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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day 305: Halloween

Who wants pumpkin pie?

C'mon, like I was going to review any other movie on Halloween. Sex In The City did cross my mind, but even I can't handle that type of unspeakable horror. While not the first in the slasher genre (Both Black Christmas and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre predate it), Halloween propelled the idea to the next level, spawning countless knock-offs, remakes, and sequels. It also helped make John Carpenter a household name in the world of horror. While Halloween was not intended to be a franchise based on Michael Myers, the character proved to be so popular that when the third Halloween had nothing to do with the killer, audiences reacted negatively. Rather than randomly picking a movie out of the franchise and possibly suffering through the one with Busta Rhymes, I figured it's best to start at the beginning.

Halloween is a 1978 slasher horror film written and directed by John Carpenter (They Live, The Thing). The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis (Trading Places, True Lies) as teenager Laurie Strode and Donald Pleasance (Escape From New York, Prince Of Darkness) as Dr. Sam Loomis. On October 31, 1963 in Haddonfield, Illinois, a young boy named Michael Myers brutally murders his sister with a butcher knife. Michael is sent to Smith's Grove Sanitarium where he is placed under the care of Dr. Loomis. For almost fifteen years, Michael remains in an almost catatonic state, showing no emotion and never speaking. The night before Halloween, Michael escapes the sanitarium and Dr. Loomis desperately tries to track him down, believing he will head back to his childhood home. The next day, high school student Laurie Strode continuously has the feeling that she is being watched and followed. She is unaware that Michael Myers is the one stalking her. That night, Laurie babysits a young boy named Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews, Halloween II, The Great Santini) while her friend Annie (Nancy Kyes, Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog) babysits a young girl named Lindsay Wallace. Tommy is constantly afraid that the boogeyman is going to get him, but Laurie reassures him that there is no boogeyman. Dr. Loomis combs the streets with the local sheriff, searching in vein for Michael, who is going around the neighborhood killing people. Annie goes to see a boy and drops Lindsay off with Laurie, but is soon murdered by Michael. Will Dr. Loomis be able to stop Michael in time before he gets to Laurie and the kids?

It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a JESUS, LOOK AT THAT KNIFE!

This is the movie that started it all for slashers and it did so on the strength of it's story, not with a big budget or fancy effects. Made for around $325,000, Halloween manages to be scary and thrilling without the use of gimmicks. Carpenter weaves a story that is entirely realistic which helps give the movie a scary credibility. Setting the events in the suburbs and in people's homes brings the fear straight to the audience. The atmosphere is dark without drifting off into fantasy. The music is probably one of the most lasting parts of the movie. Everyone knows the classic theme music, but it's the simple 2-note piano throughout the film the truly creates tension. We know something is going to happen, just not what or when or where. The movie has a good amount of action with some fun and unique kills. There is a decent amount of blood, but nothing compared to today's movies. There are some truly great scenes like when Laurie continuously finds bodies in the house and when she fights Michael at the end.

The character of Michael Myers is the manifestation of all our fears. He is unstoppable in his singular goal of murder. There is no reasoning with him, no pleading for your life. He does not speak and his featureless mask (a modified Captain Kirk mask) allows the audience to project whatever they want onto the killer. Carpenter does a great job of drawing the audience in at the beginning and then paying off when it comes to the action. Jamie Lee Curtis is very good in her role and comes off as a believable heroine at the end. The movie does run into a little bit of trouble with the “annoying kid” factor, but so much is going on that it's easy to ignore. Donald Pleasance is great as Dr. Loomis, exuding an air of urgency while still remaining level-headed. It's his steely resolve that makes his mission seem all the more important. If he was frantic and terrified, it would have made the movie cartoonish and silly. Thanks to Carpenter's writing, the characters are all believable and enjoyable to root for.

Paper beats rock, gun beats giant butcher knife

While it wasn't the first slasher, Halloween may be one of the most important horror movies. It is proof that you don't need a big budget to make a lot of money and have an impact on future generations. The story is highly enjoyable and treats the audience as equals. Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis are both very good in their roles and help make the movie more complete. The action is solid and the kills are fun to watch. The movie has the right kind of atmosphere, thanks largely to the great, simple music. While a little tame compared to today's standards, Halloween still has a lot of frights and a genuine feeling of horror. Once you're done trick or treating and partying, turn off the lights, curl up on the couch and watch the horror classic.


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