A little over a month ago, I saw a new documentary on the making of the classic horror film Halloween. “Halloween: 25 Years of Terror,” distributed by the good people at Anchor Bay Entertainment (God bless ‘em), goes behind the scenes of John Carpenter’s original film, as well as its seven sequels. The documentary, however, is only half the fun… Extras on the DVD include extended interviews with cast members from the entire series, as well as on-set footage, convention panels, and a segment produced for The Horror Channel in which an obsessive fan visits the shooting locations for the first two films. Not satisfied by simply watching an obsessive fan take this tour… I decided to do the same thing myself.
Although Halloween takes place in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, it was shot in the sleepy Los Angeles community of South Pasadena, approximately twenty minutes from downtown L.A. (Director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill have said that Haddonfield was named after Hill’s hometown in New Jersey. Presumably they chose Illinois to enhance the illusion of a rural setting.) Over the years, the filmmakers have shared many tales about the trials of making a California summer look like an Illinois autumn. For example: They gathered several garbage bags full of leaves, painted them brown, and carted them around from location to location throughout the filming. Debra Hill was allegedly the taskmaster in charge of leaves, and she made everyone – including actors – help move them.
This past weekend, my girlfriend and I took a Sunday afternoon drive to South Pasadena. We used information from another fan’s website as our guide. We started on the east side of town (not far, I noted, from a shabby looking old theater that is screening Poltergeist), at the intersection that establishes the setting of the film - the corner of Montrose Avenue and Oxley. A few blocks up Montrose, we saw the hedge that features prominently in an early scene in the film, when Laurie and Annie are walking home from school and Laurie sees Michael Myers for the first time.
Following Oxley several blocks west, we visited the house that played as Laurie’s home. The north side of this house is seen in the early part of the film, when Laurie goes to drop off the key at the Myers house. Today, the house is a different color, but still recognizable.
A few more blocks to the northwest is where most of the filming in South Pasadena took place, near the corner of Mission Street and Meridian Avenue. In 1978, when the film was shot, the Myers house stood at 709 Meridian Avenue. Several years ago, all of the houses on that side of the street were demolished. The structure at 709 was saved and moved south, to the opposite side of the street. It now stands at 1000 Mission Street, behind the train tracks. Nearby, on the same side of the tracks, is a brick building that played as the hardware store where Michael Myers steals his mask.
Further up Meridian Avenue... Laurie met Tommy at the corner of Meridian and Magnolia, just above the 700 block. Further north, above freeway 110, Laurie and her friends saw Michael Myers driving on Highland Street, between Meridian and Fairview Avenue (and Annie yelled, "Hey creep... Speed kills!").
After our walking tour of South Pasadena, we drove back to L.A. to hit two more shooting locations. In Hollywood, between Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, there is a peaceful, seemingly suburban stretch of North Orange Grove Avenue (one street over from Fairfax). Here we found the two houses in which Michael Myers stalked Laurie and her friends. On the east side of the street, at 1530, is the Doyle residence where Laurie was babysitting. It has a new front door, but looks mostly the same. Diagonally across the street, at 1537, is the Wallace residence where Laurie’s friends were killed. This house has undergone extensive remodeling in the past two and a half decades. An addition on the left hand side makes it almost unrecognizable.
An added bonus: Two streets over, we discovered that Freddy Krueger’s house isn’t really on Elm Street. The house where Nancy lived in A Nightmare on Elm Street stands at 1428 North Genesee Street. The house is currently for sale (I did write down the phone numbers if anyone's interested...), and it’s clear that it has seen better days. The chimney on the north wall is crumbling, and a fair amount of rotted wood is visible around the upstairs windows. Unless a fan of the film decides to buy it, this house will probably be demolished before too much longer.
Credit where credit is due: I would have never found the Elm Street house if it hadn’t been for an article that appeared in the L.A. Times last week. Another obsessive horror movie fan named Hugo Martin wrote the article about various locations in and around Los Angeles that he thought would make good Halloween weekend tourist destinations. Among them: Bronson Caves in the Hollywood Hills (seen in the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Robot Monster, and It Conquered the World), Malibou Lake (seen in the 1931 Frankenstein, The Bad Seed, and The Ring), Leo Carrillo Cave (a favorite filming location of Roger Corman), Red Rock Canyon State Park (seen in the 1932 The Mummy, and Jurassic Park), Hermosa Beach Community Center (site of the prom in Carrie), and… for real die-hard fans of the genre… the old zoo cages in Griffith Park, featured in Zoltan: Hound of Dracula.
For those who would rather stay in on Halloween, and need some offbeat movie suggestions, I recommend a new book called Minds of Fear: A Dialogue with 30 Modern Masters of Horror by Calum Waddell, which has already introduced me to a few overlooked gems (including the 2002 British shocker My Little Eye) and forced me to reevaluate several others.
"Haddonfield, Illinois. October 30, 1978"
(South Pasadena, California. October 22, 2006)
The Hedge on Montrose Avenue
Laurie's house at the corner of Oxley and Fairview
The Myers House
The Hardware Store at the corner of Mission Street and Meridian (with the Myers house behind it)
700 block of Meridian Avenue, looking north. The Myers house stood on the left side of this street, where a community of brand new condos exist now.
"Speed Kills" (Highland Avenue)
North Orange Grove Avenue, looking south toward Sunset
The Doyle House from Halloween
The Wallace House from Halloween
Elm Street / North Genesee Street
Nancy's house from A Nightmare on Elm Street