WRITERS: Screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
DIRECTOR: John Carpenter
Donald Pleasence as Loomis
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie
Nancy Loomis as Annie
PJ Soles as Lynda
Charles Cyphers as Bracken
Kyle Richards as Lindsey
Brian Andrews as Tommy
QUICK CUT: What starts out as an average Halloween night for babysitter Laurie Strode ends in horror when a masked killer stalks through the small, Midwestern town she lives in.
Laurie - Just your average teenaged babysitter trying to survive high school. She's quiet, shy, not good with boys, and studious. She's good with kids, and a knitting needle...
Annie - Laurie's friend and fellow babysitter, as well as the daughter of the local sheriff. She's way more into boys, and loves trying to set Laurie up throughout the movie.
Sam Loomis - A doctor who once treated Michael Meyers, and has done everything in his power to make sure he stays locked up. He's determined to keep the boogeyman at bay, and is so terrified by Michael, he carries a gun.
Michael Meyers - Or, the Shape. A troubled young man who has spent the last 15 years in mental institutions for murders he committed as a child. He says nothing, he moves swiftly, and is a nearly unstoppable force.
THE GUTS: TRICK OR TREAT, SUCKERS!! Yeah, that's right! I just went and dropped a big ol' treat in your candy bag! I yanked Halloween from the first of the month because I couldn't do it in time, and instead of doing a review on November 1st, BAM! SURPRISE REVIEW a day early! HALLOWEEN ON HALLOWEEN!
Halloween is another in a far too long list of movies I have never seen, and getting the chance to do that, and review it, during Trisk's fifth anniversary was too good to pass up.
After what is arguably THE single most memorable horror movie theme, we kick things off in Haddonfield, Illinois, back in 1963 with Maniac-vision lurking around a house.
Can you imagine trying to sell an audience today on a scene that's almost one long, continuous shot, in near-total silence, at the start of your movie? I absolutely love it though, as it slowly draws you in, and has that added factor of putting you in the killer's head.
A point that gets driven even further home when the mini-Meyers puts on his first mask and you start watching the movie through the small eye-holes. This would be emulated SO much in later films, and I don't think anyone nailed it as well as Carpenter.
The mask also has a great effect of obscuring what's going on, so you never actually SEE the girl getting stabbed. You hear it, you see her fighting, then you look away to see the bloody knife flailing, and your mind does the rest, piecing everything together.
After Michael does the deed and exits the house where he gets caught, the movie jumps forward 15 years. And it's so weird to say it jumps forward all that time, and we're still not in the 80s. Ahh, old movies...
We find Donald Pleasance on his way to capture the Pumaman...er, to pick up Michael so he can meet with a judge to decide what to do next with the killer. Unfortunately, when they arrive at the sanitarium in Smith's Grove, they find the inmates have been let lose for a nice midnight walk in the rain.
Loomis gets out of the car to check the front gate, and Michael pounces atop the car and tries to kill the nurse at the wheel. That's what you get for foolishly opening the window to see what just jumped on her roof.
Fortunately she dives out of the car, and Michael just drives away, leaving her and Doctor Loomis behind to deal with the patients wandering around the set of a Guns 'N' Roses video.
We then slide back to Haddonfield, and meet Laurie Strode, on her way to drop off a key at the old Meyer place, the local urban folklore's haunted house. You know. THAT house. We all had one.
She leaves the key behind and continues on her way to school, all while the mysterious Michael Meyers gets in the way of the camera.
While Laurie sits in class, Michael stalks her and the kid she was with at his house and will be our featured victim...er, the kid she's babysitting later.
I love that every time Michael shows up, they frame things perfectly so his head is out of frame. This has so many effects to it. First of all, it keeps his face hidden, which is a constant strength of the Halloween movies. The killer could be anyone, the masked, faceless stranger. Second, it makes everything feel wrong, because it's breaking rules of photography by misframing the subject. And third, it gives Michael this added power, by making him seem larger, taller, because he shoots right out of the frame, making it feel like even the viewers have to look up to try and see him, giving him this towering, imposing stature and almost forcing us to feel like children in his presence.
And when you add in Carpenter's constant, droning, repetitive score, it just adds to the already unsettling nature of Michael's presence.
Meanwhile, Loomis is stalking his prey and stops to use the phone. Nearby, he finds an abandoned truck from a garage, and Michael's hospital clothes. Nearby we see a body that Loomis misses, and is where Michael swiped his trademark jumpsuit.
We catch back up with Laurie and some more of our later canon fodder, as Michael drives around the block. Y'know, he might seem less creepy if he wasn't playing that tune on his radio all the time...
