I swear, I’m not only going to be doing these reviews for movies from the 1970’s. However, these first two weeks, it just felt right to pay some homage to the decade I was born in. It’s not that movies reached their pinnacle during the 70’s (although a lot of the 80’s tried to prove that they could be worse than the decade that spawned disco). It’s just that, well, if I’m going to be reviewing things far too late for them to be useful (or, at least, too late for people to scream “SPOILERS!” at me), I’m going to start with some of my favorites.
So, without further ado, here is this week’s Procrastrospection!
Yes, I am picking another original version of a horror film that has since seen a “reimagining”. The difference here being that, while I enjoy both versions of The Evil Dead, I do truly feel that the original Halloween is far superior to the update. Not to take anything away from Mr. Zombie, but I feel like his style is better suited to his own stories. I got House of 1,000 Corpses for what it was, and, to date, The Devil’s Rejects still has some of my favorite characterizations of the entire genre. But I digress. I’m not here to talk about the Zombiescape of films. I’m here to talk about John Carpenter’s masterpiece.
The movie opens with a brief glimpse into the life of a young Michael Myers (not the Love Guru, but that would actually make sense, given some of his cinematic choices). Stabbity stab stab stab, and before you know it, we’ve progressed 15 years through time, to when a now-adult Michael escapes from custody, stealing the car that was supposed to take him to the hearing that would lock him up forever, because of course he did. After all, Michael is a character that is synonymous with the “unstoppable killer” trope, in some ways more so than Jason Voorhees. Besides, the film has only just started, and you can’t assume that Carpenter is going to stop short of delivering more carnage.
More carnage does follow. As one can infer from the title of the film, it happens on a fateful Halloween night. Michael stalks Laurie Strode, in a role that gave Jamie Lee Curtis the “Scream Queen” title for a good bit. She, for her part, is surrounded by friends who do exactly what you shouldn’t do in horror movies, or at least not horror movies of the era. Halloween was amongst the first, and certainly one of the best, at portraying the victims as being somewhat immoral, with the Final Girl being pure. Of course, in many ways, it was this particular usage of sex and other teenage high jinks that became the calling card for future slasher killers. In Halloween, the victims just HAPPENED to be immoral. More to the point, they just happened to be in Michael’s path as he was trying to get to Laurie.
As Michael is stalking Laurie, he himself is being chased by his doctor, Dr. Loomis, portrayed here by Donald Pleasance. Everyone eventually comes together, Laurie stabs Michael to save the kids she’s babysitting (even though she is his target). Michael reappears (because, again, unstoppable evil killer. Keep up, people), and is eventually shot by Dr. Loomis, who took that moment to, probably wisely, forget all about the Hippocratic Oath. The final scene of the movie is Loomis looking over the balcony he shot Michael off of, trying to find the body. Of course, Michael is gone, leaving things open wide for a sequel and a return of the masked man.
And sequels did, of course, follow. However, that wasn’t the original intention. The first Halloween movie was supposed to be the start of an anthology series, yes, but they weren’t supposed to revolve around Michael. The first two contained Michael, but they were going to move on to other stories, as was evidenced by Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. By that point, though, audiences were expecting to see a pale man without emotion wearing overalls, so the fourth movie and on continued the story of Michael Myers and his stabbing friends. By which, of course, I mean knives.
That being said the first movie is a fantastic film, especially for fans of horror. It isn’t overtly gory, although there is more gore than the assumed “incredibly gore-filled” Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It featured a pivotal central character that audiences could get behind, an enemy that was the pure embodiment of evil, and a wise older character who might just have the key to stopping this whole thing. And it ends with the gut punch of knowledge that, even though Laurie and Dr. Loomis technically did everything right, evil is still out to pursue them.
A lot of Halloween still resonates with audiences, and that was part of why there was an updated remake. Of course, since the original film came out, audiences have expected a little more insight as to what makes even the villains tick, so we get a lot more backstory about Michael in the newer version, but I personally prefer the original precisely for the reason that we don’t know Michael’s story. We know him as a crazed killer. That’s it. We don’t need to know why he picked out that particular mask, or why he decided to rock the “mechanic on his way home from work” look. We just know that he’s bad, and that he can’t be stopped.
That was the entire point of the film. Sometimes, evil permeates our society, and, while we might be able to escape it and save ourselves, we’ll never truly be able to eradicate it.
Especially when evil looks like an expressionless William Shatner. Because that’s just terrifying.