Oct 15, 2023

You Can't Kill The Boogeyman

Poster design by Justin Miller
Last season, the Mahoning hosted a weekend marathon of the first six movies from A Nightmare On Elm Street.  This year, they've upped the ante with a weekend of the first seven movies from the Halloween franchise.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

The weather on Friday night was pretty decent for this time of year in Northeast PA.  It was definitely cold, but we both layered up and had plenty of blankets so we were able to sit outside with our friends for the first three movies of Halloween-A-Thon.

The special food at the concession stand this weekend was the Haddonfield Horseshoe, which was an open-faced burger made with a thick piece of garlic texas toast topped with a hamburger patty, french fries, nacho cheese sauce and hot sauce.  I've never heard of a horseshoe-style sandwich, but it was very tasty!

There were a lot of folks who came to the lot in costume.  My favorite one was Nick, who came dressed as the television set in Halloween III that was showing the original Halloween film.  The costume even played the jingle from the Silver Shamrock commercial.

The first movie of Halloween-A-Thon began just after 7:30 on Friday the 13th with the all-time slasher classic from 1978, Halloween.  This was my first time seeing this from a 35mm print, but it's a movie that I think I've watched enough times throughout my life to be able to quote the whole thing from start to finish.  To me, this movie is as perfect as a horror film gets.

Next up was the movie that I believe is the greatest horror sequel of all time, Halloween IITwo years ago, we got to see a 35mm print of this movie exactly 40 years to the day from when it premiered in theaters on October 30th, 1981.  On that night, it was the second film in a mother/daughter double feature with Janet Leigh in Psycho.  This past Friday night, it was the second film of Halloween-A-Thon.

Halloween II picks up immediately where the first movie leaves off... meaning it continues the story at the exact minute of the credits rolling on the previous film.  It was meant to be the end of the Michael Myers story, and a good argument could be made that it should have been, but it didn't work out that way.

The final film of Night One is what many believe to be the blacksheep of the series, the 1982 sci-fi/horror classic Halloween III: Season Of The Witch.  It's a movie that seems to finally be getting some long overdue credit, because it truly is one of the most creepy and original horror flicks that I've ever seen.

Halloween III has nothing to do with Michael Myers.  In fact, the first Halloween movie exists as just another movie in this film because a commercial for a television airing of the first film is shown in a scene in the third film.  The reason for this is because, in 1982, the intention was to turn the Halloween franchise into an anthology film series; sort of like a theatrical version of The Twilight Zone where every story is creepy and unsettling, but completely separate from the other stories in the series.  With the conclusion of the Michael Myers story in Halloween II, the third Halloween movie was meant to kick off a whole new story.  Whether or not the Halloween III story was meant to continue into Halloween IV as a two-part story like the first two films is unknown because fan backlash to the fact that Michael Myers wasn't in Halloween III caused the folks behind Halloween IV to backpedal and bring back the masked slasher.

The story of Halloween III is centered on an Irish-American Halloween mask manufacturer Conal Cochran and his company, Silver Shamrock Novelties.  I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the story involves the hybrid use of technology and witchcraft to sacrifice children to bring back the true meaning of Halloween.  I don't remember who said it, but I once heard the Cochran character described as the flip side of the coin from the people who strive to "put Christ back into Christmas" because his goal is to put the Devil back into Halloween.  It's a movie that is absolutely worth watching for any horror fan, and it's one of my favorite horror flicks of all time.

We had every intention of coming back for Night Two to see Halloween IV: The Return Of Michael MyersHalloween V: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, and Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers, but circumstances led to us skipping out on it.  We left the lot at around 2:30 in the morning on Saturday morning after Halloween III and we blew a tire on the way home.  We didn't have a spare, and we learned that having Roadside Assistance really doesn't matter too much if there are no garages that are open at the time.  Our insurance company couldn't find one, and we called practically every name in Google and we couldn't find one either.  Finally, we bit the bullet and called my dad and my stepmom to pick us up.  I really didn't want to wake them, but we were out there for going on three hours and we needed to get home to let the dog out, not to mention get some sleep since we had both been up since 5:00 am on Friday morning.

We found an excellent garage on Saturday morning that towed the car and put on a new tire at a very reasonable price, but we were both exhausted.  On top of all of that, it rained pretty heavily for most of Saturday afternoon and evening, and although the idea of seeing the first seven Halloween movies at the drive-in is pretty cool, the both of us agreed that we'd much rather spend the night in to rest and recharge.

