Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Sierra Madre the Halloween Movie Capitol of the World?

I'm not sure there is any town in America that takes Halloween more seriously than Sierra Madre. As far as I can see the only holiday that surpasses it in overall citywide participation might be Christmas. But I am not sure. Certainly more homes get decorated at Christmas, and there is a little bit extra of that "for the kids" feel to much of it. Especially the part having to do with the buying and consuming of mass amounts of stuff. But as far as people just throwing themselves into the spirit of it all? Halloween might take first prize in our little world. Just head downtown tonight and you will see what I mean.

The only place I know about in town where Halloween is not observed is Bethany Christian School. When my kids attended preschool there October 31st was known as "Storybook Character Day." All the kids used to dress up as their favorite figures from children's literature to celebrate. God bless them.

Movie makers have apparently long viewed Sierra Madre's innate quotient for the frightening to be the perfect fodder for its horror films. I was surfing about the internet and there really has been quite a few horror movies filmed here. Perhaps it is because we are not too far from Hollywood and cinema folk find it convenient to film here. Though I am also of the opinion that not appearing like so many of our more au courant California neighbors could be a contributing factor as well. Certainly there are a lot of spooky older looking homes and neighborhoods appropriate to the genre in this town.

But there may be more to it as well. Sierra Madre could very well just be a scary place. In so many different ways. While the exact reason for this might be difficult to pin down, the movie industry apparently seems to recognize it. And when it comes time to film movies of the horror genre, this is the town they often come to in order to get the job done right.

One interesting site that I came across is called "Best Movies Filmed in Sierra Madre, California." You can access it by clicking here. Out of the 8 films this site claims were made here, 6 of them are horror films. Here is that list along with the supplied short description:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): Dr. Miles Bennel returns to his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors.

Scream (1996): A masked killer is on the loose in a small town. He terrorizes local teenagers using his knowledge of horror movies and condemns them for not knowing the unspoken rules. A sleazy tabloid journalist is determined to investigate and link this killer to a crime that happened one year ago.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): This sequel has a plot that is unrelated to the earlier movies of the same name. In this horror story, a large halloween mask making company has plans to kill millions of American children with deadly masks.

Family Plot (1976): Filmed by Alfred Hitchcock, fake medium Madam Blanche (Barbara Harris) and her taxi driver boyfriend George (Bruce Dern) make a living by scamming people with her phony powers. They are hired by an aging widow Julia Rainbird, to find her nephew who was given away for adoption many years before.

Halloween II (1981): It's the same night as the original Halloween. Michael Myers is around the neighborhood, after being gunned down by Dr. Loomis six times. Now he's in a hospital where the girl Laurie Strode was taken. And there's a reason why Michael is after her ...

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991): In part six of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, dream monster Freddy Krueger has finally killed all of the children of his hometown, and seeks to escape its confines to hunt fresh prey.

That is an impressive list. Oddly, the first Halloween movie is not listed.

Another interesting site that discusses Sierra Madre's attraction for horror film makers is called Dark Destinations (click here). The dark destination in this case being our very own Pioneer Cemetery. Two films of note are discussed, the first being Alfred Hitchcock's 1976 classic, Family Plot.  This was apparently Alfred's final film. Here is how Pioneer Cemetery's role in this film is described:

In the film, Sierra Madre's Pioneer Cemetery doubles as Barlow Creek Cemetery. It appears in a sequence where Dern's character pursues a widow at her husband's funeral, hoping that she will lead him to the mysterious nephew. That pursuit comes to a stop at the fake grave of the nephew who faked his death years earlier.

The other film that starred Pioneer Cemetery is the original Halloween, filmed in 1976. Here is how that appearance is described:

Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery appears in a sequence early on in Halloween, where Myer's doctor, Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence), comes to the cemetery to seek out Judith's grave. The caretaker (Arthur Malet) leads him to the grave (Row 18, Plot 20) where they discover that the headstone has been stolen. While the caretaker attributes it to a Halloween stunt performed by the local kids, it is a confirmation to Loomis that Myers has returned to Haddonfield - or as he puts it, "He came home."

