19.10.10

Halloween

Directed by John Carpenter
Release Date: 1978

Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
      Donald Pleasence
      Nancy Kyes
      P.J Soles
      Charles Cyphers
      Brian Andrews
      Kyle Richards

***** (5 out of 5 stars)

With this film, John Carpenter single handedly changed the horror genre into intelligent filmmaking.  He kept the killer hidden for the better part of the film, and still kept people tingling with fear.  We watch the scenes with the killer in them from the killer's point of view: staring out the eyes of a mask.  This creates a fear in the viewer that stems from the unknown.  It runs parallel with our original fear of not being able to see the killer: we still can't see him.  We look at him in the end and can only see a pale, white mask and while we look through his eyes we (of course) still don't see him.  No matter what way it's filmed, we still don't know who Michael Myers is.  This is a technique that really drives this film to greatness.

Michael Myers is not only a serial killer, but he is unstoppable.  As the series goes on we find out more and more about how immortal he really is.  Nothing works- no bullets, knives, falls, explosions or electrocutions.  Myers is a force to be reckoned with, and even from the beginning we see this.  He gets beat up, he just stands up and keeps walking through his victims.  He has the strength of ten men, evident when he picks up a victim with one hand by the throat.  He walks through doors and closets and fences, and we constantly cheer inside for the moment that someone blows his face off or cuts him up- that never happens.  Even in the end, we're left with a "holy fuck" feeling.  Where did he come from?  This is the only thing I wished Carpenter had elaborated on, and I guess now I've got Rob Zombie to thank for that.

Something else about this franchise in general that I enjoy is the choice of songs.  In this film, we hear "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult- how fitting.  Michael Myers is the Grim Reaper personified, except you'd probably have a better chance working out a payment plan with the Reaper.  I'm not sure if this movie uses it, but in several of the other installments we hear different versions of "Mr. Sandman" which also work well as a creepy reference to Michael.

Jamie Lee Curtis really kicks this film into gear with her performance.  She plays an every day type of high schooler who just so happens to have a muddy past as far as details go.  She is the queen of scream, and always will be.  Of course, Halloween will always be the horror film she's recognized for, but she has definitely made her mark on a couple.  
Pleasence is always enjoyable as Dr. Loomis.  The original is clearly where it all starts: the mad doctor desperately trying to convince the rest of the world of what he already knows.  He is hellbent on stopping Michael Myers and he doesn't care if the rest of Haddonfield thinks he's retarded- he's going to stop him.  An all-out performance by Pleasence, as always.

Halloween is absolutely iconic.  It set the pace for the next 22 years until now, and to be honest no film has ever really come neck and neck with it in my eyes.  Nobody has been able to come up with the same dynamic between characters as we find between Loomis and Myers, and nobody has been able to match the unstoppable force that is Michel Myers.  Until the day someone can reinvent the slasher genre, John Carpenter will reign supreme- and Michael will sit at his right hand.

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