My Trip to Haddonfield

My Trip to Haddonfield

By Rob Watts

As a fan of many classic movies, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a great deal of filming locations to those films. As a child I got to swim at the beach from Jaws in Martha’s Vineyard. I had the pleasure of visiting The Amityville Horror house in Toms River, New Jersey. Heck, I live within ten minutes of various movie locations in Boston where such films as The Town, The Departed, and Good Will Hunting were filmed. My absolute favorite location visited however was South Pasadena, California where the majority of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN was filmed.

Rob Watts in front of The Wallace home where Laurie’s friend babysat. Photo by Shannon Watts.

Unlike a lot of filming locations, the neighborhood of South Pasadena was used primarily “as is.” There was very little film trickery involved as the town of “Haddonfield” had (has) a charm and beauty of its own that needed very little set dressing. Aside from bags of painted leaves being thrown around within frame to establish autumn in Illinois, very little else was manipulated. Upon first visit to the now iconic neighborhood, I was shocked to see just how much of it resembled that as it was in the film, even more than thirty years later.

The hardware store (as it is today). Photo by Shannon Watts.

You don’t have to travel far around town to see most of the locations either, as much of the daytime hours scenes were all filmed within streets of each other. For instance, the street where Laurie Strode is walking to school after dropping the keys off at the Myers house (Meridian Ave), leads directly to the hardware store that was broken into later in the day. Incidentally, the actual Myers house was moved and restored directly across the street from the hardware store (now a picture framing store) and is currently a doctor’s office located at 1000 Mission Street.

Rob Watts on the steps of the Myers House. Photo by Shannon Watts.

If you walk back down Meridian Ave., you will be walking in the direction of the streets where Laurie and her friends walked home from school. You’ll want to look for Magnolia Street, Montrose Ave., and Highland Street. These are the streets which were most visible throughout the first half of the movie. Probably the most iconic location from the film, and believe me it’s still there, is the famous hedge where Michael Myers hid behind as the girls approached him. It’s a little tricky to find at first because most houses on the street have similar hedges, but if you travel down Montrose Ave, going through Oxley Street, you will stumble upon the giant hedge. Just make sure no one is standing behind it waiting for you.

The babysitting scene street . N Orange Grove Ave
The babysitting scene street. N Orange Grove Ave. Photo by Shannon Watts.

The last half of the film, where the girls were babysitting, was oddly enough filmed on the corner of Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood. Although you’d never know it from watching the film, directly behind the camera crew was a bustling nightlife. It was a bit odd for me to look in the opposite direction of the street from the film and find a KFC and Blockbuster Video (because I’m sure Laurie Strode could have run in there for help if she really needed it.) But that was the genius of John Carpenter. He had a knack for taking a side street of Los Angeles’ most happening neighborhood and have it appear as a modest suburban town in the middle of America.

The street where Myers drove behind the girls. Photo by Shannon Watts.

The two houses where Jamie Lee Curtis’ character and her friend babysat are located at 1530 and 1537 North Orange Grove Street, off Sunset Blvd. The home where Laurie Strode babysat looks almost identical as it did in the movie. The house across the street has been updated a great deal over the years but still maintains some resemblance to how it did in the movie.

Rob Watts in front of the Doyle House (Jamie Lee’s). Photo by Shannon Watts.

So if you are ever in the West Hollywood or South Pasadena area of California and you love the original Halloweenthen it’s worth a venture around the filming locations of this incredible film. Just be respectful to the homeowners and respect their privacy. And for God sake, if you see a guy walking around in a rubber mask, RUN!

The creepy staircase in the Myers house. Photo by Shannon Watts.

Actor Talks about the role of Michael Myers in the Original ‘Halloween’

Actor Talks about the role of Michael Myers in the Original Halloween

By Jason Harris

Actor Tony Moran portrayed the 23-year-old Michael Myers in the original Halloween (1978).

He had a great time on the movie and compares John Carpenter to a computer because of the way he had every shot planned out.

“We never shot more than three shots for every scene,” Moran said. “He was pretty amazing.”

He considers Jamie Lee Curtis, his Halloween co-star, “really cool and really good.”

“[She] was a down to Earth chick.”

When asked if there were any scenes filmed that didn’t make it into the movie, Moran didn’t know of any.

Moran was asked to be in the sequel, but turned it down.

“I didn’t want to wear a mask,” Moran said about his reason for turning down the sequel.

The mask was uncomfortable and “really hot,” he said.

“You couldn’t breathe through it. The only holes through it were for the eyes.”

When asked how long he was in the mask on a typical day, he replied. “It seemed like forever.”

