Sorry, no new releases this week (wanted to watch and review The Accountant, but circumstances kept me either occupied or at home). So I’ll review this old classic, while making a brief comparison to the Rob Zombie remake.
I wish I had you all alone. Just the two of us.
So first question. Who the hell has sex next to a lit jack-o-lantern?
This is supposed to be the first successful slasher film that got it right, and inspired every other slasher film from there on out. What about Psycho, Black Christmas, or The Town That Dreaded Sundown? Personally, I don’t really care about slasher films in general, so I’m not going to get into that, or the cliches. Because from what I know, this is a film that didn’t cater to any cliche in particular, so I think it should be analyzed independent of that.
Film starts with that classic music score (which is on par with Psycho), and a lit jack-o-lantern, with the lit pumpkin being the only source of light in a dark void. As the camera zooms in closer, soon the outer shell of the pumpkin becomes as black as the void, and soon the fire is extinguished altogether. I interpret this as the forces of evil and darkness that come out during Halloween extinguishing the flame that separates mortals and humanity from expressionless emotionless evil, representing the take-over of Michael Myers, transforming him from a normal child to The Shape, The BoogieMan, or William Shatner.
His (or Its) presence is felt from the very first frame after the opening credits end. We see things from his point of view, walking towards the Myers house. The film ends with a view of the Myers house as well. Where it begins, it ends, only to rise up and continue again on another Halloween night.
And then there’s Laurie herself. First of all, at this point, I don’t think she was considered to be related to Michael Myers in any way. Not in this film. It wasn’t until the sequels that they did that, which is a bad thing in my opinion. He targets her because she (and Bobby) visit his house early on in the movie, while he’s there, which arouses his interest. Plus she sings that above quote, expressing a desire for companionship. Way wrong place and time to be singing that tune. She represses her desire for joy and companionship (with Ben Tramer, who is never seen in this film) due to her shyness, while deep down she desires it, much like how we act like we don’t want to be scared, yet we watch horror films and dress up as monsters for that time of the year to be scared. Michael Myers decides to take her up on her offer (which wasn’t directed at him), killing off her friends and setting the house up for her to become terrified, before he has her, alone, just the two of them.
While some cite this film as the one to punish teenagers for having sex, that wasn’t the intention from what I’ve read. It’s that, unlike Laurie, her friends don’t repress their desires. They are expressed fully, whether it’s the desire to hang out with a guy, or actually sleeping with one. The Shape targets those who don’t hold back their expressions and desires first, before targeting the one who does repress them last. There are many ways to interpret that.
I admired how the film continually showcased his appearance and stalking throughout the runtime, whether it be a glimpse in the distance, or a lingering in the shadows. Clear inspiration for Slender Man in my opinion. How you see him one instant, then in the next instant he’s gone, as if he can appear anywhere at anytime. Hence the sound of his breathing during the closing montage. He is not human, he is an It. It is everywhere. It is an evilness that surpasses the physical, which may take over another body of another human, young or old, innocent or not. Not knowing the unknown is what makes it terrifying. Having viewers speculate is a good thing in this case.
That being said, it got a bit tedious for me at times. It can only go for so long, seeing him watching others, either from an over-the-shoulder perspective, or off in the distance from a protagonist’s perspective, before it loses some of its tension. That could arguably be the intent, the question of whether It will act, so that the viewer can let their guard down before it inevitably happens. I just think it’s too much of a good thing, padding out the runtime. That’s the risk when making the subject matter abstract to the point where backstories for the characters are not explored, which has pros and cons, one con being monotony.
In any case, the film is still solid enough, and it’s simplicity is what makes it a classic. Simple but effective in both plot, music, and camerawork (surprising amount of long takes, which help elevate the tension).
And now, a note on the Rob Zombie remake.
And watching this again after so many years (yeah, it’s been a few Halloweens since I’ve seen this), it makes me realize why this film is so appreciated and held to such high standards, and why fans of it shit all over the sequels, especially the Rob Zombie remake. Because that remake eliminates the abstract nature of horror, giving backstories to everyone and trying to humanize Michael Myers, which takes away from the terror and evil and emotionless non-sympathy It has. That film turns the It (The Shape) into a He. And that is why it fails (that and it’s shitty ending). That being said, at least it got actors of the right age for its take on the story, while this film also suffers from having characters who are high schoolers played by people who should be college seniors, if not older.
“Was it the Boogeyman?”
“As a matter of fact, it was.”
Cue body disappearance indicating supernatural entity and a force that is everywhere threatening the living that may continue on a future Halloween night.
“Was that the Boogeyman?”
“As a matter of fact, I think it was.”
*crash!* Window shatters!
Alright, come on, that was funny. I laughed my ass off at that ending.
PS: John Carpenter you sly dog you. Showing that film The Thing in this movie, prior to you remaking it.