Halloween (1978 USA)

He’s gone! The evil has gone!” Bug eyed Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) screams. This hilarious line stands out from such a bare bones of a screenplay. John Carpenter’s direction makes a lot out of such simple elements as: shadows, dark streets, creaking doors, that it makes even the everyday setting of a small town neighborhood claustrophobically terrifying. Of course, back when this was made there were no smart phones or CCTV to combat predatory homicidal stalkers. Although it wasn’t the first of its kind, Halloween certainly was the game-changer for almost every other slasher flick that followed this low-budget indie horror. But they only ended up imitating the formula that this sick ‘classic’ originated.

On Halloween of 1963, 6-year-old Michael Myers murders his sister, Judith Myers. After the murder, he is locked into a mental institution where Doctor Sam Loomis supervises him. 15 years later, Michael has escaped from the mental institution. He returns to his hometown to stalk a teenager by the name of Laurie Strode and her two friends. Luckily, the only person able to stop Michael is Doctor Sam Loomis.  Halloween is most famous for that chilling soundtrack, composed by John Carpenter. It is hard to make a good scary film without an excellent soundtrack because it is the music that helps build the suspense. As mentioned above, the horror relies mostly on the suggestive violence then the actual violence. That can be scarier then just showing someone’s limbs cut off and blood splattered everywhere.

Throughout the manipulative, morbid film, the suspenseful stalkings and killings are seen from the subjective vantage point of the killer’s or ‘peeping tom’s’ eyes, a few times while looking through a mask. Other scenes are viewed through the subjective POV eyes of the characters in danger, or accompanied by the heavy breathing of killer Michael Myers, referred to as the ‘bogeyman’ or “The Shape” in the credits. Almost every scene is filmed with a constantly-moving camera (the Steadicam variety) to make the audience feel disordered, totally insecure, unsettled and paranoid. We beliee that every ominous corner, shadow, noise, or space is potentially life-threatening or dangerous and that everyone will be a helpless victim of random violence. Often, nothing is revealed when something is expected, but sometimes the unexpected is shockingly viewed. It all feels sickeningly real. And nasty!

This film will be “slow and boring” to most teen today because they have the attention span of a flea. They also will not look closely at was is going in the background in this movie and that is sad. To me seeing what is going on in the background is what gives this story its iconic status. Carpenter wisely saves the chases and violence for the latter third of the film, and choosing to make Michael an almost unseen presence, lurking in shadowy corners of the unassuming suburbia he makes his playground out of, a vaguely threatening gust of unease in the fringes of the character’s awareness. When the chases and kills do come later on, we’re so wound up from the tenuous waiting, watching and wondering that the shock hits us harder at its sheer arrival. It’s that mounting tension and reverence paid to the sickening anticipation of the horror as opposed to the horror itself that makes the film so special, influential and timeless. It’s like a bad dream where something is inevitably, slowly waiting to get you. 🙂

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