Friends and fans, you have no idea how excited I am about this entry, or how much doing it took to get Annemarie on board. We watched the seminal horror classic, Halloween. It’s a picture that launched a thousand imitators and Jamie Lee Curtis’ career. But, we all know the score by now.
It’s to AM to start us off. Off all the slashers in all the gin joints, why did I pick Halloween? Why do I love this movie so much? (I know I keep threatening to pick one I don’t really like but grudgingly appreciate, just to see if you catch it, but this isn’t that movie.) What were your impressions? Were you as scared as you feared you would be, even against many assurances to the contrary?
A: To start, I hate horror movies. I don’t like being scared and I’m fairly certain just one viewing of Scream at a slumber party in middle school scarred me for life. I usually flat-out refuse to partake in horror of any kind for Required Viewing, but there are several reasons that I agreed to see Halloween. First, it’s from an era where there was less shock value required to horrify audiences, and the realism was lower. Second, I felt peer pressured. Of all the movies that I haven’t seen, this one inspired way more passion and more people insisting that I had to see it. Third, I was genuinely curious how I would react. I never go willingly into a horror movie and I wanted to see what would happen. And finally, I was resoundingly promised across the board that it wouldn’t be as scary as I thought it might be. I trust my friends’ judgement, even though I know I’m way more sensitive to these kinds of things than most people. Worst case scenario, I’d just put a hammer under my pillow for extra protection.
I did make Justin come with me to watch this, in case I was too scared to drive home. I make no apologies about the fact that I’m not brave enough to walk across an apartment complex parking lot at night by myself. #StaySafeStayAlive
I grudgingly enjoyed this movie, mostly because literally every character makes such comically poor decisions that it felt to me more like a spoof than a real scary film. I get what John Carpenter was going for, and I recognize that most of what he was doing was new at the time. I imagine some element of the bare-bones plot structure, hand-held camera and word-less villain were revolutionary, but I’m expecting to get film schooled by Brooke here.
Before I pass it back to Brooke, one quick note on Laurie (Curtis looks way more worldly than any 18 year old I can think of) as a lead character. Can you think of anyone in any movie (or in real life) who has worst friends than her? Her babysitting charge, Tommy, was my favorite so I’m glad he didn’t die — who were you rooting for when you first saw it? What did you think of my reactions? Did they live up to your expectations?
B: I’m going to indulge in a bit of gloating here, I knew you would like this movie. And your reactions were everything I wanted and more. Right from the word go when we get the reveal that Michael was just a little boy and you bursted out, “Oh, FUCK!” before pivoting to the logical thought of, “Why didn’t his sister try to stop him?” I knew you were going to react to all of those scare beats in a satisfying manner, while also picking up on the humor and engaging in the timeless tradition of criticizing all of the characters for their bad life choices.
Halloween is a horror classic. And you are absolutely right that it was extremely innovative in its own time (quite a lot like Young Frankenstein was in the comedy world and Citizen Kane was in dramatic narrative). But what I love most about Halloween is how relentlessly enjoyable it is to watch. I have seen it probably 20 times, if not more, and I have yet to get tired of it, even though I know every scare by heart. If Halloween is the formula, it’s easy to see why.
We have a haunting evil, who is also the world’s greatest hide and seek champ, who rocks a slow predatory walk and is every bit the creative killing machine Laurie’s terrible friends deserve. Part of the fun of a slasher movie is the element of cheering for the bad guy while still wanting the final girl to get out. And speaking of the final girl, our girl Jamie, is THE archetypal final girl. She’s the first and the greatest. Here she is watching all the kids, carving sad jack-o-lanterns, feeling mortified that a boy knows she likes him and being haunted by a shape she herself can’t believe she’s seeing.
Then there’s Donald Pleasance running around doing completely illogical things. It is pure entertainment. I’ll get into the elements of it that I think are genuinely haunting a little later, but first, we have to talk more about Linda and Annie — the world’s worst friends. Which of their deaths is more satisfying? And how long did it take before you were fully ready to see them get some attention from old Michael?
A: A word on the extreme hide-and-go-seek skills of our villain mastermind, Michael. He’s definitely playing on a Navy SEAL/Ninja level, in which he’s even able to hide from Laurie AS SHE’S STILL LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW AT HIM. I don’t know how that’s humanly possible, but as Donnie told us, he’s been sitting in a padded room for 15 years, not speaking, simply planning for this night. Presumably, he was doing whatever the SEALs do to prepare for invasions as well.
That wasn’t the only implausible thing happening. Donald, his long-suffering doctor, decides that he’s going to stake out the old Myers house instead of, I don’t know, driving around looking for Michael. Also, why was it necessary to only involve the world’s most ineffective sheriff instead of bringing in the entire police department? You have a legit and proven psychopath that you can pretty much prove is out to get some revenge in your town, and even if he pulled a “psych!” and went elsewhere for his mayhem, it probably wouldn’t have hurt to have extra police presence on Halloween anyway. I guess living in a post-9/11 world has made me a bit more cautious when it comes to security. Or else I have more common sense than these yahoos.
Laurie’s friends are both proud to be (ahem) friendly to their boyfriends (I can’t use the “s” word as it’s unfair on many levels) as well as proud to “forget” all their textbooks at school because why would you need them to, I don’t know, STUDY? That aside, they’re also pretty cruel to Laurie. They make fun of her for her lack of experience with boys, her desire to babysit and earn an income independently as well as the fact that she’s actually taking her chemistry book home. Maybe it’s because I was that girl in high school, but I immediately want her to succeed in her quest to not die from Michael.
