My American horror reviews will be coming to an end after this as the final weeks of school see us watching modern horror films, but ending with the granddaddy of the slasher feels correct. I’ve watched Halloween in bits and pieces prior to watching it in class, and I have to say, it’s just okay. It could be because I flat-out hate Jamie Lee Curtis‘ character, or that having seen so many individual pieces, and the 2007 remake, I didn’t feel particularly scared or in any state of suspense. I did find the treatment of women to be interesting, and by that we get the creation of the final girl that’s taught women how to survive horror movies for decades. In the end, I liked it but I simply don’t get the hype.
I’ve grown up with Halloween being a continuous presence in my house, more so since my little brother adores the series and watches all of them at least once a year; and yet, it’s taken me almost twenty-five years to watch the original. I will say, watching Halloween with a packed house is the best way to appreciate it. My fellow classmates and I were screaming at the screen by the end, especially when Laurie throws her only weapon away not once, but twice! According to my textbook, John Carpenter wanted to make this a drive-in/theater movie where audiences would comment during the movie, and it certainly maintains the power to provoke a reaction; however, it comes at the expense of making character who are halfway intelligent! Seriously, Laurie Strode has to be the dumbest character in the world! I guess I should back up a little because I get on my soapbox.
In terms of the movie, it’s predictable if you’ve watched the countless horror imitators that have cropped up in the wake of Halloween. Having seen the Rob Zombie remake, which forsakes atmosphere for sex and gore, I understand the beats and the trajectory of the story. Then again, if you haven’t seen Halloween by now it shouldn’t shock you in the slightest. For 1978, the movie is relatively tame in the sex and nudity department, although that is present. The pervasive theme, that would eventually solidify and become the dominant focus in all teen films from here on out, is sex; who’s having it and what does that say about them? Here is where I have a problem with Halloween. Laurie Strode is a mock-mother from the first minute of the movie. I applaud her disinterest in conforming for male attention, refusing to be dumb or slutty like her friends, but she’s so meek and mild that you’re waiting for her to be scared of a fly. I appreciate Curtis as an actress more for being able to break out of that mold and play strong women because she certainly didn’t start out that way. Once Laurie is placed in the home environment she becomes the imitation mother, right down to wearing an apron and worrying about the children above herself. It’s not a surprising trope, and it plays out in other movies of the time – a response to second-wave feminism. I mean, even Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) had to stop what she was doing to get the cat in Alien. Of course, Laurie introduces the final girl, the one who survives because of her chastity and it is rather heavy-handed overall.
The rest of the actors are simply there to be Michael Meyers death fodder, although Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis is on another level with his acting. He’s downright Shakespearean in his declaration that Michael is pure evil, although he becomes far too comical by the end; he spends about forty minutes of the movie standing outside the Meyers house (believing that Michael will be coming back…not too bright) and pulling pranks on little kids.
I’m not quite sure what I wanted from Halloween, or what it could have done to really provoke a response, other than mild amusement, from me. I can officially say I’ve watched it all the way through, but I’d assembled enough of the pieces before that. It’s easily the funnest movie experience you’ll have if you can find a large enough group to experience it with. It also holds its place in the pantheon of “must-see” horror movies. Psycho may have introduced the “slasher” flick, but Halloween introduced the themes would shape the teen youth horror movie up to today, as well as being a big enough box-office success to propel Hollywood to acknowledge the horror film’s place in popular culture.
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A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.