For this week’s ‘Throwback Thursday’post, Rich aka Rich Reviews wants to take you down a dark, foreboding path. Read on as he reminisces on the first time he watched John Carpenter’s classic..
” I have pretty much liked Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror my whole life. I have memories of asking my mum to call me Spidey after not only reading spider man comic books and also watching the tv show with Nicholas Hammond (one of the Von Trapp family members, Google it) but also, the cartoon. Watching and reading all of these immersed me in a false bravado that kids of a certain age have. In a nutshell it’s all good until the poop hits the fan. One day, there would be a constant reminder that with good there has to be bad: October 31st Halloween.
“The night he came home.” That was the tagline that haunted me for years on the front of the video cassette case that was on a revolving display in my local newsagents (this was before Blockbusters existed and you could rent videos from the shop. If your next question is what or who is blockbusters then you’re too young for me). The film in question was Halloween directed by John Carpenter. It was not until years later when I saw the film in my teens did I not recognise it for the horror masterpiece that it was and also still scared the bejeezus out of me.
The film’s premise is pretty simple: set in a small Midwestern town called Haddonfield, Illinois in america in 1963 a young Michael Myers on Halloween night while dressed in a clown’s outfit kills his sister and her boyfriend with a pair of scissors. He is taken to a mental institute where he observed by a Doctor Sam Loomis. For 15 years Loomis attempts to break through to Myers and after every failed attempt decides it best that he is kept locked up away from society. On October 30th 1978 escapes the mental institute and returns to Haddonfield to finish what he started 15 years ago. What precedes next is a cat and game mouse of Dr Loomis trying to warn the authorities that Michael has returned. Michael begins to stalk a young baby sitter named Laurie Strode. I could break down what happens next but I would be spoiling a great film even though I’m sure you have a rough idea of how it ends that’s the first point the second point is that this is one of those films that will haunt you for a while after the same way you always scared to sit on the toilet seat after watching Jaws.
Halloween for me is such a great film on so many levels. The level of voyeurism which is used in this film may not be the first (Hitchcock’s Psycho being one of the most popular) but it’s done with such a way that it takes away the feeling of being safe. Scenes where it takes place during the day or when Michael is watching a group of friends is most unsettling as it makes it clear that at least two things that we find safety in whether you’re a child or an adult is that daytime/light and safety in numbers will at some point obsolete and that’s when he will strike. I consider this film a horror film as much as psychological thriller. The opening scene which opens up with us seeing Michael murder his sister and her boyfriend through his eyes and then to have the mask removed to his face is one of the most chilling scenes for me as what is more scary than an evil child, something that is meant to be pure. The next great thing is the setting Haddonfield is a made up town but Illinois is not so it had that one foot steeped in reality that always made me walk around the house with the lights on after viewing, had it been set in a city such as New York it would not of have worked as well as the population would have been too big which equals safety this is also not forgetting that the whole town knows the story of young Michael committing the murders but had taken an out of sight out of mind approach which almost makes them as guilty when the murders start to happen.
With such a simple but effective story the characters that drive this story is what really hammers home the horror aspect (no pun intended). Dr Sam Loomis (played perfectly by Donald Pleasance) is easily the Van Helsing of this story even though he is a accredited doctor there is a slight crazy to him that leaves you to believe that there isn’t much difference to him and Michael. He runs around bug eyed screaming to anybody that will listen whilst brandishing a gun that Michael is coming with such gravitas that he could be that crazy man in a trench coat holding the world is nigh sign above his head.
Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is perfect as the straight laced girl who doesn’t drink, smoke and is not interested in boys. Through this character although we do not know it we are introduced to the rules of the ‘final girl’ these rules would be horror cannon for at least x amount of years until they were debunked by characters such Buffy Summers and Sidney Prescott. Michael Myers played by Nick Castle is totally different to any horror character that scared me as a child. First thing we never really see his face as he wears the now iconic white mask and then it’s his movement, Michael does run, he doesn’t speak he observes and then he does what he is compelled to do. He is a force of nature so when we see him take a beating with a stick, poked in the eye with a hanger or shot with a gun and he still comes back for more it’s all the more believable and scary he ends up personifying the supernatural monster in the real world which is why when he is described as the bogey man it rings some truth. He doesn’t need blood like Dracula he doesn’t need to kill and pass on his curse like the werewolf. The scene of when he observes the body that he has just impaled is frightfully chilly and a stark reminder that now this man has started his rampage there will be no stopping him and he will not be reasoned with.
I remember reading an article in which it was described that the first person perspective of Michael Myers was taken away from him briefly at the end to show his face and then have him put the mask back on was to give him back the power that he had over the victims and was something that the male viewer would be able to identify with. I cite bullshit and retort with this when we see Michael’s face at the end even its briefly it’s to show that he is just like any other person out there which makes him even more scary.
Halloween went on to spawn numerous sequels (the second being the best) although some had some good ideas there slowly but surely moved away from the simplicity that made the first so great by bogging down the character of Michael with history that was not needed. The movie also helped to usher in or even create the slasher genre that was so shockingly bad at being great during the 1980 a prime example being the Friday the 13th series that took a cue direct from John Carpenter’s film. It wasn’t until 1995’s Scream by Wes Craven took the rules that had been established by Halloween flipped them on their head and then made them relevant again. But that’s a story for another time.
Anyway if you have a list of films to watch, then make sure this is on your list. Also make sure that you don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or have sex with boys or girls.