FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 29, 2005

The Original 1978

Well, what can I say about this movie that hasn't been said a million times before? While it's not the first slasher, it's the one that brought the genre to the forefront. John Carpenter's $300,000 effort went on to become the most successful independent film of all time- until another horror movie, The Blair Witch Project, claimed the mantle 20 years later.

There's been talk of this film getting remade. The latest I've heard, however, is that Carpenter put a halt to that- which is good, because if he didn't, I might have had to. Had a remake made it to the screen, there's no telling what I would've done. There's a good chance I would've climbed the Empire State Building, King Kong style, and shot fireworks out of my balled-up fists. I would've pulled my hair out and thrown it at people...I'm tellin' ya, I would've gone on a rampage of explosive hate and pain like the world has never seen! You hear me, Hollywood? YOU HEAR ME? I'm talkin' to YOU!

Ahem. But really, what could a remake bring to the table? What would've been changed? Halloween has such style and atmosphere and firmly establishes its own mythology, I can't imagine what a new version would be like. The first half, if not the first two thirds, of this movie are build, and they just don't make 'em that way anymore. From the start, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) lets us know that Michael Myers is not human, and that he WILL be coming home to continue what he started the night he killed his sister 15 years earlier. Michael, even as a child, we're told has "the blackest eyes...the Devil's eyes. [He is] purely and simply evil.". He's the boogeyman of everyone's nightmares.

We're introduced to Michael very early on, and we know Loomis is right- Myers has returned to Haddonfield. He drives around, he stands behind bushes, appears and disappears in the blink of an get a heavy feeling of dread that lasts all the way until the credits roll. Michael's face isn't shown fully, isn't revealed, until he kills Annie (Nancy Loomis- where the hell has she gone?)- and then we see it through the fogged windows of the car. Carpenter is so adept at creating a spectre of a killer- it's what makes Michael Myers, to my mind, the most frightening of all movie maniacs.

John Carpenter and co-producer/co-writer, the late Debra Hill, made a "list of scares" before they set about writing the script, then they simply worked them into the story. There's so many fantastic, scary moments throughout that I could go on forever: hearing Michael breathing somewhere in the darkened kitchen while Bob gets his post-coital beer...the image of Annie, sprawled dead on the bed, with Judith Myers's headstone behind her and a lit jack-o-lantern beside her...Michael sitting up to turn and look at Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) after she thinks she's killed him...Michael slowly emerging from the darkness behind Laurie after she finds Annie's body...the movie just plain works. And it's all so simple- Carpenter uses an economy of shots and that soundtrack rather than excessive violence or gore to scare the audience. It lacks the obviousness and crassness of later slashers. What's more terrifying than the long distance shot of Michael simply carrying Annie's body into the house?

Like I said, I could blah blah blah all day about Halloween. It's one of my favorite movies, and no matter how many times I've seen it, it still gets to me. I felt my stomach tighten even this morning when Laurie was trying to get in the house ("The keys...the keeeeeysss!") and Michael was coming across the street toward her...but I've got 7 more of these damn things to get through, so I'll shut up now and start Part 2.

"It was the boogeyman, wasn't it?"

"As a matter of fact, it was."


Anonymous said...

i agree that the first was the always is.the non-violent violence gets me everytime .if i have to watch the halloween movies all aver agin i think the first one would scare me the most.

Des said...

I enjoy reading this Halloween post but refuse to make a comment due to contractual obligations.

Stacie Ponder said...

See? That's what I'm saying. Violence isn't always scary, and a lack of it can still make for a damn good horror movie.

Des...can't wait to read your thoughts! It's the final do do do do do doooo... (I hope you're singing along to that Europe song...)

SikeChick said...

You know one of the scariest things for me? When we briefly see Michael's real face after Laurie pulls his mask off. He's just so normal-looking which I think makes it more frightening. Later movie-killers would be deformed and disfigured behind their masks, but seeing this regular guy just spooked the hell out of me.

You are so right in every way about this. This is the quintessential horror film for me. I describe it as 'pure' which freaks my non-horror fan friends out (nothing 'pure' about a slasher movie in their eyes), but it's true. I don't think someone seeing it for the first time today could appreciate it the same way because of all the rip-offs and sequels that came after. It pre-dates so much of that. In fact, it might even be under-appreciated because of the lack of cheap scares, overkill, and blood-and-guts. I dare say it would likely earn a PG-13 on the modern MPAA scale. Low gore, little swearing ("Hey, Lonnie. Get your ass away from there."), sexual situations (including 2 boobs), and some pot use. Compared to Saw, it's practically quaint.

It is just perfect in every way. Well, except for those darn palm trees.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

My favorite film of all time. I don't think I can add anymore to what you wrote. I've seen this film more times than I can count and it still scares me every time. Great write-up!

Anonymous said...

"The keys..oh, the keyyyyyyyyyyssssss"

AHHH, I had a mild obsession with that phrase for the longest time, much to the dismay of everyone around me, but luckily for them it's finally passed. Or has it? -insert lightning flashes and cackles here-

Anonymous said...

I can say with absolute certainty that the creepiest movie moment EVER (past, present, OR future) is Michael practically gawking at Bob pinned to the wall, like a painting in a museum. Freaks me out just thinking about it!

Anonymous said...

And yet sadly enough, many peeps prefer that certain train wreck of a "re-imagining" by that certain hairy filmmaker... That to me is far more terrifying. By the way, you perfectly described "Halloween"- it is by far one of the greatest scary movies of all time!