Wednesday, October 26, 2011

REVIEW: Halloween

Director: John Carpenter
Year 1978

Halloween is a masterpiece of the slasher genre and of horror cinema in general. Directed by horror legend John Carpenter, the film exudes the atmosphere of the season of Halloween and introduces us to one of the most iconic killers in the history of film, Michael Myers. The story is classic, following the bloody homecoming of a silent maniac on Halloween. The film has a style and atmosphere all of its own, provided by the excellent direction of Carpenter and the haunting musical score that epitomizes the very feeling of All Hallows Eve. It's a classic in every sense of the word.

Cheer up little Michael. No one likes a sad clown.

This is TOTALLY an awesome film.

With its thick atmosphere and tensioned filled early half, Halloween provides a gradual introduction to the horror, which bursts onto the scene in the closing second half of the film. Much like the movie's killer, the story takes its time to build, peering in on each character's lives to better acquaint ourselves with their daily routines and interactions. The film feels very voyeuristic, often opting to see the world through Michael Myers eyes as he stalks his next victim.

The decision to give the audience the perspective of the killer and really emphasis the notion of walking in his shoes, was brilliantly conceptualized and perfectly executed by Carpenter. There is something both unsettling yet calming about being placed behind the eyes of the killer. In one aspect, we know where he is so there is no fear of being taken by surprise when he decides to quench his blood lust. On the other hand we are, in a sense, contributing to his murderous ways by sharing in this moment, yet are helpless to stop it. Carpenter almost makes us an accessory to Michael's murders, positioning us behind the eyes of the cold and calculating killer. I love the inner depth that the perspective provides and I feel that this is one of the film's most innovative aspects that not many people realize initially when viewing the movie. The simple voyeuristic premise packs a punch, much like the seasonal surroundings during Halloween time.

Just playing a little bit of peek a boo.

Mr. Pleasence, did you just fart?

There is something about the holiday of Halloween that is just nostalgically intoxicating. Be it the loaded buckets of candy, the carved pumpkins, the plethora of fright films running none stop, or the chilly moon filled nights, the day of Halloween, and building up to the night, is just a special time of the year. Capturing something as unique and individualistic as this concept within a film, not to mention reinventing it and placing yourself within the staples of the holiday, would seem to be an impossible feat, yet Carpenter has done just that.

He brought together all of the elements of Halloween, the sights, the sounds, and the senses, and wrapped a demented story around it about a disturbed young man who returns to his home to finish the bloody killing spree he started fifteen years earlier. By aligning his film with the holiday and relishing in everything the day stands for, Carpenter's movie has in the process, become a part of the very concept of Halloween. It is now tradition for many movie fans, to watch Halloween on Halloween night, and that is one hell of an accomplishment for a small low budget film that really wasn't aspiring to be anything but a well put together movie.

That Michael Myers. What a creep!

Let me take a stab at it.

What elevates the film for me and really captures that perfect sense of Halloween spirit, would have to be Carpenter's outstanding soundtrack. There is such a vivid sense to the music and an awe-inspiring sensibility that captures the beating heart of both the genre and the holiday to perfection. Much like the entire catalog of Carpenter's original scores, there is a quality to his musical work that paints a picture all in itself. None do this more succinctly and eloquently then his Halloween compositions. When those melodies kick in, you're instantly transported to that strangely empty neighborhood on Lampkin Lane, being silently stalked by a mysteriously silhouetted and masked figure.

What's great about these individual themes that Carpenter has crafted for the film, is that they can be played without the accompaniment of the actual visuals of the movie and you still get that distinct image of Laurie Strode being watched by the pale faced Michael Myers. There's even moments in some of the compositions that you can almost hear the sound of dry leaves being tossed around by the cool October breeze. Either that our I'm just going crazy, but there is just something about the overall sound of Carpenter's musical work on this film. It sets you right in the middle of the holiday, forcing you to look over your shoulder for that masked man hiding behind that row of hedges down the street.

Michael you big goof.

The Boogeyman is going to get you Laurie.

 Aside from Carpenter's wonderful contributions to the film, let's not forget the amazing efforts put in by the entire cast of the movie. Jamie Lee Curtis as the vulnerable, but capable Laurie Strode, is played in a very subtle tone. You feel that she could be an everyday girl, with nothing really remarkable about her. Curtis' subtle portrayal of this understated heroine, is remarkable in its simplicity and very effective in keeping the film fixed in reality. Donald Pleasence also brings a sense of weight and respectability to his role as Dr. Loomis. His fervent determination and intense demeanor in trying to alert the people of Haddonfield, is so genuine and earnest that you can't help being swept up in his mission to stop Michael at any and all costs.

The secondary cast is also top notch, providing another layer of believable characters. The role of Lynda, played by P. J. Soles, and the role of Annie, played by Nancy Kyes, are both believable teenage girls. Their conversations between each other and their interactions were both natural and entertaining, with both actresses showing a great deal of spunk and personality. Charles Cyphers, who plays Sheriff Leigh Brackett, also does an amazing job as the law of the land and father of Annie. I've always enjoyed the small bit parts he has played in many of Carpenter's films and he always brings something unique to his characters that help them stick out among the already stellar cast of actors.

Hell, if you really think about it, the film is just put together perfectly with everyone and everything seeming to fit naturally into place. Halloween is definitely a film that earns its cult and classic status.

I'm going to shoot you six times. SIX TIMES!

It's a little out of season for snow angels Michael.

Halloween is just a remarkable horror film that seems to hit every right note when it comes to replicating the overall atmosphere of the season of Halloween. The voyeuristic camera shots of Michael Myers stalking his victims, the remarkable original soundtrack, and the attention to the ambient detail of Halloween, all lend to the powerful presence of this movie.

Provided with the film's exceptional cast and masterful director, Halloween will go down as one of the best slasher films ever made, while setting itself up as the yearly tradition alongside trick r treating and costumed parties. With five more days left until Halloween, I'm popping this bad boy in and getting myself in the Halloween spirit. Six times! I'LL WATCH IT SIX TIMES!

5 out of 5 stars             A Holiday Slasher Masterpiece!

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