Week 43 - Halloween [1978]

Happy Halloween everyone!

When I was assembling my film list for this year, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch the grandfather of modern slasher films, named after today, for this day. “Halloween” is also the last of my October-block of 5 horror films and the first movie in the final 10 films of 2018! This year is winding down fast people! Last but not least, as you may have read, during my screening (with about 11 minutes of runtime left) Cindy informed me that her water broke! We went to the hospital and my son was born! After a whirlwind few days, about 44 hours later, I was able to watch the last 11 minutes, so here we go—

Halloween is the story of the menacing, emotionless, psychopathic, and somewhat-supernatural serial killer Michael Myers. As a young boy, Michael killed his teenage sister and was admitted to a mental institution. Fifteen years later, Michael escapes, dons a painted William Shatner mask, and goes on a killing spree. Primarily targeting teenage women, Michael begins to track student and babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). The two showdown in the film’s finale where the “final girl” fends him off long enough for a male doctor to come in and deal with Michael more concretely—the 70’s were so not woke!

Halloween did a great job of building upon “Psycho” by alluding to the gruesome serial killings of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Uncomfortably long, voyeuristic takes, shot framing that suggested something bad could be around every corner, and the gradual reveal of information in a scene all played on the most natural of fears: something evil could be lurking nearby and we don’t even know it. The music (composed by director John Carpenter himself) added a chilling and dramatic underlining to even mundane action and the storytelling played as a sharp critique of the type of risqué teenage behavior that supposedly results from absentee parenting.

I think where the film lost me (a bit) was by playing up Michael’s supernatural strength. For me, Halloween began as the scariest of this month's 5 films because of its grounded plausibility. I don’t believe in reanimation, or zombies, or the devil, or ghosts—but a madman with a knife is simple and uncomfortably real. But the guy gets stabbed in the neck, eye, and chest, gets shot 7 times, falls off a balcony, and still keeps coming. Even Monty Python’s Black Knight would have given up by then! Combine this with a few clunky plot coincidences and the suspension of disbelief that made the film so initially chilling began to wear off. Still, “Halloween” remains worthy of its ‘classic’ status and begins a story that—based on how well it’s 10th sequel is doing—is clearly captivating people to this day.