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Halloween Research Paper

The 1978 John Carpenter classic Halloween is my all time favorite film, both inside and outside the horror genre. Nothing in the Halloween franchise can come close to touching it, and although it does have some pretty impressive rivals in the form of Alien, The Shining, Scream, and It Follows, Halloween in my opinion still comes out on top as the best modern horror film in history. It’s influence and ability to captivate and terrify, not to mention the craft and simple but elegant plotting behind it, are the reasons for its’ lasting legacy.

However, all of that aside, the 1978 original was not the first horror film I watched as a kid, or even the first Halloween film I watched. The title belongs to Halloween 4, The Return of Michael Myers, which I saw for the first time at the ripe old age of nine years old. This 1988 horror sequel, which doesn’t even register to most people, birthed my obsession with the horror genre for years to come and left a lasting impression on me. I would eventually come to love horror movies and aspire to make some of my own someday. Nothing in my life was quite the same after that night.

This is the story of how Halloween 4 changed my life. As a kid, I could not stand horror movies. My parents were enormous fans of Jaws, and they watched it on an almost monthly basis. The film terrified me for months, and I refused to take a bath alone for the first two weeks after I saw it for the first time. Although it has since become one of my favorite films, Jaws and I did not get along at all in the beginning. I’d hide under my blanket every time I knew the shark was about to come out and sleep with my nightlight on for a few days after every showing.

It was so bad that I remember cheering extremely loudly when I was finally able to watch the movie without closing my eyes for the first time. My parents weren’t huge horror fans, but did indulge in a new horror film from the rental store at least once every other week or so. I was introduced to Saw this way, along with Resident Evil and other horror films. My introduction to Halloween 4, however, came completely by accident. My family is rather large and extremely close in comparison to my friend’s families.

It’s not unusual for us to see each other three or four times a week. My aunts and uncles used to come over my house all the time when I was little for parties, cookouts, and just to hang out. When i was eight, my dad built our garage and started having gatherings at the house almost weekly. During one such gathering, everyone at the house was outside in the garage, which was separated from the main house. As a kid, I used to love when the adults would leave the house, as it gave me a chance to roam freely and do as I wanted.

Before my dad went outside to get the grill ready, he was watching AMC and forgot to turn the TV off. I came in just as whatever movie playing was wrapping up. I was just about to change the channel when an ominous music started playing on screen, followed by the title “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”. I had no idea who Michael Myers was or what the movie was about. But there was something about that now iconic opening sequence that grabbed my attention. I sat down, and was transported to the town of Haddonfield and for the first time, saw the destruction rage of Michael Myers.

This probably sounds either extremely silly or alarmingly disturbing, but I was utterly captivated and terrified by Halloween 4. Remember, I was nine years old, and had never seen a true horror film, let alone a slasher film. As Michael chased down his young niece Jamie, played by the underrated Danielle Harris, and killed anyone who got in his way, I never once took my gaze away from the screen. Even during commercial breaks, I refused to get up to go to the bathroom, afraid to miss even a second of Michael’s rampage.

I had no context for what was happening as far as story went, as I had not seen any of the other Halloween films at this time. I wasn’t even aware of Halloween as a movie. I hadn’t even seen someone wear a Michael Myers mask for Halloween before. But as a nine year old, story and plot didn’t mean much to me. However, the simple but effective story struck a chord with me, as I used to get really awful night terrors about being chased by monsters and madmen, and therefore really identified with the sheer terror young Jamie felt during her ordeal.

I loved the motley crew of characters the film featured, most notably Dr. Loomis, played by the late Donald Pleaseance (R. I. P), who reminded me a great deal of my lovable Grandpa Jack. The iconic theme, which I had heard at haunted houses and various other places before, bore itself into my ears and would not go away. I was completely absorbed into the moody atmosphere of dread and evil. I constantly search the screen, looking for where Michael would show up next.

As the film reached its terrifying climax, with Jamie’s sister Rachel, played by Ellie Cornell, trying to escape Michael in a very well shot and paced sequence inside a truck, I watched with such single minded determination that I’d never had before. When the police finally arrived and blew Michael to kingdom come, I breathed the first sigh of relief since I started watching. Jamie and Rachel were saved and Michael was dead. And then came that ending. When I saw Jamie standing at the top of those stairs, holding a knife and splattered with blood, I was completely taken aback.

I’d never seen a movie where a child has commanded so much power and provoked so much terror in me. Although I was only nine, I knew exactly what this meant. Jamie was no longer that sweet little girl, she had become just like her murderous uncle. As her family looked on in horror, Jamie lifted her knife as if to strike them all down. Then the film cut to black. I raced outside to tell my parents and family that I had just seen the most incredible move ever. I jumped up and down as I gave them a scene by scene retelling of the entire film, careful not to leave out a single gory detail.

I exclaimed that I wanted to be Michael Myers for Halloween, and wanted to watch all of the movies right then and there. Now, you can imagine my parent’s surprise and shock at watching their nine year old son sing praises about a slasher film featuring several violent murders and a masked psychopath. My mom was horrified that I had been allowed to watch such a violent film and scolded me for not turning it off. My dad didn’t really care, seeing the films as harmless entertainment, and would secretly slip me more horror movies for years to come.

From that moment on, until I was about 15, my mom refused to allow me to watch anything remotely related to the horror genre, and outright banned me from dressing up as anything scary that year for Halloween. You can imagine my initial disappointment, but after I spent half the night screaming in bed that “Michael was gonna kill me”, you can understand her position. However, nothing my mom did could stop my now unquenchable thirst for all things scary and horror. Being the amateur sleuth that I am, I eventually found out when the original Halloween was playing on TV, and made sure to record it on the VCR.

I was once again captivated by the film, even more so than Halloween 4. As I grew older, I came to recognize Halloween as a vastly superior film to Halloween 4, and strove to recreate its chill atmosphere and tension in my own short films. Despite that, I still held Halloween 4 very close to my heart, and remember watching it for the first time fondly whenever I watch it today. The Halloween franchise as a whole as such a unique place in my heart, and my nostalgic attachment to the series only grows bigger as I grow older.

It might seem silly to most, having such a strong connection to a low budget slasher sequel from the 80s, but the film is so much more to me than that. It was my gateway to the horror genre, and to a community that has accepted me with open arms and provided me with so many wonderful, albeit frightening, memories. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, while far from being a quality film, has earned its place amongst my favorite films, and its power to captivate me has not faltered after all these years. And like the immortal Michael Myers, will continue to live on in my heart for many more years to come.

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