Prom Night (1980)

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I’ve been pondering slasher movies more and more, as we’ve been covering them. Are we guilty of using our 2016 biases to judge early 80s movies? Well, of course we are. But the more of them I see, with questionable levels of acting, gore, and pacing, I think “is it a fool’s errand to try and review this genre now? Is it uniquely tied to its era and fanbase?”

 

Then I watch something like “Prom Night” and all those questions go away, because it’s great. It manifests the same structural problem as other slashers, in fact to a crazy extent in one particular instance, but thanks to an interesting visual style, some good performances and a great script, I was never bothered by them.

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“Prom Night” is, like our recently reviewed “Hell Night”, from producer Irwin Yablans, who was using the sweet cachet he got from “Halloween” to make more money / more horror. Asking director Paul Lynch to base the movie round a holiday, Lynch tweaked it to be prom night, and used a story from a friend of his, Robert Guza Jr, about a tragic event years earlier returning to haunt a group of teenagers. Funding was secured when Jamie Lee Curtis signed up (who I recall was trying to avoid slasher typecasting, but she did okay), and away they went.

 

It’s 1974, and a group of small kids, all around 11 years old, are riding their bikes round the neighbourhood, and decide to play a rather mean version of hide-and-seek in an abandoned convent. Robin, who’s just 10, sneaks in to join them, but when they find her, they corner her, chanting “Kill! Kill! Kill!” She backs up and backs up and eventually falls out of a window to her death. The kids, led by Wendy, decide to just run away, leaving the discovery of the body to Robin’s twin brother Alex. Later, the murder is pinned on a known rapist, who’s sent to prison for life.

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Then we’re up to the present day, 6 years later, and it’s the run up to prom. Alex and his other sister Kim (Curtis) are looking forward to it, with Kim in the running for Prom Queen; their Dad (Leslie Nielsen, the same year his life was changed forever by “Airplane”) is the school Principal. There’s the evil kid turned evil teenager Wendy (Eddie Benton, “Sledge Hammer!”), who also wants to be Queen; but this normal teen activity is disturbed when the four kids responsible for Robin’s death get phone calls telling them they’re going to pay for what they did! And we find out the rapist has escaped from prison and is on his way!

 

As a quick aside, apart from “Halloween”, the escaped psycho is a red herring way more often than they’re the killer. I think a solid half the slasher movies we’ve covered recently have had an escaped mental patient or murderer in them, and they’ve not been the killer in a single one. Perhaps it’s just some sort of code among horror directors.

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Like I said, the pace of “Prom Night” sets it apart. Aside from the opening (and an offscreen kill committed by the escapee, nowhere near town) no-one dies until 63 minutes, which must have really frustrated the early gorehounds who went to see it. What they do is build up dread wonderfully (almost to the level of Jamie Lee Curtis’ previous horror movie) and fill things up with some really good escalating tension, lots of languid shots, as well as a variety of great characters. My favourite is “Slick” (Sheldon Rybowski), who shows you don’t need to be a bronzed Adonis to get with women. He charms the beautiful Jude (Joy Thompson) by having a cool van, a hollowed-out book with like 30 pre-rolled joints inside, and by being confident and able to talk to her, despite looking like a traditional nebbish-y teen. Good work Slick! There’s an amazing performance from a monobrowed David Mucci as “Lou”, the freshly expelled monster who Wendy has sex with so he’ll help her get revenge on the school; and a quick mention for a long-pre-fame Jeff Wincott, who made tons of JCVD-esque martial arts movies in the 90s, in what might have been his movie debut. Not all the acting is fantastic, but when you’ve got a lead actor as strong as Jamie Lee Curtis, you’re fine.

 

There’s a lot of red herrings, of course, and when Leslie Nielsen disappears from the movie with about 20 minutes to go he makes a strong case for being the killer (don’t worry, ol Les just must have had another job, because his absence is coincidental). There’s also my least favourite trope of horror movies – the “victim running away from help”. Wendy shows excellent resourcefulness to fight off the killer, but rather than make her way back to the prom, with loads of people who can help her, she keeps running into darker and darker rooms and corridors and eventually cupboards. Sprinkle in a bit of “let’s not tell anyone the rapist – killer escaped” at the beginning, and you’ve got your requisite amount of dumb movie decisions to make sure all the pieces are in place.

