Alright, in honor of Halloween I decided to move all the horror/scary movies in my Blockbuster queue up top. There’s about 30 movies now that I’m positive I won’t get through, plus a number that I already have (most of the pre-H2O Halloweens and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre) or have recently ordered (the Friday the 13th box set which is on its way).
After really discovering horror movies at the age of 14 or 15 (when I could ride my bike up to the Family Video and they didn’t card me for R rated movies), Halloween became one of my favorite holidays and I would celebrate it with various horror-fests, usually on my own, but sometimes with friends. Well, my senior year in college I got bronchitis and penmonia so bad that I actually had to go home for Halloween which put a damper on things. Then, the next year, a mere two weeks after moving out to New York I didn’t get invited to a former co-worker’s Halloween party (an oversight I’m sure), so I spent it in my hovel of a room trying to cheer myself up with horror movies, which didn’t work too well. I can’t remember the year after that, but last year I got sick again, though not as bad. Well, this year, I’m not letting sickness get me down. I’m celebrating my favorite holiday the only way I know how, by watching a butt-ton of the best and worst horror has to offer.
To kick things off, I naturally started with Halloween, a true favorite and a very recent addition to my DVD collection (it wasn’t on sale last year when I picked up 2-5 on the cheap). I don’t remember the actual first time I watched Halloween, but I know it was in my room in high school and it freaked me the f-bomb out. It’s still in my Triumvirate of Terror (the other two being Jaws and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I’m sure I”ll get around to reviewing this week). Anyway, it still holds up 31 years later and still actually makes me jump in places (even watching it on a tiny laptop screen).
If you don’t know the story of Michael Myers, I’m not going to explain it to you, you should really just watch the movie. But I will get into what I love about it. First and foremost you have the brilliant directing done by John Carpenter. He would go on to work with bigger and better actors, but what he did for POV camera work in Halloween just can’t be undone or imitated quite as effectively. By giving the camera the killer’s perspective (or at least one very close the Myers, like right next to him) you actually get trained to be afraid of everything you see, because you’re not sure if you’re seeing events through the killer’s perspective or just your average camera angle. That builds an element of suspense and unease that continues throughout the movie and adds a sense of dread not found in many other movies, even the ones where the camera man is a character in the movie.
And speaking of Michael, damn, what a creepy figure he makes. That painted-over Shatner mask (look it up) paired with the simple blue jumpsuit and the gray station wagon have never, and will never, be creepier. Being able to take such simple, every day elements and making them terrifying is very impressive. But besides the general aesthetic, Carpenter absolutely mastered the timing of showing off Myers. Like in Jaws, you don’t get an eyeful of him all at once. He teases you with the killer throughout the first part of the flick and then you get these short, terrifying glimpses until the last 15-20 minutes when he’s giving Laurie the scare of her life.
The kills are great too. Myers plays with his victims, but doesn’t get overly orchestrated in his kills. He does seem to enjoy setting up his kills in various places. I really dig the one with Annie in the Jesus Christ pose on the bed with the headstone above her, but the other two do seem a little out there and time consuming. But I guess when you’re wandering through a neighborhood and icing teenagers, you’ve got all the time you need.
Another thing I love about Halloween is Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s just fantastic in this. She was about 20 when she made the flick, but I get the feeling that her and her friends are actual teenagers. Maybe it’s because of the time gap. I have no idea what real teenagers in the ’70s would have acted like, the performances could be completely off for all I know, but they FEEL genuine. Especially. PJ Soles and her boyfriend Bob. Oh and the little kids are great, if not a bit stiff, but sometimes the slightly wooden performances add to the realism of a movie for me. We’ve all met those people who just don’t know how to talk to other people.
If Curtis hadn’t sold her performance so well, I don’t think the climactic scene would have been nearly as effective. You start off with her coming across her friends’ bodies, then freaking out like I do when I see a shadow that looks even remotely Michael Myers-shaped. Which of course leads to her running back to the kids she’s babysitting and Myers eventually following. And then you get three almost kill encounters, each one way scarier than the last until finally Loomis (geez, I haven’t mentioned Donald Pleasance once, have I?) jumps in and caps Myers right after we get a glimpse of his face (pay attention when he puts his mask back on and you can see the Michael Myers mask scrunching up under the Shatner mask). Of course he disappears at the very end and we’re left to hear his heavy, mask-restricted breathing as we get our last minute shots of the various locations in Haddonfield, Illinois.
Before I move on, I’ve got to say that one of my favorite scenes in movie history is the one towards the end after she stabs him in the closet where you see Lorie in the foreground and Michael sits up in the background. Damn. It doesn’t scare me like it did the very first time (because I know it’s coming), but it’s so damn creepy. He sits up like a robot!
Also Donald Pleasence is the man. He only gets crazier and crazier as the sequels roll out, but you do get a glimpse of his obsession with Michael here. From what I read he did his scenes in 5 days, which is pretty impressive.
Speaking of the sequels, none of them top the original, but I do have a special place in my heart for them. Seeing all these big new remakes come out puts a few tiny daggers in said heart because I know we won’t get a Halloween 7 (or 9 if you count H2O or Resurrection, which I don’t because they negate everything from 2-6). I also heard the Rob Zombie version was pretty terrible, though I did get to interview Danny Trejo because of it and he was my favorite interview of all time (so far).
One last word on the subject of Halloween. I actually don’t like being scared in real life, so even though I love horror movies, I’ve only been to one haunted house kind of thing. When I was in high school there were three under one roof in what used to be a Handy Andy or something like that. I picked the metaphorical last straw and ended up in the back of the line (not a good place to be) and ended up being followed by a guy dressed up like Michael Myers for the entire 10-15 minutes that it took us to walk through the thing. I’m not sure when he started, but I looked back, saw him and completely freaked out on the inside, but tried to keep my cool in front of my friends. I wanted to punch that dude SO bad. Luckily I didn’t, cause I don’t want to end up like Bob.
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