Halloween ★★★★★

At long last...I've been watching horror films for so long: I have forgotten the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. I’ve even forgotten my own name.

The Final Film of my Hoop-tober Horror Challenge!

“Was that the boogeyman?"

In September of last year, my house was robbed. I don’t own a lot of valuable material, and it was a good excuse to buy a better TV and a Blu-Ray player, so it wasn’t the worst possible thing to happen to me, but the event scared me on some level which I never fully admitted to myself. I live in a small, crime-free (for the most part) town, and until this happened, I never even felt a particularly strong urge to lock my doors. Additionally, my house always felt safe to me. Coming home to find the drawers ripped out, cabinets spilled across the floor, every door in the house hanging wide open, it felt as if my “safe haven” of sorts had been violated. The familiar had been inverted to become the terrifying; the softest yet one of the harshest forms of terror. Now, every shaded room seemed to contain a threat, it felt as if something dark was lurking behind every corner. I had great trouble falling asleep that night as every creak (a fairly common occurrence in a house as old as mine) felt like it belonged to another intruder. It took a few weeks until the invasive and overhanging feeling of threat finally faded away. Horror films can be scary while watching them: they make us jump at the loud music and the cringe at the gore, but very, very few are able to achieve this kind of pure, home-brewed horror. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, John Carpenter's Halloween is the only film which has given me a similar level and type of horror to that experience, and still remains my favorite horror film ever.

“You may think they scare me, you’re probably right; black cats and goblins on Halloween night. Trick or treat!” An eerie synth chord plays as the camera tracks – no, glides – outside a plain, white house. Staring through the window, we see a young couple. “Michael’s around somewhere,” the girl says before leading the boy up the stairs. We enter through the back door; a hand grabs a kitchen knife and puts on a mask. We lurk in the corner as we watch the boy leave, and then continue to make our way up the staircase. There sits Judith Myers, humming and brushing her hair peacefully, as she turns around and sees us in the doorway. “Michael!” she yells sternly, as we attack. We promptly turn around as Judith ceases to move on the floor, gliding swiftly back down the stairs and out the front door. A car pulls up and two adults get out, both looking worried and confused. They pull off the mask, and there stands a small, twelve-year-old Michael Myers, wearing a clown costume and brandishing a knife stained with his sister’s blood. And thus begins what is quite possibly the greatest horror movie ever filmed.

Halloween, like many films of similar fame, has really become a victim of its own influence. Even if someone has never seen a slasher film, by the time they watch Halloween, they are innately aware of all the genre conventions popularized (but not pioneered) by this movie, so that it already doesn't feel fresh. I watched it at a young enough age that I was terrified (I remember pausing the film multiples times to make sure that there was really no one behind my door), but it's difficult to completely fall in love with this film when it's seen at any other stage in life. It commits many near-fatal errors (like the "orgasm death," which has plagued many a female horror characters) but they've never bothered me enough to ruin my enjoyment of the film (whether this is because I simply don't want to notice said mistakes is a different discussion for a different day).

Halloween, outside of the factors that detract from it, is a rare case of lightning simply striking. Me being me, the aspect of the film I am inclined to consistently gape at is Dean Cundey's fantastic cinematography: the glide of the Steadicam, though not as smooth as I'm sure it was intended, gives the film a sense of other-worldliness, the camera slowly moves in closer and closer, tighter and tighter into its characters, culminating in the superbly terrifying closet scene, there is always a sense of darkness lurking just outside of the frame: if the Shape is nowhere to be seen, that means he could be anywhere. Much has been said of John Carpenter's soundtrack, basic but among the eeriest soundtracks ever filmed (even if the jump scares with the soundtrack have never completely worked). The screenplay, while many characters (Donald Pleasance in particular) are given some silly dialogue, works superbly to paint the typical American suburban town, and then completely subvert it into a horrifying slice of hell. Donald Pleasance gives a great performance as Dr. Loomis, the role he's probably most remembered for. He's constantly hamming it up, but since it works wonderfully, it's hard to criticize success.

I know Halloween like I know the back of my hand: I know every shot, every line of dialogue, every mistake/continuity error, every scare, everything. It stopped being even remotely scary years ago. So, what is it in Halloween that causes me to return to it year after year (and a couple of times in between)? Like most low-budget horror, Halloween has a home-made, infectious feel: the energy of the young cast and crew constantly translates to the screen in all the best ways. But, Halloween also feels bursting with the sense of undiscovered talent: everyone in the crew tried their best, but, as it turns out, their best is actually pretty fantastic. Sure, Halloween begins to fall apart at the seams if you think too long about it, but I have never found it anything but the highest form of entertainment.

The Shape falls, dead, to the ground, the final thump still ringing in your ears. But, as you move forward to inspect the body, nothing but a patch of flattened grass remains in his wake. Michael isn't there, and now he's more dangerous than ever. He is a dark force larger than any of the audience can comprehend, constantly consuming and annihilating everything in his path, leaving only destruction in his wake. He cannot be stopped, he cannot be reasoned with, he cannot be persuaded. And now, he is finally free.

"Was that the boogeyman?" you ask.
As a matter of fact, it was.

Up Next: Nothing!!!

(I would like to thank you all, whether or not you participated, for helping this be a wonderful Hoop-tober! There was a bit where I didn't think I'd make it to the end, but I'm certainly glad that I did! Here's to next October!)

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