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What has been interesting is seeing the way the genre developed. I think Friday The 13th, released the same year, was the beginning of the end for interesting slasher movies, as all producers had to do to get people in the cinemas was put a bunch of teens in an isolated location and kill them all in ever-more-brutal ways.  Given this was filmed in 1979, when the only game in town was “Halloween”, the “rules” weren’t in place yet and you could go down all sorts of different paths. Not saying all those paths were interesting, or good even, but they were there.

 

What I really liked about this is that the killer’s actions make perfect sense. He goes after a very small group of people, with the only real “I just fancied killing him” death being that of the great Slick. There’s no indication that they just hated all teens, or wanted revenge on the entire school, or anything like that. Plus, they’re sort of dumb, getting tricked several times by Wendy in their big chase (a long way from part 2, or even slashers from the same year, like “Friday the 13th” where Mrs Voorhees is capable of incredible feats of prediction and strength).

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If you like disco, you’ve got an extended sequence where Kim and her new boyfriend Nick (Casey Stevens) do a sweet disco dance, and it’s really them, no stunt doubles. Talking of Stevens, he dropped off the face of the earth after making this movie, and died of an AIDS-related illness a few years later – information about him is extremely limited.

 

I think this is absolutely worth watching, to see the evolution of a genre before the rules were set in stone, and to see a movie which prioritises atmosphere over shocks (but still puts some great tense action sequences in).

 

Rating: thumbs up

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“There’s No Way!” – an extended look at Halloween Resurrection (2002)

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SPOILERS AHOY – I think I’ve earned them through the eight films of this series. So if you’ve avoided watching this – congratulations! I hope you use those extra 2 hours effectively.

So we come to the end of “classic” Michael Myers. After faking her own death, running away to California, starting a family and being a decent member of society, the only reward Laurie Strode gets is to be locked up in an asylum because she killed the wrong person at the end of “H20”.

Wait, what? We saw the end of H20, and what we got was Michael sitting up in the coroner’s van, getting thrown through the windscreen, then standing up, then taking a van to the chest, then falling halfway down a ravine before having that same van smash into him and pin him to a tree…and he was still alive after all of it. Michael I can accept that happening to, but just some guy? Turns out he swapped out his outfit for a security guard’s, using his magnificent precognitive powers to predict how it would all turn out. We’re lucky, I suppose, that the guy didn’t wake up ten seconds earlier, tear his mask off and leave a completely exposed Michael Myers in the middle of a bunch of people with guns. He’s also been portrayed many times as having a mortal fear of removing his mask, so it’s lucky he can get over that when plot contrivance demands it.

My wife’s response to this? “Eh, they’ve carried on horror franchises for stupider reasons”.

Michael decides to wait 3 years before going after Laurie again, perhaps because that’s how long it took for this film to get funding, perhaps because he needed a replacement mask for the one he left on that security guard, then shockingly easily murders his way through a heavily secured psychiatric hospital to get to her. If you wanted a sign of how little this movie cares about being even slightly good, we see two nurses talking about Laurie, then as they approach her room old nurse tells young nurse to not let on that she knows anything. As soon as they’re in the room, old nurse just carries on telling the same story to young nurse! Did you even read your own damn script? Anyway, when Michael gets to Laurie, she puts up a hell of a fight but is let down by her own unwillingness to chop up a masked man again and plunges to her “death” (although you know if this film had been anything other than an unmitigated failure, she’d have been revived in some way for the sequel). All the other people who survived the end of “H20”, one of whom was a blood relative (Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams and LL Cool J) must have died on the way back to their home planet, because they’re never so much as mentioned.

That’s it. The final, titanic battle between Laurie and Michael, ranging over four films, is finished with 15 minutes into “Resurrection”, and Laurie joins Rachel from part 5 and Jamie from part 6 as stars of the previous film who died a short way into the current one. Boy, I sure hope they picked a big, worthwhile, not embarrassingly stupid way to finally do for Michael!

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You may wonder why I called this review “There’s no way”. It’s not because Michael is indestructible, that’s a given. It’s the way the pieces continually fall into place to make it easy for Michael to carry on doing what he’s doing, as he gets every possible lucky break and has powers of forward planning that we mere mortals could only dream of. When he leaves the asylum, he hands over his knife to one of the other inmates, a guy who happened to both keep getting out of his locked cell, and be a clown-mask-wearing serial killer superfan, presumably pinning all the murders on him. There’s no way! You’ll need that phrase a lot if you’re going to watch this. We see Michael on security camera, and you’d think that the authorities would probably check the video to see what happened, and see a much taller man in a different mask killing everyone. But no! Why bother?

