Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror

Dir: Stefan Hutchinson, 2006. Starring: John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Debra Hill, Rob Zombie, Clive Barker. Documentary.
Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror
It’s been nearly 10 years since the Halloween Returns To Haddonfield 25th anniversary convention celebrating the release of John Carpenter’s now legendary film took place in Pasadena, California, and I’m sure at the time the organizers couldn’t have possibly predicted that the event would be the impetus for the documentary Halloween: 25 Years Or Terror, nor that that documentary would kick start and pave the way for similar retrospective films on the making-of horror franchise classics. Feature length retrospective documentaries were not anything new at the time of Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror’s release. Filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau was already producing some of the best making-of docs for DVD and Laserdisc releases of famous titles such as Jaws and Psycho; but the Halloween doc was the first to offer a feature length retrospective packaged completely on its own as the disc’s main feature with hours of bonus materials for the die-hard Halloween fans to soak up afterwards. Because of its success, we got a string of other horror documentary releases such as His Name Was Jason, The Psycho Legacy, Never Sleep Again and even More Brains!, a documentary focusing primarily on the first Return Of The Living Dead film! But it’s fascinating to go back and revisit where this particular sub-genre all began, which was with Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror.

While the doc chronicles all the Halloween movies including its sequels in sequential order, it kicks off with the original and sets-up what was going on in the horror genre that led up to it; films like Night Of The Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and most importantly Black Christmas which paved the way for a film like Halloween to exist. A young filmmaker named John Carpenter was tapped by a pair of producers to direct a feature with the premise of “the Babysitter murders” and it was to be set on Halloween, a holiday that not only everyone could identify with since we all recognize it, but also one that hadn’t yet been fully exploited as the title of a movie. Paired with his writing and producing partner Debra Hill, Carpenter agreed to tackle the project as long as he had complete creative control and could have his name above the title. While Debra takes credit for writing the dialogue pertaining primarily to the teenage girls' conversations, she gives credit to John for creating Michael Myers and all the dialogue setting him up as evil incarnate. No one involved could’ve possibly predicted that Halloween would become the most successful and lucrative independent film ever made, maintaining that title for decades up until the release of The Blair Witch Project which came along and snatched the crown.

What’s interesting here is the way the story behind the making of these films is told. There are some new interviews shot with the principles included in each of the films’ creation, but there’s also vintage interview footage of people like John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis which looks like it originated from older documentaries on previous releases of Halloween on DVD. There’s also footage from the panels at the 25th anniversary convention. All of this paired with actress PJ Soles’ narration makes the documentary flow at a brisk pace and never ceases to be interesting or entertaining. In fact, the only downside is if you’re already a Halloween fanatic, then you’ve probably heard a majority of the stories about the original movie that make up the first 15 minutes of the doc, but there are still some new things to explore like the current whereabouts of the original Myers house and how it was purchased for a dollar, declared a landmark and moved a block away from its original location in South Pasadena.

Once we get into the sequels, the documentary really becomes fascinating. While there have always been sources like Fangoria magazine articles and random bits posted on Halloween message boards, this was the first time that we were delving into some of the decisions made regarding the continuation of the Halloween series. Halloween II was not something any of the original creative team wanted to do. But a sequel was inevitable, and we get to hear from Dick Warlock who portrayed what most consider the definitive version of Michael Myers. It’s also interesting to see how much the horror landscape had changed between Halloween’s release in 1978 and Halloween II’s release in 1981. While the original relished in suspense and implication without showing you any gore or on-screen violence, by the sequel, films like Friday The 13th and My Bloody Valentine and dozens of other Halloween imitators were dominating the marketplace and relying heavily on what you could see on screen. Halloween II was a more straightforward '80s “slasher” film and a reflection of what was going on cinematically at that time.

Everyone from film critics and journalists to horror author Clive Barker and rocker Rob Zombie chime in with their thoughts on the lasting appeal of Michael Myers and Halloween. It's fun to hear a lot of Rob Zombie’s dialogue as this was long before he was tapped to write and direct the remake of Halloween, and he also offers some of the funniest and most insightful commentary on both the original Halloween and the fandom that fueled the popularity of the sequels. The documentary moves through each of the sequels in fairly record time, covering everything from the story behind Halloween III: Season Of The Witch and the plan to make it a yearly anthology series of spinoffs to the holiday Halloween being the central theme and Scream’s Kevin Williamson coming on board to write Halloween: H20 (20 Years Later), which brought Jamie Lee Curtis back into the fold after a long hiatus. But there are plenty of fun never-before-revealed tidbits unveiled along the way, like the proposed Michael Myers Vs Pinhead movie that Clive Barker was going to write for John Carpenter to direct and other ones I don’t believe at all such as the idea that Quentin Tarantino was tapped to script the 6th film in the series (which has since been debunked).

One of the things that sets this apart from all the documentaries of this sort that followed is the focus on the fans and fandom of Halloween. A good chunk of the final 20 minutes centers on fan videos, fan-made Halloween short films and ties into the 25th anniversary celebration that also included bus tours for attendees to the original shooting locations of Halloween in South Pasadena where young actors from the local drama club reenacted scenes from Carpenter’s classic movie. And if the doc itself doesn’t satisfy your thirst for Halloween knowledge, then the hours of bonus features most certainly will; one of the standouts is a show called Horror’s Hollowed Ground where host Sean Clark takes us back to all the original shooting locations only glimpsed at in the actual doc. Even if you have only a mild interest in the Halloween series, this look at the fanatics of the series might make for interesting viewing. And if this doesn’t get you in the Halloween mood, then I don’t know what will!

Fun fact: The director Stefan Hutchinson also went on to script several Halloween comic books including Halloween: Nightdance, Halloween: The First Death Of Laurie Strode, Halloween: 30 Years Of Terror and Halloween: Autopsis, which comes with the Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror DVD.
Posted by:
Rob Galluzzo
Jul 25, 2012 3:47pm
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