|Freddy K: Local boy makes good|
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? Getting dressed up and playing the part? Halloween just might take first prize in our little world. Just head downtown tonight and you will see what I mean. There you'll find people decked out in the holiday way for about as far as the eye can see. There really is no other place quite like it.
The only place I know about in town where Halloween is not traditionally 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 around the Internet and there really have been quite a few horror movies filmed here. Perhaps it is because we are not too far from Hollywood and cinema folk find it a convenient place to film. Though I am also of the opinion that not appearing too much 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 for the genre in this town.
But there is likely more to it. Sierra Madre could very well just be a scary place. Obviously, and 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 in a horror genre kind of way, 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 this beauty 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, since it most definitely was filmed in Sierra Madre, the first Halloween movie is not listed here.
Another interesting site that discusses Sierra Madre's attraction to horror film makers is called Dark Destinations (link). 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 before he himself passed on to that other realm. Here is how the role of our town's celebrated place of eternal rest 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 starring Pioneer Cemetery is the original Halloween, filmed in 1976. Here is how Sierra Madre's 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 notoriety ends. Another website called "I Am Not A Stalker " (link) notes that our local graveyard plays a cameo role in the idiosyncratic television series Twin Peaks. (Not to be confused with the town out in San Bernardino County by the same name.) In particular as the site of the show's climatic first season finale. Here is how Not A Stalker discusses this important 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 a lot more original material about this town than it is now, our own Tony Brandenburg contributed an article about Sierra Madre's penchant for horror films called, "Halloween: The Night He Came Home (to Sierra Madre)" (link).
Tony notes here that the Episcopal Church of the Ascension was used for filming a few sequences of the horror classic The Fog (1979). However, when it comes to serving as the backdrop to Sierra Madre cinematic horror film glory, 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 tells us that a scene from Halloween III was shot inside The Buccaneer. Something that makes sense to me, and on several levels. This is a great article, and devotees of the Sierra Madre - Halloween nexus really do need to check it out. As Tony puts it:
Sierra Madre has been a locale used for some very... interesting films. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to Halloween, to The Worm Eaters. Sierra Madre, bask in your cinematic glory.
One Sierra Madre movie that does not get mentioned 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 do 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. Water crisis and all.
Have a great Halloween! You are in one of the very best places to do it.