yendi: (Michael 2)
Was there ever any doubt as to what I'd pick as the best Halloween movie? It's the original, Halloween.

Concept: From the first-person point of view, we someone put on a mask, grab a knife out of a kitchen drawer, climb up the stairs, and stab a teenage girl to death. We then pull away from the first person perspective, and we see that the first-person killer was actually a little boy!

Flash forward a number of years, and we see a cranky doctor and a nurse driving to a minimum security mental institution. Upon getting to the institution, the gates are open and a number of the residents are wandering around freely. They drive inside, when suddenly, something jumps on the roof, attacks them both, and drives off with the car. Dr. Loomis and Nurse Marion have just been the victim of one of the most famous on-screen carjackings ever, and the Shape is loose!

We now move to Haddonfield, IL, where we meet three nubile young girls, Annie, Lynda, and Laurie, as well as a little boy, Tommy, who Laurie will be babysiting that Halloween night. As they go about their day, we see the girls (the virginal Laurie in particular) being watched by an ominous shape driving a station wagon. On more than one occasion, they notice the stalker, and Annie even yells at it. As the day goes on, we learn that the gravestone of Judith Myers has been stolen, that a mechanic has been murdered en route to Haddonfield, and that, according to Loomis, Michael Myers is pure evil. Worse, they discover proof that he's back in his hometown!

Nighttime hits, and Michael finally decides to pay personal visits to some of the girls he's been watching.

Body Count: 5 (6 if you count the dog Michael kills). Of which one happens in the opening minutes, and another which occurs off-screen in the first half hour. This movie proves you can be scary without slaugtering half a high school.

Really Bad Kills: None.

Really Good Kills: All four on-screen kills are classic. Let's take 'em in order:

The opening murder of Judith has been ripped off countless times. No one's done it better. The first person perspective, the sheer brutality of the slaughter itself, and the pullback at the end to show a little boy holding a bloody knife are all moments that influence every horror filmmaker. After the murder of Janet Leigh in Psycho, this is arguably the single most important scene in slasher history.

Flash forward an hour to the death of Annie, one of the best stalking deaths recorded. Michael tracks Annie for nearly half an hour, spying on her in the laundry room (where he easily had her trapped) and outside. In good, classic morality-based slashing, it's only when Annie gets her friend Laurie to watch little Lindsay (her babysitting charge) so she can sneak off for a quickie with her boyfriend, Paul, that she bites it. And even then, the death is extended. We know something bad's going to happen, but we don't know when. The final sequence is classic. Annie goes to the car, only to realize that she's missing the keys. She heads back into the house, gets the keys, loiters enough to make us wonder if Michael will kill her there, then heads back to the garage. She instinctively opens the car door and slides in, only realizing a second later that the door was now unlocked. Even as this thought dawns on her, she notices that the windows are fogged up, and just as she starts to turn around, Michael pops up in the back seat and starts choking her, following it up with a quick slash to the throat.

If Annie's death scene was as much about the buildup, the death of Lynda's boyfriend Bob was a perfect jump kill. After having sex with Lynda in the same house in which Annie has died, he heads to the kitchen for a beer, and hears a noise, He checks one pantry, finds nothing, and just as he opens the second one, Michael grabs him by the throat and lifts him off the ground. After a few seconds of strangulation, Michael stabs him with the knife, impaling him on the wall. The quiet look Michael gives the body afterwards is another of horror's indelible moments.

And, of course, little beats the final kill, Lynda, for dark humor. Michael enters the bedroom, wearing a sheet over his body in classic ghost costume style, with only Bob's glasses over the sheet. Lynda assumes it Bob, of course, and teases him briefly before turning over to call Laurie. Just as Laurie picks up, Michael grabs the phone and starts strangling Lynda with the cord. Laurie hears gasping sounds, but having been prank phone called already that day, has no idea what's going on. It's a great scene, ending with Laurie shouting, "I'll kill you if this is a joke!" It also shows that Michael relishes toying with his victims, a trait that was, alas, mostly dropped after this movie.

Celebrities: Other than Curtis and Pleasance, no one. We do have the usual slate of Carpenter regulars (Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers, etc), but otherwise, the most notable "star" is little Kyle Richards (who played Lindsay), at the time a child actor with a recurring role on Little House on the Prairie, and now better known as the aunt to Those Annoying Hilton Sisters.

Denouement: Unsure about that phone call, Laurie goes to investigate, and after finding the bodies of her three friends (with Annie layed out in front of Judith Myers's tombstone), she's assaulted by Michael. She makes it out of the house (by luck, having fallen down a flight of stairs), fails to get help from a neighbor, and runs back to the Doyle house, pounding on the door to wake Tommy and Lindsay. They eventually let her in, but even as she realizes that the phones are dead, she feels a breeze, and realizes that the back door is open. She tells the kids to go upstairs and lock themselves in a bathroom, and right after that, Michael pops up from behind a couch (not even yelling "surprise"), and tries to stab her. Laurie stabs Michael with a knitting needle in the neck and goes upstairs to tell the kids that she's killed him. Just as Tommy points out that you can't kill the Boogieman, Michael bursts in. Laurie shoves the kids in the bathroom, and after they lock the door, she dodges Michael and hides in the closet. Michael eventually bursts his way through, but as he does, she stabs him in the eye with a coat hanger, grabs the knife, and stabs him int he stomach.

Just as we think all's well, Laurie gets the kids to run next door to call the police (and Loomis and Sheriff Brackett, who've been tracking Michael all the while, see this and head toward the Doyle house), and as she slumps there, behind her, we see Michael sit straight up. Having no clue that anything is amiss, Laurie wanders into the hallway, where Michael assaults her one last time. She grabs the mask off of him, revealing an almost blank face, and then, as he lunges for her again, we hear a deafening bang as Loomis shoots him. Michael doesn't go down, so Loomis shoots him again and again until Michael is thrown through the window. Of course, when they look outside, there's a Michael-shaped indentation, but the Boogeyman is missing.

Miscellany: Carpenter's early obsession with the original The Thing From Another World is apparent here, as it's the primary film shown on TV.

Dr. Sam Loomis is not named after Nancy Loomis, but after John Gavin's character in Psycho. Likewise, Tommy Doyle is named after the detective in Rear Window (and looking out a window is a very common visual theme in Halloween, although rarely in the voyeuristic sense). Other names of note include Nurse Marion Chambers, a concatenation of two other names from Psycho, and Sheriff Leigh Brackett, named after the great Hollywood screenwriter (who co-wrote Rio Bravo, The Big Sleep, and a little art film known as The Empire Strikes Back).

The town of Haddonfield, IL, is named after Haddonfield, NJ, where co-screenwriter Debra Hill was from.

Overall: What can I say that hasn't already been said. Every single slasher movie made since 1980 has swiped from this film. What almost all of them have failed to do, however, is actually be scary. This film is the scariest movie ever directed by anyone not named Hitchcock, and is an astonishing piece of low-budget filmmaking. And then there's the score. Carpenter's incredibly simply piano score is the height of creepiness. There's simply not much else I could say here. If you like horror or thriller movies at all, you've probably already seen this, but if you haven't, do so now. There's no better night for it.


yendi: (Default)

July 2017

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