However, this is not where Pioneer Cemetery's claim to cinematic fame ends. Another website called "I Am Not A Stalker " (click here) notes that our local graveyard played a cameo role in the television series Twin Peaks. In particular as the scene of this show's climatic first season finale. Here is how Not A Stalker discusses the matter:

As I mentioned in my post last month about The Old Place restaurant, thanks to fellow stalker/David-Lynch-aficionado Brad, from the Brad D Studios website, I recently discovered that fave television series Twin Peaks was shot almost in its entirety in Southern California.  Because I have long been a Twin Peaks fanatic, I was beyond eager to start stalking the many locations mentioned on Brad’s blog – the most exciting of which was Sierra Madre Pioneer Cemetery, the site of the funeral of Laura Palmer (aka Sheryl Lee) in the Season 1 episode titled “Rest in Pain”.  Surprisingly, even though Sierra Madre is located just a few miles east of Pasadena and even though the cemetery has been featured in several spooky productions over the years, until perusing through Brad’s site in early September, I had never before even heard of it!  So, because the place fit in perfectly with my Haunted Hollywood theme, I waited to drag the Grim Cheaper out there until this past weekend.

Back when the Sierra Madre Patch was posting more original material about this town than it is now, Tony Brandenburg contributed an article about Sierra Madre's penchant for horror films called, "Halloween: The Night He Came Home (to Sierra Madre)" (click here). Tony notes there that the Episcopal Church of the Ascension was used for filming a few sequences of the horror classic The Fog (1979).

But our favorite church on East Laurel cannot hold a stick to Alverno High School:

Alverno High School is listed as a location for and horror and suspense themed movies, including  Tim Burton’s biopic of Plan 9 from Outer Space director Ed Wood (1994), and Poison Ivy (1992). It also was used for a couple of episodes of V, the Series. Bailey Canyon was listed as a film location for Nightmare on Elm Street VI: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991). My favorite discovery, hands down, was learning that Sierra Madre was listed by IBDM as the single locale for the z-grade comedy horror picture The Worm Eaters (1977) which was directed by the late Herb Robins, alumni of Dennis Steckler films The Thrill Killers, Steckler’s send-up of- what else?- Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Tony also points out that a scene from Halloween III was shot inside the Buccaneer. Something that makes a lot of sense to me, and on several levels.

One Sierra Madre movie that does not get included on any of the horror film genre sites I've seen is the nuclear terror film Testament (click here). Nuclear war may not have too many Freddy Krueger overtones, but it is nonetheless suitably frightening. If you haven't seen this film you really need to check it out. Scene after scene includes footage straight off the streets of Sierra Madre. You could very well come away from the experience believing the world really has ended, and that it all happened right here.

Have a great Halloween.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

66 comments:

  1. That is some scary info, almost as scary as some council meetings. Let me out of here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Halloween is a big holiday in Sierra Madre, for sure. Alegria is very famous.
    Of course, in Sierra Madre Canyon....everyday is Halloween.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alegria has turned into such a mob scene that our family avoids it tonight.

      Delete
    2. Up to a few years ago, Alegria was what made the night so fun. Now it's so crowded, it's a place to avoid...

      Delete
  3. Susan Henderson is a judge for the Halloween parade costume contest. They brought in an expert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the wicked witch of N. Sunnyside.
      Or is she a goblin? Probably both.

      Delete
    2. Who brought her in? Who is still, these many years later, her sucker?

      Delete
    3. Somebody who likes to get his or her picture in the paper.

      Delete
    4. Will she be in the parade!

      Delete
  4. Testament won't be on any horror film lists, because it's not an impossible fantasy type of horror - it's a very possible, real type of horror. Slow deaths from nuclear radiation, with Sierra Madre as the setting. And nobody survives.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting horror info! I wonder what the next horror film to be filmed in town will be? Freddy meets PUSD & Holden? Crony plot? Invasion of the property snatchers? Coming to a closed door meeting near you... special sneak preview coming to enids soon! Happy Halloween everybody!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unicorns from Hell: The One Horned Devil

      Delete
    2. Vigilante prom ghouls.

