Halloween (1978)

HALLOWEEN (1978)
Article 2332 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-14-2007
Posting Date: 12-31-2007
Directed by John Carpenter
Featuring Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Kyes

A man, institutionalized for fifteen years after having killed his sister with a knife when he was a child, escapes from his asylum. He returns to his home town to commit more murders with the doctor from the asylum in hot pursuit of him.

I must confess at this point that I’ve long suffered from two problems as a fan of fantastic cinema; I’m a bit of a crank and a bit of a snob. I now believe these to be character flaws (and one of the reasons I undertook this whole Movie of the Day series was an attempt to overcome that), but I didn’t always believe that; when I was younger, I would often avoid movies for no other reason than that they were quite popular, and would often argue that they couldn’t hold a candle to the older movies. It should be no surprise under these circumstances that I avoided this movie like the plague when it was in its initial run. I wish I had seen it; I might certainly have understood why it spawned the whole slasher craze. After all, crazes like these are usually started by some truly great movie that created the template, and this one fits the bill.

So here I am, almost three decades after the movie was released, seeing it for the first time. I can understand why it brought both John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis into the limelight; Carpenter is definitely at the peak of his powers here, and Curtis made for the definitive slasher heroine. I’m also fascinated with the way it chooses to defy logic and reason; we’re given no real explanation for why Michael Myers is what he is or does what he does, other than the fact that he is an evil boogeyman. It defies our initial assumptions (such as that Myers is essentially human), and plays with our expectations. Many of the attacks come at unexpected moments, often after the movie has supplied countless opportunities for Myers to make his move; the babysitter that gets caught in the window comes to mind. But, on top of this, I also like the fact that Carpenter includes a fair share of nods to the past, including the presence of Donald Pleasence who had already had a long association with horror at this point, and the use of footage from THE THING (FROM ANOTHER WORLD) and FORBIDDEN PLANET . It’s almost as if Carpenter was acknowledging that he was part of a long tradition even as he was creating a new template. I also quite like Pleasence’s performance, especially in the light that he was given a character as single-minded as Watson Pritchard in HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL , but still manages to deliver his variations of the “Michael Myers is pure evil” theme with believable panache.

My favorite moment: one babysitter notices something funny about the windshield of the car.

 

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