John Carpenter’s Halloween is The Best Ever!

Here’s the scene.  The doctor is on his way up to the mental asylum on a dark and stormy night to pick up “It” – AKA Michael Myers – and bring It before the judge jacked full of thorazine so he doesn’t have a hope in hell of getting released because the good doctor (Donald Pleasance) doesn’t want Myers – It – the evil – to ever get out of the asylum.

Next thing you know, “It” has stolen Donald’s ride and is heading back to Haddonfield, NJ where 15 years earlier, when he was just a wee boy, he murdered his sister on, you guessed it, Halloween.  And guess what?  It’s October 30th and Myers will roll into town just in time for trick or treat – but for him and his victims, there’s no sugar induced scary make-believe, this is real!

John Carpenter’s Halloween is my all-time favorite scary movie.  In fact, it’s a John Carpenter and Debra Hill effort – she co-wrote the script.  Hill actually grew up in Haddonfield, NJ where Halloween takes place.

There is a creepy creative flurry of one-two punches in this movie.  The first of these brilliant moves is how Carpenter gives us the ever present feeling of Myers’ presence even when we don’t see him… which is to say that Carpenter’s success as a filmmaker hinges in part on his ability to know where to put the camera – what to show and what not to show.  From the moment we meet Jamie Lee Curtis, we feel like she’s being watched, er, stalked.  Carpenter uses wide point-of-view shots to do this.  It’s like we’re looking at her from Myers’ perspective from across the street as she walks to school, even though we don’t see him there thus making normal scenes of life tense, giving us the feeling Myers could JUMP OUT – AHHH! at any time!

The second is Jamie Lee Curtis’ character, Laurie Strode.  They made her smart and responsible.  Within ten minutes of meeting her she remembers to follow he Dad’s instructions, she’s a babysitter with good advice, and we see her in class clearly bored with the material; for her, it’s easy.  Why is it a big deal that she’s smart?  Because, as we see, it’s the only way anyone can escape Myers!  But there’s a problem, she’s gutless.  She lacks confidence and is afraid to talk to boys.

Hm, smart on the one hand, gutless on the other – making her the perfect character for Myers to pursue.

The third is the music by John Carpenter, himself.  It’s sad and creepy and pleasant in horror movie sort of way.  It only works in the movie and Carpenter knows when to turn it on and off.  If someone you’re with puts it on for enjoyment, make up an excuse to leave immediately.

Fourth, this is not a turn on the movie and watch the slashing fest.  The tension slowly builds, bringing into our thoughts all of the things that scare us: being alone, darkness, creepy stories, noises, masks, big guys in dark clothing, unexplainable occurrences, people not responding when called, doors that don’t unlock, being trapped, being chased, no one there to help you, running out of time, phone dead when you need to call for help, thinking you’re safe when you’re not, and finally the ultimate horror – fucking boogie men that don’t die!  Aghhhhh!

Be sure to watch it in widescreen!  Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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