John Carpenter, you will always be king of the horror film franchises in my mind.
The original and the best. I love this movie. I particularly like to get it out every year on Halloween and rewatch it. I usually tell myself that I’ll watch every installment of the franchise that I own, but I’ve never made it through such a marathon session yet, although I continue to live in hope.
Every time I watch this film, similarly to when I watch the first ‘Terminator’ film, I try to put myself in the position of someone who has never seen it before. I just think that doing so highlights the groundbreaking elements. You could probably also say the same thing in relation to ‘Jaws.’ Unlike ‘Terminator’ though, I don’t remember where I was when I saw this film for the first time. For as long as I can remember I’ve always known it, although it’s far more likely that I half slept through it one night in my late teens/early 20’s, when it was being shown on cable (back in the glory days when I had cable) and that its just stuck with me ever since. Certainly it wasn’t something I grew up watching. I saw Stephen King’s ‘Pet Cemetary’ and ‘It’ when I was about 12 and they both scared me so shitless that I was off horror movies for a solid 5 years.
There are two primary factors that make ‘Halloween’ the amazing film (arguably the best scary movie) that it is, and they are these:
1. The score. Again, like ‘Jaws,’ this film relies a good deal on music to create an unsettling and scary atmosphere. I’m not saying that this reliance means that either film lacks in any other department, but in both cases it is worth mentioning because often sound is such an under-utilised quality – especially in horror films. Apart from the choppy piano/keyboard intro, there really isn’t a great deal of other ambient noise in the movie and this too gives it a certain something extra. As I am sure we have all noticed, sadly, in our own real lives seldom is there a score to support what is going on around us. In the case of ‘Halloween’ it is the same absence of sound that makes the viewer feel, subconsciously, that these events could carry over from celluloid into the real world…perhaps even their real world…perhaps even tonight.
2. Simplicity. There are no amazing special effects in this film. No CGI, no robotics, not even an abundance of fake blood. It’s all basic, from the costumes to the get up that Michael is wearing. Even the crappy old handgun that Loomis is carrying around as if it is going to save his life is basic and again, it makes the events so much more real. Also, the simplicity means that you’re not distracted from the story, which is itself simplistic – evil kid kills sister on Halloween, is sent the mental hospital for 15 years, escapes and goes on killing spree, targeting babysitters and eventually his own, younger sister, who is not revealed as being his sister until later installments. Despite such a simple and horrific formula, the fact that the opening scenes capture things from Michael’s point of view was something never before seen or done and, when he is finally unmasked as only being a young child, it delivers a punch in the guts that is hard to come by in modern horror films.
In subsequent films, a lot of this simplicity got lost (kind of like the ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ franchise) and the more complex family connections became – Michael is always trying to kill his lady relatives, regardless of how distant, why? No one knows – the harder it became to invest in the continuing story.
I’m not going to talk about the recent Rob Zombie installments or reboots. You all should know by now that reboots shit me to tears and these were no exception. They were just awful. Sorry, Rob Zombie fans, but Rob Zombie needs to lay off the classics. He can make as many ‘House of a Thousand Corpses’ as he wants but get away from Michael Meyers, you wrecking him.
Speaking of modern horror, has anyone else noticed the decline of the slasher film? It seems to me that we’re all preoccupied with hauntings/ghosts/demonic forces and possession these days, which is curious considering these themes are rooted in a distinctly religious historical framework and religion in general seems to give most people a bit old sad face these days… But that’s another post entirely.
Once again I am going to try and get through as many installments of this franchise as I own on DVD. Maybe if I post while I watch them I will stay awake longer. Let’s try and find out together! If I can make it to the damn awful Paul Rudd installment we might have a chance of making it through.
Before we depart on this journey however it might be worth checking that the back door is locked and that all your kitchen knives are safely stored away in the highest draws or cupboards in the kitchen. You never know when a serial killer could be lurking in your own neighbourhood… maybe even your own home.