YASSSS, Jamie Lee Curtis!
Not only does the holiday land on a Wednesday, but it’s also the 40th anniversary of the horror classic, Halloween (1978)! What are the chances? I’m no mathematician (my high school grades will prove that), but if I’m correctly putting two and two together, that all adds up to the perfect Wayback Wednesday!
For those not in the know, Halloween is about serial killer Michael Myers who escapes Smith’s Grove Sanatarium and flees to the town of Haddonfield, IL, where he terrorizes and murders a group of teenage babysitters on Halloween night. Directed by John Carpenter, Halloween helped popularize the slasher trope and has remained a major influence on the horror genre to this day. The film is the first in a long line of sequels and reboots, starting with Halloween II (1981), and most recently, Halloween (2018). You can check out my review for the new Halloween by clicking here.
Do you know how many times I had to tell myself, “I’m not scared,” while I watched this movie for the first time ever? A lot. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a fan of anything spooky, however, serial killers still freak me out. I think it’s because if I was in a slasher movie, I’d probably be one of the first to go. I’m annoying, a smart ass, and would be the first to abandon the group in fear and run chest-first into the killer’s knife. Speaking of knives, I had to repeat my mantra of, “I’m not scared,” as soon as this movie started. Not only because of the ICONIC and perfectly-eerie score, courtesy of John Carpenter, but also because of the tense and terrifying opening scene. Dead silence and a slow, first-person POV shot of someone creepily watching horny teenagers through a window? Girl, someone’s going to die. Because I’m psychic, the teenage girl is then brutally stabbed to death and the killer, who’s hidden behind a clown mask, flees outside. The girl’s parents rush forward in surprise and remove the mask to reveal…the killer was their eight-year-old son, Michael. At this point, I’m shitting myself out of fear. All the things that most scare me are being checked off:
Killer kids dressed as clowns? NOOOO.
What’s great about this movie is that its story is so straightforward and simple, yet so insanely terrifying. In fact, the first 15 minutes alone contain all the elements of a ghost story you’d hear around the campfire: It’s Halloween night, a car drives down a lonely road in a rainstorm, escaped mental patients, and even more horny teenagers who, “will be right back, I’m just going to take a look.” These are basic narrative tools for any scary story, but they’re pieced together in a way that never feels cliché or tired. Bolstered by that creepy music, haunting visuals, and heart-pounding tension, Halloween pays homage to the trademarks of horror, while utilizing their heightened drama to deliver a grounded story. Oh my God, one cliché I laughed out loud at was when one of the babysitters, Annie, goes outside at night, leaves her back door UNLOCKED, all while she’s dressed solely in an oversized nightshirt. I was like, “so, you wanna die, Annie, that’s how it’s gonna be? Ok, you do you.”
Dramatic irony is a recurring theme in this movie and it’s handled masterfully. The best example by far is when Dr. Loomis, Michael’s psychiatrist, pleads to the town sheriff that if they don’t find Michael, death will ensue. Unbeknownst to the doctor, Michael’s car slowly drives behind him for the entire scene, even lingering for a few seconds to observe him. The desperation and franticness that Dr. Loomis shows for finding Michael is juxtaposed perfectly by the fact that he’s right behind him. Shivers, people, I got shivers!
I think why this movie is so strongly revered and has endured the test of time, is because it creates horror by not relying on any gimmicks or tactics, but expanding on fears that are realistic and universal: The idea that someone is watching us from outside our window, lurking behind our bedroom door, or hidden in the shadows of our darkened hallways, is a terrifying one to consider. This movie is quite literally, the personification of those fears. It’s unsettling to think that unknown to us, anyone could be watching us and visualizing how to enter our homes undetected. Michael goes as far as to stalk his prey in broad daylight, a ballsy move that I don’t think many horror movie villains have pulled off. An impressive feat considering it’s the middle of the afternoon, he’s standing in a suburban backyard, in plain view, in the most suspicious attire ever.
As the movie progresses and Michael commits a handful of murders, he seems like an unstoppable force. Enter, Laurie Strode. Played by a young Jamie Lee Curtis in her feature film debut, Laurie is one of horror’s most iconic scream queens and “final girls.” The character really helped popularize the trope that the innocent, virgin, good girl, would be the last one standing amidst the murder and mayhem unleashed by the main villain. Jamie Lee Curtis is fucking fantastic. I’ve already gushed about the actress in my review of the new Halloween, so it’s time I gush about the character, Laurie Strode, as we’re first introduced to her. She’s a badass babysitter. Not only does she provide fun games and sage advice for the kids she looks after, but she also defends them from a murderous, knife-wielding, home-invader! When I was a babysitter, I put the toddler in the crib and let him cry until his mom came home. That’s what she told me to do!
Laurie is everything you want from a heroine who’s thrust into a horrific and traumatizing turn of events. She’s brave, resourceful, intelligent, and puts the safety of others before herself. She doesn’t quit until Michael has been stabbed in the neck, shot multiple times, and thrown from a second-story window. Evidently, Michael is difficult to kill.
Can we talk about that breathtaking ending? After Dr. Loomis shoots Michael and watches him plummet to the ground in a motionless pile, he quickly checks on Laurie and looks back to see…that Michael has disappeared. BOOM, MOVIE ENDS. What follows are multiple shots of the house and the slow, steady sound of Michael breathing. God, I got chills just writing that sentence. The twist that Michael has disappeared into the night, free to commit more acts of violent terror, leaves the story with no real resolution which is ideal for a horror movie. I think that ending on the note of, “he’s still out there,” is a fantastically creepy conclusion for a horror movie whose villain is so deeply-rooted in reality.
Oh wow, you know who the actual villain in this movie might be? After first escaping Michael, Laurie knocks on a neighbour’s door and yells for help. The neighbour turns on their lights, sees a distraught and bleeding Laurie through the window, and then ignores her! What?! If you don’t believe me, watch the movie again and check it out, Hey, tonight is the perfect night for it.
Will you be watching Halloween tonight? If not, what other movie will you be trying to watch as kids constantly ring your doorbell?
Let me know in the comment for on social media!