Tuesday, September 11, 2012

203 - Halloween (1978)

DVD Box
A psychotic killer escapes from hospital and returns to his home.

As a 6-year-old child, Michael Myers kills his sister which results in him being committed to Smith's Grove Sanitarium for the insane. Years later, Myers is routinely visited by his doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and he escapes, returning back to his home town.

Loomis, understanding this, attempts to warn the police about Michael's escape, but as Michael starts to stalk high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), it seems he may be too late.

Theatrical Poster
Source: IMP Awards
I'm not going to lie, I wasn't looking forward to Halloween. I don't particularly enjoy sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to be scared by the most menial object swaying gently in the breeze, but as part of the challenge these are all things I must endure. I do, however, appreciate that some horror films can be truly exceptional, so I went into it with an open mind.

It is well known that the 'slasher' genre originated with Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but Halloween was the first film to take the template and popularise it for low budget films. It was also inspired a generation of films to feature masked, omnipotent antagonists such as the humans Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, right up to the puppets of Chucky and Jigsaw. As such, if Psycho is the grandfather of slashers, Halloween is the daddy.

As a leader in the genre, Halloween now feels not just vintage, but also corny. When developing a horror spoof, the first place to mock is the slasher films - by exemplifying the heroines pathetic screaming and making a caricature of the power behind the antagonist. That said, as a first watch, Halloween doesn't disappoint in the jumping department if you can look beyond the spoofs.

Director John Carpenter's creation of Michael Myers is genius. He doesn't talk, doesn't feel and doesn't do anything better than killing and stalking. Carpenter positions Myers throughout the film simply watching his victims from the background in such a way that you'll think he's there, even when he's not. One scene sees him standing behind a car but it is so subtle that you'll want to turn around and ask "DID ANYONE ELSE SEE THAT?", before promptly nipping off to the loo for a bit of light relief.

When Michael Myers isn't on screen haunting the characters, we are watching from his point of view. We hear him breathe, watch him stalk from an almost voyeuristic standpoint and are invited to pretend that, just for a moment, we are Michael Myers, and the screen is our Halloween mask. It is at this point, when you realise you're cheering for the bad guy. You don't see his face until a long way into the film, so it is easy to put yourself in his shoes.

It is clear that Carpenter took influence from other contemporary horrors when composing his soundtrack. The tune that plays over the end credits sounds suspiciously like Tubular Bells from The Exorcist while the incessant tensioned whining noise is prevalent in any horror, past and present.

If you are a fan of horrors and are able to look past the obviously corny details then you'll love it. If you're a pansy, like me, then you'll hate it. But then, I'm supposed to hate it. So I love it. Capisce?

2 comments:

  1. Still love this movie, again, if you ever get a chance to watch the making of Halloween that was on the History channel or was it A&E? Do it, it is fascinating how low budget this movie really was and how they did some of the effects. Even to having the need to bring in bags of leaves from off-site to spread around to create the fall atmosphere (not the real time of year they filmed it). Then the staffers had to rebag the leaves to use again in other scenes. And how he came up with the well-known theme music is pretty cool too.

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  2. That's a great movie. I never bothered watching the remake of it. The sequels are pretty terrible. Halloween 2 was so incredibly boring and Halloween 3 didn't even feature Michael Myers, focusing instead on killer masks powered by Druid ruins. None of the others are worth bothering with either.

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