10 Days of Halloween (Part 1: Halloween)

21 Oct

Written by: Chris Petersen

In lieu of this festive time of year, and to pander to my guilty pleasure, horror films, and after carving pumpkins and drinking some fall beers, Pac and I decided that we would review one film in the Halloween franchise each day until Halloween. I have drawn the lucky straw of getting to watch the first installment, which is obviously the best, but I will also get to share in the joy that is Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

Oh joy!

 

Halloween, for the three of you that don’t know what it is, is the quintessential slasher film. The film, written and directed by John Carpenter, combines the best elements of a horror film: the fear of an unknown and unrelateable evil, an ominous soundtrack, a signature horrific figure, and a great ending. From the shocking reveal during the opening sequence, to the ominous conclusion, Halloween sets the horror bar high.

Before continually lowering until it reaches this level.

 

I am not going to go into the intricacies of the plot because most of my readers already know it, but for the sake of those few, here is a brief synopsis:

After brutally murdering his family on Halloween, six year old Michael Myers is placed in a mental institution under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Fifteen years later, on Halloween, he escapes and returns to his home in Haddonfield, Illinois to go on a mindless rampage of the small town.

A seemingly stock slasher becomes something much more disturbing when given a brief background of his psyche and a mask that provides him a look that is as empty as his soul. One of the best monologues the film by Dr. Loomis best describes him,

“I met him, fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding; even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, 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 what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… *evil*.”

There is no motive like Jason Voorhees trying to avenge the death of his mother, or Freddy Kreuger trying to torment the children of a town that burned him alive, he just….is. There is no reasoning with him or with his instincts, he is dead inside, and the eyes in the mask reflect that, and that is what makes this film disturbing and sets it apart from many other slasher films. His walk, echoes his singular purpose. He has no reason to run or quicken his pace, he has no sense of time and he will eliminate anything (including animals) that crosses his path.

I wish the young Nickelback would have crossed his path.

 

The most unsettling part to me is when he murders Bob by sticking the butcher knife through him and into the wall. While Bob is stuck there suspended on the knife, blood dripping from his body, Michael just takes a step back and turns his head to the side as if studying him like a work of art, looking at the terror on his face in a futile attempt to relate or understand what is happening. Carpenter himself even said that his goal was to make such an evil character that there was no one that could relate or root for him.

While the acting by the supporting cast is very campy and sub par (Donald Pleasance excluded), Jamie Lee Curtis solidifies her family legacy as a great damsel running from a butcher knife, just like her mother, Janet Leigh, in another horror classic, Psycho. She does a great job of effectively portraying her fear and just barely avoids the cliché of what has become excessively silly screaming in today’s slasher films. Donald Pleasance, who at the time was a top-billed actor, makes a strong appearance (all 18 minutes of it filmed over the course of five days), as Dr. Loomis. He delivers his lines perfectly, especially when he says, “the devil’s eyes” with such chill.

The ending stands out as one of the best of any horror film. While they may have survived their brief encounter with Myers, there is still the uncertainty of where he is and that the terror is still lurking somewhere in the shadows. Again, this is another aspect of horror films that gets exploited today, the open ending, but Halloween does it perfectly, with Curtis still sobbing and the overall sense of dread still left on the audience.

Halloween stuck with me after I watched it the first time and it was still just as equally disturbing this time around. There is just so much of this film that I enjoy and it seems like I find a new favorite part every time I watch it. While this one is by far the best in the series, I look forward to reviewing the rest of them, because I haven’t seen all of them yet. Like my Mom used to say, “If it isn’t a good time, it’s a good story,” I am sure that while I may not enjoy watching the rest of them, they will be a heck of a lot of fun to review and tear apart (if they so deserve it).

Here is a link to some cool trivia about the film, which for the sake of brevity, I left out:

Halloween Movie Fun Facts by IMDB

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