To your original question: was it satisfying to see them die? Yes and no. I was mostly judging them on their spectacularly bad decision-making skills and lack of common sense (“Don’t go into the creepy garage!” “LOCK THE DAMN DOOR.” etc. etc.) rather than their Mean Girl tendencies, but it’s still kind of shocking to see a teenage girl get choked to death by a large man. That’s something I can’t root for without reservations, no matter how much they acted like idiots.
Brooke, do you have a favorite implausible moment? Did you wish Tommy’s bullies had gotten theirs instead of any of the victims? And the most important question to be asked: Why on earth was Michael so focused on killing Laurie?
B: Every implausible moment is my favorite implausible moment. But, if I had to narrow it down to one single moment, it would definitely be the slow stalking Michael does as Laurie flees from his immaculately staged display of her dead friends back to the Doyle house where little Tommy and Lindsey are sound asleep. (Lindsey’s not even in her own house, because the ’70s.) She’s wounded, clearly terror stricken and pleading for help, but the assholes in the houses around literally turn on the lights, look out the window and decide NOT to help the bleeding teenage girl, because the ’70s. She limps across the road, fumbles the keys and behind her we see the shape, slowly, unhurriedly walking across the street bearing a thousand promises of death. This is a small part of what makes Michael such a great villain. He’s bonkers, but he is so controlled. “Inhumanly patient,” is what Donald Pleasance calls it, and he’s right. It’s the relentless kind of pursuit that makes him a killer for the ages. The fear that inspires is universal.
And this movie might be set in the ’70s, but I’m still not going to condone child murder, even for bullies who put Tommy in mind of the Boogeyman. If anything, we owe them a debt of thanks for the glorious metaphor. “It was the Boogeyman.” “Yes, I believe it was.”
And there’s the big question AM: why is Michael fixated on Laurie? Well, when the movie came out, that wasn’t definitively answered. Later, it was revealed (or added to justify sequels) that Laurie is actually Michael’s little sister. Destroyed but what had transpired between their elder two kids, the Myers’ gave her up for adoption and the kind Strodes took her in, never revealing the truth to their daughter. If we take this as a fact, we can see why he would make such a production of killing her friends. If we dismiss that layer of plot and take the film on what it presents us with, I think Laurie and her friends were a trigger for Michael. She, of course, was the first he saw, walking with Tommy (a kid not far off his own age when he first got murdery) and skulking around near his family home. This probably brought back a lot of memories and presented just the opportunity he was after. Now, as the final girl, Laurie is in for the most suffering, but I suspect she was the last girl Michael targeted because she was the most difficult to access. She wasn’t getting herself stuck in windows or all but breaking-and-entering into other people’s houses to drink their beer and have sex in their beds. The old Girl Scout was on high alert keeping Tommy and Lindsey in line and well occupied.
AM, here’s a big question for you. Put yourself in the time when this movie came out, why did it strike the cultural note it did? What am I going to say are the things that make this film register as chilling, even when it inspires plenty of exasperation and laughs?
A: I do agree the moment where Laurie runs stricken around the neighborhood desperately seeking help is a seminal moment in the movie, but I disagree that it’s necessarily implausible on the surface. (See, we do disagree sometimes!) I wasn’t alive in the 1970s, but that was the first decade, stereotypically at least, where people no longer just kept their keys in their ignitions. Crime was up, and therefore helping out a stranger was down. You could be next. So I kind of get why someone wouldn’t open the door for her. However, the implausible part in this story is that those neighbors knew Laurie. It’s established that she babysat for Tommy (and likely other children) all the time, so they’d know her and if someone you know is beating down your door? You answer that shit unless you’re a monster. What I thought was going to happen (And I am fairly certain this actually happens in Scream?) is that Michael would have been revealed to be behind the door she was pounding on and that’s the reason she wasn’t given aid.
I think all that I just spelled out is actually the large reason why I think this movie resonated. It was different, it showed a “normal” family torn apart by the unknown psychosis of a child, and that’s freaking scary. People killing to avenge something specific is something we can kind of relate to. People killing because they feel they have to? That’s outside of the norm no matter how you look at it. I agree that the “Laurie as Michael’s sister” feels like a Reddit conspiracy theory thread item, but it does work and helps explain his motivations. A silent villain is always scarier than a talkative, exposition blabbing one. But again, it’s creepier if it’s not explained. It was the first question I asked, knowing someone in the interim years would have figured something out, but I imagine when it came out, it was a huge talking point as people were leaving the theatre. Good stuff.
Brooke, any final thoughts?
B: To clarify, I don’t find it implausible that people are the worst. But I do think those people are super monsters for ignoring Laurie like that, she’s the good kid and they have no reason to think her screams are a put on, she has no track record as an actress!
And my final thoughts are pretty simple. This is a picture that has fully earned its place in the canon of essential cinema — mine and the rest of the world’s. As such, you need to see Halloween: H20, it’s just unreasonable that you don’t get to see the resolution of Laurie’s story. And so begins my newest quest. #MakeAMWatchMMAgain
Oh, and here’s your treat for making it through this.
We’re keeping with the monster theme next time as we watch a version of Frankenstein. This one’s on stage and live, so it’s a bit of Required Viewing, and a bit of something else. Stay tuned to find out!