Halloween

Halloween ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

A handful locations, mostly two houses. Four deaths. One doctor. One responsible teenager. Two children. Halloween. Fate.

These things, along with an atmospheric, haunting soundtrack and impeccable cinematography, is at the heart of this true classic. It is restrained in its bloodshed, without becoming weaker. It has few sets - splitting its time mostly between three locations; the Myers' house, Lindsay's house and Tommy's house - but it never feels contained. It feels like these teenagers are all alone in Haddonfield, even if the houses and town around them are filled with people. Only a skilful director could dredge up that feeling, especially with the audience's logic on the opposite side of the fence, knowing how close-knit communities like Haddonfield is. But Carpenter, in his cinematography, uses the close-knit community against his characters and thus the audience.

The writing is just as compelling. There's a lot more going on here than a mere killer slaying his victims, and John Carpenter and Debra Hill have been careful crafting a narrative playing on fate, on American values, especially the family values and how they can breed both sexual awakening and the ultimate evil. But before we get into that, let me be clear; by no means is this film subtle. A teacher has a monologue about the power of fate. Everyone's favorite doctor, Loomis, spouts ominous thematic dialogue every chance he gets. Leitmotifs - one for general creepiness, one for when Michael Myers, or The Shape if you wish, appears, one for when he kills, and probably more - abound, repeating themselves as often they can. And, to be honest, I'm not one for hammering something in; novels like Catcher in the Rye and films like Requiem for a Dream become tiresome and groan-worthy, and even Interstellar's defenders (me being one of them) can get out of the fact that the third time Michael Caine's voice-over gravelly quotes Dylan Thomas' poem, "Do not go gently into that good night", it's become a parody of itself. But in horror movies? Hammer away.

Horror movies should be sledgehammers. You should leave with a message, a warning, horrified at what you watched. There's a sick sense in the repeating leitmotifs, a permanent dread every time Myers drops to the floor when you know he'll get back up again. It can feel parodic, but it shouldn't, really; the effects isn't tiresome, it's pure dread. The message? "You cannot stop this. You cannot escape this. This is your fate."

Michael Myers is fate. He is death incarnate. He is what every human fears, what is stalking us. What is coming for us at the end, whether we like it or not, whether we're prepared, whether we rage against the dying of the light or choose to go gently into it. He will come. And most of us fear him even if we don't need to. He is a natural force - as Blue Öyster Cult puts it "Seasons don't fear the reaper
nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
we can be like they are
come on baby
don't fear the reaper."

Of course, in this film he's also out to punish. And though Halloween is one of the very first slashers, a genre where sex is a sin, its transgressors punished with death (a trope that most likely originated here) that is not these people's sin. Remember, Annie is dead long before she has the chance to have sex with her boyfriend - even she has had sex with him before, and though Laurie is still a virgin, she does have sexual desires of her own. What, then, is the difference between Annie and Laurie? The latter takes her responsibilities seriously. The sin, then, is leaving your responsibilities behind.

Every character who does something irresponsible dies; they were playing adults and couldn't handle it. They weren't ready. Michael's sister was supposed to watch him, but chose instead to have sex with her boyfriend. Annie lets Lindsay sit and watch horror movies alone, not caring the slightest about her. Lynda and Bob discover a dark house, assumes nothing is wrong and goes up to the bedroom to have a good time.

And then we have Dr. Sam Loomis, who desperately tries to warn anyone, but no one will listen. He is able to save the day and postpone the inevitable, but it will be back. Laurie manages to save the children, but they too will die. (Notice how Lindsay is interested in Tommy, but they are too young to take or face responsibility, so "the boogeyman" doesn't care the slightest about them - only Laurie is worried; the children is the first thing on her mind. When Annie get into trouble, however, she tries to use Lindsay to save her - the kid helping the "adult" in the situation.) Death and fate is pure evil, and Michael Myers is a physical representation of these. If we're not responsible and take our life at least a little seriously, he will come. We will die. You can't kill the boogeyman. You can't outrun fate.

I should bring this to a close now, even if I didn't get to delve into Loomis as much as I wanted, nor talk about how truly gorgeous this film is, or how Laurie's discovery of the bodies plays like a visit to a haunted house or a funhouse - the kind of thing you do with a family, but which Laurie must face on her own. Neither did I get to the films playing on the TV, namely The Thing and Forbidden Planet; I'm sure there's material to mine and mull there too, inspirations and thematic connections alike. As for the meaning in this film, the sledgehammer-truth it leaves us with? That, I think, is the exact opposite of Thomas' poem, which includes the line "Rage, rage against the dying of the light". Halloween, I think, says we should face our fate. Take our responsibilities. Tackle our fears head on. And that, when the time comes, we shouldn't fear the reaper. It's a part of nature, just like we are. It's not like you can kill it... But you can, as Laurie and Loomis do, fight like hell. The only question that remains is if it's worth it. And, seven sequels and two remakes later, I think we can all agree that the dying of the light, or the fade out, would've been better for all involved. Less messy. Much less blood and death and misery.

But then again, without those things, how would we know that we're really alive?

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