Moran received credit in the sequel since footage from the original was used in it, he said.

He doesn’t plan on seeing Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake.

“It’s a remake of me so I won’t watch it.”

Moran is proud to have portrayed the character of Michael Myers

Tony Moran

and wouldn’t want to be known for Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, two other horror icons from Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th fame, respectively. He states “Halloween started it all …”

Moran has added producer to his resume when he took on that job when a guy messaged him on Myspace and sent him a script for Beg, a short film. It’s now a full-length movie starring his friend Tony Todd, P.J. Soles, and Michael Berryman, who he got to be in the movie. Debbie Rochon is also in Beg.

He would love to work with director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro.

“They are brilliant.”

Moran will be appearing at The Nightmare Factory, located at 2 Museum Place Mall in Salem, MA. from Friday through Sunday.

Massachusetts Native Talks about Writing and Hollywood

Massachusetts Native Talks about Writing and Hollywood

by Jason Harris

J.P. Ouellette

J.P. Ouellette has worked on a number of films in Boston such as The Box and The Fighter. Working in the city allowed him to “learn filmmaking from some of the best crews around” while being at home.

“The mix of local and Hollywood talent brought my knowledge of film to the next level,” Ouellette said. Being an assistant to great storytellers like Richard Kelly was better than grad school.”

Kelly was the writer and director of such movies as The Box and Donnie Darko.

Ouellette started working in Hollywood after taking a risk in order to pursue his writing career. He states that “Los Angeles is the best place to be for an emerging writer.”

“The whole city is dedicated to the film business, and there are endless opportunities here to build your resume.”

His latest film, Captured, which he produced, wrapped in June and is scheduled for release in October of 2013, which is “a perfect time” to release it, Ouellette said. It’s about a rock band that goes off to shoot a music video where an escaped convict becomes obsessed with them.

“It is a classic slasher flick with a lot of psychological twists. It blends genres, and is made for the true horror fan who is tired of the same old thing.”

Ouellette became involved with Captured when writer and director Joe Arias hired him to write new drafts of the script.

“It took us (a lucky) 13 drafts to get the shooting script ready. It was the hardest writing sessions either one of us has been apart of, but it was worth it, this story will blow your mind!”

Captured took three weeks to film, but it was in the works for two years since Arias came up with the film’s concept, Ouellette said. He is in the process of working on the sound editing, special effects, and the score now.

“It’s been quite a labor of love. It’s all very exciting to see something you help create come together.”

Along with finishing up Captured, he is producing another horror movie, Do Not Watch.

“Due to the high-concept of this project, the synopsis is being kept under wraps.”

Not only has Ouellette worked on more than 20 movies in his career, you can take a look at his Internet Movie Database profile, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1965594/ to see everything that he has worked on, but he has also found the time to write a novel, 2501. His writing and this story’s style was inspired by Arthur C. Clarke and George Orwell. Its “hard science-fiction blended with political overtones is something everyone can get behind.” The e-book can be purchase on Amazon by clicking here.

It originally started out as a script idea, but “it was way too involved for the screen at that time.”

“I really had to dig into the characters and the science in order to find my story. Funny enough, the book now represents the outline for the proposed film version.”

He is still looking for the right Hollywood screenwriter to adapt 2501. He could adapt it himself, but he wants to step back and let someone else take care of it.

“The projected budget for this Blockbuster is over $50 million, and that is not in my price range … yet.”

He “would love Steven Spielberg to direct [2501] because of the Stanley Kubrick feel of the story.” If that happens he would love to be on-set, which he would consider “a dream project for sure.”

He does have an outline for another book, but his screenwriting schedule is keeping him from working on it.

“With 2501, I had to isolate myself while traveling in Mexico, writing the first draft freehand while sitting on the steps of the Mayan Ruins. It is the only way to get a novel done in this distracting day and age.”

Ouellette has a number of directors such as John Carpenter, J.J. Abrams, Duncan Jones, and Kelly, who has influenced him. He says that Kelly’s film, Donnie Darko, is the reason he went to film school, he said.

He has worked with many directors and actors, and wants to work with many more.

“They all have their own style to this art, and I love learning from them.”

He doesn’t have a dream project. All he wants to do is “to keep making great movies, and create opportunities to make more of them.”

Have You Heard of these Underrated Horror Films?

