THIS WEEK: John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978): An escaped madman puts on a mask and stalks a babysitter in this legendary horror film that gave birth to the slasher genre.
HOW THE MOMENT STARTS: A young man heads to the kitchen to fetch a post-coital beer.
THE PREFACE: John Carpenter helmed this Midnight Screening indie that broke through into the mainstream. The simple premise of a babysitter attacked by a madman, was one we could all relate to. We’ve either been the child or the babysitter. The idea of a masked man with a knife chasing you around the house is your worst nightmare. Carpenter embellished every Moment he could.
Because of the blockbuster success, tons of slasher imitators rode the coattails of Halloween. Stuff like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street owe a lot to John Carpenter’s cult classic. However, none of them had a star like Jamie Lee Curtis. She continues the Scream Queen legacy her mother, Janet Leigh, started in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Curtis holds the screen against a formidable opponent.
Michael Myers is the man behind the mask. This huge beast escaped from a mental institution, put there because he killed his sister as a child… on Halloween. Carpenter starts the movie in Michael’s point-of-view, with the edges of the mask filling the edges of the frames. This creepy technique has become a horror cliche ever since, and just one indication of Halloween’s massive influence.
The music from Carpenter heightens the tension even more. He steadily pounds out a simple rhythm on the piano. Each note suggests impending doom and fuels our anxiety as we enjoy this thrillride. It’s probably one of the best horror themese ever. On that note, fanboys have debated the best slasher movie killer ever since Halloween debuted. For a lot of us, Michael Myers is the most terrifying villain in horror cinema.
THE SET-UP: A lot of why Myers is so intimidating and frightening is because of his silent presence. Not only is his face covered, so we can’t read his expression, but we also don’t get any suggestions from his voice or dialogue. Another reason why this masked killer is so memorable is how Carpenter frames his subjects.
Often, he will edge the frame so there is a lot of empty space on one side. This makes us anticipate something will appear on the blank side, especially if the character is backing into that side of the frame. Occasionally, long shots will linger just enough to spark our imagination, only to have Michael Myers pop in and scare the popcorn out of us. Myers is obsessed, driven for some reason to attack Jamie Lee Curtis’ character. The mystery won’t be ruined here. Our hero also has to protect the children left in her charge. She must somehow find a way to trick and defeat the powerful and unstoppable boogeyman.
THAT MOMENT: Before Jamie Lee vs. Michael Myers takes place, he slays a few of her friends for warm-up practise. Scream tells us of the horror movie Rules. One of those rules that the genre abides by is “You Can’t Have Sex.” If you do, you die, right. So, after we get our requisite boobage, buddy goes to the kitchen to get some more beer.
Michael Myers interrupts his celebratory mission. The imposing figure stares down his prey with ’’the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes.’’ Myers doesn’t mess around. He gets right down to business. There is no one-liner, like Freddy Krueger would toss. Myers’ presence is his threat.
In That Moment the masked killer strangles the young man, raising him in the air, pinned against a door. Myers pulls out his trademark blade and stabs his victim. Hard. The knife goes through the body and into the door. Ouch. Myers removes his hand from around the throat… and the dead teen stays there, pinned, feet hovering inches above the floor. It’s clear: Myers is a freight train – an unstoppable (demonic?) force of nature.
THAT MOMENT REMEMBERED: John Carpenter has made several amazing genre pictures over the decades. Halloween rises to the top. Not only did it invent a whole new sub-genre and box office craze, it also scared the crap out of us. This cult classic was a fun time at the movies. When the terrifying experience ended, it felt like you survived something.
Hearing just a few notes of this iconic score is sure enough to bring us all right back. The legacy of Michael Myers lasts to this day. Numerous sequels debuted in the 80s and 90s, with a recent remake (and its sequel) by Rob Zombie. While the last sequel and remakes were really disappointing, there is still hope for this franchise to continue.
Horror fans remember the original Halloween when they think of Michael Myers. Most of us have this Moment as a lasting impression. Myers is incredibly powerful and brutal. You can not reason with him. Loomis tried, right. All you can do is try and survive long enough that the calendar turns to November.
This Halloween, Remember Halloween.