But I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time on the first 15 minutes. The majority of the film is based around an idea that’s not so much stupid (merely a weak rehash of “Blair Witch 2”) as 100% guaranteed to have been stopped by some legal person long before it ever happened. A company called Dangertainment has bought the Myers house, and on Halloween they’re sending in 6 college students with head-mounted cameras to behave like typical teenagers, as well as look for clues, and the results will be broadcast on the internet.

It’s so stupid that I can feel my brain trying to stop me writing this review and go and stare at a puddle, or something. How are Dangertainment making money from this? There’s no “$9.99 for full access” advert on the website. Why did the Myers family leave the house abandoned for so long only to sell it to an internet entrepreneur? Just for fun, think of any serial killer and see what happened to the house they were living in. There’s a better than 50% chance that the house will have been burned down by angry locals or demolished to make a garden; but luckily this house was left untouched and unused. Why have so few hard-mounted cameras? “Big Brother” had been on the air a few years by this point so they must have been aware of it – head mounted cameras mean you don’t get to see anyone’s reaction, as if something happens, everyone will be looking at the thing rather than the people.

The director makes a cameo around now, as the psychology professor of Final Girl Sara (Bianca Kajlich). Have you ever noticed how college lectures in movies are always directly related to the plot of the film, and are the most basic entry-level guff? But this barely cracks Halloween: Resurrection’s top 50 of idiocy.

We ought to spend a moment with Dangertainment before we get to the good stuff. Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks! To give two prominent roles to two complete non-actors is a weird move, but Tyra acquits herself just fine in her limited time on screen. Busta, on the other hand, has a fairly central role and is absolutely terrible, relying on comedy swearing almost every line. They have a grand total of 1 employee to help with this world-wide-streaming, rather large operation. There’s no way!

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6 college students, 1 house, lots of cameras, one serial killer. The house is full of stuff related to Myers, but in what might be generously called a clever move, every item is a plant, designed to frighten the students and excite the viewing public, as Busta learned his lesson from the opening of Al Capone’s vault. Michael shows up, because it turns out he’s been living in the sewers under the house for the last 20 years, and he starts doing what he does best. As everyone watching it assumes it’s fake, no-one calls the police or anything, because of course. It takes them quite a long time before they realise Myers is there…how big would a house have to be for you to completely lose someone, when you were searching the house top to bottom for evidence of them? About the size of a medium suburban home, is this film’s answer. There’s no way!

Despite its modern trappings (the internet!) this film feels horribly old-fashioned, much more so than “H20”, and the rules that “Scream” mocked so cleverly are stuck to rigidly – if you have sex or do drugs, you’re dead. Two of the three boys in this film behave like sexist assholes and are rewarded for it, while the women get nothing but killed. Katee Sackhof (Starbuck from the recent Battlestar Galactica) strips down to her bra at one point, while Daisy McCrackin was presumably paid a little extra to go topless, seconds before getting impaled on a sharp spike. Michael does love impaling people!

Sara, luckily, has a friend on the outside, a tech wizard nicknamed Deckard, actually a high school kid who’s pretending to be older. I presume some part at the end of their story was cut out, but the two of them never meet, with “Deckard” sending her text messages telling her where Michael is – he’s at a party but finds a computer there to watch the show. It’s not a terrible idea, but to have the two sides of the story never meet is kind-of weird.

Anyway, you know how these things go. Setting up the house with all the tricks and fakeouts, then making sure it all looked old and disused, must have been the work of an army of skilled builders, but their one and only employee is killed before the Dangertainment even starts, and no-one bothers looking for him or wondering where he’s gone. There’s no security in place, no health & safety and Michael still being alive isn’t a concern to anyone. Two of the students smoke a bong on camera and their almost certainly getting arrested and thrown out of college is not a concern to them. Busta dresses up like Michael to scare the kids, confronts the real Michael (sending him on his way with a flea in his ear) and continues the tradition of people dressed like Michael being directly responsible for death. There’s no way!

But all this is just window-dressing to the final battle. Most everyone is dead, and it’s down to Sara to try and escape the house, which is proving rather more difficult than you might expect. She’s about done for, when “TRICK OR TREAT, MOTHER****ER!” (swears might drop us down search result rankings?) Busta Rhymes was only stabbed in the shoulder, so he uses his kung-fu skills, which were established Chekhov’s Gun-style at the beginning, to kick Michael into some bare wires, electrocuting him to “death” – yes, his eyes open at the end, as always, but this film series is done.

