22 April 2010

Clarky's Review: Halloween

Let me put this out there before I start, Halloween is my favourite horror film of all time and I've seen it more times than I care to mention. Therefore I won't be reviewing the viewing that we had at horror club, but reviewing my love for the film itself.

I think the main reason that I love Halloween, much as Fin loves The Exorcist and Ally loves The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (love may possibly be the wrong adjective when describing your feelings about these films however), is that it was one of the first horror films I saw. Certainly if it wasn't the first, it was the first one that made me sit up and take notice of the horror genre. Therefore how could I not feel anything but eternally grateful to a film which as a result has introduced me to some of my favourite films of all time (although at the same time it did result in me going to see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with my mother which, if you've read my review, did not end up well!).

My first viewing of Halloween is one of the few films that I remember where I was when I watched it. I was watching one of Mark Cousins documentaries that he used to have on the BBC and as it was Halloween this was the choice of film that followed. I was 15 or 16 and was watching it by myself, with all the lights out, in my room in my parents house (a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, where my room was the furthest away from everything else). It's fair to say that by the end of the film I almost didn't get up to go to the toilet as the walk from my room down the dark corridor was almost unbearable. Wetting myself genuinely seemed like a viable alternative at the time!

I can't really put my finger on why I liked Halloween so much that first time. Watching it now I'm not particularly scared to it anymore, having seen it so often I know exactly whats coming, although the score does still send shivers down my spine. Its simplicity, minimilism, yet its effectiveness still impresses me today. This is also what I like about the plot. Mad stalker / bogeyman on the loose kills babysitters. Job done, you know what you're getting.

This is movie started a whole new sub-genre of horror - the slasher. It has never been bettered in my opinion but has often been imitated and sequalised and remade (in most cases very poorly). It has an iconic anti-hero / bad guy in Michael Myers, the mute psychopath who seems to track you down no matter where you are even though he's moving at a snails pace. the costume design is so simple yet, as with much of the film, so effective (even with his inside out William Shatner Star Trek mask!). You also get som 70's breezies and the obligatory moral message (which is very black and white - those who drink, take drugs and have sex are offed one by one but the pure virgin survives). The film itself is gorgeously shot, with the night shots effectively dark (like you don't see in horror movies these days where everything is so glossy), and it has some genuinely scary and tense moments.

John Carpenter, who wrote, directed and scored the film, was a hungry 29 year old director just beginning to hit is stride. God knows whats happened to him in the intervening years. I would give anything for a John Carpenter movie like this, or The Thing, these days.

In Halloween the film is efficiently shot and edited with scarcely a minute of the time on screen wasted. It is brilliantly shot and, in hindsight, was a groundbreaking piece of horror cinema. he also uses some stunning techniques to unnerve the viewer, with the stunning opening point of view shot, the use of "the shape" to appear just at the corner of the screen so that the viewer thinks they see something but often are unable to detect what it is increasing their feeling of unease (something that is lost if the film is not viewed in widescreen) and the brilliant score that I mentioned previously.

It's clear that John Carpenter took a lot of inspiration from Psycho when making this film (in fact it could be argued that Psycho was the first slasher film, but Halloween really kicked off the craze with the Friday the 13th films and many others following hot on its heels). Not only did he hire Jamie Lee Curtis (a nod to Hitchcocks hiring of her mother Janet Leight for Marion Crane) but he also directly "takes" one of the characters names - Sam Loomis.

Dr Sam Loomis is played by Donald Pleasance, and whilst his shooting schedule only lasted 5 days and he is only on screen for 18 minutes, he leaves a lasting impression. His over the top theatricality that he brings to the role works when it really shouldn't. Having said that I think all the performances are suitably over the top in this film and won't hear a bad word said about it!

There's not much more to say than that. It's my favourite horror film and essential viewing for any horror film.

1 comment:

  1. To my mind Loomis is the best part of a truly excellent film.


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