Tag Archives: halloween

WATCH THIS: John Carpenter’s “Lost Film”, SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME!

This piece originally appeared on iHorror.com.

A pretty, sandy-haired young woman is stalked by a mysterious figure; first via car, then by creepy phone calls, and then directly outside her window. He’s even seen in the background spying on her while she converses on the phone. She eventually takes the shadowy figure head-on, stumbling around a living room and fighting for her life, ending with a climax that reveals nothing about the madman’s motivations. Oh, and the whole thing was directed by John Carpenter in the late ’70s. Gotta be Halloween, right? Wrong.

Though it wrapped shooting two weeks before Halloween even went into production, John Carpenter’s television directorial debut, the NBC-produced Someone’s Watching Me! was actually released one month after Halloween. Due to this loopy timeline it’s easy to think Halloween informed many stylistic choices of Someone’s Watching Me!, when in reality it’s the other way around.

Leigh (Lauren Hutton) is an ambitious television producer who moves from New York to Los Angeles. She settles in a large high rise apartment, the kind where the living room is basically one giant window overlooking the thoroughfare. Unbeknownst to Leigh, a creeper who lives in a building across the street spots her and takes a real liking to her. He starts following her, calling her, and leaving her gifts. She continually rebuffs the mystery man, causing him to pursue her more aggressively. With the support of her co-worker Sophie (Adrienne Barbeau) and her boyfriend Paul (David Birney), Leigh goes to the police. Tired of the cat and mouse game, the creep finally attacks.

While not an exact Halloween clone, Carpenter admits SWM! did lay the groundwork for what would become his slasher masterpiece. “A lot of the shots, the framing – and a lot of the flow”, would be reused for Halloween. Carpenter also says, “I got to make mistakes”, referring to the TV movie, which allowed him to hone and sharpen the basic idea and deliver a much leaner and ultimately more frightening movie with Halloween. There are a few familiar Carpenter players in the small cast, namely Adrienne Barbeau and Charles Cyphers. And if you pay attention, you’ll probably spot some names in SWM! that Carpenter would later reuse, including Leigh, Paul, and Officer Tramer.

Noticeably absent from SWM! are a few trademarks Carpenter’s films would come to be known for. He had no input on the score, so here his usual piercing synths are substituted with dramatic, swelling strings – common in ’70s television productions. And his stunning wide-angle lens shots – usually courtesy of Dean Cundey but here provided by Robert Hauser – have been cropped and tightened to fit the 4:3 aspect ratio of a TV screen. Still, the movie displays all the great themes the director would come to be known for, including voyeurism and paranoia.

Watching SWM!, it’s clear that Carpenter who, in 1977, was still new to the horror genre (at that point he only had two feature films under his belt: the sci-fi satire Dark Star, and Assault on Precinct 13, a dystopian Western exploitation flick), was heavily inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock – mainly, South By Southwest, Rear Window, and Psycho. At times it feels like it could be entitled Alfred Hitchcock’s Halloween, and I mean that in the best way possible. For a TV movie made in the ’70s, SWM! is incredibly suspenseful and flat-out spooky. The tension builds, keeping you guessing until the very end.

Someone’s Watching Me! is often called “the lost Carpenter film” due to its relative scarcity on home media, but don’t let the hoity-toity label exclude you – I assure you it’s not just for the John Carpenter completest. In fact, I would consider it required Carpenter, especially if you’re a fan of Halloween. It’s one of those special movies that shows its director in transition; especially powerful here since Carpenter’s next film would prove to be his greatest success.

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13 Days of Sequels: HALLOWEEN II

With 13 Days of Sequels I’ll be reviewing horror sequels every weekday for the last two weeks of October. You can view all entries HERE.

Sequels are historically hard to pull off – especially when it’s that first one out of the gate (meaning Part 2), and especially if the first film was an incredible success. (I clarify this, because at one time films actually had to be successful in order to warrant a sequel.)

Following the original film, that first sequel is under major scrutiny: the pressure to not only replicate the success of the first film but exceed it in every way possible isn’t just expected, it’s really expected. Part 2 has to be bigger, faster, and smarter, upping the ante in every conceivable way. Continue reading 13 Days of Sequels: HALLOWEEN II

SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Joanna Skrabala / Bloody Popcorn)

skrabala

Joanna and her husband Johnny (who just celebrated their 10 year anniversary in July – congrats, kids!) run the wonderfully-named site Bloody Popcorn. And from what I can tell via their social media presence, we share a lot of similar interests – including cult movies, nostalgia, and a fondness for punk tunes. I knew they were the goods when they sent me an Xmas card with Jason Voorhees on the front last year. Needless to say, I was thrilled that Joanna wanted to contribute a piece to…whatever this is. And she did not disappoint! Without further ado, here is Joanna with a double feature to die for!

SUMMER LOVE: A tribute to weird kiddie camp movies (and puberty)

Living in rural Virginia as an impressionable youngster in the ‘90s meant the video store was vital to accessing life experience (or the tropes therein). Don’t get me wrong, I had a real life—school, friends, hobbies—but living miles away from civilization without a car (or driver’s license) just called for overly-organized social planning. And more than often, I was content to just exist in my bedroom with my TV, VCR, and hundreds of duped tapes. (Don’t tell the FBI.) Continue reading SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Joanna Skrabala / Bloody Popcorn)

5 Things I Want from the New HALLOWEEN!

As you’ve probably heard by now, Blumhouse announced yesterday that they’ll be producing the newest Halloween film, the first since Rob Zombie’s 2009 debacle, Halloween II. What makes this particular bit of news so exciting is confirmation that John Carpenter will executive produce, and could also possibly (maybe? hopefully?) score the film. Add to that the involvement of franchise producer Malek Akkad, Miramax Pictures, and bastions-from-the-start Compass International/Trancas International Films, and suddenly the tired and aimless franchise looks to have gotten a much needed shot in the arm.

Of course, the recognizable names mean nothing to the final product; a lot of variables could result in a boring, unmemorable film, namely the two most important puzzle pieces – the script and its director – which are, as of this typing, non-existent. But none of that stuff really matters right now because, as with every entry before this one, the announcement of a new Halloween film ushers in waves of excitement and possibilities that will keep me coasting and daydreaming until I see it in the theater.

The film has a projected release date of sometime in 2017, which means I’ve got a lot of time on my hands to fantasize about my dream production, so here are 5 things I’d really like to see in the new Halloween. Continue reading 5 Things I Want from the New HALLOWEEN!

Great Horror Movie Drunks, Part 2!

Last St. Patrick’s Day I whipped up a piece on some of horror’s greatest drunks. It was a far from comprehensive list, but then again it wasn’t intended to be. Soon after posting it I begin to think of other drunks I could’ve included, and a couple readers reached out with some suggestions, so I decided to do a follow up and, hey! Whatta ya know! You’re reading it now. And I’m drinking a Guinness as I type it, no kidding. So without further ado, here are some more of horror’s greatest drunks. Continue reading Great Horror Movie Drunks, Part 2!

“Tales of Halloween” (2015) REVIEW

1As I laid on my couch last night, despondent over Halloween’s ghost quickly disappearing in my rearview mirror, I decided to watch the recently released horror anthology, Tales of Halloween, if only to keep the festive embers glowing just a little bit longer. It wasn’t something I had planned on watching; despite its voluminous cast and the certified Grade A horror pedigree involved, the trailer looked like the typical low-budget shot-on-digital crud that you’d expect to see being funded via Kickstarter. Alas, I was desperate for one last shot of Halloween, so I turned it on. Continue reading “Tales of Halloween” (2015) REVIEW