A look at the horror movies that I fisrt discovered at childhood sleep overs
This isn't an article about Halloween, its meant to be enjoyed all year round but it does focus on two aspects of Halloween that has been popular for years. I'm talking about the sleep over and of course the horror movie marathon.
This is something that almost every kid has done at one point or another on Halloween or not, but its on Halloween that more parents let there hair down a little and let their kids get some scarier movies then they would normally allow them to watch.
This is also an article of personal reflection as I take you on a journey to the late '80s but mostly early '90s in a small town that you have surely never heard of, but it doesn't matter it can just as easily be one of your own hometowns.
A couple of pictures from Burnt Islands, it looks just about the same as any other small town in Newfoundland
I grew up in a small town called "Burnt Islands" in Newfoundland, Canada. To put it mildly the town is small so on Halloween me and my friends would always hit most of the house's and still be done early with nothing let to do but see which one of our evil neighbors tried to slip a razor blade in our delicious delectable delights, wouldn't you know we never found a single one. However with almost the entire night still ahead of us we had to figure out what else we could do to not waste this special day, thus the concept of the Halloween sleepover was introduced to us.
I remember the first very clearly it was at the very end of the '80s in 1989, before the first changing of decades I would ever witness. Me and my buddies all grabbed the best treats of our night and jumped into our various sleeping bags weather it be Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, He-Man or my personal sleeping bag The Toronto Maple Leafs, don't ask why I didn't have a '80s icon sleeping bag, maybe its because me and my Dad were both major Leafs fans.
Finally came the main event a rather short three horror movie marathon of movies picked out by one parent that would they would think is scary to a couple of eight year olds.
I remember the first Halloween sleepover very clearly as me and my buddies all grabbed our best treats of the night and jumped into our various sleeping bags weather it be Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Transformers, Ninja Turtles, He-Man or my personal sleeping bag The Toronto Maple Leafs, don't ask how I didn't get a '80s icon sleeping bag, maybe it was because me and my Dad are both huge Leafs fans.
Soon came the movies a rather short three horror movie marathon with movies picked out by one parent that they would think is "scary" to a couple of seven year olds yet tame enough to not give us nightmares.
I had seen Ghostbusters II in theaters only three months earlier and had seen many of the episodes of the cartoon series several times each, but had never seen the first movie that had started it all. Needless to say I was excited. I didn't find it scary in the least but just like pretty much everyone else out there loved the movie.
In October of 1989 the Beetlejuice cartoon had recently debuted and had become a hit, so much like Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice was picked because it had a child friendly cartoon series and that mean that it could in no way be even the slightest bit scary for children but would be a perfect fit for this Halloween themed movie marathon. Nearly 20 years later Beetlejuice is still one of my favorite movies.
For the third movie we got one that was watched by one Mom and Dad team and deemed ok for us kids to watch. Not having a beloved kids cartoon to its credit Maximum Overdrive was the one that we were all least excited to watch and thus went on last. Easily it gave us the biggest frights of the night however and despite not caring about it for a while we were all instantly won over when we saw the Green Goblin truck, who we all wanted to win in the end but knew wouldn't. Stupid Emilio Estevez.
In 1990 the Halloween horror movie marathon sleepover had become something that all of us kids decided would happen every year and that it would extend past the second year to become one of the most anticipated events of the entire year rivaled only by Christmas and the last day of school.
In the second year the parents also decided that since it was Halloween and it was supposed to be the scariest day of the year that we got to get movies that were scarier then the ones we would usually be allowed to watch, there were still some parental restrictions though and one of them barely made the cut.
How can you not enjoy a movie that features space porcupines that shoot needles, have razor sharp teeth, can all gather together to create a giant ball and make stupid snide little remarks to one another all throughout? Yup they don't make B movies like this anymore hell they don't even make so called grade A horror movies like this anymore. I'll take Critters 4 where they go to space over any Saw movie any day.
Yet another of my personal all time classics. The unfortunate thing about Tremors is the fact that they made three crappy sequels and a even crappier TV series. Seriously didn't they say everything that they had to say in this movie? Either way that didn't matter in 1990 when this was the only Tremors movie which I may add was easily the show stealer of that years spook show sleepover.
And it was Child's Plays show that Tremors stole. This is the movie that almost didn't make the cut of the sleep over until the only mom/dad combo who had seen it said that they thought we can handle it. All of us kids but one made it out of it fine, ironically the kid who's Mom said we can handle it, in fact couldn't handle it. He ended up becoming terrified of his similar to Chucky "My Buddy" doll and kept throwing it out of his room and downstairs several times a day only to get freaked out every time the doll mysteriously showed up on his bed again later... It was his mother who didn't know about the effects that Chucky had on her child who kept putting it back. Good stuff.
