This isn’t a review I expected to write. Well, I knew I would be writing it, but I hadn’t expected my opinion to change so radically. Last year I reviewed all the Elm Street movies, and in thinking what to do for this Halloween, it seemed rather obvious that the Halloween series would be the choice.
An upfront note: unlike Elm Street, I’m not a particular fan of the Halloween series. As a matter of fact aside from 1-3 and 5, I haven’t seen the others. I was always a Jason/Freddie fan rather than a Meyers fan. Despite that, I was looking forward to doing this series as it had been at least 10 years or more since I had seen anything other than the wretched Rob Zombie abominations (and no I will not be reviewing them in full. They suck-that’s all I need to say).
Let me start by being blunt, Halloween isn’t a good movie. Is it a classic? Yes. Did it help define a genre? Yes. Has it become a part of pop culture wherein everyone knows who Michael Meyers is? Yes. And, it’s still enjoyable, but that doesn’t stop it from being a bad movie. I have to admit I was surprised by this and I can already hear the Carpenter contingent gathering a pitchfork and torch clad mob. All I can say is hear me out.
The credits start out promising. Very simple and effective, especially with Carpenters iconic score (one of the best things about the movie). And the beginning is strong indeed with six year old Michael killing his sister while dressed in a clown suit (and fuck clowns btw). The entire scene is chilling mainly because it’s a six year old wielding a knife as long as his forearm. It makes you look at first graders a little differently.
He’s shucked off to a mental hospital, and bides his time for 15 years, until he finally manages to escape and return to his hometown of Haddonfield IL. The overwrought, scenery chewing Donald Pleasence plays his shrink Dr. Loomis who’s hot on his trail, convinced Michael will kill again. Loomis considers him a monster and explains that he knows Michael is evil because he didn’t talk and stared at walls. Well, with enough meds, anyone would do that in a mental institution. Loomis also comes across as far more nuts than he says Meyers would be.
Were I the Sheriff in Haddonfield, I probably would have stuck Loomis in the drunk tank until he sobered up. With all the warnings and dark prophecies, he still let Meyers kill 3 people only managing to save heroine Laurie because the script demanded errr, he got lucky. I’m getting ahead of myself however. Needless to say Loomis is a bit of a nutter himself.
For the next 45 minutes or so nothing happens. Nothing of real consequence, other than getting everyone on their marks to be knocked off. There is a lot of walking though. Walking to school, from school, down the block, up the block, across the street, in the house, around the house, to a friend’s house. There’s so much, I felt winded after the movie. Of course we see MM schlepping around bushes acting like a stalker. We also see him drive a car he stole as well.
Now Halloween was made in 1978, and anyone who has heard me on the Imaginarium or Weekday Matinee, knows that I think 70’s movies are some of the best ever made. Long scenes, character development, no quick cuts, and they take time to tell a story. Halloween has all that, minus the character development and story. The entire plot is told within the first five minutes, so the next 90 are spent watching the main characters (all women, very daring for 1978), go about getting ready for Halloween night. Our unlikely Heroine Laurie Strode is the typical goody two shoes, who as to confront ultimate evil. That’s really all there is to her. She’s every milquetoast wallflower you’ve seen (with the exception she has friends). Of course what would the church mouse Laurie be without two polar opposite friends? There’s Annie, who will grate on your nerves 45 seconds after she opens her mouth. She’s the loud, rude and crude one. Not to be outdone there’s Linda Van Der Klok (no, seriously), the partier and sexually active one.
There’s some plot devices about babysitting, pumpkin carving, boyfriends and the typical kind of High School hijinks, which might have been more believable if they all didn’t look like College graduates. Jamie Lee Curtis in her first movie role is fine as Laurie and certainly deserves her title of Scream Queen, because she can do that like nobody’s business. Even as stilted as some of her lines come out, she’s positively Shakespearean next to Nancy Kyes as Annie. Kyes gives her performance all the depth of a table reading, and made me ponder whether or not to chuck my TV out the window. I could take the bad acting if her character wasn’t so annoying. The good news is she’s the first of the three friends to be killed. The bad news is, it’s almost an hour into the movie before it happens.
When it does happen though, it’s intense and clicks on all cylinders. Carpenter really knows how to film the action, so much so that the last 20 minutes or so make up for the rest of the movie. Having said that, here are a few things that bothered me.
- Once Loomis gets to town he spends the bulk of the movie scoping out the Meyers house, waiting for him to show up, he just happens to turn around and sees the car. You know the same one he parked hours before.
- When Michael is chasing Laurie through the house and into the kitchen, he should have been at her long before she managed to open the door. It’s not that big! The same thing goes for when she’s screaming to Tommy to let her in the house, MM had time to order pizza, wait for the delivery, eat it, kill the delivery guy and then cross the street sand still gotten there before the front door opened.
- I mention this, even though it’s a pretty cool scene. When MM kills Bob, and impales him on the door in the kitchen, I don’t see that knife supporting 180 pounds or so. I do love the way MM looks at the body though, tilting his head this way and that admiring it like an objet d’art.
Halloween was written in ten days. That’s what Carpenter said in an interview. He and Debra Hill worked on it together. She wrote the girls dialogue and Carpenter wrote the endless monologues that Loomis orated. It’s Debra Hill I blame then for all the insipid, awful, awkward dialogue. It seems apparent she didn’t know anyone in high school, as they didn’t talk like anyone I knew. On the other end of the spectrum, whoever wrote the lines for the two kids, did a good job as did the boy and girl. So….there’s that. In spite of all that, Carpenter, along with legendary DP Dean Cundey make the movie look fantastic. The POV shots with the heavy breathing are the gold standard to this day. The way MM kind of photobombs scenes is effective and creepy. I just wish there was more of that.
Halloween is the perfect date movie. It gets you to huddle close early on, then leaves you plenty of time to make out (or whatever the kids are calling it these days), and once you finish, it’s in time for a kick ass ending.
I don’t begrudge Halloween’s place in horror movie history. It’s iconic, set some trends, even if it wasn’t the first, and allowed Carpenter enough success to make The Thing a few years later, and for that I will always be grateful to the Michael Meyers Saga.
Tomorrow; one of the few sequels that lives up to the original, but does it surpass it? Check out my review of Halloween II, on Day 7 of the lead up to Halloween.