Halloween ★★★½

Day 4 of Shocktober
It seems blasphemous to give Halloween less than a perfect score given the fact that it created a formula for horror movies that still remains in action more than 30 years later, but this leads into an argument over what review scores are supposed to be in the first place. There is no such thing as an objective score, all reviews are subjective to the reviewer, and I have never pretended to try to give a broad guess as to whether a wide audience would like a film or not., nor have I tried to cater my review to the community. My reviews are all about me, and my personal experience of what I enjoyed, and the real reason that I write reviews is not trying to inform other people of what they should like, but more to articulate to myself what I liked about a film. It's really an introspective process that ultimately makes me more appreciative of the arts, and I think everybody who spends time sitting and absorbing art should always take time to sit down afterwards and ask themselves exactly why they liked the movie or didn't like it.

So now that that unrelated beast of an opening paragraph is over, let me say why I didn't give Halloween a perfect score. I definitely appreciate everything that it did for the genre, and it deserves praise for how creative and groundbreaking it was back in 1979, but I am watching this for the first time in 2013. I have seen dozens upon dozens of movies that wouldn't exist without this, but the thing is, all art is influenced by other art, and the fact that Halloween became so ingrained into not just film culture, but culture in general, meant that the formula created by this movie would be something expanded on and refined over the next 30 years, and the truth is that people have taken it and made it better than what is here in the original.

There are still some details about Halloween that hold up in the year 2013. The soundtrack is still one of the most distinctly chilling musical numbers in all of cinema, and the movie ends on an absolutely fantastic, unsettling note that a lot of modern horror movies would be afraid to attempt, due to it's lack of plot closure. The decision to give Michael Meyer's no detailed motivation for his slaughter is also a great decision, as it makes everyone feel like they are equally a target, and at the end of the movie,the audience leaves with the feeling that even they next target. The camerawork is equally unsettling, capturing the characters in a voyeuristic way that makes the viewer feel as if they are personally stalking the characters, creating a certain connection with Michael Meyers that is actually quite uncomfortable.

But, the mark of the 70's is all over this movie. It features some of the strangest, most unbelievably stilted dialogue I can ever remember in a movie that takes itself seriously. Actors move like they are in a stage-play; when they talk on the phone, they always face forward and stare directly at the camera, never turning. The dialogue always seems calculated and over-rehearsed, and I never truly felt like I was watching anything close to real people. Also there is far too much set-up for characters which at the end of the movie, sure enough, are completely disposable. Perhaps this was more effective back in the day, when the traits of a "final girl" were not immediately apparent, and the rules of the horror genre were not so set in stone, but for a first watch, I already knew where the plot was going 10 minutes into the movie, and was just biding time until the tension ramped up at the end.

I respect Halloween for all that it did for one of my favorite genres, and I think that John Carpenter is a genius, but to say that this is his greatest film is a bit of a disservice to the man. He has made truly timeless, fully realized classics that will always have power held within their frames. (I'm talking about The Thing, by the way). To me, this feels more like an expertly sketched blueprint for what was to come.

Ryan liked this review