By 1991 everyone's parents agreed that we were finally allowed to pick our own horror movies no matter what it was, but only on Halloween making the night all the more special. This came as a huge surprise to all of us after the previous years "My Buddy fiasco" as it came to be known. It seems incredibly irresponsible to me these days that our parents would let a bunch of NINE year old's pick any horror movie we would want. So of course if your nine years old and are renting horror movies but have never been formally introduced to the true icons then thats what your going for. So with that in mind 1991 was the year that I was finally introduced to my friends, Freddy Kruger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers and Pinhead.
The night started off with a bang with Michael Myers and what would, much more importantly for me, be our introduction to my favorite director of all time John Carpenter. (Look for a future article about Mr. Carpenter from me, its in the works.) Anyways this movie sure set the standard for the night of blood lust that us kids were seeking as Michael Myers hacked and slashed his way into our hearts as the scariest of the modern horror icons, perhaps because he seemed the most realistic of them all, well at least after part one anyways.
Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives:
We wanted to start off on part one of all of these series. Luckily for us Friday The 13th Part 1 wasn't in stock at the old mom and pop store where we got our movies. We didn't know it at that point that it was Mrs. Vorhees who was the killer in part one and not Jason himself. Instead we got Part VI: Jason Lives, the movie that would become my favorite in the series, where they decided to abandon any REAL attempts at a plot and to just up Jason's body count as much as possible. If Michael Myers was the scariest of the modern horror icons then Jason sure as hell was my favorite.
Pinhead and company let us down quite a bit after the standard that Michael Myers and Jason had set. At this point we were expecting another slasher but that's not what we got here. Unfortunately for us it had alot of plot, much more then we wanted on this night, it also didn't have enough Pinhead. Of course in the years since I have come to enjoy this flick quite a bit.
A Nightmare On Elm Street:
I may not think hes the scariest, or my favorite but of all of the modern horror icons Freddy Kruger is undoubtedly, in MY opinion, their king. I would also much rather go up against Jason or Michael Myers more then Freddy. Unlike most people in 1991 who were going back and watching the Nightmare movies for the first time we were lucky enough that our first exposure to Freddy was from Part one when Freddy didn't turn every kill into an ironic death with a witty one liner ready, like he would become in the later movies. No, we got the scary as all hell Freddy who although he still enjoyed his work very much and still had time to taunt his victims more, still focused much more on the actual killing and not the setup.
After enjoying the modern horror icons the year before I wanted my friends and I to go the classic route the next year and to get the classic Universal monsters. It took some convincing since they wanted to continue the previous years gorefest but they eventually caved and were later thankful that they did.
We started off with Dracula who Bela Lagousi made one of the coolest characters this side of ever. One thing was for sure after this movie was over my friends quickly agreed that this evenings movies would be a whole different type of awesome.
Frankenstein's monster was the king of old school horror, sure it might be super tame by today's standards but back when it was released in the 1930's it was scary as all hell. We just decided that it was all kinds of cool and that Boris Karloff was the man.
The Bride Of Frankenstein:
It was put on immediately after Frankenstein like it was intended and the story flowed perfectly. One friend in fact forgot that it was another movie a testament to its greatness. The only thing that we were disappointed in was that The Bride didn't show up until close to the end.
Werewolves were always my favorite monster out there, sorry vampires and zombies, with that knowledge in tact it should go without saying that The Wolfman was my favorite of the Universal Monsters, rivaled only by The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The make-up was also by far the coolest. By the time the movie had ended we were all totally satisfied in what was really my first retro journey.
We had done the modern horror icons and then the classic icons, but in 1993 we had no real strategy planned and just picked up the horror movies that caught out eye the most.
It was the only movie that we planned to get in 1993, in fact we had seen the movie sitting on the shelf of the video store for a while and resisted renting it until Halloween. We were not let down as Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise the clown was easily the scariest pf the night. It scared one friend to the point that we had to actually convince him to continue watching the other movies after this one done.
C.H.U.D. stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. With that knowledge what else is there that I can say that can make you watch it if you haven't before. Oh I know, the movie poster for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a rip off of C.H.U.D.!
Tell me they didn't rip off the C.H.U.D. poster with this one!