      Delete
    3. Queen Kong starring Lady Wistar

      Delete
    4. They came from the Green Advisory Commission

      Delete
    5. The last sound he ever made: "GAC!!"

      Delete
  6. Testament was quietly shot in 28 days in the City of Sierra Madre, California. Testament features not a single scene of destruction, but builds psychological and emotional horror few films sustain at this level. Schindler's List did. So does Testament, a gut wrenching tale that imagines a domestic holocaust with similar power and meditation.

    What really added to the film was not only seeing our town in the movie, local people, but knowing that this really could happen. If you haven't seen this movie you really should.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree completely 8:16 - go rent Testament if you haven't seen it, or even if you have. It's a very well made movie, and, as I posted late yesterday, after I saw it, I teared up a few times when I passed the Sheets' house on Grand View, because of the final scene - the little boy waving from the porch. Try to identify the Sierra Madreans in the movie, especially the kids in the school play.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I wonder if Lady Wistar dresses up for Halloween

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trust me when I tell you, that is no lady.

      Delete
    2. She's spreading her cheer over at the school.

      Delete
    3. Giant lumbering cow

      Delete
  9. I just hope that goblin, pervert Matheson, doesn't show up in his kilt.
    I also hope the SMPD will patrol his property on Lilliano.....no children should be going to that home for trick or treat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe a bunch of adults should

      Delete
    2. Sierra Madre is a very scary place.

      Delete
  10. What certain adults do to children is indeed very scary. Scarier is that they remain here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The real horror movie scenario is the monster lives among us and the authorities refuse to do anything about it.

      Delete
    2. Then it is up to us to make sure people know. Think about it. how many children come here every year from other towns whose parents have no idea.

      Delete
    3. Good! Full page advertisements in Susan's paper, "Pervert at large in Sierra Madre!" "Beware!." Of course no other surrounding community has such a monster. Sierra Madre's property values will fall further. But the best part is that parents in other towns will stop trucking in their little truants to descend en mass on our streets to shake us down for candy. I'm all for it!

      Delete
  11. And then there's the witch hunts for naughty little children.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When do you think the Green Commission will declare Sierra Madre a candy free zone and prohibit it's sale and distribution within city limits?

      Delete
    2. no more candy. here, eat this processed and packaged gummy fruit snack instead

      Delete
  12. The scariest things ever filmed in Sierra Madre are actually the City Council meetings.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The military is training for the Zombie Apocalypse.

    http://news.yahoo.com/no-prank-halloween-us-military-forces-train-zombie-162141684.html

    ReplyDelete
  14. Not surprising about Bethany Church "boycotting" Halloween: all hallow's eve, the eve of All Saints Day, and the day following All Souls Day. In modern times these are Catholic Church observances. The born-agains find that the Catholic and the Mormon cults. Well, situational bigotry is alive and well. Hum? Who to vote for?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Had a neighbor who was a creative seamstress who made halloween costumes for her niece until the daddy joined a tight-minded Christian church and the festival was declared off-limits as being unChristian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank god for the rest of us heathens and pagans

      Delete
    2. I tried the pagan life for a while. I found the goat leggings to be itchy.

      Delete
  16. I thing Sierra Madre needs another big-time to celebrate and I vote for Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday, before the start of Lent. In many ice-bound Catholic countries mi-careme is a blast, you go from house to house and collect food for a big soup (used to be live chickens) and all done while dressed in vibrant coloured clown costumes. In Louisiana, it was done on horseback. Just think of the southern California spin we could put on this. We need something to break up the long drag between Christmas and the sunrise of the spring holy day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anyhting would be better than the big purple plant.

      Delete
  17. Alegria used to be fun. It still is and I cant believe how much effort the residents put into it. It is truly amazing. However for me it has got so crowded in recent years that waiting in a long line for a tootsie roll doesnt have the appeal. We're going to try something different for junior this year.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I vote mardi gras too! Beads lots of beads!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can anyone in town make a King cake?