The girls make fun of his slowly driving past, making him slam on the brakes. Oops. He drives on though, and I can't help but picture if we'd seen the inside of the car, "No...NO, Michael. Not yet. It's not Halloween yet. I can't go killing people today, and not this early. That's Eric's job. Pace yourself. It's only words...okay, drive on..."
As they walk, Laurie spies Michael watching them, and Annie goes ahead to confront him. Because yelling at him and making him almost jump out of the car and attack them wasn't enough. This girl is gonna get everyone killed on her own.
Laurie heads home and they keep dropping in scares or spooky moments, and it is JUST enough to keep the pace going, but also done just right to not really be jump scares. Although running into the local sheriff and yelping comes close.
Doc Pleasance wanders back into the story, and wanders by the plot of Michael's dead sister, which has been mysteriously dug up. Just for shits and giggles, apparently..
Oh, and it's SO easy to miss because it's on Annie's car radio, but I will give any shoutout to the use of Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper playing in a movie.
The girls stop by a crime scene where Annie's dad, the earlier mentioned sheriff, is checking things out. Turns out some masks were stolen, some rope, and some knives. This is something not done enough. Too frequently we're just left to assume a killer acquired or just had his tools laying around, but here we get a hint of where Michael picked up his toys.
Also, it's something that seems perfectly innocuous enough in a small town to just have a Halloween prank robbery going down, so it's not suspicious to the characters.
Loomis continues to skirt around the plot of the movie and also shows up at the hardware store to give the local authorities a clue about what's going on. With the added bonus of Michael just so happening to drive by. The only reason that's not a super coincidence is we've already seen him stalking Laurie all day long.
As Michael follows the girls to their babysitting duties, Loomis and the sheriff arrive at Casa del Meyers and check things out. And find a recently dead dog, which COULD be just a skunk, but Loomis doesn't believe in coincidences like that.
While they check things out, they get a bit of a scare, and Loomis pulls a gun. It was nothing, and I love him turning to the sheriff apologetically as he puts the gun away, and shows him his weapons permit. "OH right, I'm with a sheriff, really this is legal, really!"
It's a good time to slow down the plot some, and have some character moments with Loomis, filling in his backstory with Michael, and Pleasance does a great job with a trembly voice of selling the terror caused by his time trying to help a little kid that was dead inside, and filled with nothing but evil.
There's something to be said about 'show don't tell' but if you know what you're doing, you can really put across the right sense of dread just as effectively with words and emotion.
We also spend some time with the girls just chatting about school, and while this could drag the movie down, the movie keeps the slow burn tension going with Michael lurking just outside, the music keeping things tense, the occasional dog being more aware than humans...it's good character stuff, but doesn't let the plot fall away completely.
That dog runs afoul of Michael, and he silences that one too. So far, he's killed as many dogs as people. I wonder if there was some scenes being swapped around, and it was supposed to be the same dog Loomis found earlier.
Meanwhile, Laurie's friend Annie is doing her own babysitting, and having to do some impromptu laundry after an accident in the kitchen. And this comes daaangerously close to dragging the plot down. Fortunately, we continue to get just enough shots of Michael appearing and disappearing in the background, and behind curtains, to keep things interesting.
Good lord, is this movie a master at the slow burn. The fun of horror movies is, you know what's coming. You KNOW something is gonna happen. The question is when. And here comes Halloween, dragging that torture out and drawing you in for almost an entire hour.
Annie drops her charge off with Laurie so she can go hang out with her boyfriend, promising to call in an hour. Sadly, she probably won't be doing that, as Michael is waiting for her in the car and strangles Annie to death.
But Michael wants to make sure she's resting comfortably and moves the body inside so she can grab a good nap. Tommy looks outside while he's doing this though, and screams about the boogeyman. Laurie looks, but of COURSE no one is there, and she brushes it off as just the horror movies and kids' overactive imaginations.
You would think someone who's been brushed off repeatedly all day about the guy she's been seeing would be more sympathetic, but nope!
Meanwhile, Loomis is staking out the Meyers house, and I wonder if he's been standing outside all night. That's gotta be tiring, and boring. But it's okay, because we see him scare some kids who think they're going to be tough by going up to the local haunted house.
Laurie's other friend Linda and her boyfriend show up to crash the party at the house Annie SHOULD be at, and instead make out on the couch in the abandoned house.
Well, empty except for the lurking Michael watching them.
They eventually move upstairs to the master bedroom to have sex, and wow. Not their house, not their friend's house, no one's home... They almost deserve what's surely coming to them.