So, after 25 years of running from her brother, who went from a force of pure evil to a sort of super-genius death-ninja, the grand conclusion to these films is not Laurie Strode finally confronting her brother, but Busta Rhymes quipping and kicking. Which is quite appropriate in a way, because this series has been coasting on one good film and an iconic mask for that entire time and has produced some of the worst stinkers of recent memory (3, 5 and 6 are almost unbearably bad), so to end it with a non-acting rapper giving a big dramatic speech to the assembled cameras about how, despite him being a scumbag for the film’s entire running time, he’s had a Damascene conversion to the cause of privacy and respect, is fairly reasonable.

I appreciate all this is plot-related mockery, because the technical side of the film is the fairly standard modern slick horror movie. Most of the stars are decent actors (Kajlich and Sackhof are both excellent) and the camerawork is workmanlike and uninteresting. The head-mounted cameras were a stupid decision for another reason than the one I mentioned above, and that’s that none of them can handle low-light situations, and most of the film is in low light. While Deckard and friends are watching the feed, you can barely see what’s going on. Oh, and Bianca Kajlich couldn’t scream at all, apparently, so had all hers dubbed. Huh.

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Part of the reason this film enjoys its thoroughly deserved poor reputation is down to its getting the future so completely wrong. “America hates reality”, goes Busta at one point, when a few years later there would be multiple channels devoted entirely to “reality” shows like this, and multiple shows devoted to very very similar topics. But most of the reason is because it’s wretched, a low point even in a series as bad as this one’s been. That this film was shelved to do reshoots because the producers wanted a stronger finished product makes me fascinated as to how bad the first cut of this film could have been.

Talking of behind the scenes stuff, the documentary about the series tells us that Miramax Films wanted no Michael Myers in this one, but producer Moustapha Akkad and “the fans” wanted and got him. If there’s one thing that this film has taught us, it’s don’t trust hardcore fans of anything. You don’t have to please them, because they’ll turn up anyway! The title was chosen to let fans know they were getting Michael, but if you think about it he never died at the end of the last one so just who is getting resurrected, I’m not sure.

If we make it to 2016 without another Halloween film (it looks like Rob Zombie’s series is dead, thanks to the critical and commercial disaster of his Halloween 2 in 2009) it’ll be the longest time without a new blast of Michael since the series started. And I think that’s for the best. Certainly, the cheap “he’s dead, whoops, no he’s not” endings to every Halloween film are no worse than the other big horror franchises, but they’re still pretty bad, and if this is all they can manage then no-one needs another.

I may review Rob Zombie’s two Halloweens at some point, even though I really don’t like the little of his other movies I’ve seen and think his music’s terrible. But this is the end for our journey through Halloween, and thanks for sticking with me. Which franchise to move onto next? Hellraiser? Friday the 13th? Child’s Play? A Nightmare on Elm Street? Critters? Leprechaun? Bloody hell, there’s a lot of them.

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

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When you’re 7 films deep in a series, and know the bad guy is only dying if they stop making money, your mind has a tendency to wander. Just what was Michael doing for the last 20 years? Did he a have a job? That mask looks remarkably fresh considering every Halloween mask I ever bought fell to pieces after a day. Did he buy a stock of blue overalls?

Despite it being only 3 years since the last instalment, it feels like a heck of a lot more. “Scream” and “Scream 2” had been released in the meantime, and despite H20 pretty much ignoring their skewering of horror film rules – yes, someone dies after saying “I’ll be right back”, and the teenagers who have sex are goners – it feels a couple of decades more modern than “The Curse Of Michael Myers”. Also, the teen film was big business again, so this movie has a virtual A-list cast, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe in her first role, Michelle Williams and Josh Hartnett.

“Halloween H20” also follows the tradition of horror franchises which ignore previous movies in the series. In this universe, Halloween 4, 5 and 6 never happened, and Laurie Strode never had a daughter. She faked her own death in order to get away from Michael, then rather implausibly managed to get a job as the headmistress of an exclusive private school in California, having a son in the process who by 1998 is Josh Hartnett. Did they not do a background check? Michael, after…I don’t know, being a roadie for a metal band for 20 years?…decides that his sister is alive and pops back to Illinois to murder Dr. Loomis’ nurse on the off chance she has some information about Laurie. Joseph Gordon Levitt, as a local skateboard kid, doesn’t even make it as far as the opening credits.

Let’s get all the sad Pleasence information out of the way. He died in 1995, so his sole involvement in this is as a photograph and a map, showing all the different places he went looking for Michael – they do reuse one of his speeches from the first movie, but for reasons unknown get another actor to speak the lines. Given the last time we saw Michael in this universe was when the two of them got blown up at the end of part 2, and the camera lingered over his burning corpse while the credits played, both he and Loomis recovered remarkably well.