Sunday night was the movie that kicked off the first parallel dimension of the Halloween series, which was the 1998 film Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.  Here's what I mean by that:

The original story of Michael Myers is told in these five movies.  This is the timeline in which we learn that Laurie Strode is the youngest sister of Michael Myers (in the second movie).  She dies in an off-camera automobile accident between the events of Halloween II and IV and leaves behind a young daughter named Jamie Lloyd, who is the biological niece of Michael MyersJamie is both the target of Michael Myers and is possessed by his spirit which nearly causes her to become a killer herself.  In the final movie of the original timeline, we learn that one of Dr. Loomis' partners is the leader of a cult that is attempting to breed the ultimate evil, and they're responsible for the curse that caused Michael Myers to become an unstoppable killer.  The cult kidnaps Jamie Lloyd, artificially inseminates her to give birth to the son of Michael Myers, whom the cult plans to control as the successor to Michael Myers.  There's more to the story here, but that's the jist of it.

Halloween H20 was created as a follow-up to Halloween II and the third film in a completely different timeline to what I described above.  In this timeline, the events of Halloween 4-6 did not happen.  Laurie Strode did not have a daughter named Jamie and she did not die in a car accident.  Instead, she faked her own death, changed her name to Keri Tate, and moved to California, all of which she did to hide from Michael Myers who she is convinced will never die and will come back to try to kill her and her 17 year old son, John Tate.  Naturally, Michael Myers does return and find his youngest sister, which kicks off the story that is told in this timeline, with Halloween H20 and Halloween: Resurrection.

Now, the less said about Halloween: Resurrection, the better.  It is an absolutely terrible movie and it is thankfully not a part of the Halloween-A-Thon lineup at the Mahoning.  However, Halloween H20 is a pretty decent movie, and that was the feature that was shown tonight.

Standard Speaker - Hazleton, PA (September 18, 1998)

Halloween H20 was the first movie from the series that I got to see in theaters during its original theatrical run.  It premiered across the country on August 5th, 1998 and made its way to the Laurel Drive-In in September of that year.  I saw it when it was screened as the first half of a double feature with Saving Private Ryan, and I remember having a hell of a hard time seeing the first half hour of the movie.  There are a lot of dark scenes in the beginning of the movie, and the Laurel Drive-In started showing it at 7:30 in the middle of September when it was still light enough outside for the setting sun to wash out the picture.

Tonight's screening at the Mahoning also began at 7:30 (with the 1956 Bugs Bunny cartoon Broomstick Bunny as a lead-in), but there's a world of difference between a 7:30 start time in mid-September compared to mid-October.  While the Laurel Drive-In definitely had its charm (I still miss the Apple Fries, the homemade pizza, and the Ms. Pac Man machine in the concession building), they didn't have the meticulous attention to detail and dedication of delivering the absolute best picture quality on the big screen that they have at the Mahoning.

It occurred to me while I was watching Halloween H20 that tonight is probably the first time I've watched it since I saw it for the first time at the Laurel Drive-In over 25 years ago.  Holy crap... I can't believe I just wrote that sentence.  It's been a quarter century since then.  I'm not going to say that it feels like only yesterday, but if you just randomly asked me when I saw Halloween H20 at the drive-in for the first time, I probably would guess that it's been about ten years or so... probably a little longer than ten years... but no.  It's been twenty five freakin' years!  I know I say this a lot, but it never ceases to amaze me how time seems to move faster as I've gotten older.  When I was a kid, a marking period in school was nine weeks long and it felt like an eternity, let alone a full school year.  Now, entire decades go by in what feels like the same length of time.

Halloween H20 is a damn good movie, and a solid follow-up to Halloween and Halloween II.  I'm not going to say that I don't enjoy Halloween 4-6, but the story does get pretty convoluted and it strays pretty far from its origin.  Halloween H20 brings the story back to its roots.  Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield and learns about the new identity and whereabouts of his sister, Laurie Strode.  He slashes his way through numerous victims on his way to Laurie and her son.  The story has a conclusive ending in which Laurie crashes a van, pinning Michael's body between the wreckage and a tree before taking an axe and chopping his head off.  This is, of course, where the story should have ended, but they couldn't leave well enough alone and decided to try to squeeze more money out of the franchise with what I feel is the single most asinine sequel in the history of horror movies: Halloween Resurrection.  Seriously, don't watch Halloween Resurrection.  It isn't one of those movies that's "so bad it's good".  There isn't any real fun to be had here.  It is absolute crap from start to finish and unworthy of any further explanation than than.

And that's a wrap on Halloween-A-Thon at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater.  This event got my wheels turning about what the Mahoning might possibly have in store for 2024.  Last year, they screened a marathon of the first six movies from A Nightmare On Elm Street.  This year, they screened the first seven Halloween movies.  What horror franchise could they possibly have in mind for next year?  I don't have any inside information on the subject, but I can tell you what I'm hoping for.  The Mahoning will host Camp Blood X next year, and I can think of no better way to celebrate this milestone than with a weekend long marathon of Friday The 13th.