Halloween is my favourite horror movie. I’ve seen it many times. I watched it last night too and that just doesn’t seem to end . Before it, I watched ‘Poltergeist’, Tobe Hooper’s film which seems to stick to its early 80’s time. The first Halloweeen doesn’t seem to age, it seems to stand outside of time.
And there are reasons for that…
It Isn’t Set In 1978
Well, of course, it is. Halloween was released then, wasn’t it? But there’s a feeling of an earlier time which perhaps never existed; as ‘Scream’ tells us, having sex usually means death and the most chaste character here, our heroine, Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is the one who survives.
And yet sex isn’t really on the agenda in Halloween; yes, Annie and her boyfriend Bob have sex, but it has a comic feel, it lasts for a few moments, after which Annie’s comment ‘Fantastic’ seems almost a joke. The other one of the 3 school friends, Lynda, is also killed by Michael Myers, but she doesn’t get close to any sexual encounter, she is going to see her boyfriend when the deed occurs.
This, in 1978, seems to come from a different time. And that links with the parochial feel of the town itself – Haddonfield is a hamlet, we don’t see much urban decay, we see people leaving their doors, houses and cars, open, we see them walking past well coiffured hedges. Of course, Roger Ebert puts it so well;
‘They’re all ordinary, everyday people — nobody’s supposed to be the star and have a big scene and win an Academy Award. The performances are all the more absorbing because of that; the movie’s a slice of life that is carefully painted (in drab daylights and impenetrable nighttimes) before its human monster enters the scene.’
Actually, the schoolfriends talk about any physical activity with men in a chaste way too – Laurie can’t even think of going to the dance with Ben Traymer, even though she longs for him.
And this gives the sightings of Michael Myers – Laurie sees him everywhere – a simple, homely feel, he’s seen standing among washing on a line, beside a hedge, by his car. This may sound benign, ridiculous even and yet the homely feel is terrifying, this is because it could happen anywhere, in your garden, on the street – look how scary the abduction in daylight from ‘Scream 2’ is – Michael is everywhere.
Credit; Horror Asylum
The Tradition Is Observed
Linking with the small-town feel, the Halloween tradition is a real character in Halloween. The death stands against the candy and sanitised horror of the yearly tradition, but that comfortable feel makes a real difference.
Tommy, the kid Laurie babysits and his friend Lindsey observe the pumpkin carving if Tommy is seen as being a little less savvy than his schoolmates, his worry about the Boogie Man is never teased by Laurie, she takes it seriously.
Even when Tommy shows Laurie the comics he now likes, they look like comic books from the ’60s, there’s no discussion of music, movies, or fashion.
And that’s another hint, this Halloween movie stands in its own space – to talk of Disco, Star Wars or TV would time it out, not mentioning it at all allows the film to exist long after 1978.
The casting of Donald Pleasance as Dr Sam Loomis is inspired. Pleasance seldom made the acting choices you would expect and that’s a bonus here.
Firstly, he is so good at handling the lines about Michael Myers which could be quite chewy in another actor’s mouth but here have absolute conviction.
Secondly, he shows a fatalistic feeling that this was bound to happen – he doesn’t seem to have a plan, he wanders around and seems almost diffident – it is the flip side of Patrick Troughton’s overwrought priest in ‘The Omen’, both superb performances – we expect the man of science to save the day, but here he doesn’t give us that handhold and that lack of certainty is scary.
Lastly, Pleasance has that sweet but odd moment when he adopts a cod southern US accent to warn a kid dared to approach the Myers house. He smiles after he’s done it, not an appropriate response at all, given the circumstances.
Donald Pleasance always added to a movie. As Empire put it;
‘…once again Donald Pleasence makes a banquet out of a potential ham dinner.’
Credit; Horror Film Wiki – Fandom
There’s No Happy Ending, Or Indeed, Any Ending
Michael Myers is shot and falls many feet. We see him stretched out on the grass.
Laurie asks what the Boogie Man is at the end of Halloween. And Dr Loomis feels safe enough to say yes, Michael was. He gives life to the tradition Laurie has denied to Tommy.
It gives life to the monster, who is dead of course. Except he isn’t. He’s gone. We cut from that to the puzzlement of Loomis to Laurie moaning with emotional pain.
Credit; New York Times
And that’s it.
Nothing is resolved on Halloween. The monster Myers remains at large. Laurie’s pain will not diminish. Nothing is good.
And Halloween doesn’t end. The music, that itchy, propulsive synth music, just starts again; the town, the people, will never be the same again.
And neither was I after seeing it.