It’s Wednesday, which normally would mean that this space would be devoted to Wednesday Weirdness, but today is also Halloween, and given that I’m doing a whole Halloween-themed thing here, I don’t want to waste the climax on something stupid. Instead I’ll be doing something perfectly appropriate for today, while this week’s tribute to the stranger side of cinema will be delayed until Thursday, where it will be used to justify why the 13 Days of Halloween is continuing into November.
On Halloween night 1963 Michael Myers, a six year-old boy, brutally murdered his sister. Committed to an institution for fifteen years he escapes on the night before Halloween 1978, and sets about re-enacting his crime. This is the premise of today’s movie, John Carpenter’s genre-defining classic, Halloween. While subsequent decades would see the “slasher” genre bogged down by clichés this movie really holds up surprisingly well.
Halloween features Jamie Lee Curtis in her feature debut as Laurie Strode the teenage babysitter who in this film, isn’t so much at the center of Myers’ obsession, as adjacent to it. I’ve never been a big fan of Jamie Lee, but I can see why this role propelled her to stardom. As Laurie, she’s very much a realistic character, (at least realistic for a slasher movie protagonist.) She’s relatable without being boring, or a mere cipher for the viewer. Meanwhile, Donald Pleasence stars as Dr. Sam Loomis, Michael Myers’ therapist at the state asylum, and the only one who anticipates what Myers will be up to. I really enjoyed his performance here, blending the man of science with the man of action, while delivering some excellently ominous one-liners.
Overall the film does an excellent job of doing a whole lot with a little. The pacing is fairly slow, but this just serves to ratchet up the tension for a fantastic final half-hour. Carpenter employs the fantastic score and the sparse visual style to near perfection in creating foreboding mood throughout the picture, while, in Myers, he creates a truly ominous figure, the unstoppable, unreasoning personification of evil. Judged strictly on its own merits, this would easily be right at the top of the list I’ve reviewed here in the 13 Days of Halloween, but I do also give movies credit for being significant, and this movie certainly is. As the first modern “slasher” film, it defines many of the tropes that would imitated and emulated for years to come, yet it does them far better than most. This, then, is just enough to put the movie over the top… it is a Must See.
[Halloween (1978) – Directed by John Carpenter – Rated R]