The Return Of The Living Dead:
This movie has a rather dubious distinction for the Halloween sleepovers, it was the only movie that we turned off before it was over. This was amazing considering the huge amount of breasts in this movie and that we were only eleven years old, sure we still thought girls were icky but we could still stare at one picture of a naked lady for hours. Despite this though in later years we have come to enjoy this movie and even watched it the entire way though, in fact I even went the extra mile and bought it.
We knew only one thing about this movie before we turned it on and that was it starred wrestling superstar Rowdy Roddy Piper. After watching the movie though we laughed about the insanely long fight scene which has to be one of the greatest in film history and about the fact that a movie would rip off the plot of the classic Nintendo Simpson's game, Bart vs. The Space Mutants. Now we laugh about the fact that it was the other way around. I also later discovered that it was from the same director that did Halloween allowing John Carpenter to tighten the noose around my neck.
In 1994 we continued last years trend of picking whatever caught our eye the most. We should of just got some sequels to Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday The 13th.....
If there was ever a series that's a guilty pleasure for me its The Puppet Master series. Unfortunately the rest of my friends hated it which killed all the enjoyment of it for me too on my first viewing of it. When I watched it again later I enjoyed it much more and officially discovered Full Moon, it was no Troma but it was a fine start for the camptasticly cheesy movies I would come to love.
This one turned out to be a fun little romp epically after one friend realized that the big idiot painter, Ozzy was none other then the excellent Mark Holton better known as one of the greatest villains of all movie history the super evil Francis Buxton of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure fame. We were epically happy when the big bumbling Ozzy made it out of the movie and The Leprechaun's rhyming wrath alive. Years later on another viewing we discovered that the now super famous Jennifer Aniston from Friends was the leading lady in the movie, we also didn't give a crap as Francis Buxton still owned the day!
This was the worst of this years batch. We all loved slashers at this point but this one just couldn't hold our interests at all. We weren't the only ones who's interest the movie couldn't keep which might explain the lack of a sequel. I would call it Dr. Giggles 2: Still Gigglin'!
Pet Sematary 2:
I don't know why but for some reason of all the movies that we watched through the years of these Halloween sleepovers, this was the movie that scared the holy living heck out of me the most. To this day I still have had no desire to watch it again and get a chill running up my spine every time its mentioned by someone, which thankfully isn't often.
In 1995 we were determined to not get a load of crap like the year before so in the days were researching actually meant doing research and not just pointing and clicking I took it upon myself to find some great horror movies. This years would be the biggest marathon ever with a whopping six movies. Unfortunately not one of us knew it at the time but this was also sadly be the last Halloween sleepover.
Within our six movie marathon we would also have an Evil Dead marathon with all three movies that up to that point neither of us had seen yet and after the awesome terror of part one we were super hyped for part two.
Evil Dead Part 2: Dead By Dawn:
And we wouldn't have to wait long after the first. We were pleasantly surprised by Ash's turn from cry baby to bad ass antihero as well as the turn to comedy that this movie took during some parts.
Army Of Darkness:
We had no idea we had rented a comedy for this horror marathon but here it was anyways and it was more then welcome. Gone was any real attempts to be scary and Ash the wiener was no where to be seen anywhere has his transformation to full fledged bad ass extraordinaire was completely cementing him as one of the greatest movie characters of all time.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:
We had heard of this movie for years and were excited to finally see it. After all Leatherface was always compared to Micheal Myers, Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees who were all awesome. After watching it though there was alot of disappointment in the air. After what we had already exposed to in the world of horror movies this did nothing for us, we were to desensitized to be scared by it and the lack of light and constant non stop screaming left us annoyed. Is it wrong of me to like the remake about a gazillion times more then the original? Cause it seems like it should be some sort of blasphemy to me considering every other remake sucks compared to the original. I epically thinking of you Wicker Man!
By this point I finally knew who John Carpenter was and the connection of Halloween and They Live. I had also seen Escape from New York, Christine, Assault On Precinct 13 and The Fog all of which I loved so I was epically excited for The Thing, I wasn't disappointed as The Thing would become one of my favorite horror movies of all time, and one of my friends favorites as well. To speak anything negative about it is nothing short of blasphemy!
The last movie we ever watched during the Halloween sleepovers was The Exorcist and how fitting as its one of the greatest and scariest horror flicks of all time. Anything good that could be said about already has been.
It's sad that those days of being young kids watching movies that they should NEVER of been allowed to watch are over and they are times that I will always remember. It was the place where I was introduced to most of my favorite horror movies and pretty much every iconic horror character to ever exist.
It brings me much joy when I think of people discovering all these movies and characters for the first time. It also fills me with joy that this Halloween the tradition of Sleepover Spookshows is surely going to be going on for many lucky kids.