Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: A Tribute to Halloween

October 29, 2015 | Posted by Joseph Lee


Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

Halloween is this Saturday and I’m excited, even if I have to work that day. If you’re a horror fan, you’re probably a big fan of the holiday too. It’s like our version of Christmas, except we don’t get any presents. It’s an exciting time. I celebrate every year by introducing myself to thirty-one new horror movies each day. It’s hard to do when you’re employed and not all of them are great choices, but it’s usually worth it. So I thought I’d celebrate this year by just talking about the holiday and some of my most memorable moments. Feel free to share your own in the comments, as I would love to read them!

If one man’s Halloween memories aren’t your thing, don’t worry…we’re also doing the Stephen King tournament finals and I’ll be providing you an analysis below. Even I know that there’s no way something like this could carry an entire edition of ABGT. So for the guy who wanted my analysis for the King tournament, that’s back. There’s something for both sides this week! But first, Halloween.

As I said, I love Halloween. I guess part of it is due to my natural love of horror but even as a kid I enjoyed Halloween almost as much as Christmas. As a kid, that makes sense. You get to wear a cool costume and get a lot of candy. As an adult, you don’t get to trick or treat, but at least you can dress up or watch movies that may have been questionable for a child to see. So why do adults love it?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I love it because it’s the one time a year, other than horror conventions, when horror fans can be themselves. I can’t very well wear horror-themed shirts and show my excitement at the next Phantasm in front of just anyone, you know? I mean, I do, but not without risking offending someone. Horror fans get it. They understand why a shirt implying the Tall Man assassinated JFK with a sphere is funny. You’re more likely to run into horror fans on Halloween or at least spend time with people more open to this weird little obsession horror nerds have.

It’s just a fun, festive holiday. It’s a time to embrace your quirks, be yourself (or someone else, if you prefer) and enjoy the fun of being scared. Being scared is fun when you know the thing causing your dread is fake. It’s a rush that normally ends with laughter. A lot of people like the genre but not as many are willing to admit it. October and Halloween are when it’s publicly acceptable to be a fan of watching people get fake slaughtered.

One of my earlier memories with Halloween is catching the first episode of Goosebumps on primetime. This hapepned a couple of days before Halloween but basically kicked off my entire weekend. Halloween fell on a Monday that year, so I knew it was school and then some trick or treating before I had to do my normal after school stuff. I celebrated for the most part during the weekend with a TV special based on the books I read constantly when I was a kid.

The special didn’t disappoint. As I mentioned last year, it’s still the best episode that Goosebumps produced. My memory doesn’t just include Goosebumps, however. My aunt took advantage of how freaked out I was by that episode and proceeded to knock on my window and scare the crap out of me. I ended up sleeping on the floor of my mom’s room that night thanks to her. The fact she was watching a rather grotesque episode of American Gothic did nothing for my nightmares that night.

As I said, it’s fun to be scared. It probably wasn’t when I was nine (okay, it definitely wasn’t), but looking back on it I think it’s kind of funny.

Three years later, I was on the last legs of my run of trick or treating. I was twelve and I knew that soon I would be a teenager and unable to go trick or treating. This was either my last year or the year before my last. I went as Jason, by the way. I even walked into a Blockbuster in costume (mask lifted up, as I didn’t want to get shot) to rent some horror movies. They didn’t have anything and I was a little irritated. I guess it’s my own fault for thinking the video store wouldn’t have been raided on October 31.

So I went home and thought I would find something on TV. I hadn’t even thought about Monstervision, although I watched it semi-regularly at this point. At first, I saw IT on Lifetime. Yes, because Lifetime used to air IT often back in the day. It’s an odd choice for that movie, I know. When Pennywise went to commercial I flipped through and landed on an ad on TNT, reminding me that Joe Bob was hosting a “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn Friday the 13th Marathon”. I hadn’t seen all the Jason movies at this point, and I watched them out of order. Needless to say, I was in.

So that was one of the first times I stayed up for most of the night, as I sat there watching Joe Bob run through a large portion of the Jason movies while someone threatened the Monstervision crew. You don’t get the movies in this video, but it does have all of the host segments. Just play one every twenty minutes of the film and enjoy.

You’ll notice a lot of these involve me seeing something. This applies a lot to the later years because hey, I’m not a party kind of guy. But sticking with childhood, one of my favorite parts of the Halloween season is when the various cartoons and sitcoms I watched would debut a Halloween special. The Simpsons, Family Matters, Roseanne and others would deliver a themed episode just for fans of the holiday.

The Family Matters episode sticks out because I remember taping it on a VHS tape wanting to watch it over and over. It reminded me of Goosebumps and I just like to watch anything spooky I can. It seems I made the right decision because that particular episode still hasn’t arrived on DVD. Yes, we still live in a world where you can’t own every season of shows on DVD yet. Come on guys, even The Wonder Years and Batman have hit DVD.

My point is, as a kid I always got excited to see the Halloween episodes and even now I can look back on them with nostalgia.

