Night #31: Halloween (1978)

Directed By: John Carpenter

Death has come to your little town, sheriff.”


I couldn’t resist. I tried viewing something else but the allure is too strong. So this year, again, I’ve watched Halloween. It’s appropriate after all, like watching A Christmas Carol or Die Hard over Christmas. There’s really nothing better for getting in the mood than a good movie. So even after all this time what can I say about it? Well nothing I’ve not said before and on numerous occasions. The movie just works. After countless viewings I’m always finding something to appreciate.

In the light of Rob Zombie’s efforts (Bad first movie, underappreciated second one) I come to respect more than ever the lack of explanation for ‘The Shape’. It’s a force of nature (Calling it just a man would do a disservice). Loomis isn’t really raving like a madman when he calls it “pure evil” – he’s just the only one who sees the truth.

One of the undercurrents throughout all the Halloween movies is that the survivors are never quite right afterwards. Even in the not so good sequels there’s the common thread of PTSD (One of the characters in Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers is Tommy Doyle, who is the boy that Jamie Lee Curtis is babysitting in this one – he’s also played by Paul Rudd in his first movie role). But the earliest germ of that idea finds home in the character of Loomis, a man who hasn’t witnessed Michael Myers’ violence first hand, but who is still damaged by his mere presence anyway.

I mentioned this in my look at Halloween:H20 but what that movie lacks is the stalking scenes that are so prevalent here. Myers just hovers around, on the peripheral, this outsider threat to suburban normality. Even scenes that Myers isn’t present for finds a voyeur in Carpenter’s camera. It seemingly catches Laurie and her friends by accident, observing them during their most mundane. Even when the movie is being ‘normal’ it’s still unsettling. Opening scene aside it’s over an hour until anyone else dies, yet the movie is patient, observing, just like its antagonist.

It’s also surprisingly bloodless. I think there’s only two scenes that really feature any gore but it’s still effective. It’s a movie that, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is far less violent than people think. Carpenter has noted that people have told him over the years how horrified they were when Myers loses the mask, despite the fact that his appearance is quite normal. It’s a testament not only to a great movie but great film-making. 

Carpenter had an extraordinary run of movies from Assault on Precinct 13 onwards before he finally fizzled out some years ago (I know he returned recently with The Ward but save your time and money). But he managed to release a string of masterpieces, either peaking with this movie or The Thing or even Big Trouble In Little China – though whoever tells you he peaked with Memoirs of an Invisible Man is a bold faced liar – depending on who you talk to. For me it was always The Thing, but I know I can’t let Halloween slip by without catching this movie. After all, it is Halloween, and everyone’s entitled to one good scare. 



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