Well, was anybody shocked?
Remember, when I was setting up this series — back with Day 1’s write-up of May — I warned you that the actual holiday’s corresponding movie was going to be a predictable choice. Given that John Carpenter’s Halloween a.) shares a name with the holiday, b.) is set on the holiday in question, and c.) is the greatest horror movie of all time… well, if you’re shocked by this, you may be quite dumb.
Regardless, I don’t know that I want to attempt too hard to get into the mechanics of why Halloween works. It’s difficult to dig into a film so primal; harder still to deconstruct such a dyed-in-the-wool classic that those more scholarly than I have already spilled gallons of ink over. But let’s discuss that simplicity for a moment.
We’ve covered the entire spectrum of horror over the past month; films have been heady and cerebral, quick and nasty, and even plain old kicks n’ giggles. But, almost 60 years after horror movies started scaring the world, John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween became the prototype for the modern slasher film, and did so with precious little bloodletting and buckets of suspense. It’s easy to chalk this up to budget constrictions — Halloween spent some time as the most profitable film in the world due to its low budget and high box-office — but it’s more than that. It’s a carefully crafted, calculated vision of pure tension; villain Michael Myers is a specter, a cypher, a mere avatar for evil. He materializes in shadows, pops up in the background of shots, stalks slowly but purposefully through the streets, face obscured by an expressionless mask.
Rob Zombie proved Carpenter’s less-than-more approach was the right way to bring the material to life, nearly 30 years later. His remake of Halloween attempted to provide context to Michael Myers, to humanize him in a way; while acknowledging that Zombie’s Halloween is still a well-made film with plenty of scary moments, it’s completely antithetical to the very idea of who Michael Myers is. And that’s no one. We are provided with precious little exposition — we just know that he was a murderous kid, who grew up to be a murderous adult. We don’t know about psychological factors, and we don’t need to — we just need to know, in the moment, that he’s chasing Jamie Lee Curtis through darkened suburban streets with a massive knife. We need to know that his shadow just flickered across the doorway while two amorous high-schoolers are getting frisky. These are the important facts of the case; not Michael Myers’ troubled childhood, or whether or not he got hugged enough as a kid. For the purposes of what makes Halloween so deeply and profoundly scary, we must believe that Michael Myers is the embodiment of evil, not the product of domestic discord.
And so here we are. The prototype. The specter that haunts your dreams as the candles in your jack-o-lanterns flicker and die.Halloweenis not merely the scariest and best horror movie of all time; it’s also the most seasonally-appropriate, most rewarding Halloween film of all time. And if you’re watching anything else tonight, well, you’re missing out.
Thanks for reading, guys: I’m back to reviewing pop music now, but fret not… I’ll see you next year to recommend more films. OR TO KILL YOU!!!!
Probably just the movie thing though.
More 31 Days of Halloween:
Day 1: May
Day 2: The Night of the Hunter
Day 3: The Descent
Day 4: Night of the Demons
Day 5: Them
Days 6 & 7: Night of the Living Dead // Dawn of the Dead
Day 8: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Day 9: A Tale of Two Sisters
Day 10: When a Stranger Calls // Amusement
Day 11: A Nightmare on Elm Street
Day 12: The Orphanage
Day 13: I Know What You Did Last Summer
Day 14: Dressed to Kill
Day 15: Deep Red
Day 16: Jeepers Creepers
Day 17: Black Sabbath
Day 18: V/H/S
Day 19: Sleepaway Camp
Days 20-22: The Mist, The Shining, & Silver Bullet
Days 23-24: Splinter & The Host
Day 25: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Day 26: Ginger Snaps
Days 27-28: Tales From the Crypt & Creepshow
Day 29: The House of the Devil
Day 30: Trick ‘r Treat