Saturday, October 25, 2008
He came home 30 years ago today
By Edward Copeland
The credits perfectly set the mood. A black screen with just a creepy jack-o-lantern, lit by candle from inside, as the camera moves in tighter and tighter, accompanied by John Carpenter's brilliant and memorable score. Halloween turns 30 years old today and though it spawned countless awful imitators and its own terrible sequels, the original remains great and unsurpassed in the slasher genre.
Looking at Halloween again, it's amazing how little blood it displays. Only four murders occur on screen and one of those is in the 1963 prologue, with its shocking dénouement that reveals the slasher as a 6-year-old boy.
Carpenter's film follows fairly standard cinematic rules, emphasizing voyeurism much as Hitchcock and others did. He also creates suspense from the simplest things such as blowing laundry, ringing phones. For me, Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis separates Halloween and even most of its awful sequels from dreck such as the Friday the 13th series. That way you not only have the same bad guy in Michael Myers but the same person dedicated to trying to stop him. As Loomis tells the Haddonfield sheriff about Michael, he spent eight years trying to reach Myers and then the next seven trying to keep him locked up. Jamie Lee Curtis, with her fine genetic history as Janet Leigh's daughter, remains a solid presence as the principal baby sitter who becomes one of Myers' targets. Carpenter also includes bits of dry humor, such as the little girl who seems to do nothing but stare at the horror films on the TV. (Is she a Myers in the making?) Then we also get to see Loomis having perhaps a bit too much fun scaring kids away from Michael's old house.
One of my favorite oddball moments comes from the quizzical way Myers cocks his head back and forth like a dog after he impales a teen on a kitchen door. Of course, you still have to wonder why a killing machine wastes so much time setting up bodies so they can spring out and be discovered or why — after Myers hasn't died after about the third time Curtis thought he was dead — she didn't think to try to dismember him by hacking his head off with that butcher knife. Still, who cares? Halloween remains one of the best horror films ever made and did I mention that John Carpenter score?
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