Director: John Carpenter
I first encountered Michael Myers when I watched Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later (1998, Steve Miner) which is like the 7th film in the Halloween franchise. Yes it was scary when I watched it but having now watched the original I realize how much more terrifying the John Carpenter film is. Halloween H2O is a much more polished product than Halloween which I think is a bit of a hinderance to the scary nature of the story. There is something rawer and more dingy to Carpenter’s Halloween which I think makes the unhinged nature of his killer more pronounced.
“Throughout the film, someone is always watching, be it predator, or prey.” (642, Kathryn Bergeron, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) As with all horror films there is a sense of voyeurism but with Halloween Carpenter immediately situates the viewer in that role by opening the film the way he does. As Bergeron says, “the film’s opening is itself a radiantly executed point-of-view take, peering through the eyes of the then-six-year-old killer.” (642) The age at which Michael first kills sets him apart from the other iconic serial killers established during the 1970s and 1980s. The only other character close to his age in this genre is Damien (The Omen, 1976, Richard Donner) and he isn’t so much a serial killer as the Antichrist. And then to add to the horror of watching a six-year-old’s first kill he has to be dressed as a clown which adds a whole other level of terror … everyone knows clowns are some of the scariest things around!
“The intensity of Carpenter and Debra Hill’s screenplay lies in situating the terror in the calm visage of suburbia, where one would (or at least used to) assume children were safe and sound.” (642) I did find for all that the title itself suggests Halloween, there is very little evidence to situate the narrative in an iconic holiday. Even the weather throws you off as nobody appears to need a jumper let alone a coat despite it being the very end of October. There’s a rather substantial lack of any Halloween decorations in this sleepy little area of suburbia as well as next to nobody out trick-or-treating. Now this wouldn’t have been all that out-of-place had it been in England as Halloween is a rather lack luster affair over here but it’s a pretty big deal over in the States.
“No director since Alfred Hitchcock has managed to capture the delicious voyeurism of horror as well as John Carpenter in Halloween, a film so entrenched with our primordial anxieties that it continues to define the genre several decades later.” (642) There are numerous nods towards the established grand-daddy of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. None more so than casting Jamie Lee Curtis in the role of the lone virginal survivor, Laurie. Who better to be the star in a film that so obviously pays homage to the ‘master of suspense’ than the daughter of one of the most famous Hitchcock leading ladies, Janet Leigh?!
Jamie Lee Curtis is every bit the female horror protagonist. She’s flighty yet has a steely core of determination and the will to fight against a seemingly invincible foe. And of course it’s her virtue that is her saving grace, underscoring that common theme across the horror genre that being a virgin will ultimately save your life.
Nothing is really resolved by the climax of the film (as we know from the 7 subsequent films … plus the 2 remakes from Rob Zombie in 2007 and 2009) which adds to the terror of the overall story. As Bergeron says, “in the end, we are left to wonder uncomfortably about the thread of separation between fact and fiction.” (642) It is this sense of questioning our own eyes that for me makes the film all the more memorable – as does Myers disturbing mask (an extremely dodgy likeness, or rather attempt, of William Shatner)