Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Movie Review: Halloween

This movie is one of my all-time favorite classic horror movies. I know I said that with Friday The  13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street, but this movie pretty much tops it for me. The suspense is spine-tingling, the thrills hit you instantly, and the jump scares are actually done right. This is what I call the ultimate slasher movie to it's finest.
It has all the specific tropes to make a slasher film: The isolated setting, the drug-using promiscuous teenagers, the innocent final girl, the masked silent killer, the old man who knows the truth, etc. Some of these tropes might be cliché now but it blends well with this movie, especially at the time it was made. The simplicity of the directing and the feel of the movie, makes the suburban setting much more authentic, especially once Michael arrives, like an erupting black cloud over a safe and domestic environment. It may not have any blood or guts like any horror fan would crave, but the suspense is so chilling it could turn your skin tight. Build-up, tension, atmosphere and suspense is what makes a horror film. I can say that so many times until anyone gets it. And I'm proud to say this movie does.
So without further ado, I would like to present one of the most successful horror movies of the 70's and a legacy that would change horror forever.

The story: in 1963, Haddonfield, Ill. There is a brutal murder in the Myers home. 17 year old Judith Myers is found naked and bloodied on the floor, being stabbed repeatedly by an unknown assailant. A shocking turn of events soon unravels when the unknown assailant turns out to be her seemingly innocent 6 year old brother, Michael. After spending years in a mental institution and primarily under the care of Psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael escapes  in a flash, prompting Samuel Loomis to go on a desperate search. Meanwhile, Michael Myers begins his rampage by returning to his hometown and stalking three teenage girls, including the introspective Laurie Strode. As the day goes on into Halloween night and the girls do their usual babysitting duties and other indiscretions, Michael, the shadowy figure who quietly creeps at any moment, will see forth his next prey, satisfying his violent urge to kill.....

The cast is phenomenal. Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis, and P.J. Soles are quite the likeable bunch. I just enjoy seeing them together because they actually seem like best friends. It's that connection and chemistry that brings out  the best in the actors. But I would like to introduced to you one of the best of the best in Final Girl history and who paved the way for them ever since:

Laurie Strode played by the enigmatic, charismatic, and the always magnificent Jamie Lee Curtis. She's the one who give Laurie her strength. I mean this woman can act in anything from Comedy, Drama, Action, Fantasy, and especially horror. That's how versatile of an actress she is. The way she portrays Laurie is relatable and captivating. I feel like she was born to play this role. How they build up Laurie is very rich and investing. She's not just some girl who's in the background most of the time and screams and cowers through most of the film, we know her as a person. We identify with her, we relate to her, we feel for her. And that's how you write a heroine in a horror movie. Well, any person who takes a screenwriting class would know that.

She's a typical teenage girl with goals, dreams, and insecurities like the rest of us but in there, somewhere, we see a strong capable heroine who is willing to use her wits to fight for survival. And trust me, Laurie is like the MacGyver of Final Girls. Anyone who could stab an attacker with a knitting needle and make a wire hanger out of a weapon is a true badass in my book. Although Michael is the driving entity of the story, Laurie is the really truly the main character.

Then we have Lynda and Annie. They're you're typical promiscuous, pot-smoking, beer-guzzling teens but what makes them standout is that they're likeable, funny, charismatic, and seem like really good friends. And they're treated with respect unlike most horror movie victims later on in the slasher genre. They're not caricatures, they're characters meaning real people. And it's a shock when you see them die.

Annie is probably my favorite of the two. She's funny, blunt, and a blast to hang around with. Actress Nancy Loomis brings  a lot to the character and I think she did fairly relatable performance. Because, hey, I had friends like that. She's also a character I actually cared about.

Lynda, on the other hand, may come off like a typical blond in a horror film but she had a relatively perky, quirky side to her that was really enjoyable and entertaining. She is known as the "totally" girl because she's use to saying totally a lot which people would find funny and for some annoying. As Laurie would make a name for herself as the first Final Girl, Lynda would make a name for herself as the first valley girl. It has a nice parallel actually.
Here I would gladly introduced to you our hero of the movie:

Dr. Sam Loomis wonderfully played by the legend himself Donald Pleasance. Dr. Loomis is sort of the Van Helsing To Michael's Dracula, going through any lengths to stop the murderous psychopath.