My Top Ten List of Most Underrated Horror Films

by Rob Watts

July may be a strange time of year to discuss low-budget horror films, especially when the summer blockbusters (none of which are horror films) are currently on our viewing radar. The summer months however, were always tailormade for horror treasure hunts in the video stores for my friends and I. You do remember video stores don’t you? We’d come from an afternoon at the beach with our girlfriends, straight to the video store and make a bee line home with some horrible movie such as The Evil Laughstarring one of Scott Baio’s older brothers. But not all of our impulsive rentals were disappointing. Some were in fact downright unwatchable, but many were undiscovered gems for us, especially in the days of Nightmare on Elm Street Part 36 and Jason vs. Godzilla. Wasn’t there a Chucky goes to South Central Los Angeles at one point too?

Most of my favorite films have never spawned a sequel, hardly ever had stars with marquee value and sadly, never see the light of day on cable television. I’ll continue to argue up and down with someone when they tell me that the horror films of the 70s and 80s just don’t hold up to the films of today. When you talk to me about the benefits of CGI and gore over minimal production and stellar storytelling, I’m going with minimal production and stellar storytelling any day of the week. Which is why I am inspired to write this list. These films are by no means obscure although many have been forgotten about for some time and should be viewed and appreciated once again. If the new-school horror filmmakers grew up on these films, perhaps new horror films would actually be scary again.

Alice Sweet Alice1. Alice Sweet Alice (1976) – This is the film that made me petrified of the translucent grinning mask. Set in Paterson, NJ during the early 60s, 9-year-old Karen (played by Brook Shields) gets strangled to death at her First Communion. Her jealous older sister Alice is of course at the center of suspicion although the actual killer is the last one you’d expect. This film was rather unique for its time as you hardly ever saw young children being murdered on-screen. With the exception of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 that same year, I can’t really remember many films that crossed that Hollywood taboo. This film was actually theatrically released three separate times under three different titles due to Brook Shields’ ever-growing popularity after this film was made. Communion in 1976, Alice, Sweet Alice in 1978 and Holy Terror in 1981. Alice, Sweet Alice has remained the official title since then. If you haven’t seen this classic 70s flick, check it out. It has everything, a bitchy jealous sister, a fat creepy landlord and of course the horror movie’s best friend, the Catholic Church. How can you go wrong?

2. Patrick (1978) – This creepy Australian horror flick freaked me out for months after first seeing this. Patrick, who murdered his mother and her lover in the bathtub by way of electrocution, falls into a coma and his only way of communication is by electronic typewriter via psychokinetic powers. Although he is completely written off as nothing more than a catatonic vegetable, he can still murder anyone who crosses him. The thought of Patrick lying still in that hospital bed with his eyes wide open is still enough to keep me awake tonight.

3. Magic (1978) – A movie about a man and his dummy. Ventriloquist Corky and his foul-mouth dummy Fats are onMagic the road to stardom but when Corky feels the pressure of showbiz, he retreats to the secluded Catskills where he reunites with his high school crush. Fats however does not enjoy competing for Corky’s attention and soon talks Corky into “getting rid” of the people in his life that could potentially separate them from each other. The dummy, Fats, is just unsettling in every way. This was another film that made it impossible to sleep with the lights off after viewing it for the first time.

4. He Knows You’re Alone (1980) – Let me preface this by saying that this was by no means a great film, but rather an enjoyable viewing with enough suspense and cliché scares to make it worth your while. Basically it’s Halloween (1978) set in Staten Island, NY but the killer doesn’t wear a mask and the storyline is nowhere nearly as incredible. The victims aren’t babysitters, they are brides-to-be and it features the debut appearance of a young Tom Hanks. But hey, don’t let that stop you! I will say this though; there are two things about this movie that fascinate me to this day. One, the fact that Tom Hanks is in this movie actually doesn’t ruin it for me. It’s not like I watch it and say to myself “Run Forest, Run!” as the killer approaches. Two, this movie has a made-for-TV sort of vibe to it until the last fifteen minutes where one of the female characters takes a shower and shows her goodies, thus reminding me that I am indeed watching a typical 80s horror flick.

5. Are You In The House Alone? (1978) – For a made-for-television horror film, this one wasn’t bad. A suspenseful thriller about a teenage girl who’s been receiving anonymous letters that say I’m watching you and of course phone calls where a sinister voice on the other end asks are you in the house alone? Of course she is which adds to the suspense factor and naturally any teenage girl watching this film would have been scared out of their wits back then. Unfortunately it just doesn’t hold up in today’s caller ID world so anyone under the age of 30 probably wouldn’t appreciate this as much. I would like to point out that after watching this again recently, I’ve come to realize that Dennis Quaid, who plays one of the classmates in the film, is just a strange looking dude. There’s just something not right about that guy. The other thing is Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow’s real-life mother) who plays the protagonists mother in the film, is at that point younger than Gwyneth Paltrow is today. Much better looking too if you ask me, but that’s just how my mind works when I’m watching movies. Sorry.

