Halloween Revisited (31 Days of Halloween 2023)
Dir. John Carpenter (1978)
An escaped murderer returns to his hometown to kill a bunch of babysitters.
Well folks, this is it: Halloween 2023. What better way to get the party started than to review EVERY SINGLE HALLOWEEN MOVIE THAT ISN'T DAVID GORDON GREEN'S HORRIFIC TRILOGY! As most everyone who reads this site knows, Halloween is my all-time favorite movie, and I've written a review on the film before. Once again, I will do my best to be objective and present a different viewpoint as in my previous review, which I realize on re-read was really the gushings of the consummate fanboy. For the purposes of this review, I want to talk a little more about what the film means rather than strictly critiquing it from a viewing perspective. Coming at it again, there were a couple of things I wanted to talk about with the film that I didn't really cover the last time around.
One of the most intriguing theories I've heard about recently was the idea that Halloween was actually about abortion. There is an abortion undercurrent to Black Christmas, of course, but the idea that Halloween could be a subtler take on the subject seems, on the surface, insane. However, when digging into the theory, two facts are important to consider. First, Michael represents a departure from normalcy for Laurie Strode. She has, up to this point, lived a basically-mainstream high school existence, crushing on boys, getting into a little mild trouble, and doing very well in her classes, if her discussion of fate is any indication. Michael shows up and fucks that all up, inserting himself into her life and bringing with him the potential to radically deviate her life from what it has been up to that point. Second, Laurie tries to defeat Michael with a knitting needle and then a coathanger, two tools often used in underground abortions from a time when it was illegal to perform them (which might be happening again soon). Those two things considered together make it seem like it may have been Carpenter and Hill's idea to insert a subtle critique on abortion rights in America into their seminal slasher flick.
Another interesting concept, one I addressed briefly in my previous review, is that Halloween carries with it the archetype of the Final Girl and the rules by which slashers are expected to abide. However, in further analysis, this isn't particularly the case. Carpenter said that it wasn't his intention to make Laurie the "virginal" survivor, but rather to point out that doing drugs and thinking about boys was just a distraction that prevented victims from seeing the killer coming up behind them. I initially dismissed this as him trying to be contrarian, but in retrospect, I actually think he might be onto something. For sure, the celibate Final Girl mythos did eventually take shape, though I believe it would be more accurate to point towards films like Friday the 13th and others for this genre trope. Laurie, while certainly more "virginal" on-screen than her friends, also smokes pot in the car with Annie. This alone would have gotten her killed in some of the later Friday films. If you analyze the Final Girl theory from a purely sexual perspective, the narrative largely works, as it's clear that she doesn't have the one-track mind that her friends do when it comes to carnal desires. If you're looking at it from a straight-edge, goody-two-shoes, holier-than-thou perspective, however, she falls short with her brief on-screen flirtation with the devil's lettuce.
It should be clear to anyone reading this that Halloween is a tremendous horror film. I view it as the first actual slasher film, though I acknowledge there are some arguments to be made about films like Black Christmas or Psycho holding that moniker instead. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that Halloween created the slasher genre, instead, making it a viable option for budding horror filmmakers who wanted to tell a story about a madman who stalks his victims with various killing tools. It showed that low-budget, well-made indie horror flicks could be wildly successful, raking in the profit and making a household name from its director. It also introduced a different style in horror filmmaking, changing the national perspective on horror from a grindhouse, dirtier style of cinema to one that could be shown in mainstream theaters with buckets of popcorn and jumpscares that make you grab the hand of whoever is with you a little bit tighter. It's a truly life-changing film, not just for future filmmakers who continue to draw inspiration from its legendary frames today, but for the audience as well.
Carpenter's first foray into horror was, indeed, legendary. It created numerous careers and continues to pack convention stages to this day. Every scene of Michael, from the POV shots behind a clown mask as a boy to the final shots of him lying "dead" on the lawn after being shot by Dr. Loomis, are an experience in fear. Halloween explores the nature of evil and the concept of fear itself, placing Laurie Strode in a situation from which she cannot escape and must simply hope to survive. The thought that any of us could be in that situation at any time, desperately trying to survive someone that cannot be understood and cannot be stopped, is terrifying. Even today, 45 years later, it's still scary, and it is exceedingly rare that you can say that about a movie this old. There's nothing more that I can say here that hasn't been discussed countless other places, so I simply say that, if Halloween isn't the best horror movie ever made, it's surely up somewhere near the top.
Who this movie is for: All horror fans, Slasher movie devotees, Babysitters
Bottom line: Halloween is one of the best horror movies ever made without question, and it is a foundational flick that is an absolute must-watch for anyone who would have any desire to call themselves a horror fan. It's a seminal slasher film, an experiment in terror, and introduced the world to the greatest horror director that ever lived. It's a several-times-a-year watch for me, and it should be for you as well.