Donald Pleasance gives such a good performance, in fact, he gives a sort of eloquence to the character that makes him much more memorable. The speech he gives about Michael is probably the best performance I've seen in Donald Pleasance's career. Dr. Loomis is like a Shakespeare hero in my mind. Intelligent, brave and willing to stop at nothing to save the people who are in danger, him and Laurie are indeed one of the best characters in this movie.

Now last but not least, here he is, The Shape himself, Michael Myers. There isn't exactly any development about him, which is a good thing. He is a sort of mystery, an entity that hides in the shadows. The way he moves, the way he projects is almost robotic and inhuman.

It all goes back to that pivotal scene where he stabs and kills his sister. Once his parents find him, knife in hand, the look on  his face is almost tragic. It's a blank look of shock, not having any recollection of what he'd done and through the years of maturity and basically having no childhood, his descent into being this evil remorseless serial killer has been set.

He soon becomes this manifestation of the grim reaper. This angel of death that creeps over your every move without knowing. That's what makes Michael Myers such a unique slasher villain.

All the way down to his iconic outfit. but it all goes to the infamous William Shatner mask:

The way the filmmakers mold it into something so eerie and fascinating make this the ultimate slasher movie mask. Yeah, there have been some imitators albeit some lame ones I might say, but this would be at the top of the Halloween memorabilia chain.
However, the one question that boggles everyone's mind is: Why does Michael kill? Well, why do people kill in general. It's the kind of question that could never be answered. That's what makes this movie so different than most slasher movies. It's not some mindless teen horror movie, it's actually a well-crafted psychological story of a man hell-bent on violence. It's something that could be analyzed on a film's studies class, that's how great it is.
What this film also masters is subtly. Subtly is the key, people. There are two scenes that I think are very memorable. First there is the opening scene:

The way it's shot, the way it's handled is very ingenious. You think it's an unknown intruder as you step into the mind of the killer. Once the killer is finally unmasked, it's really shocking. You would never expect a 6 year old to do a brutal murder like that. Though, there is one problem I have with this scene. The parents' reaction is kind of, well....dull. They just stand there for at least a minute, the mom casually putting her hands in her pockets. If the parents reacted in a more realistic way, the scene would've had a more powerful impact.

The second one is Bob's death scene. Once Michael closes in on his prey, he impales him instantly against the wall. He then examines the corpse in a odd, fascinated way. What makes it so creepy is that Michael has a sort of thrill in this, he sees how easily he could murder these people in one second. And that's a pretty scary notion.

Suspense is this movie's specialty. Just I mentioned in these two scenes, the build up to the climax holds up well. The way the camera moves slowly and reels in on a key scene is mastered wonderfully.
Now for some Trivia:
As you all know, the mask is a William Shatner mask. It was clearly inspired by the movie, The Devil's Rain, A 70's B movie he starred in.
The name Laurie Strode came from John Carpenter's first girlfriend.
Dr. Sam Loomis was named after the character in Psycho, the movie in which this inspired from.
Halloween was shot 21 days in the springs. As you can see, there are palm trees in the background and the feeling of the fall season is quite hard to contrast since it's head close to summer.
In the opening scenes, the hands of 6 year old Michael is Producer Debra Hill herself.
John Carpenter plays Annie's boyfriend, never seen but heard on the phone.
Actress Annie Lockhart, From Lassie fame, was the first choice to play Laurie Strode.
The first film in history that the steadicam was used.
It is the fifth scariest film by Entertainment Weekly. And rightfully so.
Halloween grossed over 47 million at the box office making it the most highly successful independent film to date. And through the years it has made it's territory as one of the most classic horror movie of it's time. It should be right beside the classic universal monster movies of the 1930's and 40's. It's that monumental. This movie is also known for creating movie monsters in our generation. It made Jamie Lee Curtis a star and Donald Pleasance a legend. I love everything about this movie. The characters, the acting, the suspense, and especially the classic theme music.
This will forever remain a slasher movie of it's time.
My Last Word: Yes! Go Watch it right now!

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