Halloween Marathon: 1978
We’re going to go through all the Halloween movies in a marathon and review them. We’re doing this because I haven’t seen them all and have a lot of work to do and need something to watch. It’s been about 20 odd years since I watched this original, so let’s delve back in…
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Nick Castle, P.J. Soles, Nancy Kyes, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards
Plot: Six year old Michael Myers murders his teenage sister and spends the next 15 years in custody. After escaping his institution Michael returns to his hometown of Haddonfield to seek new victims.
Review: I think my first and last viewing of this movie was during the Scream era of horror, and did not fully appreciate how deftly it is constructed. I certainly appreciated the historical relevance of the movie on the horror genre, as it wrote the rules for slasher movies for the next 20 years. Taking the time to rewatch it and reflect on it with several decades of film studies under my belt, it’s something that has aged extremely well. Even alongside modern slasher films and those more directly influenced by this original it’s an excellent example of the sub-genre. It provides some of the best examples of the slasher tropes on record.
While slasher movie characters usually range from shallow to despicable, whilst Halloween spends a substantial amount of time developing the characters. Laurie Strode (Curtis) is a bright girl who has been too shy to date in spite of her popularity. In between the script, Carpenter’s handling of the material and Curtis’ performance this simple outline for the character is given enough personality to feel like a real person. She’s doesn’t the later Final Girl cliche of tough girl, but is determined and resource. There aren’t any quips to be had, Laurie is to busy being terrified.
Laurie has every right to be scared, as throughout the character development there’s always a hint of Michael (Castle) lurking in the background. Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) provides us with the required exposition. Michael is pure evil, and later attempts to justify or explain the killer’s motivations and backstory often leave him feeling less intimidating. Whilst Loomis searches for Michael and Laurie goes about her day, the murderer is appearing behind trees or driving past in the background, creeping closer and closer until he’s in their houses. It’s a well studied exercise in suspense and creeping tension as we often know more about Michael’s whereabouts than anyone else’s.
Much of this movie is also a showcase to Carpenter’s utilisation of the newest techniques and technologies. The soft, pastel art scheme is pretty timeless, but making use of the recently developed Steadicam would be quite a novelty. The film was a strong, steady look with some creative use of lighting and shadow in the later parts of the movie.
If you have never seen the original film, only know it for its reputation, then it’s worth a look.
Rating: NINE out of TEN