Friday, October 22, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Halloween” (1978)

 I have watched a lot of “Halloween” films this October. But none have the spot on my list the original John Carpenter film from 1978 has. Last night, it was finally time to revisit the classic that launched a thousand horror films—and quite a few of its own sequels and reboots of its own. Much ink has been spilled over the discussion of the sequels to this film—but for all the debate over which sequels are the best, or even good, even though I enjoy many of the sequels (Halloween 2, H20, the 2018 film)—the first absolutely can, and often should, stand on its own. 


I have watched this film more than a dozen times, and will watch it more than a dozen more. Young Michael Meyers murders his teenaged sister in cold blood; is institutionalized for it, and breaks out years later to return home and terrorize his small town of Haddonfield, Illinois. For all the fear in the films that come after, nothing will ever be scarier than Meyers stalking Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie and her friends through the streets of Haddonfield on Halloween night. While the low budget film which became a mega smash hit was famously shot during the summer in California—with leaves on the trees and fake fallen leaves littering the ground—I can’t think of many other films that get the feel of Halloween night as right. While the main action with Laurie takes place on a lonely street between two houses, the tension and terror is genius, and not only holds up, but delivers every time. As someone who first saw this at home and much later at the theater, this is one of the best horror films to watch in a theater; no matter how many times you have seen in, there is nothing like the rush of an audience after Michael Meyers sits up behind Laurie’s back after she thinks she has killed him.


Things that struck me again watching, as always, is how good Donald Pleasance is in this as the doctor who tries to get the world to believe Michael is evil—only to be constantly dismissed. Also, especially with the more recent sequels, what stands out most powerfully about the original is how scary Meyers is as the unknown; all we know about him is what people see as he stalks and terrorizes him, and absent of any narratives telling us he is or is not supernatural, Laurie’s question to Loomis at the end, “Was that the Bogeyman?” lingers. We don’t know if Michael  I’m ok Meyers is the bogeyman, supernatural or not; we only know that he has terrorized us, and that he is still out there. And that is the way Michael Meyers should be.



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