Her boyfriend heads to the kitchen to fetch some beers, complete with the classic omen of doom, saying he'll be right back.
That most classic of all horror prophecies is fulfilled when he hears some noises, opens some doors to investigate, and tells whomever it is to come out.
Which Michael is more than happy to oblige with and calmly exits his hiding spot, pins the guy to the wall, and stabs him dead.
Once he's done redecorating the kitchen, Michael appears upstairs and Linda assumes it's Bob, since Mikey's covered himself up with a sheet like a ghost - Oh the symbolism there... - and put on the dead boyfriend's glasses.
Whoda thunk a scene of just a guy standing there breathing and doing nothing else could be so creepy?
Linda eventually gets bored and calls Laurie to try and figure out what the heck is going on, because this is the weirdest Halloween ever.
She picks up the phone, and Michael uses the cord to kill Linda, which Laurie overhears. And misinterprets as her friends prank calling and having her listen in on their sex.
And that's one means of killing someone that's pretty much impossible these days. Ahh, corded phones.
Which then leads to our first REAL look at Michael in his mask. The movie has smartly placed him in drips and drops throughout the movie, mostly from behind, or in the far background, or obscured, but here we are, and we finally see the iconic look, as Michael picks up the phone with Laurie on the other end.
It's a perfectly timed reveal. While it's not a big confrontation, it is still these two characters almost meeting for the first time, and having this be the moment when Michael is revealed makes it all the more significant.
Meanwhile, Loomis is STILL standing outside the Meyers house, and you can see the frustration on his face. Oh, if only he knew that the actual movie was just a block or two away.
Laurie finally gets equally bored of being on the edges of the movie, and goes to investigate the house Annie should be keeping an eye on. She arrives to the darkened, quiet house, and sneaks in through the open back door.
She wanders around the house for awhile, eventually finding a light. When Laurie peeks inside the room, she finds little corpsey Annie, and the missing Judith Meyers headstone.
As if that wasn't enough, Bob's body suddenly swings down in the closet, with the knife still in his chest, adding to Laurie's distress. This is still something that bugs me, even in this classic; the perfectly placed bodies with their perfect reveals.
Which makes her land in the perfect spot to find Linda's body lurking in the cupboard. Laurie is probably freaking the hell out right now, and I doubt I'd be doing much better.
But here, have on top of all that, some creepy tower of a dude in a white mask coming at you with a knife. Have a happy Halloween!
She falls back onto the stairs, but manages to get up and try and run away, rather than become yet another statistic to railing kills. All while Michael slowly advances on her. It's the classic zombie problem, of that slow, oncoming threat. You should be able to get away from it, but it's always there, right behind you...
I'm not gonna lie here, I wish the movie had taken a cue from some of the other movies I've reviewed recently, and done this climactic chase mostly with silence. Laurie's mewling terrified moans are almost distracting and laughable at their continued use.
She runs back to Tommy's house, waking the kid up to open the door, since she lost the keys somewhere along the way. All while Michael takes his sweet time.
Tommy manages to get her inside, and Laurie thinks she's safe for a moment. Then she notices that there's an open door, so probably not so much.
She grabs a knitting needle to use as a weapon, and Michael appears from behind the couch. So much for using that as the usual hiding spot, if the killer's decided to use it.
Michael stabs at the couch, and Laurie embeds her needle into the guy's neck. Michael doesn't even give a scream, and the mask removes all emotion he might have shown us, instead it's just this dead, blank face groping for the needle. And it's somehow all the more terrifying because of it.
He pulls it out and falls to the floor, but come on. Does anyone reading these words think he's de...okay, we KNOW he's not dead. There's like 274 more movies with him in them. But does anyone think he's down for the count here?
Laurie rushes upstairs to get the kids, and surprise! Michael's right behind her.
She leaves the kids in relative safety in a locked room, and hides in a closet while leaving a window open to try and make Michael think she's escaped.
A plan which surely would have worked far FAR better if she didn't start whimpering again the instant he touched the closet door.
He gets bored trying to shake the door open, and punches his way through instead. Laurie grabs a coat hanger so she can chase him off like he's an attacking bird.
Bonus points for TURNING ON the lights. We all know dark equals scary, but actually turning on a light? Our relative concept of 'safety'? How nothing bad happens in the light? Yeah, that's out the window now. Plus, it gives us a good look at Michael. Sadly, it's an all too brief moment.
Laurie stabs him in the eye with the coat hanger, Michael drops the knife, and she uses that to show him what it's like to be cut. Not one to fall for the same trick twice, she hangs on to the weapon this time as she exits the closet.
