Monday, October 31, 2011

Night of Terror #31: 'Halloween'

Welp, it's a couple hours after Halloween, but I'm finally writing the last post for this month. I'll save the tearful goodbye for the end, though, and get right to it: John Carpenter's Halloween. I thought I'd end the blog with an established horror heavy hitter after so many odd choices. And they don't get much more monolithic than this movie.

That's probably because, in its own lean and efficient way, Halloween is perfect. There's not a single misplaced shot, and every character and action serves its purpose with little frou-frou getting in the way. I'm always pleasantly surprised by how mercilessly it creates real tension, fear, and suspense from so little, like a collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and Val Lewton (I believe I am now entitled to win a prize for being the First Person Ever to make this comparison).

Another thing that's perennially impressive about this movie is how influential it became. Like Psycho before it, it basically created its own subgenre of movies expressly designed to snag some of its appeal. Also like Psycho, those knock-offs seem more than happy to provide audiences with much more graphic violence than the original ever had, without the same attention to detail.

One of those details would be Donald Pleasance, who is just masterfully committed to what easily could have been a phoned-in role. He really nails the sense of desperation and frustration that accompany Dr. Sam Loomis' trek to get killer Michael Myers back into custody.

I'll save the in-depth discussion on the movie's sexual politics, its surprising lack of gore and explicit violence, and its thematic concerns with the concept of evil for another time. Instead, as a final comment, I will just register how boss that score is. It works so well, even if you've heard it a million times. God bless John Carpenter.

And with that, I look out into the lawn where 31 Nights of Terror once lay only to see that it has escaped me once again and disappeared into the night. Will it return? Probably, assuming we're not all living in an apocalyptic wasteland by this time next year.

1 comment:

  1. Danny Peary once called said of Halloween, "He blends the dark, spooky atmosphere essential to Val Lewton; the humor and suspense that go hand in hand with Hitchcock; the cheap - but fun - tricks and shocks found in William Castle films; and the graphic violence that is the staple of the post-Night of the Living Dead American horror film." So he covered all the bases.