Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Halloween Means To Me '14: Tim Ritter

It's independent filmmaker's week here on the What Halloween Means To Me countdown, and I can't think of a more fitting person to kick it off than Tim Ritter.  Not only is he the living, breathing embodiment of underground filmmaking, but his work was really my introduction to indie horror cinema.  Truth or Dare was the first movie I saw that, in my mind, took movies out of the mythical domain of Hollywood and into the realm of something a normal person like me could achieve.  Since then, he has proudly flown the indie horror flag and served as an inspiration to a current crop of filmmakers.  Go check him out HERE.  So, Tim, what does Halloween mean to you?

"It's that time of year again, when darkness overwhelms the light and there's a slight coolness in the air and the nights become so bright with mischievous possibilities under the glowing crimson moon. My mind becomes razor sharp and a chill runs up my spine...after all, it's nearing Samhain or All Hallow's Eve, best known to those who love it as....Halloween! Definitely my favorite holiday...[Happy, happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock!] Although, I must admit, I do enjoy the gluttony business of Thanksgiving as well....but that's another story.

At this time of year, I think of golden leaves spiraling through the afternoon air, shafts of dim sunlight struggling to penetrate through them, the sky a cool milky gray, resembling light chocolate in the atmosphere. There's a continuous gentle, comfortable breeze blowing through those trees, causing the leaves to almost speak as they rustle.[Or is that a madman...hiding in the bush? Crunching the leaves with his freshly polished black boots...] The humidity is lower and it's generally much more tolerable outdoors for those of us who appreciate the season...Sometimes I think of female babysitters, ambling down the sidewalks, planning rendezvous with boyfriends that somehow won't happen...


I love the stores during the autumn months...the Halloween costumes, masks, and candy that make their appointed cameos. It's always a trip to peruse the aisles of crazy gore gadgets [machetes with liquid blood sloshing around in tubes around the edges!] and props that make their way onto shelves each year. The life-size animatronic zombies and witches are always cool to ogle, but at $300.00 plus per character....who can afford those?!?! I always wait for the big markdowns, generally the day after Halloween, to pick up goodies or props for my future no-budget movies, since retailers are anxious to get rid of everything and generally mark it all down 50-75%. It's always a thrill to see the Scream and Michael Myers masks staring down at me impassively from the high shelves at mainstream big box stores. What a pleasure to see the endless variations of Jason's hockey mask! ["Mom, I wanna be JASON VORHEES for Halloween!!!!"]  This year I've noticed cammo hockey masks out there!

Growing up, I remember one of my favorite Halloweens quite vividly. I was out trick or treating with my mom supervising and it was such a cool evening. There was a full moon and these puffy gray clouds from nowhere blew over it, darkening the night. It truly felt SPOOKY with all the branches reaching out for you and waving like monstrous shadows in the streetlight....Then this howling wind came screaming around as buckets of rain let loose! I could barely see through my store-bought Halloween mask and costume [I think I was Casper or Batman, can't remember which!] but amazingly, my mom encouraged us to keep on trick or treating! I recall racing up to house after house that had front porch lights on and how brave everyone thought I was for continuing to beg for candy amidst all the bad weather. It was awesome---since most residents thought that not many more trick or treaters would show up in the inclement weather, I got LOADS of extra candy! Chocolate bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, popcorn balls, Sugar Daddy's, Bazooka Joe bubblegum [best chewed a dozen pieces at a time!]...it was the mother lode of goodies! My plastic pumpkin was so full of treats that I could barely carry it! How about those tasty orange pieces of candy corn? ["We all go a little mad sometimes!"]  And oh, those delicious caramel coated apples with peanuts sprinkled all over them... dazzling treats that are STILL readily available at a supermarket near you! It's ever so difficult to keep away from those or eating them "only in moderation...." Anyway, that was probably one of the most gratifying Halloweens I experienced as a young kid, begging for candy during a Florida tropical storm....

Music is the soundtrack to our lives and around this time of year, you know what the selections have GOT to be. There's just no choice. Terrorific music is great all year long, but most especially in the fall...it's simply... the best. There's nothing like some classic John Carpenter and Alan Howarth cues to liven up ANY drive around town, day or night. [And keep in mind, many folks decorate their front lawns with Halloween themed props and sets, just like at Christmas! Good to prowl around in the car and check those out...] Special musical nods are given to the HALLOWEEN 1-5 scores, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Gotta give a special mention to the HELLRAISER, PSYCHO, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and SCREAM scores as well...Of course, I also like to mix some heavier tunes into the groove as well, so consider U.D.O. [The Bogey Man, Wrong Side Of Midnight], Marilyn Manson [about anything!], Rob Zombie [I'm Your Bogeyman, Living Dead Girl], Judas Priest [Night Crawler, Love Bites, Creatures], Rammstein, and any other assortment of deranged metal maniacs out there...We all have our favorites!

This is also a great time for buying horror DVDs! I love to run into those seasonal cardboard shelf endcaps at Walmart with the "limited stock" $4.00 DVDs in them. I've found some great buys on classic movies in those things over the past few years, including THE EXORCIST, THE THING, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and various HALLOWEEN movies. How many times will THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT be released with a new cover? Why do I keep buying it OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN?!?! [Uh, because it's one of my all-time favorite backyard slasher movies, that's why!!!] Keep an eye out for cool horror multi-packs, always a steal this time of year, and don't forget other stores like Target and Amazon that have sweet deals on all kinds of horror flicks. Even the deluxe Blu Rays make an appearance for under $5 bucks if you look hard enough. It's no trick, you never know what treat you'll discover when digging through those overflowing bargain bins...It's a great time to roll the dice and make new discoveries as well! Nothing like making new memories while relieving the old...

