Halloween (1978)

I’ve always wanted to like John Carpenter’s Halloween. Honestly, I’ve given it more chances than I believe any film deserves. Yet every time I put it on, nothing happens. No magic, just boredom. Maybe this is due to Mike Myer’s sizable competition. I mean Jason and Freddy are no pushovers. I may also be partly to blame, as I’ve been quite clear that my favorite parts of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises are where the films had a less than serious attitude. And if there’s a slasher series that screams “serious,” it’s Halloween. It has a lot of cultural baggage tied up into its identity.

One thing I’ve never noticed until now is how much of this film reminds me of my youth. Granted, I was much too young when I moved from NJ to FL to really remember things, but I imagine this is how October would’ve looked like if I was older. So kudos to whoever the location scout was, because they did a fantastic job.

OutsidetheHouse

It’s also nice to see that Mike Myers doesn’t stay huddled in the shadows throughout the film. Once he starts stalking Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) he’s quite obvious about it. Which is really just another great thing about the film’s setting – stalking still wasn’t “a thing” yet. Nowadays if she saw a dude wearing a mask in broad daylight staring at her, then moving behind a row of hedges, she’d make a phone call and there’d be a SWAT team on the corner in 5 minutes. Just goes to show you how innocent we were culturally back then. Kids walked themselves home from school, had identities, all outside their parents’ supervision.

Myers’ behavior here is a nice dynamic that sadly no other slasher franchise has picked up on. If it’s the first movie, it means the damage hasn’t been done yet. Which means the killer really has no reason to be hiding until after the carnage starts. So save that hiding shit until the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, through to the 24th movie. Let your antagonist enjoy its freedom, since if the film takes off, they’re gonna be stuck in the shadows and trapped behaviorally for decades to come.

FixerUpper

Wow, take a look at the house Laurie’s father is supposedly “selling!” He claims a buyer is interested. Look at it! I don’t even think calling it a “fixer upper” would prepare any potential buyer for what’s in store when they see it. Perhaps it’s too many years of watching “Flip this House,” but I can’t imagine anyone taking that home in that condition even before they knew a homicide had happened there.

It’s weird seeing Jamie Lee Curtis look so young. Even if she does have an old lady hair cut. No kudos to her stylist.

Halloween - Mike Myers Sneaking

I should also mention here that this movie must be watched at night! This is not a test! I tried watching it many times, and it failed each and every time until I threw it on when the Sun was down. I still won’t say it was “scary,” but it was at least watchable.

One setting the film unfortunately fails at is Halloween itself. As I mentioned above, it gets the Fall/Autumn setting perfectly, but then it doesn’t even try to get us to believe that this is one of the US’ favorite holidays. First, there’s barely any trick-or-treaters, and when they are shown they’re so far in the background that they might not exist at all. I’m pretty sure there were more trick-or-treaters shown in the first Buffy the Vampire Slayer Halloween episode (Season 2, I believe), and that was on cable television! Surely this film had a larger budget than cable television! Not to mention that Laurie is baby-sitting. Baby-sitting on Halloween. Baby-sitters are expensive enough on non-holidays. I can’t imagine what kind of surcharge a major holiday would next you.

Not Halloween

Laurie’s big payday at the end of the movie should’ve been the true surprise terror rising from the deep a la Friday the 13th when her ward’s parents come home and have to pay her. Alas that scene is left to our imaginations.

Now the first time Carpenter showed the original Thing on the television I thought, “oh, that’s a nice nod to a film that played a large part in Carpenter’s own career.” But by the 90th time I had seen an original Thing clip all I could think was “Okay, I get it already. I don’t think anyone’s missed the connection at this point!” Is there a clever postmodern term for when an Easter Egg ends up fucking like rabbits all over your screen?

Halloween Annie Dies

So Halloween is essentially 40 minutes of superb buildup followed by 40-50 minutes of predictable non-supernatural slasher fare. Which I guess is an inherent danger when your killer has a blank white face and absolutely no emotions. This is the epitome of a what happened? film. I mean, Mike Myers commits his first murder at the age of six dressed as a clown. But then he grows up and continues killing only now dressed as a faceless mechanic? It just makes no sense. It should’ve been great(er).

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