Day 1 of 31 Authors of Halloween – Sean McDonough

I spent a good part of my roaring twenties catching old horror movies in revival theatres all over this great country. Night of the Creeps, Return of the Living Dead, the Clint Howard opus Evilspeak. From the Brattle in Boston to the all night, Pay to Get Out fest at the Huntington Cinema Arts Center, and out to the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles (this, of course, was before it was revealed that the SMT was run by a sexual predator), there were few things that I enjoyed more than getting together with my friends, smuggling in some booze, and sitting down to experience a gory horror classic in the way God intended them to be seen-in a cramped theatre with cheap, uncomfortable seats and a rabble of bloodthirsty ghouls cheering every decapitation and bad joke. Then, just like Pamela Voorhees severed head, I got old and decrepit. You may say that thirty is not old, but take my word for it, I am Old Man Thirty. I’m settled in the suburbs with a wife and a daughter. I’m awake at 4:30 every morning to go to work. All of my friends are old and scattered all over the place, and getting together for a night out takes about as much effort as putting together a nuclear reactor from Ikea. I still make the effort. Every month I check the listings at the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington and the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn, but jaunting out for a Nightmare on Elm Street triple feature isn’t the no-brainer it used to be. The pace of my life has made a shift for the sedentary. But, like all good monsters, it’s when you think I’m dead and buried that I rise up for the sequel, bigger and badder than ever. Last year, I didn’t feel up to going out for Halloween. But you know what I decided? I decided that that’s fine. Because Halloween isn’t outside…. Halloween is INSIDE. It’s inside of all us, just waiting for the opportunity to burst out in a shower of blood! So, the spirit of Samhain whispering in my ear, I reached out to my cousin who installs home theatres for a living and asked him if he could lend me a projector for the weekend. I may be old and tired, but I’m not as broke as I used to be and I do have a backyard now. I thought if my cousin could get me a projector and a Blu Ray player, I could hang a bedsheet on the back of my house and turn my yard into a crude but effective outdoor theatre for a horror double feature. At the time, all my cousin said to me was, I got you. But I didn’t what to really expect until I went to pick everything up because holy shit, did he GET me. I didn’t just have the projector, I had the full outdoor theatre experience-a genuine projector screen, surround sound speakers, and a high quality projector and blu ray player for a picture as crisp as toast. Of course, the theatre set-up wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have the right movies. But that was one area where I didn’t have anything to worry about. We decided to go with something old and something new. First up would be Mike Dougherty’s Halloween anthology, and the inspiration for the bed sheet ghosts decorating my yard, Trick or Treat. Accompanying it, we went with what I consider to be Jason Voorheesbest work, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

Nothing heavy. Nothing serious. Not Jacob’s Ladder and Suspiria, but Im of the opinion that a Halloween double feature shouldn’t be that sophisticated. Halloween is about fun. Mean-spirited pranksters getting what they deserve and masked maniacs turning horny teenagers into ground beef. Movies that you could laugh and talk through. At last, the time came. Our friends arrived. We had lawn chairs arranged in a semi-circle and spiked hot cider and spider-themed cupcakes for refreshments. Most of the people invited weren’t horror fans, but the atmosphere made horror fans out of them. It’s impossible to be sitting out under the open sky on a cool, crisp night, with a screen full of werewolves, ghouls, and Jason Voorhees and not be swept away by the spirit of the season. We laughed, screamed, and drank candy corn shots until 2 in the morning because, fuck it, we made a whole tray and we can’t let them go to waste. The truth is that even the revival theatre experience is not completely authentic. It’s not a cineplex in 1986. You pay fifteen dollars to get in, not five. You’re watching a movie that you’ve seen twenty times already as opposed to catching it for the first time ever. But I’ve found that the true essence of the experience can be reproduced anywhere and anytime. It’s not about the size of the screen, or where you are. It’s about who you’re with.. And that’s how I discovered that the spirit of Halloween is alive and well wherever friends gather to watch horror movies where joy and laughter can be shared.

Other books by Sean McDonough

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