Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween (1978)


Written by John Carpenter & Debrah Hill
Directed by John Carpenter

Michael "The Shape" Myers...Nick Castle
Laurie Strode...Jamie Lee Curtis
Sam Loomis...Donald Pleasance
Annie Brackett...Nancy Kyes

What's there to say about John Carpenter's slasher masterpiece that hasn't already been said? Not much, really.

Everyone by now is aware of the general story, either through this film or Rob Zombie's 2007 reinterpretation: On Halloween night in 1963, in the sleepy town of Haddonfield, Illinois, six year old Michael Myers, clad in his clown costume, brutally murders his teenage sister Judith with a butcher knife. He is apprehended and sent to a mental institution, where he is placed under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis.

Michael is not heard from again for 15 years, until he escapes from the hospital and returns to his hometown on the anniversary of his first murder, as a hulking, silent killer in a fright mask. He stalks and slashes local teen Laurie Strode and her friends, while Loomis pursues him, desperate to make local law enforcement realize the danger that they're dealing with.

As a film, it is, admittedly, flawed. But as a slasher flick, it's damn near pitch perfect.

A few minor lapses in logic--most famously, how does Michael Myers learn how to drive?--are easily overlooked. The plot is a bit thin, but the strength of the characters supersede this. The motivations and mentality of Michael Myers are a complete mystery, which is equal parts frustrating and terribly fitting. With Rob Zombies remake, we all saw what happens when you look too close behind the mask: it kills the mystery, damages the mythology.

Halloween may not have been the absolute birth of the slasher film (that distinction probably belongs to Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve, and Bob Clark's Black Christmas), but it did define the template that would forever after rule the sub-genre.

It also gave us three enduring cinematic icons, all in one movie! Laurie Strode, the penultimate Final Girl (who we ultimately get to see grow into one of cinema's few Final Women later in the franchise); Dr. Sam Loomis, our Ahab figure, whose obsession with hunting the hunter eventually comes to rule his existence; and, of course, Michael Myers himself, the remorseless and unstoppable killer ruled by his own animal instincts and living life enshrouded by shadows and legend.

One can't discuss Halloween without making mention of the theme, a haunting score perhaps rivaled only in effectiveness and recognition by the one from Hitchcock's Psycho.

Ultimately, Halloween is probably the greatest slasher movie ever made. And beyond that, one of the best horror movies ever made. Period.

If you haven't seen it, I can't help but wonder: are you sure you're at the right web page?

Rated R
91 Minutes
United States

"It's Halloween.  Everyone's entitled to one good scare."

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