      Delete
    2. Don't mean to be a buzz kill, but there's actually plenty of celebrating intoxication in the civic realm already.

      Delete
    3. But I can make a King cake with babies and all!

      Delete
  19. I can make a King cake and so can you. All you need to find is a plastic crown charm and bake it into the cake. The lucky person with the crown in their piece of cake is the king for the celebration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought Josh was King.

      Delete
    2. It takes more than shoving a little plastic crown into a cake to make a king.

      Delete
    3. Josh is a puppet. We know who the dictator is.

      Delete
  20. Hey, buzz kill, we can do this without the drive-thru dacquri bars a la Louisiana. Besides drive-thrus are not permitted in Sierra Madre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you ever tried to drive through this town? Chances are pretty good you'll be stopped before you reach Arcadia.

      Delete
  21. 2:33 Have you ever tried to walk in this town? The speeders, roll through stoppers, texters ignoring others on Balwin, and oh those cell pnones that are connected at the head of our most inportant drivers: and watch out for the pool servicers, contracters & gardeners racing to the next job. You are right it is difficult to get to Arcadia but you give the wrong reason. It is Sierra Madre's finest drivers breaking the laws at will. It is the main reason we need our cops! And it is easy to fix. Slow Down and extend some courtesy to other drivers and pedestrians.......easy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 5:04, I see parents with children in their cars speeding through the crosswalks in front of the school. They pay no heed to who is in the cross walk, and when they almost hit a pedestrian- no apologies. Some of these pedestrians are young children who just clear the bumper.

      Delete
    2. How come our police department doesn't stop them? I thought that was the one thing they were good at, traffic policing.

      Delete
    3. tourists come from all over to gaze upon the world famous sierra madre sign and walk along the boulevard of broken schemes

      Delete
    4. happy hallowe'en john crawford

      Delete
    5. Back at you T Money. All our best to all of yours.

      Delete
  22. GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FISH PROTEIN IN ICE CREAM: A ...
    biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Society/.../GM_foods_ice_cream.htmAug 28, 2006 – A gene, originating in the arctic Pout fish, codes for an “ice structuring” ... modified yeast, in which DNA containing a gene from the fish, the Ocean Pout ... Breyer's, for instance, is apparently adding it to their Light Double Churned ice cream. ... These unintended consequences make it prudent to go slow on ...

    Why you should vote YES on Prop 37. Pass it on!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Ok, I know I am boring, posting this on halloween at this hour but what does the Alegria Street party cost the city of Sierra Madre (you the taxpayer)? I saw two city vehicles, one a dump truck with tree branches sticking out the top, heading toward the city yard after 9 p.m. tonight. Then I am sure there are lots of other costs. All this to bring people from all over southern California for a very nice, safe place to gather bags of candy and see the great displays. But do they come back and enjoy the town at other times, dropping a dime or two that will not hardly make a dent in our economic tax base?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No,not for close to two years if the voters approve the ALF.The streets will be a mess and the town will be encumbered by the size of the project.This will have a major economic impact on the business community in spite of the smooth promises by the projects reps.The benefits touted by their PR personnel is ,of course, suspect.

      Delete
  24. Thanks for the shout out! :) Just wanted to let you know that the "Best Movies Filmed in Sierra Madres" site is wrong - "Scream" was most definitely not filmed in SM. It was shot in its entirety in Northern California. I have most of the locations on my site, www.iamnotastalker.com, if you are interested. :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. I lived on E. Highland Avenue in Sierra Madre (just a few houses east of Sierra Madre School) when I was a small boy, in the early 1960s. For some reason, I have always had a great nostalgia for the Halloween nights when we would put on our costumes and go out to wander the neighborhoods, trick-or-treating (back in those days, it was kids only--no parental accompaniment). There was something special about Halloween there, and now I see that I'm not the only one who has noticed.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Why did you write that Family Plot was "apparently" Alfred Hitchcock's last film ?
    It WAS his last film---that's a fact.
    There's nothing "apparent" about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mom forget to slide your dinner under the door this evening?

      Delete