6. Stranger in the House (1978) – Another made-for-television gem starring Linda Blair and Lee Purcell and directed by Wes Craven. A pretty simple plot where Rachel (Blair) and her family invite Rachel’s cousin Julia (Purcell) to come live with them as Julia’s family died tragically in a car wreck. Things seem fine at first until Julia becomes jealous of Rachel, then of course strange things begin to occur in Rachel’s world. If you don’t mind simple storytelling and a rather predictable plot then you’ll probably enjoy this lost classic. Hey, it was directed by Wes Craven after all.

The Wicker Man7. The Wicker Man (1973) – By no means do I assume that I’m exposing you to films you’ve never seen before and The Wicker Man is certainly no exception. If you’ve seen this film, you absolutely know how incredible this is. Not to be confused with the horrendously bad Nicolas Cage remake, this original version blended horror, mystery, Christianity and Paganism into one dark psychedelic musical. Filmed in Scotland, a police officer from the mainland flies out to a mysterious isolated island inhabited by bizarre followers of Celtic Paganism. He’s in search of a reportedly missing young girl but he soon discovers the girl in question might not exist, prompting him to investigate just how bizarre the island’s inhabitants really are. This film is more of a psychological thriller with a lot of psychedelic influence. The cinematography is flawless as the isolated island is as much a character in the film as the actors. Speaking of actors, did I mention that Christopher Lee plays the antagonist? Enough said.

8. The Hearse (1980) – This haunted house film dangerously teeters on the “it’s as cliché as you can get” category, however, if possessed house stories tickle your fancy then you could probably do a lot worse than this. In this film, Jane, a middle-aged woman inherits a house in the county from her deceased aunt who was believed to have practiced witchcraft. Baring a striking resemblance to her aunt, Jane is looked down upon in her new community and must contend with several strange occurrences in her new home (doors slamming shut, music boxes playing on their own.) The worse occurrence is that Jane gets followed by a ghostly hearse at night on the road home. The very hearse that is believed to have carried her witchcraft practicing aunt straight into Hell. For a film, that is over 30 years old, this one still has a chill factor to it, provided you’ve never seen it before.

9. The Strangers (2008) – I know I’ve pronounced the contemporary horror movie genre dead and I’ll still stand by that, however, every once in a while something comes along that reminds me why I started watching horror films in the first place. Suspense and tension. The Strangers had plenty of those two elements. The only caveat to this film is that it’s a one-time viewing experience to gain its full shock value. After that, the scares are watered down because you know exactly what’s happening. But upon viewing this film for the first time, you’d agree with me that this is one suspenseful ride. In short, a young couple arrives at their summer home in the country very late at night. They get a strange late-night knock on the door from a girl looking for someone who doesn’t live there. She is turned away and the guy decides to take a ride to the store to run an errand for his girlfriend. While alone, the mysterious girl knocks on the door again asking for the same person. She gets turned away again but it’s revealed (to the viewers) that masked strangers have entered the home unbeknownst to the girlfriend. Even though this movie has a few moments where you ask “why would you run that way when you should go that way?” it’s loaded with suspenseful unpredictable moments that keep you on the edge of your seat. It starts off very slow-paced but it definitely builds tension leading up to the action. Remember, this film only has shock value the first time you watch it, so turn the cellphones off and don’t allow yourself to be distracted.

10. The House of the Devil (2009) – I have to hand it to director Ti West. He managed to make a horror movie look as though it was filmed in the late 70s and early 80s. Employing many elements of that era West created a gritty, suspenseful film about a female college student babysitting in a creepy old house for evasive homeowners. It falls on the evening of the lunar eclipse and the mysterious homeowners have something other than dinner and a movie on their agenda for the night. This is definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it. The retro stylized filmmaking approach alone will make you reminisce over the scary movies we all watched on our couches back in the heyday of horror.The House of the Devil

A Promise of Violence

VOYANTS: The Promise of Violence in Seeing and Being Seen

by Bracken MacLeod

What I apprehend immediately when I hear the branches crackling behind me is not that there is someone there; it is that I am vulnerable, that I have a body which can be hurt, that I occupy a place and that I cannot in any case escape from the space in which I am without defense—in short, that I am seen. – Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

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Every story I read or write involves a promise. It is the pledge that an author makes to the audience that they will be rewarded for their faith in the story. In romance, the promise is love. Mysteries guarantee the satisfaction of the unraveling of a puzzle. In horror, the promise that the writer makes to the reader is the he or she will evoke fear.

