Could it end any other way?
John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) has, to date, spawned 7 sequels, a reboot, a sequel to the reboot, and more homages and rip-offs than any sane person should ever try to digest. It’s the sort of legacy that can obscure that there’s actually a movie underneath all of that. And in the case of Halloween, a very good one, shot inventively on a shoestring for a producer who was impressed that Carpenter could make a cheap film that didn’t look cheap.
The result is a pure force of evil named Michael Myers descending on suburbia, and both “evil” and “suburbia” are critical in how the film works. I’m sure on Wikipedia there’s a large entry on Michael Myers, filled with canonical info from sequels and remakes that flesh out his backstory. I couldn’t care less. The original film presents him as nothing more than an irrational murderous desire. The best explanation we’re given is that he’s “the bogeyman”, and he’ll always be “the bogeyman” to me: an unkillable, unknowable entity that will reduce you to your childhood fears. (Just when you were discovering sex, too). And that irrationality is not only so much scarier than any bullshit mythology, it’s more mythic, too.
So Halloween should be remembered a primo model of stripped down simplicity: peekaboo games with the camera, well-placed music stings, atmospheric lighting and sound design, pacing that accumulates and climaxes, flashes of dark humor, and immature sexual content hiding a mature sexual subtext that the film is cheeky enough to include and too unpretentious to really explore (leave that to the critics). The film’s greatest sophistication is that it trains you how to watch and gooses you accordingly: each darkened doorway or window becomes a conscious red herring, a place where danger could come from. Like rock and roll, it’s a formula that sounds so easy, but only the purest of its practitioners can get it right.
Halloween Countdown is an annual, personal, and highly unoriginal tradition where I write fast, extemporaneous reviews of 20 prominent but random horror movies during the month of October.