Today: February 25, 2024
·

Halloween

“I met him, fifteen years ago.

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 realised what was living behind that boy’s eyes
was purely and simply…evil!
” –
Dr Sam Loomis, Halloween

The granddaddy of the Stalk ‘n’ Slash movie, a film that
defined a genre, John Carpenter’s
Halloween
is still a cut above the pretenders that came after it. Finally back on the big screen in time
for, when else, Halloween, it’s as nerve-jangling as it was back in 1978.

In 1963, in the sleepy suburban town of Haddonfield,
Illinois, cute little six-year-old Michael Myers takes a kitchen knife and
slaughters his teenage sister on Halloween night. 15 years later, Michael escapes from the maximum security
psychiatric hospital where he’s been imprisoned and heads back home to
Haddonfield for some trick or treating, hotly pursued by Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance, cast against type as
the nominal good guy), his psychiatrist, who’s determined to stop him before he
kills again.

Meanwhile, teenaged, bookish, good girl Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis in a fantastic
breakthrough performance) and her slightly less virginal friends Annie (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda (P.J. Soles) have their own plans for
Halloween night. While Laurie
covers both her own and Annie’s babysitting jobs, across the street Annie and
Lynda plan to spend some quality time with their boyfriends in an empty, parent-free
house. But when Laurie’s charges
claim to have seen “the boogeyman” lurking outside and Annie and Lynda aren’t
answering the phone, the suspicious Laurie crosses the street to investigate
the darkened house where evil lurks…

Made on an ultra-low budget of just $320,000 and shot in
just four weeks, John Carpenter’s Halloween went on to gross $70 million
worldwide (that’s the equivalent of $240 million in today’s money kids) and
spawn 35 years of imitators, making it one of the most profitable and
influential independent movies of all time. It’s a seminal film, a true cultural landmark, and it also
laid the ground rules for the Slasher movie, a genre it pretty much created;
the faceless, indestructible killer, the restless camera, the stalking POV
shots, the absence or (in the case of the Sheriff) impotence of parental
authority, the dangers of immorality (get naked, get laid or get high and
you’re gonna get killed) and, of course, the concept of the final
girl
, the strong, indomitable heroine (usually a virgin who represents
purity and innocence) who normally triumphs over evil. Though it could be argued that in most
of these films it’s their sublimated sexual repression that saves the heroines,
not their purity. Seriously folks,
in virtually every Slasher movie, at some point the heroine gets hold of the
killer’s huge, phallic knife and repeatedly drives it into his guts. What did you think that was all about?

It’s also one of the scariest damn films ever made. Screw Rob Zombie and his abortion of a “re-imagining” and screw all the
hacks that have ripped it off, even 35 years down the road, in a world awash
with CGI monsters and smug super-villains like Jigsaw, Halloween will still put you on the edge of your seat, make you
jump out of your skin and scare the crap out of you. The performances are
fantastic with Donald Pleasance suitably unhinged as a psychiatrist only
marginally less crazy than his murderous patient while in her first screen
role, Jamie Lee Curtis perfect as the strong, soft-spoken babysitter turned
Amazon (face it geekboys, without this movie there wouldn’t have been a Ripley)
and P.J. Soles and Nancy Loomis are solid and natural as her doomed
friends. The script by director
Carpenter and producer and long-time collaborator Debra Hill is tight and economical, the cinematography by the now
legendary Dean Cundey is lush and
mouthwatering, virtually spoiling Steadicam
for everyone who came after and the score by Carpenter is still deliciously
creepy.

A supremely well-crafted, sleek, stylish, efficient engine
of terror made by a visionary filmmaker at the top of his game (and make no
mistake, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Carpenter was touched by genius) long before
Hollywood cut his balls off, Halloween
is as damn near perfect as horror movies get. Go see it this weekend – as the Sheriff tells Laurie: “It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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