six feet of soil is no longer a vessel but merely an abandoned ship. Waiting in its darkened cell for the light of new beginning. The beginning that is sure to come. New creatures will bring it new life, and it will again become useful. As the sunken ships become new homes for marine life, thus, the body becomes a new home for earthen creatures. Fear not death. It is not the end. It is a threshold to a new beginning. All are one. ALL are ONE. We strive for the same end, only the means are ever changing. Happy Halloween. Happy Samhain. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.

My favorite holiday...

And probably, from here on out, one of the most haunting days of my life.

The waiting room was so cold, and I was so tired... I talked to the counselor. I got my blood drawn. I made it all the way into the examining room, put on the paper gown, and... fell apart

Great hiccuping sobs shook through my body, growing so loud I thought the walls would shake. How can I do this? How can I be so fucking cruel and go through with this? I got up, threw off the flimsy paper, stuffed it in the trash can and put on my clothes again. Overwhelmed with guilt and fear and confusion, I sat down on the floor, wrapped my arms and knees protectively over my abdomen and rocked back and forth, sobbing hysterically. This is how the doctor found me.

Silently, he handed me another paper gown and a box of tissues. He got a nurse in to console me, and after a while, I calmed down enough for them to leave the room so I could get undressed again. Then, legs in stirrups, and tears still streaming down my face, I made the final choice. Once and for all, this is it, and there's no turning back... I hate myself for that.

Fog and sleep and trains rushing through my head in a cloudy firestorm of steam and steel... "I've felt my head," I said, upon waking. "I've felt my head exploding..." There were cookies and orange juice, but the pain down deep inside me was too much to bear; curled in a ball, I clenched my teeth, bit my lip, and felt... more empty than I ever have in my life. And the blood... my god, the blood.

Time passed, my sanity was regained, the pain subsided, and they let me go home... that evening, I woke from a long dreamless sleep to hear the shouts of children outside, and the sounds of my dad repeatedly opening the door, scaring them senseless with his silly costumes and theatrics. Right then, I wanted nothing more than to be his daughter again. I wanted my innocence back; I wanted to be enveloped in the same mystery and excitement that this holiday had always held for me in the past. I made my way slowly downstairs, hugged him fiercely, and told him how happy I was that he was my father... Surprised at my sudden display of affection, and curious about the tears streaming down my face, he hugged me back, and handed me a piece of candy. The moment was broken.

A ghost, a skeleton, and a princess appeared at the door, chanting their demands in sing-song childlike voices... They were beautiful and innocent and perfect; a shining example of all I had just given up.

Favorite holiday? Always.
Old Scottish verse:

Hey! Ho! for Hallowe'en
An' all the witches tae be seen
Some in black an' some in green
Hey! Ho! for Hallowe'en.

Atari 2600 Game
Produced by: Wizard Video
Model Number: 007
Rarity: 8 Very Rare+
Year of Release: 1983
Programmer: Ed Salvo
Can you live through the night HE came home? The Boogeyman will get you if you don't watch out! Pulse-pounding paranoia screams in your skull as you run for your life! Every step may be your last as you flee from the things that go bump in the night! Feverish with fear, cold sweat clings to your flesh! How real can an electronic nightmare be? Find out!

This game is Wizard Video's second, (and final) attempt at releasing a horror game for the Atari 2600. It is numbered 007, while The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was numbered 008, but the two games were released out of order. There is little evidence that this game was actually a licensed translation of the film. It used the same music and plot, but the movie is never actually mentioned, nor is the killer ever referred to as Michael Myers. The cover of the box did have artwork that was suspiciously similar to the Halloween movie poster, but even that is uncredited. The idea behind this game is that you control a babysitter inside a large house filled with defenseless children and a rampaging maniac.

The game is played from a side view of the home. There are two floors to the house and both of them can be viewed at the same time, this kind of looks similar to the game Xenophobe. The game scrolls both left and right, and there are a total of eight screens to explore, which makes for sixteen rooms altogether (counting the two floors). The screens at the far left and far right are safe screens and the killer will never appear on them. Your main objective is to seek out the children wandering the house and lead them to these safe screens. Your secondary objective is to seek out the knife and use it to stab the killer, which gains you a few points and makes him flee from the current screen.

Do you remember playing Berzerk (or Frenzy)? Remember how Evil Otto would always appear soon after you entered a screen, and then move towards you? Well that is exactly how this game works as well, except that the time delay seems a bit more random. Sometimes the killer appears instantly, and other times he waits for several seconds before showing up. Whenever the killer does show up you are treated to a very decent rendition of the "Halloween" theme song, except that you never get to hear too much of it because you have to run away to avoid having your head chopped off.

Allowing the killer to touch either you or one of the children is cause for immediate decapitation of the touched character. Once killed, your babysitter character runs off the screen headless with blood spurting from her neck. You reappear on the next screen with one life subtracted from your total. The children are simply decapitated where they stand, and don't do any of the headless chicken antics that the heroine of the game engages in. My theory as to why the lead character runs away after being killed is that it is a programming shortcut to get her to the next room, but I don't have the source code, so we will probably never know.

