Reviews

Reviews

Halloween

Halloween

John Carpenter

USA, 1976

Credits

Review by Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 11 July 2004

Source VHS

Psycho supplies a tremendous influence for Halloween. Jaime Lee Curtis is, firstly, the daughter of Janet Leigh. Michael Myer’s hunter is named Sam Loomis after the boyfriend in Psycho (there is also a Marion in the credits, speculatively after Marion Crane).

Halloween also addresses the theme of voyeurism as the latter film. The first scene identifies the killer in a massive point of view shot: we see (inside a window) a teenage couple alone. The pair cuddles, snickers, and moves upstairs. We follow them. The boyfriend exits, and the view proceeds upstairs. The female, naked, is stabbed to death, and the killer exits. The shot culminates in a staggering revelation: the killer is a boy, Michael Myers, brother of the girl murdered.

Given the age of the killer — or, more appropriately, his lack of adolescence — it is doubtful his crime is sexually motivated. However, his relationship to the victim serves an important cause. Michael witnesses a sexual and exclusively intimate exchange between his sister and another man. By killing her, he symbolically replaces the role of the boyfriend. Though the actions of the boyfriend and brother are different, they are both forms of intercourse that quench the same, sexual thirst.

Fifteen years later Michael escapes from a mental institution and proceeds toward Haddonfield. He is pursued by Loomis, who verifies Michael’s presence by finding his sister’s exhumed grave (curiously, even the headstone is missing).

Without respect to the Halloween’s craft, what ensues is series of unmotivated crimes. No link is established between Myers and his victims other than their shared hometown. The victims are guilty of engaging in either sex or embodying a temptation prior to their death — this may be the only relation to Myer’s past crime.

The appeal of Halloween and triumph, however, is its craft. Director John Carpenter’s camerawork is noticeably fluid and confident, and the acting does not bear the trademark mediocrity of a dwarfish budget. Much of the film occurs in the dark, though its horror is intact for the strength of what is suggested. Halloween also employs numerous visual scares; often a character will spot Myers in her periphery, and he is gone the moment she looks again.

The final and most significant triumph Halloween achieves is measured by the bulk of films that follow and emulate it. Viewing it over twenty years following its release — after twenty years of frequent incarnations of the same theme — Halloween does not appear innovative or even that horrific — two details for which it has been critically and popularly lauded. Halloween is unfortunately dumbed by the legion of films it has inspired.

Halloween’s most stalwart inspiration for future slasher films is the killer. Michael Myers embodies a number of important qualities in slasher films: he is silent, he is durable, he is furiously able, he is patient, he is slow (slasher killers are frequently outrun), and a trauma in his youth is responsible for his violence (a trait Norman Bates shares). He is not a sufficiently established character (granted, Myers is given more of a background than other killers), yet must obscure his identity with a mask — this is a contradictive fault, as killers’ masks serve to distinguish them.

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