She grabs the kids and sends them out of the house to get some help, and collapses against the wall. And no one should be surprised that Michael's Not Dead Yet.
Michael grabs Laurie as Loomis just so happens to be walking by and see the screaming kids leaving the house. He finally runs into the movie, finding Michael strangling the girl, and she peels off his mask, giving us the one and only glimpse of Michael behind the pale white rubber.
Having shown his fortitude against knives, Doctor Donald tries out a gun to see if Michael's any good at surviving those. He takes a number of shots and eventually stumbles back and off the balcony of the house, landing hard on the lawn.
Thanks for finally showing up, Doctor Loomis!
And of course when he goes to check the body again, Michael is gone, having walked off into the sunset, almost like there's another dozen movies.
In all seriousness, I do quite like the movie ending on these empty shots of sets and scenery, with Michael's iconic breathing behind his mask, like he's nowhere, and everywhere all at once, just lurking behind you, out of sight, nowhere to be seen but ALWAYS RIGHT THERE. They could've easily snuck in a hint of him, or a shadow passing by a house, but no, I think it's much, MUCH more terrifiying to have NO idea where he is.
Video: All right, we are talking about a movie from the late 70s. And arguably one that falls more into the independent side of things, so the fact this looks so good, is amazing. And with so much of the movie relying on hints of a figure in the dark, often highlighted by his WHITE mask peeking out of DEEP shadows...they have to nail this, and they did.
Audio: Very good, with a good 5.1 mix on the version I watched. Everyone's dialogue is good, the sound is effective, and the music is haunting.
Sound Bite: "It's Halloween, everyone's entitled to one good scare." The sheriff says it, and the movie delivers.
Body Count: I am surprised at this movie being surprisingly restrained in the body count department. The terror comes from the situation and tension, not the constant dropping of teenagers.
1 - Four minutes in, Michael's older sister meets mister pointy.
2 - As Loomis tracks Michael, he just misses stumbling upon a corpse that was driving a truck from a garage.
3 - Annie gets strangled in her car by Michael.
4 - Linda's boyfriend doesn't come right back from his run to the kitchen.
5 - And then Linda isn't far behind, murdered with this weird thing attaching a phone's handset to the wall...
6 - After terrorising Laurie, Michael Meyers is shot and killed by Looohoooohohoho, I'm just kidding.
Best Corpse: The phone cord death is often hailed as the highlight, because it's such a great build up and payoff, and I can't disagree. BUT, I much prefer the opening death, which you only catch glimpses of, your mind doing all the work.
Blood Type - F: This movie is classically light on the gore, and I love it for that, but still, there's not much. I give a few points for the iconic mask.
Sex Appeal: Almost as low as the blood, but they do sneak in a few naked breasts here and there.
Drink Up! Every time Michael steps in front of the camera ominously blocking some of the shot. Geeze, you would think he'd be more considerate to the DP...
Movie Review: Oh man. It's John Carpenter's Halloween, Triskelions. It's almost like...THE horror movie. At the very least, it is THE slasher movie. Black Christmas was first, but this one set the standard, was the one noticed by people, the one that started it all. And it really does hold up, if you don't mind a slower burn on your movies. It's not perfect, it has its share of flaws, like a few slower points that, even with an admittedly slow pace, start to drag. And while Curtis is almost great in her first big screen role, the scream queen...screams a little too much. Less is more, this movie proves it, and they could've used a little less of her screams. Still though, the characters are likable, and even though they make the occasional boneheaded move, you aren't *rooting* for their death. Their kids! They do silly things! But they're not asses. I really have nothing to say that the movie was great, it's still great, and it really holds up despite its flaws and the changing times. This remains the standard to which all slashers should live up to. Four out of five Shatner masks.
Entertainment Review: A lot of the hilarity comes from Donald Pleasance. He's a good actor, that can fortunately get away with being a bit over the top. Loomis kinda needs to be, he has seen such things, and it shows. He's off his game. It's a bit frustrating that you can tell his stuff was added in after an earlier draft, as he just kinda hangs out doing nothing on the edges of the film. They make it work, but if you think about it for too long, you start to question just why he's standing outside the Meyers house for so long. The movie's not cheesy, outside of a few performances, but it really draws you in, helped SO SO much with that iconic music. I think a large part of WHY this movie works is Carpenter's score. If that wasn't there, or was different, this would be a VERY different experience. If you're like me and hadn't seen this yet, do so. Five out of five escaping inmates in the rain.