Halloween (1978)

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"Laurie, what's the boogeyman? "

Oct 31th, 2011

The original Halloween will always hold a special place in my heart as this was the film that introduced me to the horror genre (a genre where even the bad brings me joy). Along with being a strong part of my childhood this was also the first film I decided to review and post online which might have you asking, Why are you reviewing it again?

My original review was for me a source of embarrassment as it was all to brief (only slightly longer than the blurb on the back of the dvd release) and nowhere representative of my style of writing. When I first commented on the movie I played it safe and basically voiced the mainstream consensus trying to make sure my post went up. Once I had developed my own style fully I always intended to return to the film that started it all and do the review correctly (in my eyes at least).

A couple of things that make this time around slightly different is that I'm going to look at the film now and how it plays to modern society. I know a lot of people believe I should judge the film based on the time it was made but that would make this just a rehash of my original review (it was a revelation at the time, I get it). As well as the fact that films sometimes just date poorly that's why we get so many remakes. I also think it's worth taking into account how this film now feels due to their being a parallel modern take on events (Zombies remakes), No matter what you think of them they really had an impact on my viewing experience as I revisited this classic.

The plot for those who really have been living under a rock is as follows. An escaped mental patient (Michael Myers) returns to his hometown on Halloween night to continue a killing spree he began 15 years earlier. While he stalks a couple of babysitters his old psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis is hot on his trail and seemingly the only person able (i.e. willing) to stop him.

Halloween was the original slasher flick that kick started the craze from this movie to the late 80's (they still make appearances today). Sure a lot of people will site other movies as being the first such as Psycho (more of a thriller really),Peeping Tom (A British nasty character piece) and Black Christmas (very much a slasher but not too successful) but Halloween was the one that took audiences by storm.

The plot is amazingly simplistic but it works playing on the base fears everyone has about the dangers of modern society (yup even today). Horror is about the experience of fear and this film manages to get that across as simply as possible. I'm not saying that films of this calibre don't need a plot (as Halloween has more than enough base there) but they don't need to be complex works of Shakespeare to convey a feeling of dread. The simple setup allow us as an audience to relate and transfer our own lives onto the characters and situations on screen making the fear seem more real.

This process also allowed for a much scarier villain as his own backstory and motivation are quite the mystery (the motivations given in later sequels/remakes are such a jumble it's hard to process what is actually fact). As a faceless force of nature the character seems far more unstoppable and scary. Even with the few titbits we gain Michael Myers reasoning remains a mystery which I think is far more true to the idea of what pure evil actually is. Why do people in real life have that desire to kill? It's a scary thought that the majority of sane people fear because it is the unknown. To use a quote from another movie which is no less apt to the character here "some people just want to see the world burn".

The reason I bring such a thing up is that the remake of Halloween tried to humanise the character of Myers which was an element that I was uneasy with. While Myers in the original begins as a person over the course of the film he becomes more of an icon of fear/a metaphor if you will supported by the fantastic ending (it was not a setup for a sequel). The remake not only destroys that theme but tries to put us on the side of the killer which is wrong on a number of levels. I'm not adverse to different franchises/films exploring the motivations of a deranged mind but Myers is not a character we are meant to associate with, we are meant to identify with the victims and their fear.

The cast are what really make the film hold up and without them the simple storyline would be worthless. If we don't care for the characters we don't fear the danger they are going to come across, I've sat through many a slasher movie bored due to the stilted performances from the cast who are there for a quick buck. Fortunately not here.

Jamie Lee Curtis is great as Laurie Strode creating a likable character but not as innocent as I tend to remember. Over the years I seem to have blocked out that her character partook in some recreational drug use as well as having naughty thoughts about a local boy. We all remember her as a virginal presence but I truth she was depicted as a normal everyday teen.

The only downside I can see watching today is that I'm well aware of what an amazing actress she truly is and the character seems a little underdeveloped for an actress of her talents. Along with that Laurie is quite drab and being a nice person I had more fun watching her two friends across the street (but that says more about my personality than her). Over the course of the franchise I became partial to a couple of other heroines but Jamie is the best Laurie Hands down.

Laurie's two friends Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes) and Linda Van Der Klok (P.J. Soles) have an infectious joy that exploded across the screen making you wish you had friends like these. It really was tension filled and sad as they meet Myers face to face.

Donald Pleasance steals the show as Dr. Samuel Loomis (A character name lifted directly from Psycho) which is odd to think that he became the one tired element as the series wound on. Pleasance has a presence (that sounds quite silly now I've written that down) that is undeniable and lends gravitas and weight to the production. His character manages to raise the tension by hammering home how dangerous Myers truly is. He also is the only ray of light throughout the feature and gives the audience hope that someone will bring an end to the menace on the streets.

Loomis throughout this movie is far more believable than the nutjobs screaming about impending doom in other horror/science fiction movies (including himself in later sequels) as hes actually comes off as a realistic human being. In my favourite scene Loomis takes great pleasure in scaring off a couple of trick or treaters with a maniacal voice it's a brilliant moment that made me warm to the character.

Normally the time period a film was set in would eventually harm a film making it less relatable due to the dating but amazingly it stands up. Many Hollywood films now have a gloss and sheen to them that makes them feel like an obscure film land. Older films such as Halloween look old and less fantastical but have a more realistic feel to them. What now seems like shoddy camera work and cheap look feel like a home video and add believability. I could go on all day about this movie and how well it holds up but this review would come off more of a short novel. This is a classic film that still deserving of the film regardless of any nostalgia I felt towards the film. Halloween should be in your collection more so than any sequel/remake or rip off and every Oct 31st needs a spin in your player (it never gets old).

Other reviews in the series

Halloween II (1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Halloween (2007)
Halloween II (2009)

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director: John Carpenter
Screenplay: John Carpenter
Debra Hill
Released: 1978
Rating: 18
Starring:Jamie Lee Curtis
Donald Pleasence
P J Soles