Like many of us here at ScreenRelish, I love horror. I love every chunky bit of the delightful nightmares The genre has such potential to instill a variety of emotions to the viewers, ranging from genuine joy from the genre’s silliness to pants-shitting fear. Yet one classic franchise that has never interested me personally has been the HALLOWEEN franchise.
Sure in film school I learned to respect what John Carpenter did with this franchise, but nothing about the actual film seemed, well, scary to me. So in spirit of Halloween many of us are looking back at the cinematic legacy of Michael Myers himself (our Jessica’s recent debut with Rob Zombie’s divisive remake and Lucinda’s look back at the underrated threequel SEASON OF THE WITCH), and what better way for me to be introduced to the series then with the 1978 original?
The brilliance of John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN lies in the overarching sense of dread seen in every shot. Carpenter’s impact on the horror genre can still be seen today, but one element that is missing is a certain stillness, a necessary calm before the storm that is Michael Myers. It’s the difference between a good, scary horror film and the gory and found-footage horror franchises of today.
Nothing in HALLOWEEN is unintentional, with every frame oozing real craft and understanding of viewers engagement. We never follow the “boogeyman,” but instead wait for him to walk into frame or quietly haunt the background. I don’t think that HALLOWEEN was ever made to be horrifying, yet there is not a single moment that allows the viewers to relax.
There is a constant sense of escalation seen throughout the film that works in its favor. As Laurie continuously dodges Myers his attacks continue to escalate in severity. The way Myers forcefully breaks into the Wallace house, and frantically tries to get Laurie in the closet showcases the natural escalation of dread. Combined with the simple, yet atmospheric soundtrack that grows with the film really makes everything feel new. Clearly these are the decisions of director John Carpenter, a trend that continues with each of his films.
Conceptually, HALLOWEEN doesn’t present itself as a very serious movie. Michael Myers spent years locked away in confinement only to breakout and escape, yet his only action is to return to the wistful neighborhoods of Haddonfield to stalk and kill his prey. It’s silly and falls apart at the slightest notion of logic, yet it’s compelling. There is a certain artistry with how Carpenter shows his character, especially Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), that makes everything feel real. From the pedestrian setting, to how Laurie and friends use common household objects to fend off “the boogeyman,” to the small-yet-effective act of showing us Michael’s hands, everything in HALLOWEEN displays a huge level of understanding and competence in both film making and in the audience watching.
As I stated earlier, I’ve never watched any of the HALLOWEEN films before now. Truth be told, my only experience with the character Michael Myers was from friends donning the white mask on Halloween. I never understood why people felt like he was scary, and truthfully he isn’t. When compared to the likes of Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers is utterly human. He doesn’t kill you in your sleep, and he hasn’t fought his way out of hell; he simply watches and waits for his moment to strike. In this sense, the terror of Michael Myers is that he is human, and it takes one beautiful little film to bring that to life.
And while I’m sure most people have seen this movie already, let me end this with a scene that encapsulates everything great about this film. Enjoy!