Sphinx’s Spooky Spectacular Horror Film Review - Halloween
Greetings everyone. Here we are, the final horror movie I saw this Halloween season. The film is the 1978 classic Halloween, of which John Carpenter directed, co-wrote, and performed the soundtrack. This is considered one of the most influential movies of all time, mainly because it is one of the most successful independent films of all time (while adjusting for inflation) and because it ultimately creates the slasher horror movie genre. This film, like The Exorcist, has been selected for preservation from the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. When it comes to what I knew about this movie upon watching it, I was only aware of Jamie Lee Curtis being in it, and that Michael Myers was the murderer with his famous mask.
Plot: The film begins in 1963 on Halloween night when a young Michael Myers murders his sister. Transitioning forward to 1978, we see Dr. Samuel Loomis drive up to the nut house where Myers has been held all this time, only to see the front gates opened and mental patients aimlessly walking around. While getting out of the car to look around, Michael steals the doctor’s car, and after murdering a mechanic and getting some supplies (such as a mask, knives, and rope) he goes on a murder spree on Halloween night once again.
Reading that synopsis, you might be thinking how good that plot sounds as a horror movie. However, this movie is so slow to get moving. There is too much set up with the teenagers who later become Michael’s victims, it dragged on for over an hour into the film. I also didn’t think it built up any sympathy for me towards the victims, nor do I think it created any real suspense as Michael keeps stalking from afar. If there was a more interesting story tied to the teenage characters, one that wasn’t as simple as “oh, let’s get together on Halloween night even though I’m babysitting” I may have felt more invested.
Acting: Donald Pleasence plays Dr. Loomis, and he does a wonderful job in that role. Famous to me for playing the first Ernst Stavro Blofeld in a James Bond movie (1967’s You Only Live Twice), Pleasence is as much cool, calm, and collected as he is creepy. The way he interprets his lines make you think this guy is also crazy as he is searching for Michael throughout the film. This is also the film that put Jamie Lee Curtis on the map in Hollywood. She does a great job as Laurie Strode, and creates a performance that has since been copied and emulated by all “last girls standing” in slasher horror films. Nick Castle plays Michael Myers, and I really only bring him up because he plays Michael also in the new 2018 Halloween movie and has collaborated with John Carpenter other times by co-writing Escape from New York and performing the title song to Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China, a film LPJ and I reviewed on a recent episode of the Last Action Podcast.
Suspense: The film does a pretty good job in capturing the audience's attention whenever Michael Myers is about attack. Watching Laurie’s friend Annie babysitting, and having her go back and forth between the house she’s babysitting at and the laundry room (which I guess is in the garage?) while knowing Michael is nearby grabs the attention of the viewer to wonder when Michael will finally attack. When you finally think maybe she got out fine, we see Michael strangle and then stab her from the back seat of her car in the garage. It’s the music with the quick hit of synthetic sound, followed by the car horn blaring as her dead body falls on the steering wheel that really creates the fear. In addition, the final 20 minutes or so with Michael hunting down and trying to kill Laurie is nearly perfect horror movie suspense, as Michael is relentless in trying to kill her. Several times you think she has escaped, and we see famous scenes of her hiding in the closet with him slashing into it, and Michael finally being shot but then seeing his body had gone missing.
The hokiest scene though has to come from Lynda’s death. Michael walks into the bedroom with Lynda naked in the bed, but he has a bed sheet over his head with glasses on, making it look like he could be the boyfriend that he murdered downstairs. It’s a pretty silly scene and predictable too in that Lynda is going to be dead shortly.
Gore/Violence: For 1978, the violence may have been intense, but in 2018 it was pretty tame. There is very little gore in the entire film, it is more the violent slashing and choking attacks by Michael that stand out. This may be because the film had a very small budget, but it left me expecting more.
Other thoughts: I want to point out that the music is terrific in this movie. I know many people who listen to this soundtrack throughout the Halloween season to simply get in the mood. The simple piano melody is spooky but catchy, and easily one of the most memorable themes in all of cinema. In addition, I’m aware of all the innovate things Carpenter did in shooting this film, especially first person point of views, including the famous murder scene of Michael’s sister through his Halloween mask. Carpenter was only given $300,000 to complete this film, low even for 1978. At the box office it made nearly $80 million, an astounding amount given how little it cost to make the film. Deadite had told me that the famous mask is actually of William Shatner, purchased for $2 at a local store where they were shooting the film. I guess I’ll never look at William Shatner the same again.
Final Ranking: I really wanted to like this film. Given how famous and influential this film is, it really fell flat though. I was bored for nearly 60 minutes of this 90 minute film, and by the time we had some good horror scenes it was short lived and not as dramatic as I hoped. The acting is good, the soundtrack is phenomenal, but overall I give this film a….
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