the fresh films reviews

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Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter

93 minutes

Debra Hill
John Carpenter
Debra Hill

Cast includes:

Dr. Sam Loomis Donald Pleasence
Laurie Strode Jamie Lee Curtis
Annie Brackett Nancy Loomis
Lynda Van Der Klok P. J. Soles
Michael Myers Nick Castle -
Sheriff Leigh Brackett Charles Cyphers -
Lindsey Wallace Kyle Richards -
Tommy Doyle Brian Andrews



The timing was perfect, because never before or since have teenagers had more autonomy, opportunities to baby-sit neighbouring kids, and real-life serial killers on the prowl for them in American towns and suburbs than during the late 1970s. So when John Carpenter and his then girlfriend Debra Hill wrote, produced and directed Halloween on a shoestring budget in the spring of 1978, Carpenter was wise enough to take 10 percent of the film's profits as payment. He knew that they were tapping into a budding fear in the population. And the film's wild success spawned a string of imitations over the next few years.

Still, watching Halloween is like sitting through a viewing in a film class. You're impressed by the technical achievement considering the budget, with Carpenter demonstrating his skills with the steadycam and clever use of POV shots. But from start to finish, the film's horror elements is like a spook story for children. Reducing Michael Myers to the boogeyman or some sort of incarnation of evil is meant to make him superhuman and overpowered a force there is no remedy for. But it also makes him mechanical, theoretical, and ultimately unscary. Nothing is unknown or hidden in Halloween, despite what Carpenter might have thought. We always know where Michael Myers is and what he will do. Therefore, it's hard to identify with the kids he's after and the terror they're feeling; it's like they're being chased by a robotic lawn mower.

The most chilling scenes in Halloween occur in the opening minutes. Why? Because at this point, Michael Myers still is a human being with a psyche. He still is a character that could mirror the actual perils teenagers were facing at the time, such as your Ted Bundys or your Original Night Stalkers. There's a mismatch in Carpenter's choice of making Myers asexual when the film clearly preys on the young female body on our behalf. We're tricked into lusting for these girls, but Myers isn't immoral like that; he's just a natural predator doing what he was meant to do.

As usual, Carpenter composed the musical score himself, and the main theme has that Bernard Herrmann vibe he wanted. It's clever and effective but ultimately overused. Carpenter teases and teases with his music and tracking shots until he wears you out. The result is an undynamic slasher that works only in bits and pieces when the director excels technically. Incidentally, his previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, was a much scarier experience.

Re-reviewed: Copyright 17.08.2021 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright 16.06.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang