Horror Icons – MICHAEL MYERS – John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)

On Halloween night of 1963, 6-year old Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death. After sitting in a mental hospital for 15 years, Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield to kill. (IMDB synopsis)

Finally! At long, long last! Yes, today I will be reviewing a film that I should have watched years ago, but never did. I’ve been putting off doing any Horror Icons, because at first I wanted each review to be an in-depth study of the iconic character in question, but then realised that I’d have to sit through 10 films in the Hallowe’en franchise just to do that for Michael Myers. So, might as well tackle them one by one. Here goes.

Review:

The film begins with some opening credits and oh no, that jack-o’-lantern is coming right at me, aaaargh! Then we get the first scene, presented from a first-person point of view in one long tracking shot. We see a teenaged girl messing around with her boyfriend on the sofa, before they both head upstairs for further hanky-panky. Then we enter the house and grab a knife from the kitchen drawer. It’s a good thing we’re creeping around so slowly, because we stop just short of greeting the boyfriend as he heads downstairs (wow, that was an extraordinarily short hanky-panky session). We put on a mask and creep into the girl’s bedroom, where she sits half-naked, brushing her hair. Gasp! She recognises us! The mask does nothing!
We quickly stab her to death – at least we must assume so; we never see penetration of a weapon and the knife remains blood-free throughout the stabbing process. Finally, we meander outside the house, where our parents draw up their car and remove our mask. Holy pyjamas, we were just a little boy all along! We killed our sister, oh my God!
Yeeears later, a Dr. Loomis and a nurse come to a psychiatric hspital to take the now grown-up Michael Myers away somewhere, but Myers breaks through the perimeter, steals the car and escapes.
Meanwhile, in Haddonfield, we meet a pleasant young woman named Laurie. Her plans for the day are to go to school and then babysit a boy named Tommy for Hallowe’en night. Wait a minute, are she and her friends supposed to be high-school students? They look twenty years old at least! Oh yeah, you guys should ‘totally’ have another cigarette, you blooming rebels! Throughout the day, Laurie becomes convinced that a tall man-shaped figure is stalking her. And it’s true, Michael does pop up everywhere. At one point he drives ahead of the girls just to pop up at a hedge right in front of them. It’s like we’re playing a game of Whack-A-Myer.

Whack-A-Myer

Little do the people of Haddonfield know that an escaped psychiatric patient is on the loose in their town, and Loomis and the sheriff must find him before it’s too late!
Now, I wish I could say I went into the film completely blind, but I’ve seen parts of Hallowe’en before – in horror movie countdowns, in affectionate parodies, in scathing reviews of Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake, etc. Still, it was interesting to me to see the film that would basically go on to inform countless slasher movies after it. Of course, the slasher genre really began with Psycho, but the film draws much inspiration from that, which I approve of. Come to think of it, Psycho never showed penetration of the knife, either. Hallowe’en‘s opening scene makes a little more sense now.
Also, much like Psycho, the film is very good at creating and drawing out suspense. This could have to do with the way Myers can pop up in any place at any time:

There he is! Gettim!
There he is! Gettim!

But I think it also has to do with the clever use of establishing shots, and the exceedingly ominous music that follows the characters everywhere. There are more than a few jumpscares, but each one is executed well, considering the genre. Mind you, the sheriff jumpscares both Laurie AND Dr. Loomis at different points in the film, and honestly, he doesn’t do much else. He doesn’t even think it pertinent to put word out that there may be an escaped lunatic skipping around Haddonfield.
Jamie Lee Curtis as the leading lady does very well, I think – and yes, she’s also the daughter of Psycho’s leading lady, as it happens. Laurie is the most smart and sensible of her friends, is educated and good with kids. All the time she stays at Tommy’s house, babysitting him and another young girl, her friends are picked off one by one by the ever-present and wholly mute Myers.
While we’re talking about him, he’s a terrific character too. The mask he wears is white and expressionless (and an awful likeness of William Shatner – no, really) which plays into the Uncanny Valley thing I mentioned in another review. I guess we’re not supposed to know what Myer’s motivation is, which makes him all the more scary, but it seems that female nudity is what really pushes his buttons. Annie strips down to a shirt and long yellow socks before he strangles her to death, and Lynda and her boyfriend Bob ‘totally’ partake in shenanigans before he comes at them with a knife. Really, the way other characters talk about him makes him sounds like an unstoppable force of pure evil, which is actually quite cool. He’s the last person you want in your house.
Towards the end of the film, when Laurie goes to the house opposite to investigate, she finds the bodies of her friends presented in grim artistic fashion, which must have taken a lot of time and effort for Myers to set up, but never mind. She’s just about to leave when Myers finally lashes out at her.

W'aaaargh!
W’aaaargh!

Fortunately, she shows cunning and initiative, first attacking him with a knitting needle, then again with a coathanger and finally with his own knife, all the while keeping the kids in relative safety. UNfortunately, Myers proves to be thoroughly unkillable and refuses to stay down. Even when Loomis arrives and fires several shots at him, causing Myers to topple over the first-floor balcony into the garden, both Loomis and Laurie are horrified to discover that…

bunny-mojo-whack-a-mole-funn-1-1-s-307x512

…he’s not there! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN!
This is where the film ends, and it sets the audience up for the smorgasbord of sequels. *sigh* Nine more to go…

Final Verdict:

As far as slasher movies are concerned, this one is quite unusual, in that we rarely see any blood spilled. (This is something that the Prom Night remake would try and fail at several years later.) For such a small-budget film, it’s great at providing horror and suspense, giving us a sympathetic leading lady AND an unsympathetic slasher boogeyman from Hell. Definitely a good watch.

Rating:

8 jam sandwiches.

I’m not sure when I’ll do the next Hallowe’en film, but if you want to see more Myers, or any other Horror Icon for that matter, do let me know in the comments or by emailing me. Thanks for reading! And, er… remember to lock up tonight.

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