Halloween (1978)

HW1

On Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers murdered his sister and was sent to an insane asylum. 15 years later he’s escaped and he plans to continue his murderous ways.

From now until the day I die, Michael Myers will always be my favorite serial murderer, which I know sounds really fucked up, but Halloween was the first “creepy killer” movie I saw as a kid. It’s much like my love of zombie flicks, I watched Night of the Living Dead when I was seven and even now zombies are my favorite horror creatures (and best friends). I watched Halloween when I was nine and ever since Myers has been my favorite. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I watched Friday the 13th only a year later and Jason Voorhees has become my second favorite serial murderer. I’m not going to lie, my review is most likely going to be a little biased but it’s also going to piss off a few purist as even my latest watch showed me more than a few things that are wrong with the film. Either way, why don’t we delve into the film that started a whole slew of “killer kills lots of people” films?

We start out on Halloween night in 1963 where a young Michael Myers murders his sister for no apparent reason other than she fucked some random dude five minutes before he killed her. He is sent to an asylum in Smith’s Grove, IL after being found, in legal terms, batshit insane. Fast forward fifteen years and things have gotten more or less back to normal in Haddonfield, IL (where Michael originally murdered his sister), but back at Smith’s Grove the young murderer is planning a deadly return to his former hometown. When his doctor Sam Loomis (played expertly by Donald Pleasence) shows up to take the killer (who has been sitting silently, barely even moving for the last 15 years) to a court appointment, Myers makes his move. He steals the doctor’s station wagon, kills a man so he can steal his mechanic’s overalls, and breaks into a store to steal a mask and some other supplies before heading out to begin his murderous quest. Yes, Michael Myers, besides being a serial killer, is also a prevalent thief who steals more than his fair share of items (including his sister’s tombstone). Now armed with what would become his iconic mask and a toolbox made of murder, Myers begins stalking poor Lorie Strode for unknown reasons (PART 2 SPOILER ALERT: It’s his younger sister no one knew about) and her friends, setting up an elaborate trap he intends to spring come Halloween night.

HW8{Not who you want to see when you look upstairs}

Okay, so you noticed the spoiler I’ve already given away, truth be told, there is going to be a few of those throughout the review. Come on, this movie came out in 1978 and is considered one of the best Halloween flicks in existence, the name of the season is in the title. You have to have seen this one by now. However, in trying to be a little conscientious to the few heathens who haven’t seen this movie, I’ll give you the warning now, I’m going to spoil more than a few things with my review so if you want to stop reading after already having the plot twist from Part 2 ruined for you, I’ll understand. I’ll be deeply hurt and I may never recover from the icy cold knife you’ll be stabbing into my unbeating heart but I’ll understand.

HW2

{I swear I’m not trying to make you feel guilty or anything}

Are you still here? Good, then let us continue shall we?

As dated as this movie is I still freaking love it. It’s lost a little bit of its creepy charm over the years but is still a great horror flick with a haunting atmosphere and chilling plot line. Myers as the central focus is an amazing character in the fact that he has almost no character, but that is what makes him so appealing. There are no one liners for Myers or explanatory backstory (at least not until we get to part 6 or the awful remakes). He is simply a killing machine born to kill anyone who gets in his way. Even his blank mask (actually a converted Captain Kirk mask) portrays him as a blank slate with no actual reason for what he does, and it’s this fact that makes him so much creepier than so many other horror movie icons. Freddy killed in revenge for being burned to death, Jason killed because his mom was offed, and Pinhead killed because he really liked black latex, but Myers had no reasons for what he did. He killed because he killed and that was enough. Director John Carpenter spoke in an interview a few years back about how people watching the film for the first time were amazed at how disgustingly deformed Myers’ face was when his mask comes off for just a second toward the end. Funny thing was, his face was relatively normal other than a small wound to his eye but the power of suggestion made audience members believe they were seeing a horrid face under the blank mask. This was exactly Carpenter’s idea, that because of the blank slate of the mask no audience member would be able to relate to the killer and would project their own interpretations onto him. Funny story, the mask was almost that of a creepy clown reminiscent of what we saw on Myers in the beginning, but was changed when the crew saw the blank version. I think it would have changed the movie immensely if they had gone with the clown mask and I think (though can’t know for sure) audience members would have found the killer somewhat lacking.

HW7{Though I suppose it would have gone over better than Myers killing people in a bed sheet}

I know one thing audiences did find lacking was blood. There really isn’t too much blood in this movie, maybe only three or four instances and even then it’s little more than a red line over someone’s throat or a small smattering on someone’s face. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of the scares come from the atmosphere and Michael jumping out of hidden locations. It seems predicable and dated now but was revolutionary for its time and while I will admit to the film not being nearly as creepy as it was 30 years ago it still has its moments and I can appreciate what this film did for the horror genre. Plus, it still has one of my favorite kills in horror history when Michael impales one of his victims with a kitchen knife. Towards the end of the film when Myers is setting up his fun house o’murder, Lynda’s (P.J. Soles) boyfriend comes down for a beer only to have Michael burst out and stab him so hard he sticks him via kitchen knife to the wall. It’s not the kill that makes this my favorite though, it’s Myers’ look after stabbing. As his victim hangs on the wall he just stares at him, cocking his head like a dog in his curiosity. It was absolutely perfect and added yet another layer to the character. I’d recommend that anyone just venturing into the world of horror give Halloween a watch first. You won’t get the visceral effects that have become all too common in horror today, but you will get a movie whose fear has nothing to do with blood and guts and all to do with the atmosphere. The last minute of the film is a great example when, after shooting Myers six times and sending him flying off a second story balcony, Loomis runs outside to find Myers’ body missing. As he screams into the air in desperation, the camera pans around the neighborhood and back to the old Myers’ house where Michael took his first victim. As the camera closes in on the final shot we can hear Myers’ labored breathing getting louder and louder before the camera finally fades to black. I’m sorry, but even after seeing so many horror movies that is still one of the creepiest endings I’ve seen.

