Black October 31: Halloween

October 31, 2009

Well, sure, it’s Halloween. It was always going to be Halloween. The whole point of this month of horror DVD reviews was building up to this moment. I plan things out, people.

Maybe you take John Carpenter’s 1978 classic film for granted, because you’ve seen it so many times. Maybe you’re pretty young, and you saw it on DVD for the first time last year, and you said “This is just like every other slasher movie.” You’d be wrong.

When Halloween was released, it was part of a fairly new genre of films. It isn’t the first slasher movie, despite what a lot of people think. Black Christmas, the seminal Canadian film, has more of a claim to that title than Halloween. What Halloween did do, though, was define the next 30 years of horror movies, and define it well. Every horror movie made since owes a debt to John Carpenter.

Plot: Laurie has to babysit on Halloween night. Meanwhile, a killer named Michael Myers is stalking her. And that’s it. That’s all. It’s perfect in its minimalism. The later sequels would try to attach more reason, more explanation, to the story, but it wasn’t necessary. Halloween works because it is brutal and honest and frightening as hell.

I came to this movie in a weird way: I read the book first. Not that this is based on any real novel; someone smuggled me the knockoff paperback adaptation when I was about 11, and because it had murders and a couple of sex scenes, I thought I’d struck bloody gold. I didn’t see the movie for a few more years, when Betamax came out, and boy, was I hooked. There’s a clarity to Halloween that sets it above and beyond all the other slasher films that followed it, and that’s what makes it work.

The sequels are crap. I’ll just come out and say that. Ted, Tony and Doug at the Horror Etc. podcast just spent three episodes dissecting the Halloween series beautifully; I recommend you listen to those shows. I agree with them completely: some things should be left alone, and later attempts to graft the supernatural onto the Halloween series were a mistake.

Rob Zombie remade the original film a couple of years ago, and made a terrible, terrible sequel called H2 this year. I didn’t mind Zombie’s first movie, but it didn’t come close to the original film. If you haven’t seen them, go ahead and skip them all. Just watch the original.

I’ve spent the last month watching and reviewing movies from my DVD’s horror shelf. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and I hope you’ve found at least one movie you didn’t know about. But if you aren’t a horror movie fan, you should at least watch Halloween. Especially tonight.

Update: Simply Syndicated’s Movies You Should See podcast takes a look at Halloween in its latest episode. Great minds think alike, and so do ours. Here it is.


One comment

  1. Of course it had to be this 😀 I watched it for the first time last night. I, being of the generation where even the films that set the rules seem a bit stereotypical, loved it from start to finish. I may nip to the shop and get it later on…

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