Why John Carpenter’s Halloween and the Series Mean so Much to Me
Growing up, I was introduced to “Hard R” horror movies at a very young age. My mother was a huge genre fan, and one of the first horror films I remember watching was the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. I must have been four or five years old the first time that I saw it. One night, I taped Friday the 13th Part 2 and 3 off of ABC for a midnight movie double-feature on our Betamax machine. Until a few years ago, that tape still remained in my parent’s garage, but was thrown away in a mass purging of junk. I cannot recall the first time I saw the original Halloween, but I do know the night that it became my favorite film.
It started on October 31, 1997, when I was a freshman at Orangeville Jr./Sr. High School. Despite being a teenager, I always loved Halloween, and decided that I would dress in costume. Since it was the 90s, of course I would dress up as Ghostface, since Scream had made such a huge impact the year before. Everywhere you could purchase Halloween costumes that Halloween, you were bound to find a Ghostface mask. To this day, I don’t know why, but every single Ghostface mask I’ve owned over the years has that same, pleasant vanilla smell to it.
This Halloween was the first Halloween that any of my friends had a driver’s license, and my friend Mike Lambert, nicknamed Monkey due to his disproportionate ear-to-head ratio (I realize that in today’s climate, this could be seen as bullying). With this being our first Halloween not reliant upon parents or older siblings driving us around, it was the “coming-of-age” moment most teen films highlight. This Halloween was so special, we even had a soundtrack created for the evening, curated by my very good friend Joey.
Joey and I had been really good friends since kindergarten, and his love of horror – and all film in general – was a highlight of growing up. Many weekends were spent in his parent’s basement watching some of the absolute worst films ever, simply because they had cool looking covers and were part of the infamous 5 movies, 5 days, 5 dollars from Hollywood Video or were highly recommended in his 1000 page film guide. This film guide led us to such “classics” as South Beach Academy, Twitch of the Death Nerve, Anguish, and many others. Because this was going to be the greatest Halloween of all time, we had to have a soundtrack to capture that spirit.
After school on that fateful Halloween, I went to Joey’s house getting ready for Becky Korth’s Halloween party that she was having at her family’s farm. We were going to have a large bonfire and hayrack ride — typical Midwestern fall fare. While getting ready for Monkey to come pick us up, Joey and I came up with the idea to have Michael Myers appear at the party. Since everyone had seen me dressed as Ghostface at school, the plan that we hatched had me going off to the restroom at some point in the evening and changing into the Don Post mask and blue coveralls. The plan had been hatched, and we highly anticipated unleashing a bit of the Halloween spirit onto our peers.
Monkey Mike picked us up, and since we had time to kill before the party started, we decided to drive to Monroe, Wisconsin and hit up our beloved Movie Gallery. Blaring the mix-tape Joey made for us, it was a great road trip. Leaving the movie store, Monkey Mike had turned left into oncoming traffic, and upon realizing it, ended up hopping the median to get into the proper lane. The fact that we did not get injured or into an accident that night is beyond me, but it made the introduction into the evening even more memorable.
The Halloween trick worked like a charm, as I was able to sneak off as all of my friends made it to the bonfire. Having changed into the Michael Myers outfit, I slinked by way slowly to the fire, and did manage to scare a few of the girls at first before they realized it was me. The rest of the night was pretty standard, and around 11:00, we went inside to start watching John Carpenter’s Halloween. Watching a movie with a large group of people got a bit boring, since Joey and I were more interested in watching the film instead of talking over the film. Monkey, Joey, and I went back to Joey’s place and started to watch the film in his parents’ basement.
At that point in time, Joey had a few hundred different VHS tapes along the wall, including all 6 of the Halloween films. Since it was Halloween, we decided to do a marathon of the films. This all-night marathon hit me directly in the soul. I was the only one who made it through all of the Michael Myers films (I skipped part 3 since I had seen it before and knew it didn’t have anything to do with the series) and only got about a half hour worth of sleep before my dad came to pick me up that morning.
My parents had divorced a few years prior, and my biological mother had gotten visitation every other weekend with my sisters and I. One of the requisites for my mother to maintain her visitation privilege was to remain sober during her visits and to maintain a stable living establishment. She was able to do this for over a year, so we got to spend every other weekend and every other holiday with her. Since I had been awake for over 24 hours, I spent a large portion of that particular Saturday sleeping. If I remember correctly, I didn’t wake up until around 5:00 PM. We got to enjoy freshly made donuts and Dr. Pepper to our heart’s content that Halloween weekend, and my sisters went to bed relatively early that weekend.
Content Warning: Alcoholism, Child Neglect, Death
Since I had slept most of the day away, I wasn’t tired in the least, so I was able to stay up and watch horror movies with my mother after my sisters went to bed. While my twin sister was (obviously) my age, out of respect for my younger sister, we didn’t watch scary films around her. Even though I had just watched Halloween the night before, I was able to watch that and the original A Nightmare on Elm Street with my mom before she went to bed. This night remains embedded in my memory because it was the last, good time I remember with my mom. She was the one who got me into horror movies, and I got to spend one last, nearly perfect Halloween with her before her alcoholism took control over her once again.
She started cancelling visitations, and when we saw her later that year for Christmas, we ended up spending a good chunk of it in a one-room apartment above a bar. The people that she had been staying with before were kind enough to bring her to the pick-up spot and let us stay at their house. We discovered that she in fact did not live there anymore, but they wanted to make sure that my sisters and I were taken care of. That Christmas was the last time we were allowed to see her for visitations, since she had violated the two main rules. I saw her twice after that Christmas before her untimely demise, both times she was incredibly intoxicated. She came to my High School graduation and embarrassed me and my sisters, and then I went to visit her the day after Christmas in the year 2000. Part of me wishes I’d never gone to see her that day, because the image I have of her -- the final time I saw her alive -- the husk of a woman I saw was not my mother.
I became obsessed with Halloween and Michael Myers because of Halloween1997. It was a perfect weekend, and in many regards, the “end of innocence”. That Halloween holds such a strong place in my heart, and to me, was the last time that I saw my mother alive. The few times that I saw her afterwards, she wasn’t really my mom anymore; the disease had taken all of the light from her. But that Halloween when I was15 years old, that was how I choose to remember her, and each time I watch a Halloween film or buy a new horror-related item, I focus on the positive that was my mother. There was a lot of bad, but she wasn’t all terrible, and because my final positive memory of her coincided with my Michael Myers marathon, my “obsession” is a way of keeping her memory alive.