Saturday, April 01, 2017

Halloween (1978)








DIRECTOR: John Carpenter

WRITERS:

John Carpenter
Debra Hill

CAST:

Jamie Lee Curtis
Donald Pleasence
Nancy Kyes
P.J. Soles
Charles Cyphers
Kyle Richards
Brian Andrews
John Michael Graham
Tony Moran
Nick Castle

PLOT:

When Michael Myers was six years old, he brutally murdered his older sister. Now we cut to seventeen years later, and Michael Myers now at twenty-three years of age has escaped from the mental institution that he's been locked up in and decides to return to the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Michael Myers has returned on Halloween night to finish what he started back in 1963. Michael Myers psychiatrist Dr Loomis is chasing down The Shape and plans to stop Michael Myers from killing once and for all.








The original Halloween is seen as the pinnacle of slasher cinema. A lot of people rate this film as the greatest slasher and horror film of all time. Being that I didn't grow up in the seventies or eighties, I didn't actually get to watch the original Halloween until I was in my teen years which was the late nineties and early noughties. I think after reading about this classic for so many years in film magazines and online, the hype sort of overshadowed my first personal experience of seeing the film. I think when I first saw the film, I didn't find it scary but rather bland. A young teenager who was growing up in a time of Scream.

Over the years, I remember going to a screening of Halloween where a famous drag queen Hedda Lettuce did commentary for the film in New York City. This was more of an experience than getting to witness Halloween in all its creepy glory with an entire audience. The other times that I have tried watching the movie, It's all been revisits with friends or as a teenager. Last night was the first time in close to a decade that I put on Halloween with full intentions of reviewing the movie for my little blog. Now watching the film, I found a lot to love about the movie. While it still has issues for me, it's a solid slice of slasher cinema and one of the best of the seventies.

When I recently returned to Black Christmas last month, I had completely forgotten everything about it. Going into that film, it felt like a completely fresh experience to me. Returning to Halloween though, I felt like I knew every beat and jump scare that was thrown at me. Nothing was a shock or surprise to me with this film. I watched it with my partner who saw it for the first time and he thought it was good even if he thought it took way too long to kill off the first victim after Michael kills his sister at the beginning of the film. For me, the film is still an entertaining watch, and I can't take that away from the film.

Halloween opens with an impressive long killer POV shot. Shot from a young Michael Myers eyes, we see him walk into the kitchen, pick up a large kitchen knife, he goes into his sister's room and repeatedly stabs her in the chest with this ferocity. It's an opening scene made even creepier when it's revealed that it's a young child who has done the crime, which makes the scene very unsettling. For an audience, back in the late seventies, I'm sure this would have been a lot more shocking. I like that for the next hour, or so, we get John Carpenter toying with his audience. I enjoyed that we actually see Michael Myers just watching Laurie and her friends. He isn't hidden from the audience at all.

What I think makes Halloween such a great film is that we see Michael Myers murder as a young child, escape from an institution as an adult and see his own psychiatrist hunt him as he returns to his own hometown to finish what he started all those years ago. It's enough exposition to provide the audience while also setting up the group of teenagers who Michael Myers will end up coming into contact with and murdering. We are supplied with enough backstory for us to understand that Michael Myers is very dangerous and we meet him before he becomes the unstoppable monster that we all know and love. This is him in the very beginning. I believe this is him at his creepiest.

My big issue with the original Halloween is that I find most of these characters other than Laurie Strode to be rather annoying and disposable. Her group of friends come across as really mean and at times ditzy. It's not a situation where I felt sorry for any of them when they died. I felt more remorseful for Annie in the remake than I did for Annie depicted in the original. There are character decisions that come across as very frustrating in this movie. I think a few of these moments are played to alleviate all of the tension during some of the build-up scenes but watching it now, this feels more annoying than funny for me.

I mentioned above that returning to the original Halloween didn't bode well for jump scares or many surprises as I felt like I returned to a movie that still felt pretty fresh in my mind, unlike the original Black Christmas. What I will give John Carpenter credit for is that he successfully gives us eerily iconic imagery. The scene with Laurie Strode seeing Michael Myers come from out of the bushes. Michael stalking the group of girls in the station wagon. Michael wearing the bed sheet like a ghost. The entire killer POV opening scene. The chase across the street as Michael Myers starts to make up some distance between him and Laurie and the shape appearing from in a doorway. These scenes are all classic moments. These are moments that give Halloween its status as one of the great slashers of all time.

What assists Halloween so well in it's building of tension and suspense is the great John Carpenter score. The man is just talented across the board. Like John Williams main theme for Jaws, Carpenter has created an iconic theme for Michael Myers and Halloween. Whenever that theme plays, you will know what movie this comes from. That's how iconic I believe the score is for Halloween. I'm not the biggest fan of film scores as I rarely notice them while watching a film. It's rare that I will buy them, but Halloween is so recognisable that it is worth a paragraph alone.

Lastly, the acting is great for the most part. There is a reason why Jamie Lee Curtis is what most consider to be the greatest scream queen who ever lived. This solidified her as a household name and paved the way for more great returns to horror cinema. Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis is also fantastic in this role. I loved that while playing the entire role extremely straight-laced, he has a moment where he scares a bunch of children away from the Michael Myers house by putting on a creepy voice. It showed a lighter side to the complete seriousness of Dr Loomis. I thought it was a nice little touch added by Donald Pleasence.







DEATH TOLL: 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman is repeatedly stabbed in her bare chest.
- A dog is strangled to death.
- A man is stabbed in the eye with a coat hanger.
- Someone is stabbed in the chest and nailed to the wall.
- A woman is choked to death by a telephone cord.
- A man is repeatedly shot and falls over the balcony.
- A man is stabbed in the chest with a knife.
- A man's body is seen bloody and dead in the bushes.
- A woman is strangled to death in a car and her throat is slashed.
- Someone is stabbed in the neck with a knitting needle.
- A man's body falls out of a cupboard with a knife in his chest.







Returning to Halloween after what feels like a decade, I was excited to rewatch and review the film for my blog. After watching it again, I will never deny that Halloween deserves it's classic or a masterpiece of horror status. Returning to the film after so long, I thought I may have been in for some shocks or surprises along the way but remembered it vividly. This ruined any chance of me being scared by the film. Still, the movie has some fantastic performances, the score is great, we have some iconic and creepy imagery. The movie loses a point for the simple fact that we have some pretty disposable and annoying supporting characters. Other than that, I enjoyed my return to Haddonfield.

2 comments:

  1. Great review!I love this film too and it has everything that a slasher movie should have, including a menacing killer and a virginal leading lady.I agree that Laurie's pals are disposable and there were no tears shed when they died!The soundtrack is fantastic and the Michael Myers scenes are creepy.All in all, this is a classic and I love to revisit it every so often!

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  2. I think they purposely made Lynda and Annie bitchy/ditzy because Laurie was the main innocent/virginal character so of course she's nothing like them. The iconic good girl whom gets attacked by this unstoppable killer. The contrast is still there in the remake but they're much more likable in my opinion. Can't go wrong with Lynda's classic "See anything you like?" though ;)

    Another point to note is Donald Pleasence's Loomis seems to get more and more unhinged/crazy as each film progresses (something I noticed on my first watch of the franchise) so it'll be interesting to see your take on each of the characters and their developments/plots as you make it through the series.

    I haven't done a Halloween marathon in ages, I was going to wait until October but your watch through is making me want to get watching haha.

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