Have this article read to you, listen to it like a podcast
Haddonfield, Illinois, and central Illinois in general, can best be described as a working-class area peppered with the personality and charm of its residents. From independently owned hardware and craft stores to local diners filled with patrons speaking of the glory days, this area has a special, warm presence that can be undeniable.
However, Haddonfield has long been plagued by an unspeakable evil come every fall season. That problem has a name: Michael Myers. A seemingly indestructible force of pure evil, Myers has long terrorized Haddonfield and viewing audiences for the past 45 years thanks to the low-budget brainchild of director John Carpenter and his creative partner, Debra Hill. Believe it or not, there is a silver lining to this problem. Haddonfield, Illinois doesn’t actually exist.
Inspired by Hill’s own hometown in New Jersey that shares an identical name, Haddonfield has become arguably the most famous yet least accessible town in the state of Illinois. Carpenter himself grew up not far from Illinois in Bowling Green, Kentucky. While the fictional town may have bases on already existing locations, one thing remains true: horror packs a heavy punch when you think it’s happening in your own backyard.
I grew up in a small town roughly 60 miles southwest of Chicago city limits. That might not seem far, but the amount of corn and lack of stoplights make one feel in a completely different state. Everyone knows everyone, which extends through every generation. In the year 1998, my parents made the decision that my sister and I were old enough to watch the original Halloween. While thankful at the time, the lasting damage has yet to be seen. What unfolded in those next 91 minutes changed our concept of safety in our own hometown. For the first time in our lives, we experienced a film that could’ve taken place right outside our front door. The fear was palpable, and the nightmares continued.
The film’s sometimes violent and brutal nature can be subtle at one point only to nosedive into complete paranoia and distress – a basic plot of Michael Myers as a villain is complimented by a story that combats the innocent forces of nature against those of a wicked intent. A town like Haddonfield that would likely exceed only a few thousand in population can be subject to such atrocities, but can it happen to me? What if you can’t trust your neighbor or can’t feel safe in your own home? These are a few examples of questions that still ring clear thanks in part to films like Halloween and the horror genre in general. David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s recent revival trilogy further emphasizes this air of unpredictability in an area that is usually all but that. Laurie Strode’s constant torment makes us afraid, makes us feel uneasy, but it also makes us sit down to see what’s next in one of the most popular horror franchises to ever exist.
The merits of the following sequels are widely up for debate, but the themes and fear remain ever-present. Several sequels (in the 4-6 timeline) even depict the town attempting to ban Halloween celebrations entirely. Nevertheless, Myers and the forces of evil still rear their ugly heads. What is ultimately meant to be pure entertainment, Halloween has impacted the lives and careers of everyone, from a young kid from Coal City, Illinois all the way to an Academy Award-winning career for someone like Jamie Lee Curtis. We come from different places. We do different things. But we all live a life. Halloween stands as a reminder that even a film shot in Pasadena, California can still affect audiences in the middle of the country with attention to one of life’s greatest fears: the unknown. Of course, the entire genre expands past one film franchise. Even the residents of Manhattan weren’t safe from Jason Vorhees and a Friday the 13th film after all. Halloween may frighten some and make others laugh, but I’m sure just about everyone can agree that we’ve laid our heads on a pillow one night and asked ourselves, “Is the Boogeyman real?”