Monday, November 2, 2015

Movie #332: Halloween

Halloween isn't the first slasher movie, but it's close. Directed and scored by John Carpenter, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Nick Castle, and Charles Cyphers.

The story is pretty simple: A young Michael Myers (Tony Moran as a child, Castle as an adult, credited as "The Shape") murders his sister (Sandy Johnson) for no particular reason. He's put away for 15 years, under the care of his psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Pleasance). Then he escapes, steals a car, and zips back to his hometown just in time for Halloween.

There, he runs across a trio of girls baby sitting and having fun (or not) on Halloween, and proceeds to murder two of them (plus a boyfriend). The last, Laurie Strode (Curtis in the role that made her), manages to..."outwit" him is the wrong word, because mostly she just dodges his knife and hides from him, so maybe "outlast" is better. Then Dr. Loomis shows up and shoots him a bunch of times...but he still gets up and vanishes.

Halloween is one of those movies that you can appreciate if you like the genre, but it's probably not going to scare anyone these days. The dialog is stilted, the story is dated (and has been improved and retouched like whoa), and it's worth remembering that as brilliant as Carpenter is, this was a very early movie for him and he's stepped up his game since. But as an aficionado of the slasher genre, Halloween is crucial, and seminal. It shows us the faceless killer with no motive. Myers doesn't have a history of abuse, he's not possessed, he's just...evil. We talk later about how the Final Girl is the "pure" one, but while Curtis' Laurie is certainly more responsible and school-focused than her friends, she smokes weed with them and she's obviously crushing on a boy at school. Are the others punished for their conduct on the night? Maybe, but it's hard to believe that's Myers' motivation.

The telling shot, I think, for Myers is after he kills Bob (John Michael Graham) and just...stands there, admiring his work. I know later movies in the series gave Myers a backstory, like they do, and I haven't seen the Rob Zombie remake, but for me, the essence of the genre is right there. Myers, staring at a dead body. Proud? Satisfied? Or just...interested?

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high, depending on the audience

Next up: Ladyhawke