Halloween Retrospective Review
Halloween is a slasher film directed and scored by John Carpenter and stars Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her first film. It is the first film in the Halloween series. In this review, there will be spoilers but as this movie came out in 1978, readers have had time to watch this film.
The Story/The Direction:
The story starts on Halloween night in 1963 when Michael Myers murders his sister and is put into Smith's Grove Sanitarium. Fifteen years later, he escapes and stalks Laurie Strode (Curtis) and her friends with his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasence), in pursuit. This film is now known to be one of the best horror films because it was one of the first to be in the "slasher" genre and has inspired many films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. However, this film is not as over the top as those and the subsequent remakes have been. Its very plain and even the violence is not that intense. There are no real gory scenes. Michael kills his victims with a big cutting knife but a lot of the killings are done out of frame which makes the film feel very grounded. The main structure of this film follows a Tzvetan Todorov's narrative theory that begins with equilibrium which then becomes disrupted but then restored.
While this film is very simplistic, Carpenter is able to keep the entire film gripping. He does this through his use of foregrounds. He is able to establish the scene and then pan to something unexpected like a door or something else. Carpenter is also able to use sound brilliantly. He is able to create tension using only the music and Michael's breathing. The music crescendos in a way that copies how a viewer's heart rate would be. This allows for a viewer to feel on edge and uncomfortable the entire film even almost forty years later. Carpenter has created a story that is fairly grounded and feels real. All of Michael's victims are ordinary people which makes them more relocatable and authentic.
The characters in this film are memorable but not because of the acting. They are written to feel down to earth so when Michael comes around, the viewer will feel for them. The character is most interesting is the obvious villain of the film. Carpenter establishes his main antagonist in 1963 in Michael's point of view. He is supposed to be under the watch of his older sister but she forgot him for her boyfriend. As Michael watches from outside, he sees the boyfriend ask if they are alone and Judith says "Michael's around someplace." As they go upstairs, Michael enters the home, grabs a knife and after the boyfriend leaves, he heads upstairs. He knows what he is going to do. On his way to Judith, he finds a clown mask that he puts on. The viewer then sees everything through a mask's eye holes. This represents Michael's first step in becoming the monster. The viewer then sees everything through a mask's eye holes as to show how Michael sees the world.
After stabbing Judith, he proceeds outside to meet his parents who are horrified by what he just did. The mask is then removed and you get to see his face. Ironically when the viewer first sees him, he is no longer Michael. He is a monster and is placed in the Sanitarium.This is then paralleled in the climax where the mask is removed again but he tugs on it to cover his face again. As the film fast forward fifteen years, he changes into a legend in the town of Haddonfield. He is their equivalent of the Boogieman. When Michael escapes prison, he travels back to his home to strike terror into its inhabitants once again. Here, the audience is introduced to Laurie who is a typical high schooler who babysitting a boy named Tommy. As Michael watches from his childhood home, he sees the two walk in front of his house. Laurie has to drop off a key at the Myers home but Tommy tells her the house is haunted. As she is a teenager, she does not believe this nonsense and she teases him. Michael is able to see a somewhat similarity to his situation fifteen years prior. Laurie is supposed to be responsible but he sees a young boy being mocked by his protector. He has now marked his victim.
He ends up following her and through this, he sees more instances of irresponsibility (normal teenager activity) and marks more victims in Laurie's friends. However, as the audience sees, Laurie is not like the other characters. Each victim is shown to be similar to this event that the audience views in the similar scene. Annie is trying to rid her babysitting duties for her boyfriend and Lynda and Bob essentially recreate the scene. According to Michael, these people are disregarding their responsibilities for their teenage mischief. They must be killed. Why is Laurie able to survive Michael? Because she has acknowledged her responsibilities and is willing to defend those who she has been deemed to. She is our hero that really shows what this film is about: responsibility. If you are a responsible person, generally speaking, the repercussions will be less than that of a non-responsibility. No one named Michael Myers or otherwise will come after you.
This film has almost no flaws, however, there are still some things done that are clearly done to move the plot along. One instance of this is how Laurie injures Michael. She did a lot of one and done strikes. She would knock him down and then without checking to see if he is dead, would move on. This flaw falls into the bucket that hurts a lot of slasher films. The characters make a stupid mistake that clearly the audience can see the issues with. Personally, this is not a big flaw as this film was a pioneer in this genre.
This film even forty years later has continued to be creepy to anyone who watches it. It is an event that honestly could happen. This is why Carpenter's work is revered as a terrifying piece of work. This film responsible for starting the modern slasher horror genre and while many in this genre are not good, this film stands out. It is able to take a real fear and push it to its limits to make its viewers feel scared. If you do not do what is required of you, you will have consequences. Maybe it will not be as extreme as Michael Myers but that does not make the fear any less real. If for some reason you have not seen this film, it is highly recommended unless you do not want to be scared. In that case, do not watch this perfect masterpiece.
Rating: 5.0/5.0 bowties
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