Friday, June 17, 2011

Second Age Reviews: Halloween

The distinct problem with reviewing a film like Halloween is that there is very little left to say on the subject. It's one of the most famous cult films of all time, inventing an entire subgenre (the slasher film) and simultaneously setting the high point the genre has yet to top. Is there anything I can say that hasn't been said about Halloween a dozen times before? I assume you all know that his famous mask is just a William Shatner mask painted white, yes? How this is Jamie Lee Curtis' first role? How Dr. Loomis is named after a character in Psycho? We all know all of this by now, yes? Well, too bad because I gotta talk about it.

For formalities sake, the plot is concerned with a child named Michael Meyers who, for reasons known only to himself, one Halloween when he's six, stabs his sister to death. 15 years later he escapes from the mental hospital where he's been kept ever since, to return to his home town to...kill a lot of people I guess.

This, by the by, is one of the things that makes Michael such an effective villain at least until the sequels (we'll get to that in a moment). He's entirely silent, except for his characteristic heavy breathing, nearly unstoppable and seems to lack all human motivation. He perfectly inhabits both the very childlike fear of the unstoppable boogeyman, there to hunt you without rhyme or reason and the very adult fear of the stalker/serial killer, watching you from outside your window.

All of this exacerbated by the very effective simplicity in all aspects of the production. The music is minimalistic and sparsely used, the camera work used to allow Michael to disappear and reappear almost at will. Like another great of the horror genre The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there's very little in the way of actual gore, most of the killing bloodless. Of course we've come to expect expert direction from John Carpenter (and isn't this particular theater absurdly fond of him) but he really steps up his game here, doing more than anything else to elevate the film above it's (occasionally rather visible) low budger.

It's actually interesting that most of the formulas of the slasher genre that this film kicked off aren't here. Michael doesn't get an absurdly huge body count (only 4 people), most of his onscreen kills are done by strangling rather than his usual knife, he doesn't only favor people who do immoral things (one of the survivors smokes pot) and he even seems to break into a semi-run at one point. It seems very weird that the movie that the subgenre that sprang up around Halloween seems to almost entirely ignore the things that make Halloween great.

Look, if you're at all a fan of horror films in general and slashers in particular, odds are you've already seen this multiple, but on the off chance you haven't, it's a nearly perfect slasher film and a great horror movie on top of that, and no slasher since has equalled it.

Next on Second Age Reviews: Hollywood Boulevard

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he remains convinced that Mike Meyers skinned William Shatner's face and painted it white.

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