I understand the attraction of “subtle” and “atmospheric” tales; well done (and how I love them when they’re well done), they can produce a wholly satisfying sense of fearful dread. But I’d also say that even in atmospheric horror, the dread the reader feels is the result of the promise of what is being subtly revealed. And that pledge is exactly the same as it is for extreme horror. The deepest root of fear is the threat of violence. Just because someone doesn’t have whip welts on their back don’t think there hasn’t been violence. That is to say, all horror assures violence of some kind: physical, psychological, spiritual, etc. Without it, what have you got? A ghost isn’t scary merely because it is a ghost. Neither is a man holding a knife. Both must offer something to the reader to evoke fear.

To expand on an example given by Alfred Hitchcock, a bomb underneath a table is more terrifying if the people in the café carry on their conversations unaware of its presence while we, the viewers, know it is there. But the bomb is only frightening in the first place if three conditions are met. First, we must understand the underlying concept of a bomb. Since most of us possess an understanding of a bomb’s only purpose (destruction), we can leap into the conceptual future and imagine the result of the ticking timer reaching zero. The second condition is the story-teller’s willingness to make us believe that the device might actually go off. If we know the bomb’s a dud or the hero will always defuse it at the last second, it is simply not scary. Finally, and most importantly, is our ability to put ourselves in the place of people in that setting—to be present at the table with violence and death. Fear exists is the moment of transformation from the known to the lived—bridging the gulf between academically understanding danger exists and being in danger. Thus, the sine qua non of good horror, as I see it, is the transformation of the reader from subject (i.e., conscious observer) to object (i.e., victim).

In a horror story we want the babysitter to hide because we are vicariously experiencing events from her perspective.[1] As long as she remains an observer hidden from view behind slatted closet doors, the tension dissipates and we relax. Until she is discovered. The scariest scene to me in John Carpenter’s Halloween (to stray again from the written word for a moment) is when Laurie Strode believes she has defeated the Shape and collapses in the doorway of the bedroom from which she has just escaped. Behind her, perfectly silent, Michael Myers sits up and turns his head toward her … and keeps going all the way toward us. In this subtle breaking of the fourth wall, Carpenter assures us that being seen is the onset of violence.

Halloween

Let me give a more concrete example. My wife and I are what I like to call shoe-leather tourists. That is, we like to see the cities we visit on foot, moving between neighborhoods without mediating our experience from behind the barrier of a cab or a rental car window. On a trip several years ago to Salvador, Bahia (Brazil), however, we were told that we could we not walk the neighborhoods between the hotel and the historic district without endangering ourselves. The hotel concierge assured us also, once at our destination, that we should stay on the main thoroughfares. As long as we could see shop signs, he explained, we were reasonably safe. Wander down a side street, however, and we would again be taking unnecessary risks with our well-being.

Taking his advice, we stuck to the main streets. But it is impossible to move in a city without at least passing those side streets. And it’s just as impossible (for us, anyway) not to look up them, curious what wonders or terrors await. Passing by a narrow alley in Cidade Alta, the Upper City, we paused. Half way down the alley, three men vigorously kicked and beat a fourth who lay motionless on the ground. It was a sobering experience until one of the men administering the thrashing looked up from the object of his wrath and made eye contact with me. Then the promise was made and it became a terrifying experience as I became an object in the gaze of another.[2]

Reflecting upon that moment, I came to understand in a visceral way (the known becoming the lived) the existential horror of a shift of perception. Years later and thousands of miles away, those men are still present with me. I’d had a direct experience dreading the shifting gaze of The Other. What was scariest about Salvador wasn’t its reputation for violence, but rather the actual in-context promise of it. The difference between being and not being a body in an alley for me was merely a matter of shifting observations and the promise of what may follow upon.

That experience, has helped me truly understand the blurring of lines between the observer and the observed and between voyeurism and engagement. Emotional and psychological detachment from someone else’s suffering—what Michel Foucault would call the “medical gaze,” the dehumanizing separation of the patient’s body from the patient’s identity—is anathema to good story telling and the frequent problem with all bad story-telling, extreme or atmospheric horror or in between. The beating heart of fear is found at the point where the wall between knowing and experiencing comes crashing down, leaving the observer exposed.

And it all begins with a look. I promise.


[1] The observer who identifies with the monster is either missing the point or is in it for a different kind of titillation.

[2] To finish the tale, we fled and found a sympathetic policeman with a smattering of English (not an easy task on either count) as quickly as we could, doing our best to describe what we saw and where we saw it before going on with our vacation.