I didn’t do a lot of Halloween celebration in high school. It’s not that I didn’t have friends to celebrate with, because I had plenty. I just was in this weird phase where I didn’t see the point as I could watch horror whenever I wanted. Basically, I was a teenager and thought I was too good for such a childish holiday like Halloween. Teenagers are all stupid and we need to learn this so we can be stronger as a society.

When I got older and hit college, my friends helped me learn to appreciated it more. In addition to the occasional party invite, I also got to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time, complete with a knowing audience and a shadow cast. I suddenly realized that there were new ways to celebrate this holiday. Everyone here was dressed up, completely sober and having a great time. So the rest of my college years I went to Rocky Horror every year and put on elaborate outfits. Makeshift zombies were easy, Fu Manchu was slightly more difficult. Two-Face was a disaster but at least I had fun. College did a lot to rehabilitate my views on a lot of things, but it did save Halloween for me.

My most recent memory involves seeing Halloween in the theater. I wasn’t alive when the movie originally hit theaters and I never had a chance to see it before then. I’ve made it clear many times. Halloween is not only my favorite horror film and not only one of my favorite movies ever, but I truly consider it to be the best of its genre. So when the chance to see it in theaters for its 35th anniversary, I jumped at the chance.

Halloween is a completely different experience in the theater. It’s like you’re seeing the movie for the first time. I still remember sitting there at the end of the film with The Shape’s breathing echoing off the walls of the theater due to its surround sound. John Carpenter has said that the point of that shot was to imply that Michael was everywhere. When you hear him breathing in a theater, that really comes across. If I get the chance to go again, I’m going to do it.

These are just some of my memories involving Halloween, and several of the reasons I look back on it fondly. I have a nephew now and I’m trying to teach him how fun Halloween is, and I hope to do the same thing with my own kids in the future. If you guys love Halloween as much as I do (and you’re horror fans, how can you not?) feel free to share your memories in the comments.

With that out of the way, we move on to the finals of the Stephen King Characters Knockout tournament. It’s been a crazy tournament with several upsets. I’m still reeling from the Children of the Corn kids beating Flagg. Can someone who voted against him please explain that to me? We’re down to the finals now so let’s not waste any time.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown/Bob Gray/IT (#1 seed)

Appears In: Stephen King’s IT (1990)

Defeated: Pennywise has had an easy road getting here. In the three rounds, it toppled Warwick (366-18), the Green Goblin Truck (269-46) and even Christine (283-39) without any trouble. The only time Pennywise had any problems was against Carrie White, but it still managed to prevail 113-110.

Strengths: Pennywise has the ability to shape-shift into any form and is only limited by your imagination. If you have the imagination of someone like Stephen King, then it can take any form that makes it possible to scare you enough to eat you. Its favorite seems to that of a clown, but it’ll settle for movie monsters or homeless lepers if that’s what it takes. No one knows how long its lifespan is, but it’s seemingly existed for thousands of years just waiting for humanity to arrive so it can feed. It’s an Eldritch abomination-type of monster, one that can drive you insane just by showing you it’s “dead lights”. It’s also female and has the ability to create offspring. So even if by some miracle you kill It, it has a brood waiting to hatch.

Weaknesses: Not many, but it does have a few. Since it is fueled by imagination, that can also limit it. If you lock it into the form of a werewolf, that means it takes on the werewolf’s weaknesses and can be stopped by silver bullets. It also tends to not work as well against groups as it collects victims by picking them off one by one. The only way to kill it for good is by initiating a battle of wills and wits called The Ritual of Chud.

Quote: “Ohh yes… They Float Georgie… They Float… and when your down here, with me… YOU FLOAT TOO!”

VS

Kurt Barlow (#11 seed)

Appears In: Salem’s Lot (1979, 2004)

Defeated: Barlow had a more difficult time getting to the finals than Pennywise did. He started out easy, taking out The Creep (147-80) with no trouble. However, he then had a harder time putting away Cujo (190-171) and Jack Torrance (174-162). He got things back on track in the semifinals, easily putting away Isaac and Malachai to avenge the demise of Flagg.

Strengths: Barlow is a Type-One vampire, which means he’s the strongest type of vampire in Stephen King’s mythology. They are referred to as “lesser demons”. He has inch-long teeth that can give a nasty bite and is made to eat blood. He can smell blood from large distances (even if there’s a small amount). He can eat at least half his own weight in blood thanks to his stomach expanding. He can even give victims anticoagulants with his tongue to either help turn them or keep them alive longer for future feeding. A type one can live for thousands of years.

Weaknesses: If you can somehow extinguish a Type One’s aura, then you will turn them into a puddle of goo. Crosses can also hurt Type Ones and will make them spontaneously combust. In the films (which is all that matters here) Barlow can also be killed with a stake through the heart.

So who do you have? Pennywise or Barlow? At this point I can’t offer a prediction because who the hell knows what way you guys are going to go.


Ending Notes:

That’s it for me. Leave some comments here, on my Twitter or my Facebook.


Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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See you next week!