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So, private school, most of the students and faculty are off on a camping trip, leaving four sexy teens, Curtis, her boyfriend Adam Arkin the guidance counsellor, and LL Cool J the security guard. He’s my favourite character, with his quirk being he’s a wannabe erotic fiction writer, spending most of his onscreen time reading his stories out to his wife. Ten years later and he could have been the next EL James! Michael makes his way from Illinois to California remarkably quickly (he’d need to drive the speed limit the entire way and never stop if he wanted to make it in under two days), uses some stealth-ninja powers to get into the school, and we’re on for some carnage.

This is by a comfortable distance the best of the series since the first one (although I do love how bonkers part 4 is). The cast is great, it’s had plenty of money spent on it and Jamie Lee Curtis is still the ultimate Final Girl, even if she’s no longer a girl. The fact it’s slickly made does tend to hide some of the problems it has, though. Michael doesn’t kill anyone between the opening credits and almost an hour into the movie, and that section – while not terrible – is a heck of a lot of setup for not a lot of payoff (the bodycount is at Halloween 1 levels). It feels like they were almost going to go a different way before bringing Michael back again, and I’d lay money on Adam Arkin being the killer in an early draft of the script, because Curtis mistakes him for Michael three times in the course of the movie – once I’ll buy as a red herring, but three times and you’re in different territory.

There’s plenty of that “people being dumb to ensure Michael has someone to kill” stuff going on, but that’s par for the course for slasher movies. It would have been nice to have someone ponder why he’s effectively indestructible, but the film just ignores all that stuff and expects you to know who everyone is and what they can do. Not a terrible idea, I suppose. The music is generic thriller-music, all soaring strings, and the only showing for the classic Halloween theme is as the credits roll – if you’re going to do a Halloween, have some decent music please.

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It shows its post-Scream creation by being thick with references to other horror films – before the opening credits, there are little nods to “Friday The 13th” and “Hellraiser”; producer Kevin Williamson had a hand in “Scream”; and director Steve Miner is a horror stalwart, getting his start on the original “Last House On The Left” and directing a few of the Friday 13th sequels. Janet Leigh, as the school secretary, drives the exact same make and model of car, with the same number plate, she was driving in “Psycho”.

All in all, it’s well done and fun to watch. Not perfect, but you’ll have a good time with it.

Rating: thumbs up

Halloween 2 (1981)

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Well…mostly new

This film is the beginning of the end. As far as I can gather, it’s the first sequel to a slasher film – a few other “horror” franchises had sequels before this, but they weren’t slashers, and this sets the template. The killer is now effectively indestructible, unstoppable and his motives become more and more hazy, to the point where it becomes “Slasher Film 7 – Just Point Me At The Teenagers”.

It starts the second the first film ends. The police finally get onto the streets of Haddonfield in force, and take Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to the hospital. Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence, showing remarkable loyalty to this series) is sure that Myers is out there, and even carries on believing it when someone dressed identically to Myers is trapped between two cars and blown up. “Before they were famous” fans will enjoy seeing future SNL and “Wayne’s World” star Dana Carvey as one of the TV news crew people.

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The interesting things about this movie are things that its imitators didn’t do. A significant amount of this film is about the aftermath of the first one and how the characters deal with it, which is a thing most horror films don’t give a damn about. We see the father of one of the girls murdered in part 1, we see the people at the local hospital discussing the radio news reports, and we get a flavour of how a small town which has this happen would react. But it does also have an unstoppable mask-wearing force of evil, and he makes his way to the hospital, doing a few more killings along the way and stopping off at his former infant school to write “Samhain” in blood on a chalkboard.

We also appear to have the originator of the poorly lit hospital trope which I’ve railed against so many times. Initially, the hospital is brightly lit, and you’re like “finally, a horror film where I can see what’s going on” until about halfway through, when all the lights seem to be on a dimmer. Dammit! What we also have, that the first film had none of, is the fakeout scare – a cat jumping out of a rubbish bin, a boyfriend pretending to be a patient under a blanket, that sort of thing.

John Carpenter wrote the second one, even though one gets the sense he didn’t really want to, and couldn’t think of a sensible plot – hence the “twist”, which is never so much as hinted at in the film before it. Also, for all his great films, he’s made a lot more than his fair share of garbage, so maybe this is from the “minus” side of his resume. The director of part 2, Rick Rosenthal, has zero other credits worth a damn and has been a TV director for the last 20 years, but he does a decent enough job of aping Carpenter’s visual style from part 1 – it looks similar enough that if you compared a few scenes, you’d probably not be able to tell who did what.