Amidst the fall season, I always watch John Carpenter's original HALLOWEEN at least a couple of times. It's a timeless classic, and reminds me of the nostalgic era when I first discovered the movie in its October 1981 broadcast premiere. The heavy breathing of Michael Myers just TOTALLY freaked everyone out when the movie first penetrated the cable and TV mainstream, and I'll never forget riding the bus to school and hearing all the frantic stories from other kids about how scared they and their parents were after viewing HALLOWEEN for the first time in their dark living rooms. No telling how much sleep was lost that night due to the "fear of the boogeyman" penetrating their minds...[Lock your doors, close your windows, and turn out the lights!] I was apprehensive myself but loving every minute of it. What a rush horror movies can be, like the most exciting of carnival rides! Carpenter's HALLOWEEN captures the holiday so perfectly- just the tone, colors, and prank atmosphere that flawlessly morph into unbridled terror. And its simple yet hauntingly perfect "eerie piano" music score that everyone now knows so well...HALLOWEEN is THE great film to re-watch every season, especially when giving out candy to the trick or treaters. ["Was that the bogey man?" "As a matter of fact...it was..."] Some years I'll give out candy wearing the Michael Myers mask and jumpsuit, loving all the reactions I get from the kids. One year I thought I was going to scare this little guy to no end when he reached up and pointed at me saying, "Captain Kirk!"  Hilarious!. Even as a diehard HALLOWEEN fan growing up, it took me a few moons to come to the realization that the original Halloween mask was just a white painted alteration of William Shatner's STAR TREK likeness! News like this traveled slow back in them early 80's, as there was no Internet, only magazines, rumors, and innuendos...

Which brings me to another memorable part of the holiday---seeing so many people, big and small, young and old, dressing up in cool costumes to beg for candy or party down. It's always exciting seeing how "all out" some individuals go in the costume and makeup department. On the big day itself, I always enjoy getting a big pumpkin and carving out a cool face on it, then setting it outside with candles burning inside. Again, just sends a chill up your spine, like you're becoming one with the holiday....Let's not forget the candy, we all know we secretly buy the stuff we love most because if the trick or treaters are light, guess who will be gorging down the leftovers? Before every Halloween ends at midnight, I'm usually pretty queasy with a sugar rush of epic proportions from overindulging in leftover goodies while binge watching horror films...

I don't want to fail to mention reading, either, because there's nothing cooler than finding a secluded area outside in the crisp, fall air with just the right amount of moonlight seeping in and reading FANGORIA magazine or a classic Richard Laymon novel [such as NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER or BEAST]. You just can't beat that spine-tingling feeling, and I always look forward to a new Stephen King book around this time of year as well. He's always got something rolling out in early autumn...FIRST BLOOD, the novel by David Morrell, is another book I love to re-read in October, since the story is set in October, and if you don't think of a young 1970's Rambo as a "slashing maniac", well, then....you've never read the original novel and source material for the classic films! Check it out and you might be stunned senseless!

There's many other things you can do in October during the Halloween season if you get the chance: there's haunted houses and trails you can visit, all of which provide ample fun and scares [especially if you're longing for that crazy maniac wielding a chainsaw to actually REALLY chase you down narrow corridors...]  Horror conventions and theme parks are splendidly abundant and enjoyable this time of year and let's not forget the movie houses---nothing like seeing a new horror release on this big screen around this time [HALLOWEEN, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and SAW franchise memories anyone?] or even a classic re-release like, er...say Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, which seems to be making theatrical rounds every October now. If you're financially strapped or more of a homebody, then re-watch some of the classic films of the season. Try one a day for the month of October! Here's a small list of some of the titles I find exceptionally entertaining this time of year: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 [great suspense!], EYES OF A STRANGER [creepy!], ROSEMARY'S BABY [spooky!], THE FOG [Carpenter's classic- makes little sense but what atmosphere!], LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT [Craven's classic backwoods madness filmed in October and November], HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER [sick and powerful], THE STEPFATHER [1987 movie-brilliant!], THE EXORCIST [chilling!], BLOOD FEAST [silly but fun gore], VIDEODROME [surreal], SCANNERS [mind blowing!!!], NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD [I know, it's so dated, but I still love it!], HANNIBAL [wickedly fiendish!] and PSYCHO [the granddaddy of sleazy slasher movies]...Newer titles I've enjoyed include DEAR MR. GACY, SINISTER, and THE CONJURING. TV favorites include BATES MOTEL and the super dark HANNIBAL...

All right! There we have it, so many things you can do to enjoy the season! One other thing I failed to mention was MAKING A HORROR VIDEO or MOVIE of some sort this time of year. It's always a splendid time of year to be out there filming something under the autumn skies and contributing something, no matter how small, to the horror genre we love so much. I have many fond memories of fall shoots that were the grandest of times in my mind. There's nothing like stomping through the woods in the cool weather, making a camcorder classick! If you're a moviemaker, of course this is the best time of year to premiere your epic in an indie theater, on DVD, or streaming on the Net---or all three, if you can! The excitement from these kind of releases is always contagious, and I have been lucky enough to do this with a few of my movies over the years, including KILLING SPREE and more recently, DEADLY DARES-Truth Or Dare 4.

Going hand in hand with movie watching and premieres are Halloween Parties, which are always in abundance! In an era where large screen TVs and digital projection screens are so prevalent, heading out to such events where everyone comes in costume and watches horror movies on a huge screen in someone's back yard has become all the rage. If you're not careful, though, these parties can get pretty wild and crazy! Was that really me wearing that Michael Myers mask and....ahhhhhhh, never mind!!!!

So get out there, have a blast, cherish the time you have and make some great memories this Halloween season! But as always, use extreme caution...."

10 days 'til Halloween, Halloween, Halloween.  10 days 'til Halloween.  Silver Shamrock!

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