Friday, October 30, 2009

The Night HE Came Home...

I bet you thought I was waiting until the 31st for this one, didn't ya? Nyah-nyah, fooled you!

Still, how can one have 'Shocktober' without mentioning the movie that's named for the holiday which has become a bizarre and gruesome celebration of all that is bizarre and gruesome. I guarantee that for every Fairy Princess, Philly, Yankee, Barack
and Transformer at your door tomorrow evening, there will be six vampires, 3 zombies, a werewolf, a Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.

Director John Carpenter and co-writer Deborah Hill wrote and produced the movie that practically started a subgenre with their "Mad Killer On the Loose" horror movie, Halloween. I was 16, but passed for just old enough and went to see the movie all my friends were talking about. I was fine during the movie, but when I had to come home to a darkened house that night... I'll admit that turned on all the lights when I got there.

What is it about this movie that works so well? Practically everything, thank you. First there's Carpenter's and Hill's script: simple and suspenseful, with mostly believable late-70's "teen-speak" dialogue. Then there's the star-making performance of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie. The first official "Final Girl," Laurie not only saves the two children in her charge, she also survives to fight the monster again.

And what a monster! We know his name is Michael, but he's referred to in the credits as "The Shape." His own psychaitrist, Dr. Loomis, has declared him to be 'pure evil' and he wears the mosy anonymous (and consequently infamous) mask he can find. His only desire is to kill and when he does so, it is with the dispassion of a coroner dissecting a corpse; cold, clinical and a bit curious. The Boogeyman, indeed.

As many before me have noted, the actual blood and gore in Halloween is practically non-existant, but the tension Carpenter manages to build is as high as in any Hitchcock thriller. Inferior (and even completely unrelated) sequels and remakes aside, Carpenter's first film still works 31 years later because its about character and suspense, rather than gore and special makeup effects. Classics are categorized as such for a reason, and Halloween certainly meets all of my (and just about everyone else's) criteria. Without it, Jason and Freddy would never have become the icons they did and movies like Saw and Hostel wouldn't even exist.

And you gotta love that Tommy and Lyndsey are watching a movie that Carpenter would re-make to much later acclaim, The Thing. Good times.

A special Samhain terror, anon!

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