The killer is usually very easy to avoid. The easiest method I have found to run past him is to move to the bottom of the screen and wait for him to get close and then run up and past him once he closes in. If you can do this right then he will rarely be able to catch you. This maneuver is a little more difficult to pull off if you are leading one of the children, in that case I recommend running the opposite way instead.

Scoring

675 Points are awarded for each child led to one of the safe rooms.
325 Points are awarded for every time you manage to stab the killer.

This game is really fun and features some really good music, but it is almost too easy. Atari games are famous for being really difficult, and you shouldn't be able to pick up a new title and be good at it almost instantly. It only took me one play to get this game down pat. After another dozen plays I found that it had become boring, simply because it was just too easy.

Wizard Video sold many copies of this game without labels when they were liquidating their inventory. They simply wrote the name on the cartridge with a black magic marker. The one with the real label is more valuable even though the unlabeled one seems to be slightly more uncommon. The art on the cartridge was identical to the art on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

This game is extremely valuable due to its rarity. Expect to pay over $100 for a copy of this, without the box or manual.

A Poem in The Meeting Brownlee Anthology

Halloween

Blinds bend just enough
For me to peer out in the night.
Street lit with the help of heated halogen.

Children ripping
To the next well-lit house,
Too fast for their parents.

I return to the dark.
Not putting the television on.
Fearing it may give me away.

Carrier waves, cheerful waves.
My stereo, covert pleasure.
Toccatas & fugues flow from speakers in unseen corners.

My only source of light: an "Itty-Bitty Book Lamp"
Picked up at a Waldenbooks. Within its radius, its radiance I sit
Watching the LCD bars jump and twitch.

Wall of light and music.
Muffles the din
Of shifting sacks, in greedy hands.

Occasionally the door will bing, buzz or knock,
I punch the remote.
Willing them further away.

No-one ever seems to wonder where the tradition of wearing masks on Halloween comes from.

Halloween was originally a Celtic Festival called Samhain (now called All Hallow's Day), which marked The Day of the Dead, on which day it was believed that the ghosts of one's ancestors rose from their graves, and hovered close to the living. The Celts believed that they could communicate with them through rituals performed on All Hallow's.

On the night before All Hallows, All Hallows'een (or Halloween), the Celts believed that devils would rise and try to trick them into thinking they were their ancestors. It was believed that if you communicated with these devils, they would kill your soul and take posession of your body, wreaking havoc on your loved ones.
So the night before All Hallow's, they would wear masks (albeit not quite as glamorous ones as these days!) so the devils would pass them off as other devils and leave them alone, saving themselves the whole bother of having their souls killed and family destroyed.
I first review the Halloween series as a whole, and later in this write-up (And time) I get into the movie of the same name (the first in the series). As I watch the other Halloweens, I will node them. If you have any fun facts or comments, let me know.

Warning, spoilers abound.
John Carpenter's Halloween series is a bunch of horror movies that started in the magic era of Horror - 1978. This is before even Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Halloween is widely regarded as the movie that started the badguy-who-walks-slowly-with-a-mask horror genre. Even in the movie Scream, in that famous scene where the soon-to-die girl is asked what her favorite scary movie is, she says "Halloween."

Usually leaning towards suspense instead of buckets of blood and gore, the Halloween movies fill the much-needed "psychological thriller" gap throughout the 80's.

There are currently 8 movies in the Halloween lineup (linked as they are noded)
  1. Halloween (1978)
    • Body count: 3
  2. Halloween II (1981)
    • Body count: 13
  3. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
    • Bodycount: 17 *
  4. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
    • Body count: 15 (at least)
  5. Halloween 5 (1989)
    • Body count: 15
  6. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
    • Body count: ?
  7. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
    • Body count: 6
  8. Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
    • Body count: ?
TOTAL BODY COUNT: 69 * Though Michael Myers doesn't touch Jason's vast body count that reaches the triple digits, Mike's kills are usually more dramatic and suspenseful.

John Carpenter's Halloween may be the best film that could ever be made with that title. Like many influential horrors, it had little budget and, while it doesn't look cheap, it boasts a merciful lack of elaborate special effects and overproduced sets. Its cinematic style pays tribute to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, but its enigmatic killer nods to other, more supernatural terrors. It also looks forward, and created the next wave of Gothic cinema, the slasher movie. That said, Carpenter (though he shares blame for Halloween's vastly inferior sequels) bears no responsibility for how awful that genre turned out. Halloween has a simple yet memorable plot. It presents bizarre situations to which the audience can relate—- a little too well. It also features the best scary movie theme song since The Exorcist. Better horror movies may exist, but this one has stood the test of time, and has become a part of the season.

In the twenty-first century, Rob Zombie decided to remake Halloween. The resulting 2007 film bears out how entirely boneheaded his decision was.

The remake's first half concerns Michael Myers before, during, and after the Haddonfield Massacre. By giving Michael a backstory, Zombie's remake takes Halloween into new territory. The approach has potential—though the results aren't especially scary. Little Michael, already disturbed (he kills little animals), faces the pressures of his over-the-top trashy family and abusive stepfather. His stripper mother and overtly sexual big sister help explain the character's repressed sexuality, I guess. It's hardly subtle and nuanced, but it manages to bring a fresh take to the story. The first half also puts us in Michael's mind as the point-of-view character. His initial victims are entirely unlikeable, and it is only after he escapes that he begins killing people we’re supposed to find sympathetic.

This very backstory, the film's most original aspect, creates problems for the second half.

In the original, we never learn much about Michael beyond the events of the Haddonfield Massacre. That's the point. He's a disturbing puzzle, bred in a comfortable, middle-class, mid-century family. After killing people for no apparent reason, he grows up into the boogeyman, a sinister shape, something no longer human. His seemingly supernatural resilience presents a mystery, but one the film doesn't need to answer.

In the remake, Michael Myers is human— twisted, evil, disturbed, psychopathic, whatever— but human. As a consequence, his abilities in the second half raise real questions that deserve answers. How does he know where to find his sister? How does someone who spent the better part of fifteen years sitting in a near-catatonic state develop a bodybuilder's physique and a superhero's strength? Why can he survive multiple point-blank bullet shots and what should be a fatal stab-wound?

His invulnerability (I'm imagining yet another bit of backstory, wherein the white-trash Myers find baby Michael in a rocket launched from Krypton—except that this Myers resembles more the Incredible Hulk) also prevents the multiple false endings from holding any suspense. What does it matter if Laurie reaches the discarded gun in time? We learn early on that her target is bullet-proof.

If the first half introduces some new elements to the story, the second repeats the best bits of the source material and its numerous hellish spawn. Zombie even shot in the same neighbourhood as Carpenter. We get more of an explanation for events. The remake, for example, connects the killer and the Last Girl in a memorable fashion (though one derived from the original's first and most pointless sequel). What it lacks is the emotional context provided by the original. We have no reason to care about any of these people.

The actors put in passable performances, given the limitations of the script. It's difficult to know how much, if any, of the Myers family has been intended as satire. The cast of Jersey Shore seems more believably human.

Malcolm McDowell tries as Loomis, but I expect more from McDowell. In his defense, he faces a challenge: the premise of the character has been changed and, as a result, Loomis is not as compelling as he should be.

Scout Taylor-Compton looks more convincingly like a teenager than Jamie Lee Curtis, and not just because she actually was a teen when she made the film. Her interactions with the little kids she babysits feel believable. Unfortunately, this Laurie is neither as interesting a character nor Taylor-Compton as good an actor, and this is what really matters. Many people will find her more difficult to root for than Jamie Lee's Laurie. In focusing on the predator, Rob Zombie forgot what made the original frightening: it put us in the position of the prey.

The original Laurie, of course, represented a bit of history. Curtis is the daughter of Janet Leigh, who appeared in Psycho, the film to which Halloween owes its greatest debt. Zombie can't match that legacy, so he gives us numerous, often pointless cameos. If you like looking for cameo appearances by cult actors, this film should entertain you.

Zombie's Halloween also creates several conundrums that beg for explanation. How does this version of the Myers family afford to live in a large house in an expensive neighbourhood? She's a stripper and he's unemployed. The film also leaves us wondering when it takes place. The era remains unclear—though I suppose this could have been a weird stylistic flourish. Halloween gives no dates, but the music, styles, dialogue, vehicles, and properties clearly indicate that the first half takes place in the late 1970s. Rob Zombie has said in interviews it occurs in 1978, the year Carpenter unleashed his original on the world. The second half takes place seventeen years later—which would be the mid 1990s. However, the visual elements—most notably, the cars and cell phones—suggest we’re in 2007.

You know what I feel? Bored.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Increasing the number of killings, the amount of nudity, and the degree of gore doesn't make the movie scarier. It merely removes the opportunity to build atmosphere and suspense, elements which contributed considerably to the original's success. This Halloween features some memorably twisted drama and a couple of good performances, but never once did I feel fear or suspense.

As a bonus, the unrated edition also features a graphic rape scene that adds nothing to the film, except for a graphic rape scene. Hollywood seriously has to stop confusing "crude and explicit" with "suspenseful and scary." In the end, Rob Zombie has given us one more remake that has no reason to exist.

It's been a couple years. This Halloween, I'll be watching the original again.

Directed by Rob Zombie
Written by Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, and Debra Hill

Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Samuel Loomis
Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode
Tyler Mane as Michael Myers
Doug Faerch as Young Michael Myers
Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett
Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett
Kristina Klebe as Lynda
Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers
Skyler Gisondo as Tommy Doyle
William Forsythe as Ronnie White
Danny Trejo as Ishmael Cruz
Hanna Hall as Judith Myers

Hal`low*een" (?), n.

The evening preceding Allhallows or All Saints' Day.

[Scot.]<-- October 31 -->

Burns.

 

© Webster 1913.

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