Halloween (1978)

Today we have another true masterpiece, not just of the genre but for all of cinema. A film which kick started the career of the great John Carpenter and gave us the definitive slasher movie, in all aspects. As I’ve said before, it’s arguably my favourite sub-genre of all and this one really is the cream of the crop…John Carpenter’s Halloween!!

Another thing that’s special about this film is that it actually inspired a decent remake, directed by Rob Zombie in 2007…you don’t find that very often but I think it’s a testament to the original that the remake was so well received…not to take anything off the remake of course.

Everyone who’s ever heard of horror films has heard of Michael Myers, the masked killer in Halloween, and there’s a reason for that. He epitomises the horror killer in every way…he’s ruthless, he’s everywhere, he’s driven, he’s (clinically) insane and he’s scary as hell. I mean what more do you want. It really is the emotionless mask that is why Michael’s so frightening but the idea of him stalking and lurking around every corner is enough to make a grown man shut the curtains, turn on the lights and not sleep for a week. I think Halloween is successful in doing that.

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One of my favourite shots of all time as Michael rises back up behind Laurie

Now I think that one of, if not the most impressive and effective aspects to this film is the cinematography. The camerawork is absolutely genius…I can’t describe it nearly as well as it deserves but just the way that each shot is put together to make you think that something’s going to come up behind or from the side or that something just isn’t quite right is just perfectly done. You never feel calm during this one…you’re always ready for something to happen and when it does, it can catch you off guard. Don’t ask me how it manages to catch a ready person off guard but it does.

The music is another thing about this film that is absolutely perfect. The theme is incredibly well known so I needn’t go on about that but it gives the perfect intense, eerie and mysterious atmosphere to an intense, eerie and mysterious film. The entire score though is just stunning, similarly to yesterday’s film, The Omen. It is such a key element to making this film work that with something different, you wouldn’t have nearly as good a film. And that can’t be said for many movies out there.

Let’s get onto the story though…for those unfamiliar with Halloween (if there are such people), the film begins with one of the greatest opening scenes of any film where a young Michael Myers (in constant POV shot) walks into his home, grabs a kitchen knife and stabs his sister to death. 15 years later, Michael escapes from the institution where he is kept, in a scene that is incredibly terrifying, and heads back to his home town. Dr Sam Loomis (played wonderfully by Donald Pleasance) then goes after his patient and spends the remainder of the film trying to search for him due to the immense threat he poses on the residents. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) a good natured high school girl is walking home from school with her friends on Halloween when she keeps noticing things that her friends do not…namely a tall man, in a black boiler suit and a white mask. Sound familiar. Her and her friends are babysitting close to each other that night and make plans to hang out. However, when Michael turns up on the street and starts ‘doing what he does best’, things take an intense, deadly and brutal turn.

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Perfection in an opening scene…an innocent looking Michael having just murdered his sister

I won’t say any more than that about it but just know that it is truly entertaining from start to finish and is, in many people’s opinion, one of the best horror films of all time and most certainly the best slasher film…but if you’re not into all that stuff, then you may just think it’s just another masked killer film which is fine of course…but those of us who are, (rightly) think Carpenter is godlike for making such a film.

This ones going to be a bit longer than most others so I hope I don’t begin to bore you…

The cast is, as more often that not, excellent. I rarely see problems with casts and performances in films unless they’re particularly horrible. Anyway, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie is just wonderful. She defined the ‘final girl’ (we’ll get to it) and gave a performance that audiences could identify with, that was an extreme mix of emotions and that kick started her career. Also, of course, Donald Pleasance as Dr. Sam Loomis is excellent. He plays driven terror with perfection as he is arguably the most afraid of everyone in the film but is so determined to find Michael that he’ll stop at nothing…it helps that he’s an incredibly likeable character who gives the film some of its best and most memorable quotes as well as occasionally adding a slight humour to his character.

Now I’m pretty sure I gave you this interesting piece of trivia in my Psycho post¬†but I’ll give it again here, for good reason. Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Laurie, is the daughter of Janet Leigh, who played Marion Crane, the prematurely killed heroin in Psycho. In Psycho, Marion’s partner’s name is Sam Loomis, the same name as Donald Pleasance’s character in this film. A great homage to a true classic horror film by John Carpenter in his name and casting decisions there and one of my favourite pieces of interesting movie trivia.

Anyway, another notable performance comes from Nick Castle who played Michael, but strangely didn’t play Michael’s face in that scene where his mask is removed for a second. No, Castle played ‘The Shape’ according to the credits. Basically he was Michael as we know and love him and although Castle doesn’t say a single word…to perform such a menacing, deadly presence takes skill and he delivers.

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The definitive Final Girl

Finally, the final girl…what is it?? Well, academically, the final girl is a horror film theory devised by Carol Clover in 1992 that centres around the idea that, in horror films, particularly slashers, most often, after the killer has killed all the victims one by one as he always does, there is one remaining girl and this girl has certain set of characteristics that a ‘final girl’ has. The ‘final girl’ is virginal (she avoids the carefree behaviour of her friends), she becomes masculinised by the acquisition of a weapon which she uses to defeat the killer and she becomes more identifiable as the film goes on.

I know that was considerably more academic than you may want or were expecting but I hope you found that very very very brief outline interesting…if you want to know more about final girl theory…you can click¬†here!!

It is one of my favourite theories that I have ever come across so I just wanted to share it with you…anyway, this has been a lot longer than usual but I hope you don’t mind.

Just go and watch Halloween if you haven’t…I hope that has come across in what I’ve said. It’s impossible to say anything bad about it!!

Next up on our horror film journey is another real classic…we’ve hit a real winning streak with these latest lot and that looks set to continue. This next film is a sequel to a film we’ve already covered and in my opinion isn’t quite as good but in many others opinion’s, is better. Make of that what you will. It involves a shopping mall, zombies and some of the best special effects I’ve ever come across…from the same year as this one…I’m sure you know!

Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at morgan@thepurpledon.com if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!

The Journey Continues Tomorrow

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