It's October, which means it's Halloween month, which means I watch as many scary movies as I can, all for the good of horror fans everywhere. Okay, really just for me. Because when you live in a house with three females who all share a certain distaste for the macabre, you jump all over the opportunity Halloween season affords.
So last night I kicked things off with John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween (Introducing Jamie Lee Curtis!), because, well, the title ...
Halloween is a franchise everybody knows, with a villain synonymous with the holiday. Yes, white-masked, jumpsuit wearing Michael Myers is a pop culture icon whether you're a fan of horror or not. And this first film in the series is where he makes his terrifying (terrifying?) debut.
So with that foundation laid, here's the truth: While this is still a fun film to watch, and certainly has some good moments and good devices (the opening first-person scene is truly great), in 2015 it's simply not scary. I mean, at all. In concept, sure; getting stalked by a masked psychopath wielding a butcher knife would be enough to make anybody dribble in their pants a little, but to witness it on the screen in all its 1978 film glory ... not so much. There were literally times while watching that I thought to myself, I could make this movie today with my iPhone and Final Cut Pro. But I suppose it's unfair to hold modern-day technology against a movie made over 30 years ago.
Now, I'm 30. So I wasn't even born for another seven years after this movie was released in theaters. So it's impossible for me to understand the impact the film might have had on its target audience during that time period. Obviously it was big, as based on the film's shoestring budget it became, at the time, the most successful indie film ever made. But when I consider that Jaws was released in 1975, and still holds up on the scare factor today way better than Halloween (aside from the horribly plastic-looking animatronic shark-jumping-on-the-boat at the end) I guess I really just don't understand what it was about Halloween that made it so successful.
My guess: Michael Myers, himself.
The character of Michael Myers is scary, because he is nothing except (as Dr. Loomis explains to the Haddonfield Sheriff) pure evil. Think about it. The film starts with six-year-old Michael killing his sister in cold blood. He was SIX! From that point he gets locked up, then escapes years later (now a fully grown super-strong freak adult), only to return home and pick up right where he left off. Michael Myers doesn't talk. Michael Myers doesn't hurry (seriously, how much higher would the body count be in the Halloween franchise if this fool actually moved faster than a steady walk every now and again?). Michael Myers doesn't do anything except kill. That's all he seems to want. Wake up, slit somebody's throat. Repeat. And that's what makes him scary. There's no reason, there's no revelation or explanation or ah-ha moment where you go, Oh, that's why he's so fucked up. The dude just likes to kill.
There are a lot of Halloween movies, but the only ones I really can conjure up any real memories of are the newer (compared to the originals) ones like Halloween: H20 and Halloween: Resurrection, and I recall enjoying those. Particularly H20. Then, of course there's the Rob Zombie remakes, which explain more of the Michael Myers character and his relationship with Laurie, and thus make him less scary, in my opinion. When you start to make Myers more human, you make him less of a monster. So, at the end of the day, Carpenter got it right, and kicked off one of the best horror franchises we have. You have to wonder, though, what Halloween would have been like if made today. Same script, same director, same tone, just modern technology and film making techniques.
Oh, and how about that score? Has to be the best horror film music ever, right?