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You have to laugh. Myers makes his way through the hospital, thinking of interesting ways to kill people (drowning someone in a boiling hot tub is my favourite) and there’s never a bit of doubt that he’ll make it through everyone in his way up to Laurie and Dr. Loomis. It gets so silly towards the end that comedy must have been what they were going for – well, I hope, anyway. There’s one hilarious death where Myers has drained all the blood from one of his victims, and someone happens upon the scene later, slips in the blood, bangs their head and dies. Brilliant! It’s when you discover that Myers has slashed the tyres and damaged the engines of every single car in the parking lot that you think “okay, I don’t have to worry about taking this seriously now”.

What this film isn’t is particularly scary, because there’s no real tension to it – when someone is shot in the eyes twice but doesn’t stop coming, it’s tough to keep tension; but it does have quite a bit more gore. I’ll leave you with a quote from Splatter Movies, by John McCarty, written around the time. “[They] aim not to scare their audiences, necessarily, nor to drive them to the edge of their seats in suspense, but to mortify them with scenes of explicit gore. In splatter movies, mutilation is indeed the message, many times the only one.”

Rating: thumbs down

Halloween (1978)

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Books have been written about this film – serious, scholarly works that go in depth into John Carpenter, every shot, the film’s view of society, all that sort of thing. The geniuses at Red Letter Media have just released a commentary for this, too (the thing that inspired me to rewatch it) which is full of trivia, comedy, and analysis. Chances are you’ve already seen it. So why should you read this?

I don’t know. It’s not like I’m the first – or the hundredth, or the thousandth – low-rent film blogger to have a go at this either. Unless you’re one of the three friends of mine who reads this site regularly, these words will disappear into the ether. But, you might be about to watch this film for the first time and your Google search is broken for the first ten pages. Who knows? Also, I’m going to be reviewing the entire series, and I don’t think there are too many sites who’ve made it as far as part 6, with Paul Rudd, or that one with Busta Rhymes in it, where the house was covered in webcams (part 8, a quick search tells me).

The first thing you’ll notice is how this doesn’t look anything like the legion of films which followed in its footsteps (not just the sequels, but the other slasher franchises). It’s full of long, slow shots, panning across empty suburbia. The music and the colours (which make it look like a cold Midwest Halloween, but was actually filmed in California, the autumn leaves being a prop) set up a feeling of dread better than “generic metal soundtrack X” and a few jumpcuts could ever hope to do. The main house used in the film wasn’t a prop, but a real dilapidated home they found and were able to film in.

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The plot is simple. Young Michael Myers kills his elder sister on Halloween and is sent to an insane asylum. 15 years later he escapes, heads back to his old town and decides to kill babysitters, focusing on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). There’s no explanation, no more backstory than is absolutely necessary, and no understanding. He’s just a force. Chasing him down is Dr Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance)…and that’s it.

Does anyone really care about backstory? Was Hannibal Lecter more frightening when we knew nothing about him, or after “Hannibal Rising” when we’d got his entire life story in boring, excruciating detail? Is Michael Myers more scary or less after we’ve been told all about his life both in the sequels and the 2007 “remake”? Prequels, backstory…it’s all bunk, to squeeze money out of characters that we like because we know nothing about them. “Halloween” works partly because of what it doesn’t tell us.

It’s difficult to have a personal reaction to such a famous film. Even if you’ve not seen it before, you’ll recognise plenty of the scenes from being lifted for other, lesser horror films or from the many parodies. But it provides moments that still can give you the chills. Seeing Michael across the street, just in the middle of a normal suburban day, no loud music or jump-scares, is still a great moment. It doesn’t follow “the rules”, either, for instance Michael is unmasked at one point, and it’s not a big deal – an absolute no-no in the prop fetishisation world of 80s and 90s horror. There’s barely any death, and what there is is incredibly tame. A few frames of nudity. There’s just atmosphere.

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Really, you don’t need me to tell you about this film. It’s a classic, forever enshrined in the pantheon of great horror cinema. It’s not perfect (s-l-o-w pace, even when it doesn’t need to be, Dr Loomis spends half the film stood next to a bush) but the way it works, while the sequels get progressively stupider, is testament to its quality. We’ll be reviewing the series, and as I recall I quite enjoyed a few of the later ones.

Rating: thumbs up (obviously)