by Brek the David
Halloween (1978) – Director: John Carpenter Screenplay: John Carpenter, Debra Hill Starring: Donald Pleasence. Jamie Lee Curtis, Kyle Richards, Tony Moran OSCAR COUNT (0)
Lindsey Wallace: I’m scared!
Laurie: There’s nothing to be scared of.
Tommy Doyle: Are you sure?
Tommy Doyle: How?
Laurie: I killed him…
Tommy Doyle: [shouts] But you can’t kill the boogie man!
There are different types of horror. That’s possibly why I love the genre so much. I relish all the various flavors save the trash like Hostel and other gore fests. Now gore itself isn’t bad, it’s the context of the gore that matters. Still, most of the time, I prefer most graphic violence to occur off screen where our imaginations take over. Hitchcock was masterful at this, but so was John Carpenter in Halloween.
What might not be known or realized by today’s youth is that Michael Myers is the first unstoppable killer. Myers spawned countless copycats, some good, some mediocre, but most awful. Myers, like Jason after him, is more force of nature than man. He’s the uncaring, unstoppable personification of death, and death comes to us all in time. Beyond this, while Myers does brutally murder much of the cast, his grisly deeds are never shown in detail. For instance when he kills a boyfriend of one of the female characters, all we see is the reflection of scant light on the knife that does the job. Seconds later we see Myers has pinned the poor bastard to the wall with the knife, but the actual stabbing is never seen. Minutes later Myers shows up shrouded in a sheet, wearing his previous victim’s glasses, giving the girlfriend the worst and last “trick” she’ll ever endure.
As for the women of Halloween, they’re funny, interesting, and the main characters. Female protagonists were a rarity in those days…and still are today really. The first part of the movie establishes their friendship and the normality of their young lives. This is crucial in horror. Everything needs to seem normal before it all goes pear shaped. Also, the protagonists need to be sympathetic and the audience needs to be able to relate to them. When shit hits the fan, we need to be able to care for the characters that die, because it’s a given that heads will roll in horror films. Halloween does this expertly despite the less than stellar acting. Halloween really helped establish the now cliché female protagonist of countless horror films. Even though it is cliché, it’s a brilliant motif. Women are incorrectly seen as fragile and weak, yet in horror movies they are the survivors. They are the empowered strong that triumphs over the evils they face. John Carpenter loved and admired the ladies.
While Halloween is quite a simple story, it’s the simplicity that is one of its strengths. It has a very low budget and it does show. However, it’s astounding at the same time what was achieved here, a great film all things considered. It’s the minimalism that makes it scarier since it sticks to the characters and plot to tell a horrific story. Probably the best and most powerful aspect of the film, is John Carpenter’s score. What an amazing work this is. Halloween is a slow build of tension and the music does amazing things to the mind throughout the duration of the film. The music comes at you in layers, repeating the same tunes in wave after wave, relentlessly and inexorably assaulting you, just as Myers does the same to his victims. The main instrumental theme is profoundly haunting. Nowhere is it more effective and chilling than the ending sequence where Loomis stands on the second story after unloading his .38 revolver into Myers, looking down to find Myers is gone. The last images we see are the houses of the neighborhood. Michael Myers still lurks in the shadows of our minds, haunting the neighborhoods of our very being.
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT THIS FILM: The masked Michael Myers is referred to as The Shape in the credits due to another actor getting credit for playing unmasked Myers. Also it is said that the mask worn is of the face of none other than William Shatner.