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Horror Education of the Week: John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’

“I met him fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding. Even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes…the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil”

Halloween. The 1978 classic.

Oh, come on, you knew I was going to go there this week.

John Carpenter’s simply fantastic tale of Michael Myers – a young boy who brutally murders his sister on Halloween night in 1963 – remains a horror staple to this day. Locked up in an institution under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael breaks out 15 years later only to return to his home of Haddonfield – to kill again.

The beauty of the original Halloween wholeheartedly lies within the idea of fate. Be it the actual fate of the characters within the movie, or the psychology behind and interpretation of the steps they take to achieve that fate, the movie is a masterpiece. Everything seems, in a way, to be on purpose. Here are some points to note:

– Immediately we are drawn into Haddonfield, Illinois. A quaint Midwestern town.

– Had Halloween been set in California, where it was filmed, the effect would not be as extreme. To have such a horrific story set in the safe haven of the Midwest, we feel the threat much more.

– Belief in fate is touched on in a school scene with Laurie, giving us an understanding that can be applied to the entire film: “Costaine wrote that fate was somehow related only to religion, where Samuels felt that fate was like a natural element, like earth, air, fire, and water.”

– The Boogeyman, in some cultures, can be seen as part of religion (ex. The Devil) or in regular society, it is almost like a natural element – an imaginary being used to get children to simply behave.

– Ultimately, in either realm, the Boogeyman is an evil used to threaten a specific fate.

– The idea that the Boogeyman is an age-old evil is perfect in that this is exactly how Dr. Loomis thinks of Michael.

– The moment Michael escapes the institution, Loomis cries out, “He’s gone. The evil’s gone.”

– Tommy speaks of the Myers house, “Lonnie Elam said never to go up there. Lonnie Elam said that’s a haunted house. He said real awful stuff happened there once.”

– The fear of the old house in the neighborhood is also something instilled through the ages and a psychological terror. Those who step near the house are simply ‘asking for it’.

– Laurie, Annie and Lynda each have their own personas. Annie and Lynda even appear different when they’re introduced, dressed more hip in their jeans as opposed to Laurie, who is covered head to toe in her homely turtleneck, skirt, and tights.

– Annie and Lynda each plan to have adventurous evenings with their respective boyfriends as they puff on their cigarettes.

– As we all know, the idea that Laurie only babysits, and is ‘too smart’ for adventures with boys, is what will ultimately save her. Laurie is the martyr.

– Perhaps Laurie could have stayed safe in her homely clothing, but she tiptoes little by little to the line of destruction. To a terrible fate.

– First, she opens herself up to trouble by changing into clothes that look much like those of her friends.

– She then takes another step further by smoking pot with Annie in her car as they head to their babysitting jobs – while Don’t Fear the Reaper plays on the radio.

– Then Laurie admits she does indeed have a crush on a boy at school.

– Upon discovery of the dead dog, we learn more of what Loomis thinks of Michael:
“A man wouldn’t do that.”
“This is not a man.”

– Loomis’ speech about Michael being pure evil goes back to the idea of the Boogeyman being just another simple part of nature.

– There is no reasoning behind this Michael, unlike Rob Zombie’s remake which gives blatant explanation. There is no reasoning other than the idea that he is simply evil.

– Sex, smokes, beer: Lynda and Bob run at full speed to their fate.

– After Michael kills Bob, he looks upon him, slightly cocking his head to one side. It is almost like a curious cat or dog that is trying to comprehend why the bug they’ve smashed is no longer moving.

– This is then followed up by Michael bringing the phone to his ear after Lynda calls Laurie – her struggle being interpreted as a prank call. The way he handles the common household item, like the look at Bob, is very unnerving and not human.

– At the same time Laurie sheds her sweater – bringing her deeper into the realm of her friends who have been brutally murdered after becoming more or less unclothed – she ups her good girl status, taking on the care of Lindsey along with Tommy. This balances out her fate momentarily.

– However, the second Laurie abandons the children in the home to investigate the whereabouts of Annie, she is immediately stalked by Michael. He attacks her and she receives her first and only battle wound.

– Laurie mothers the children, saying she has killed Michael and that everything will be ok.

– Tommy responds, “You can’t kill the Boogeyman.” A very deep statement if taken with the history of the subject matter and its transition through time and cultures.

– Loomis is finally alerted to his fate of stopping Michael, as Tommy and Lindsey escape the house, leaving Laurie behind to fight.

– After all of her sacrifice and fighting the temptations indulged by those around her – Laurie is left standing thanks to Dr. Loomis and his belief in pure evil:

“It was the Boogeyman…”
“As a matter of fact, it was.”




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