Horror Month 2009: Halloween (1978)

halloween

Michael Myers was nice enough to drop by for Horror Month 2009, what a great guy!

Screenplay By: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Directed By: John Carpenter

One of my first horror experiences involved Michael Myers, and my first horror film in the theaters was this very movie back in 1989 at the tender age of eight. I remember seeing Halloween on that big screen and thinking life couldn’t get much better. Before I saw it on the big screen I merely liked Halloween, after that experience I loved the Halloween franchise and became a full time horror devotee. There’s something to be said for the thrill of that familiar score playing in the background while Michael Myers fills up the entire theater screen in all his widescreen glory.

For a time I was willing to chalk up my love for Halloween to childhood fancy, especially during my pretentious early teen years, more like a year really, when horror movies were no longer good enough for me. I decided to test myself, to see how much my artistic tastes had actually grown, the movie I chose to prove I could tell crap from cream was none other than Halloween. Sometime around my sophomore year I popped in Halloween and I quickly realized how right I was, I could tell the crap from the cream. The only problem was that Halloween was most certainly cream, better than a lot of the crap I had watched during my “artistic movies only period.” I deluded myself for a girl, but that is the way of life, isn’t it?

Either way, Halloween became my go to horror movie and that has never changed. There may be better made horror movies out there, but no horror movies are as beautiful in their simplicity as Halloween. The premise is as straight forward as can be, a man is pure evil and he wants to kill. Maybe there is a reason for the killing, maybe not, but he is a killer and he is looking for a certain girl in particular to kill. It doesn’t get any more clear cut than that, yet it is wonderful to behold. Maybe it’s the baseball principle, do you know what I mean (to quote the greatest pimp to ever live, you know him better as Butters)? Bad joke aside, it is the baseball principle, think of pitching if you aren’t following me. Curveballs and sliders are nice and all, but what is really the bees knees is when a pitcher roars back and fires his best fastball, challenging the hitter to hit his numero uno stuff. It’s the simplest pitch he has, or she if you want to talk softball, but it’s a beautiful thing to watch when a pitcher can gun that fastball of his/hers past the opposing batter. That is Halloween, it eschews any curveballs or sliders and presents a fastball of a story, and it’s a Sandy Koufax, or Jennie Finch, level fastball.

What is perhaps most fascinating about Halloween is that it is almost a completely bloodless film. Near the end we get to see some bloody knife grazes on Laurie, and previous to that we see glimpses of blood on Michael’s sister, but otherwise it is a very staid film. Halloween doesn’t need a lot of blood to be worthwhile, this is a film that is all about the suspense of the chase. John Carpenter understands that the real horror is in watching Michael slowly stalk his victims, their deaths need not be bloody for Michael to be a monster or for the film to be any scarier.

As simple as Halloween may be, there is an amazing amount of depth to be found within its confines. When I wrote my review for Shadow Of A Doubt I talked about Alfred Hitchcock’s desire to penetrate the veil of the happy suburban life. Carpenter doesn’t want to penetrate, he wants to rip that veil to shreds. Carpenter creates a suburban setting that is idyllic, the type of setting that the great majority of people who will see the movie grew up in. The monster that is Michael Myers shouldn’t be running rampant through the suburbs, that type of stuff only happens in the city. Yet, minute by minute we look on as Carpenter ruins the illusion of the happy protection of the suburbs.

I don’t know if Halloween was the first slasher film, a small amount of research tells me it probably wasn’t. What Halloween did is more important than if it was the first, it changed the type of horror movies people wanted to see and the type of horror movies Hollywood would produce for around fifteen years after its release. No doubt the slasher genre went in far more radical of a direction than Halloween, but even the goriest and most exploitative of slasher films are similar in style to Halloween. I toss around the great term far too often, I am the master of hyperbole after all, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Halloween is a great movie, and it isn’t a great movie because of nostalgia. Halloween has held up over time because of how finely constructed it is, and I should know because I’ve watched it at least once every October for going on fourteen years now. I think I’ve rattled off enough of my thoughts on Halloween, if you haven’t seen this certifiable classic then take care of that omission for your film education. Halloween was, is and always will be the cream.

Rating:

****

Cheers,
Bill

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14 responses to “Horror Month 2009: Halloween (1978)

  1. Was my favorite horror movie growing up. My first was Nightmare on Elm Street, the one that freaked me out the most was The Shining, but Halloween had the perfect blend of fear and monster. And a great score of course. Simple. Powerful.

  2. Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining are both favorites of mine as well.

  3. That was probably your most interesting review yet Bill. A bit of analysis, some bizarre baseball references, recollections of your personal experience with the film, hyperbole, etc. I really enjoyed reading that very much.

    While I don’t love the movie, I recognize its value as a film and especially within the horror genre. Sadly, it spawned plenty of cheap sequels as well as other slasher films that could never ever compare. It’s kind of like saying how the Beatles are great in how they inspired so many bands we hear play today…of course a lot of today’s music is shite.

  4. mcarteratthemovies

    To me, “Halloween” stands as one of the best horror movies ever made. Period. And it’s a shining example that you don’t need buckets of gore and lengthy torture scenes to reduce people to quivering piles of jelly. The music alone warrants pages of praise, and then there are the shots, all set up for maximum scare with Mike Myers appearing quietly in the background. He never leaps out, never hurries, just lumbers along like he knows he’ll get his kill eventually. Makes me squeam every Halloween when I watch it (in the name of irony, you see).

    Therein, I think, lies his scare power — his slow persistence. The killer who’s confident enough not to hurry, the one you don’t see? Yeah, he’s 10 times more frightening than Jigsaw.

  5. I love me a good Halloween review because it is my favorite film of all time. Not favorite horror movie. Favorite movie. Period.

    Like you, I appreciate the film’s stripped-down simplicity, yet re-watching it many times reveals much buried depth.

    The key to the movie to me is the classroom scene with Laurie where they discuss the subject of fate. Before all the BS about Laurie being Michael’s sister in the sequels, here was the real reason Michael wanted to kill her: Fate. Today was the day fate decided her friends were going to die and Laurie was finally going to have to find her inner courage.

    P.S. My vote for the first slasher movie ever is Herschell Gordon Lewis’ “Blood Feast” in 1963.

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  8. Edgar -Thank you kindly sir, I did feel very pleased with this write-up when I was finished, but you never know what others will think.

    The weird thing about the slashers that it spawned is that while none of them are anywhere as good the horror nut in my loves the great majority of them for one reason or another.

    M – The slow and deliberate killing style of Michael matches the slow build and pace of the film. Meshing those two elements together has possibly never been done better than it was in Halloween.

    Mike – Blood Feast is one that I still need to see, some day.

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