Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review - Halloween (1978)

"Halloween", directed by famed horror icon John Carpenter, tells the story of a small town terrorized by the escaped psychopath Michael Myers. Rampaging through a block full of hedonistic teens, the masked murderer chokes and jabs each to submission; even upon his seeming defeat, it is apparent he will return - being a true Boogieman.

Released in 1978, the film is seen as the first in a long line of pop-culture minded slasher films; pitting ghastly, nightmarish opponents against seemingly meek suburban defenders.

I can't help but feel that this movie is firmly stuck in the past - both critically, and in it's legacy. Though certainly to honor for re-popularizing many classic horror tropes into modern cinema, much of "Halloween" is a lazily presented slog of cliché after cliché. Every character is as one-dimensional as can be, every story beat goes exactly as one foretells, and even the real 'horror' scenes are extremely underwhelming.

Story-wise, there really isn't much to look at. Myers seems to have a resentment for the sinful acts most Teenagers display - which comes off as an incredibly contrived act of pandering - and, thus, 'expels' them for not fitting his twistedly 'holy' standard. A great, eerie concept for a killer on paper, but muffled upon execution.

Why does he feel so strongly against debauchery? Does he have a personal definition of when it is right, or wrong? If he only targets peoples against his plain moral code, why does he attack the clean (and boring) lead? It's hard to tell if the film left these questions unanswered in the name of uncertainty, or if the film just forgot to bother.

The cast is certainly the poorest feature of the film, and makes it reek strongly of pandering. You have your boy-crazy chick, your dumb valley girl, your gullible kid, your determined detective; often, entire characters will be re-hashes of ones you've already seen stabbed. Even our aforementioned main character (Laura Strode) is incredibly non-compelling, coming off as a female Ben Stein in more scenes than not. Cartoonish is the best adjective to categorize the lineup as a whole.

The acting itself is no help, either. Though the core actors, such as Laura and Doctor Loomis, play their role fine enough, there's a sense of ingenuine hamminess that feels far more obnoxious than anything else. This is especially apparent in the wooden delivery and exaggerated characterization throughout.

Because of the uninvolved and unconvincing cast, much of the movie is a bore. Even when the pacing itself isn't laughably slow - confusing waiting with tension - I can't help but drearily wait for the pointless exposition to end, even if the thrill of the film himself is nowhere in sight. To add to this, many of the kills are extremely similar, and all are without any remote excitement; Myers attacks, there's a Daffy Duck-esque struggle (cross-eyes and goofy expressions always leave me screaming), and the scene ends. No gore, no creativity, and not even a hint of realism.

Even smaller details, such as framing and cinematography, are usually left unaccounted for. Bar some final scenes, the entire movie is without any artistic consideration (such as color scheme, or the structure of a shot). Much of the movie is set in an ironically happy-go-lucky, bright setting; smart in it's intent to build up the darkness surrounding Myers, but very unexciting. The mood one gets after watching the film ends up being far from fear, thanks to this.

For what it's worth, though, the film does a good job of building anticipation in it's first and third acts, and really only meanders during the middle. Myers is a creepy, well-designed concept, and it's very obvious that he himself is the heart of the movie. All in all, one is never quite unentertained; though, there are many times the fast-forward feature may come in handy.

I can see many of these issues not being ones during the late seventies and eighties, when this movie's relatively disturbing content was still seen as edgy and uncomfortable. Compared to the more humourous antics seen in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Friday the 13thflicks of the time, "Halloween" is fairly more shocking in how direct and upfront it is with it's horror elements. It's likely the the shock of the day carried on past it's expiration date - projecting this film as a classic that it really isn't.

However, a legacy cannot save the movie's issues. "Halloween" seems to be famous moreso for it's effect on children of the era, not for it's quality. In all honesty, it serves it's purpose well enough; it's far from bad, really only clocking in at mediocre; but it's still heavily flawed.

Rating - 3/5

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