Halloween

Halloween ★★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

“I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil.” 

John Carpenter’s Halloween is a subtle piece of work, maybe Carpenter's most subtle film in his whole portfolio as an artist. If The Thing is Carpenter's definitive expression of the theme of paranoia, then Halloween is something like a statement on how everyday people can be totally oblivious to the invasive presence of supernatural evil. Mike Myers isn't really Mike Myers, when you break it down. Nor is he anti-christ, Satan, Pazuzu, Son of Sam, Ted Bundy, or some murderous agent of the state—he's beyond all these things. He doesn't need a name, or a sexual urge, or a God, or a Devil, or an ideology to commit his crimes. He is homicide incarnate. He's the Shape, a killing machine whose humanity switch got shifted into the off position by some unnameable, Lovecraftian force of darkness when he was six years old. You can't negotiate with him, you can't kill him, you can't touch a heart of darkness with appeals to mercy or common decency. Really, it's not even a heart of darkness. There's no heart to be found. Rather, it's a pure void trying to manifest itself as best it can. First it uses its bare hands to break a neck. Next, it acquires a knife to pierce a beating heart.

“Death has come to your little town, sheriff.”

On October 31, 1963, a young Michael Myers kills his sister with a large butcher knife and then spends the next 15 years of his life his life, silently locked up in an institute. Michael Myers breaks out of Smith's Grove Mental Hospital and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield. He starts stalking the teenaged girls from the area including Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Laurie is one of the earliest and most influential examples of the "final girl" slasher film archetype. Jamie Lee Curtis most of all brings a sisterly charm. Rather than feeling attraction, you feel an overwhelming need to protect her. But the charter that really drives the story is Myers’s psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Loomis fits a very specific archetype. He is the old doomsayer that no one really listens to. Pleasance is no lightweight. By the time he did Halloween, he was already nominated for four Tony awards and appeared in classics like The Great Escape, Fantastic Voyage, and THX 1138. He adds a sense of legitimacy and gravity to a genre that is never taken as serious as it should be.

Carpenter also plays not just writer and director but also composer. He creates an indelible theme that strikes fear into the hearts of anyone who listens to it. A simple high pitched piano implies. He took a low budget film and scared an entire generation of movie goers. He showed that you don‘t need budgets in the 8 or 9 figures to evoke fear on an audience. Because sometimes the best element of fear is not what actually happens. But what is about to happen. 

“To make Michael Myers frightening, I had him walk like a man, not a monster.” 
—John Carpenter

Halloween is a genre defining movie. Every slasher flick that came after would ultimately be compared to it with good reason. It is some of the sleekest direction in the history of horror cinema. For example, the first scene is shown completely from the point of view of the killer, Michael Myers, through the undersized eye holes in a cheap Halloween mask. It blocks our view just enough to obscure the fact that the knife isn’t really being stabbed in to someone but making the whole thing almost as scary as if it actually were. The shocking ending to this scene has a one-time use shock value that becomes an eternally cool and ballsy move on repeat viewings. Halloween as an exercise in a more measured, disquieting approach to telling a horror story. I'm pretty bloodthirsty as an audience member when it comes to horror, but I have no patience for braindead slasher bullshit or tedious, substance free torture porn grandstanding. I think part of the mojo of Carpenter's approach as a director is that, in his best movies, he sticks close to his characters even as they face off against outrageous monsters and weather storms of reality-shattering lunacy. A class act. 

It was the boogeyman…"

As a matter of fact, it was.”

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