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Boo! Velcome, children of the night. Voops! It's daylight,
but before you head back to your crypt, you'll need
to know what this year's best-dressed monster is eating
(think candy) and wearing (think Monica). Here's an
A-to-Z guide to Halloween. Gotta go. Our hearse is
double-parked.

A Harrowing Eve With the King of Halloween

October 16, 1998|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Here, I want you to have these," says movie director John Carpenter, after I tell him about my vampire fixation. (I have explained to him that, as a kid, I used to tie a bath towel around my neck and take naps in a cardboard box.)

In my hand, Carpenter has placed two very long and pointy vampire teeth--roots intact--props used in the upcoming film "John Carpenter's Vampires."

How cool is that?

To many, Carpenter--writer, director, composer and horrormeister--is the modern-day titan of terror. His perennial classic, "Halloween," which has spawned six sequels, has become the prototypal slasher flick.

But the longhaired, chain-smoking director is also a party kinda guy. He is gabbing with devilish relish about his fantasy Halloween bash. You see, he has this idea for a creepy party. And, of corpse, he'd like to scare the heebie-jeebies out of everyone.

We're sitting in his Van Nuys book-filled office--Carpenter tucked into a chair, his sock-covered feet casually plopped on top of an electric typewriter. He eats popcorn between drags of Winstons, sips bottled water and savors the idea of directing his own paralyzing party.

Oh, by the way, you're all invited. Just make sure your mama knows where to find you. Just in case.

Question: Why do people like to be scared?

Answer: We're born afraid. And we're all afraid of the same things: death, loss of a loved one, disfigurement, pain, disease--it's the same in every culture, in every person. We don't want to really be scared in life because there's enough of that already, so these are ritualized things. Still, everybody loves an adrenaline rush. What we want to do is have fun and symbolically be scared, like on a roller coaster ride, because we know that it's gonna work out all right.

Q: So what kind of bash would you throw?

A: It would be John Carpenter's Trick or Treat Hollywood Revenge Party. That would be my fantasy. Nobody's really done me any wrong at all; it would just be what we used to call in the old days payback. Just a little payback.

Q: Who would you invite?

A: I would invite certain guests that I wanted to play tricks on, and the rest would be actors helping me trick them. There are a few critics I'd certainly like to invite and a few Hollywood movie executives.

Q: So spill . . . .

A: Well, I'm not gonna tell you who. But they'd be trapped--much to their horror--for a long time. A long, long time. It would be a little like the Winchester Mystery House. There would be all these stairways that led to nowhere. I'd have a maze, and you couldn't find your way out.

Q: Till the next day?

A: Until dawn, because my party is really basically an elaborate trick on the various people I would invite. The invitation would read black tie and gown because I would want everyone to think that this is a very serious Hollywood party, a real treat for them when, in fact, it isn't.

Q: Are you in a costume?

A: I would wear a tuxedo, and I would remain the gracious host pretending that I didn't know what was going on. And assuring the guests, telling them, "Yes, you have taken a powerful hallucinogenic." And I would just try to screw with their minds.

Q: A hallucinogenic? Like what?

A: After the guests came in, we'd have a toast to begin the evening. I would give them something very harmless like a wine or a punch, and I would insist they all drank it. Then I would wait a little bit and say, "By the way, you have just ingested this powerful form of a hallucinogenic, and it will be kicking in in about 15 or 20 minutes and you won't be leaving this place until morning."

Q: And then what?

A: Then I would just let them scatter about the house. And I'd just have a good time watching them.

Q: Watching them what?

A: Squirm.

I would make them think they were in a really tastefully appointed house when, in fact, with all the technology that we have now, I'd create things that would jump at them, things that would result in strange, visual, optical effects that would appear crazy, and then everything would be normal again, as if nothing happened.

I would make wallpaper crawl. I'd have life-size paintings that aren't paintings; they'd be mimes moving throughout the night, slowly turning into monsters. I'd have a piano that plays by itself. I would have old chairs that grab people.

The hallways would lead to nowhere. I would have built-in things in the walls that would move and grab people. I'd have the most bland music, because if something frightening is going on, a great counterpoint to that is absolutely a banal kind of elevator music, like "Yesterday" playing in Muzak while these horrible things are happening in front of people. It would just drive them insane.

Q: Where are you while all this is going on?

A: I would make a chair that I could sit in and talk to somebody and in the instant that person turns away I would literally be bolted back into the wall and the chair would reappear without me in it. And I'd come back in the room from somewhere else pretending nothing has happened.

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