31 Days Of Horror: Halloween

It’s October!  One of my favourite months of the year.

I’m a goth, a Celt, a lover of autumn, and a horror film fan, so it will probably come as no surprise that I absolutely adore Hallowe’en.  What I’ve found over the years, though, is that I never have time on the day/weekend itself to watch as many horror films as I’d like.  As such, this year I’m starting early, and watching a horror film every day of the month!

I’m starting with Halloween (1978), which may seem a bit backwards, but rest assured I’ll be watching it again on the day itself.  I must have seen this film over a hundred times – it’s my joint favourite film of all time (Velvet Goldmine is the other joint favourite, if you’re interested!).  There’s a new Halloween film coming out this month, so I’ll be watching all the others in the series before I go to see the new one at the cinema.

Halloween (1978)
Dr Loomis and Sheriff Brackett explore the Myers house.

I love the opening credits with the slow zoom on the lit pumpkin lantern.  It’s especially fun around Hallowe’en itself when I have my own lanterns on and can compare them with the one on the screen!  (I don’t have lanterns carved yet – I’m not quite that obsessed.)

The opening section, set fifteen years before the main story, I always found super scary as a young teenager and always fast forwarded through it.  These days, though, I just marvel at how poor the period feel is – I’m sure every attempt was made at the time to make it look like 1963, but the hair and clothes of the teenage characters just scream ‘1978’, like the rest of the film!  (This is a persistent problem with recent retro/vintage period costuming in film and TV and I’m going to do a whole post on it at some point.)  It’s shot in real-time from the POV of the killer (although there is a notorious continuity error with the clock in the hall) and so it’s also fairly hilarious when you notice that the teenage tryst only takes about ninety seconds between the couple going upstairs and the dude pulling his shirt on as he heads out the front door.  The reveal of the child killer is brilliant and still really creepy forty years after the film was made.

Fifteen years later, we’re introduced to Dr Loomis, who is an amazing character – his obsession with Michael Myers comes across right from the off during the drive to the sanatorium with the nurse.  Donald Pleasence’s accent is all over the place though!  He starts off attempting an American accent, but it rapidly disappears.  I like to assume the character is a Brit who has lived in the US for many decades, and is reverting to his native accent due to the stress.

Blue Öyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper is used beautifully when Annie and Laurie are driving to their babysitting jobs, and it’s been a favourite track of mine since my teens as a result.

Speaking of ways Halloween influenced teenage me, the fashions in this, with the costuming done by Nancy Loomis (who also played Annie), are awesome – as a result of this film I have been wearing colourful knee-high socks since age seventeen.  Usually under jeans nowadays, but they’re still there (and very cosy in the autumn!).

Unlike later slashers of the ’80s (which was when the slasher craze really took off), all the characters are well-rounded, rather than just being one-note carving knife fodder.  No matter how many times I’ve seen the film, I always find myself wishing they didn’t die and imagining an alternative universe where Michael Myers didn’t exist and they all got to live happily ever after.  I know that would kind of defeat the point of the film, but maybe I’ll write that AU fanfiction one day!

I generally find the kid character of Tommy a little annoying, but I do appreciate his comic book geekery!

The tension in the final sequence, where Laurie investigates the Wallace house only to find all her friends dead, and then has to escape Michael, is brilliantly done. Even knowing all the scenes and dialogue by heart, I still find it incredibly tense to watch.  Jamie Lee Curtis’ first film performance is fantastic, and you can see already why she went on to be such a big star.  I also like the fact that Pleasence and Curtis’ characters don’t actually meet until the last sequence.

Also, the very first shot and very last shot of the film are both of the Myers house, which is quite cool.

The ‘it’s not over’ ending is great too!  I’ll discuss how it was resolved in future films over the next couple of weeks – starting tomorrow, when I’ll be watching Halloween II.

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