HW4{The scene almost implies an innocence to the character}

While the atmosphere is amazing, some of the acting leaves a few things to desire. The main line up does a great job including Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Donald Pleasence (Sam Loomis), and Nick Castle (The Shape aka Michael Myers behind the mask) but some of the others just don’t seem to be putting forth a lot of effort, like they maybe just didn’t want to be there. Considering this film was never meant to be the success it turned into it’s partially understandable but being that they chose to be in the film I still think they could have tried a little harder but their performances just came across forced. Hell, P.J. Soles (Lynda) had been in Carrie only a couple of years earlier and did fine in that film. I guess I shouldn’t be too upset about it considering that at least the main players are good. Jamie Lee Curtis plays up scared really well and genuinely looks terrified while being chased by Michael Myers. This was actually her first major break and she was worried she’d done a horrible job and would never act in a film again until John Carpenter called her to tell her how happy he was with her performance. Donald Pleasence is superb in his role as Sam Loomis, a man convinced Michael is pure evil. Loomis’ only goal is to keep Myers locked away till the day the killer dies and Pleasence’s performance really sinks home how much the doctor fears what Michael is capable of. We almost didn’t even get Donald Pleasence as Carpenter originally wanted Christopher Lee but Lee turned down the role. Last but not least is Nick Castle as the titular bad guy. I’ve seen interviews with the man where he claims he must just be a good walker since that’s essentially all he had to do, but his posture and demeanor I think leant itself well to the character. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out the man’s got a few dozen bodies buried in his basement.

HW5{I’m saying that maybe someone should check out his basement}

Alright, I know this thing has already gone on a bit long so I’ll start wrapping it up, but there are a couple more things I want to touch on and then I’ll call it quits. They both involve the story. The first is one I’ve heard from fans of the movie for years, how in the actual fuck does he know how to drive? He hasn’t done anything but sit in a room completely still for 15 years. He shouldn’t be able to move with his muscles having atrophied years ago let alone know how to drive. I’ve heard there was a novelization of the movie where they said he just watched Loomis when the doctor drove him to court appointments, but I’m only going off of what was in the movie and there is no way the guy stuck in a room in a catatonic state knows how to drive. The second thing that bugs me with the story is more just a personal annoyance but it’s always bugged me none the less. He begins stalking Laurie in the beginning of the movie so wouldn’t it have been easier to just kill her then? Why wait till after he’s set up murder house? The movie could have been over in like 15 minutes if he’d avoided waiting so long. He’s not supposed to have anything left inside except rage and murder but he spends an unnecessary amount of time setting up a big scare for little sister. We wouldn’t have gotten much of a movie if he hadn’t but still.

HW3{I tortured my brother when we were kids, but come on}

One last bit of trivia just in case you ever want to play Seven Degrees of Bacon with Halloween. Nick Castle who plays Michael Myers in this film went on to direct The Last Star Fighter which started Lance Guest (co-star from Halloween 2) and co-starred with Dan O’Herlihy (the main villain from Halloween: Season of the Witch). With that last tidbit of utterly useless knowledge out of my system which I have no idea why I had to get down I think I’ll call it a night. If you haven’t seen the first true slasher flick before, you need to…right now…without delay. Seriously, drop whatever you are doing and go check it out. If you have already seen the movie (and I’m sure most of you have) then go give it another watch. After all, ‘tis the season doesn’t have to apply to just Christmas.

The Undead Review

I figured as a fun little aside I’m going to keep a kill count for the original 6 movies in Myers’ line up starting with this one. I’ll keep one for the current movie and one that adds them up as the films go along.

 

Michael Myers Kill Count:

Stabbed: 2

Unknown: 1

Throat Slit: 1

Strangled: 1

Total Kill Count: 5

 

 

Directed By: John Carpenter (Escape from New York, The Thing, Assault of Precinct 13)

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis (Prom Night, Terror Train, The Fog), Donald Pleasence (The Great Escapee, Fantastic Voyage, Escape from New York), P.J. Soles (Carrie, Rock N’ Roll High School), and Nick Castle as The Shape (Major Payne, The Last Starfighter)

Written By: John Carpenter (The Fog, Dark Star) and Debra Hill (The Fog, Escape from LA)

Released By: Compass International Pictures and Falcon International Productions

Release Type: Theatrical

Release Year: 1978

MPAA Rating: Rated R

Rotten Heads: Four Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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