FILM REVIEW: Halloween (1978)

I thought in preparation for Halloween this year it would be fitting to watch a film I’ve never seen before from the horror genre. There’s always the classics that are brought up, and if you say you haven’t seen them you’re met with a group of shocked and disapproving faces. I considered watching something more recent, but in recent years, I don’t feel there’s been many great horror films to come out. Many of today’s are more shock than horror. They rely on jump scares and they seem to miss the mark in regards to ambience and a slow rise in tension. This isn’t to say they aren’t enjoyable, but take shows like Stranger Things (Seasons 2 & 3) or the new IT adapted films which focus on their characters and the premise more than the themes or the story. So, when it came down to my choices, I decided I should go for one of these ‘classics’, with the ‘obvious’ one being… Halloween.

We open on a simple plain black screen with a Jack O’ Lantern that slowly moves toward the camera as the music plays. Even if you’ve never seen a horror film before, you’ve inevitably heard the theme song for Halloween. It’s a thing of perfection that sets up the tone from the get-go. The film seems to enjoy emphasising emptiness, something I’ll take some more about later on. Following this we are put straight into the shoes of a 6 year old Michael Myers, who stares at his sister from outside their home. There’s something unsettling about instantly being the onlooker onto these ‘normal’ people. The whole film plays up to this idea of the audience being helpless watchers. From here Michael walks up the stairs and delivers his first killing blow of the film onto his own sister, Judith.

After the opening events we skip 15 years into the future. I very much enjoyed the setup which focused around the introduction of our main characters and the town of Haddonfield. Haddonfield as a place is as eerie as they come, with wide streets, tall trees and sets of ghostly houses – everything is deserted it seems, with the only people visible being whoever is in the current scene. This makes for the characters to already be seen in positions of weakness despite being in the safety and proximity of their own homes. The main character we follow (literally) is Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) who seems far more innocent than those around her, making her the target of Myers, who has just escaped from the facility he was being held in. However, there seems to be a jarring lack of panic, aside that of Loomis (Myers’ Doctor) in regards to the situation of there being an escaped murderer who is said to embody “purely and simply evil”.

The main middle section of the film focuses on the build up to Halloween night with Myers seemingly planning out his strategy and Loomis trying to figure out exactly what that is. This leads to several great scenes, such as Loomis arriving at the grave of Judith Myers only to find the entire headstone is gone. This section is really about ambience and building up the tension, done through the recurring theme song, the helplessness we feel as onlookers and finally direct close encounters with Myers himself. It feels futile to describe it here, so really it should just be watched. After a lot of stalking from Myers and talking from Laurie, we reach the climax of the film, with Myers slowly closing in. I found it interesting how we see a transition in Myers’ breathing – at the beginning when he first kills Judith it sounds almost erratic or panicked, where now it’s this dull lifeless sound that is nothing but inhuman. In fact, his whole attire reinforces this idea of him being a supernatural force, especially the plain mask. The ending comes suddenly with a short chase through a house after Laurie stabs Myers with a needle, then his knife. However, the (third) killing below occurs when he is shot by Loomis.

Although the film does feel inconsistent at points, such as the sudden incompetence of Myers towards the end, it’s honestly expected – and a thing horror often rides on as a means of stopping the main characters from meeting their fates. It made me think more about how differently the events of the film could’ve occurred in the current day. Realistically, how much of horror relies on the ignorance of characters or lack of technological advancement at the time? After all, Michael steals Loomis’ car in the first ten minutes of the film, an occurrence in the modern day which would result in his immediate capture as soon as he’s seen driving by any form of camera. It also made me think about Myers and him being the personification for fate or evil and how it seems funny that despite the fact he’s capable of on-demand resurrection, he still has to drive around in a car to get places. I digress however, as the film is still very enjoyable and thinking about many features of horror or the supernatural in detail is never a great idea.

I was very glad to see the ending shot of the film where Myers has disappeared from where he was last seen, dead. It’s a nice change to many current day films which often feel the need to show the ‘what happens after’, so the jarring ending was greatly welcome. With that said…

You can watch Halloween HERE.

You can find my last review HERE.

Adam Zak Hawley

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