Horror Education of the Week: John Carpenter's 'Halloween' - Bloody Disgusting!

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

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“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.”

  • WalkingDeadGuy

    The perfect horror film. It featured likable characters, a simple yet original story and the perfect villain. The stars truly aligned for this low-budget slasher. With such a simple formula, it’s shocking none of it’s sequels ever came close to capturing the same magic. Halloween + Babysitters + Boogeyman = the perfect horror movie for the soul.

  • djblack1313

    great write up, Lauren! i like Zombie’s H1 & H2 but when you said,”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” that’s the most important thing that was missing/re-written in Zombie’s movie. a backstory/reason why Michael turns bad just detracts from the horrifying idea that Michael was brought up in a seemingly loving middle/upper-middle class family but was just evil. THAT is what makes his actions such a mystery. there’s no real reason why he turned/was evil.

    also your “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” is SOOOOOOO spot on. whenever i see a movie set in LA or NY i get very meh….. they’ve been played out and overused for settings. the mid-West look (even though the movie WAS filmed in California) really made it relatable.

    great write up (as usual!).

    • Lauren Taylor

      Thanks a ton. Yep! I’m no expert – never said I am – but I do believe I am correct in those two points!!
      THANK YOU!

      • So true. As a child, I always believed Michael Myers is the brother of the Devil. I mean, I always believed that he was just a force of evil, and that was that. This movie defined me, as schmaltzy that would sound, who I am today.

        • Lauren Taylor

          I remembered being terrified at the MENTION of Michael Myers as a wee child. Funny how I now adore the concept.

  • Kunt

    A classic and the best film in the franchise.
    I actually like all Halloween movies except Season Of The Wich (wich i don’t count as a Halloween movie) and The Curse of Michael Myers with all that cult bullshit.

    • djblack1313

      i used to dislike H3 (i saw it when it originally came out in theaters!) but it has a charm and visciousness about it that i appreciate now. and i agree i in no way consider it a HALLOWEEN movie.

    • Zombie-Killa

      I can actually tolerate Halloween 6 (real version, not the shitty producer’s cut). Resurrection gets my vote for the worst film in the entire franchise. Michael Myers on a live horror reality internet show? Seriously?!?! I was fifteen, when I saw it in theaters, and it still annoys me ’till this day. Oh, and Busta Rhymes is annoying and horribly corny.

  • Zombie-Killa

    Awesome post as usual, and perfect timing!

    • Lauren Taylor

      THANK YOU!

  • djblack1313

    Lauren what other Halloween goodies do you have for us?

    • Lauren Taylor

      Here’s a treat: I own Trick R Treat – the original movie – on dvd. I am in awe of it because it has modern day photos of Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne on the cover. Both are in it for, what? A minute. Ok, Gene longer than Ozzy…

      Reason I love it? It’s freakin’ awful – and Skippy from Family Ties is supposed to be a badass kid and really, he’s SKIPPY.

      There’s your Halloween goodies!

      • K-Dogg

        You’re gonna love this one even more……wait for it…..I have a tradition that I do every year on Halloween night, I watch Trick or Treat, followed by the new Trick r Treat, then my fave horror of all time Halloween. I even have all 3 posters up in my place, I love the soundtrack for the 86 Trick or Treat, Fastway with a great soundtrack.

  • daruckus

    Good stuff. Have you done more of these? I guess I should stop being lazy and check.

    Anyway, this and Black Christmas really set the blueprint for slashers. It’s too bad only a few post-Halloween slashers are truly good.

    Also, has anyone seen Sinister? It doesn’t relate to this film at all but the whole pagan cult thing… Definitely remember some stuff like that in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. They aren’t even copying good films anymore…

    • Lauren Taylor

      Yep. I write one weekly. I know my ByLine is a broken link, so make sure you click through my comment account – my website is listed there and I have two pages that have links to all of my BD articles and reviews.

      Hopefully the byline can be fixed one day!

      Thanks!!

    • djblack1313

      Lauren, i’d LOVE it if you did educations of movies like BLACK CHRISTMAS, THE CHANGELING, THE BROOD, THE FUNHOUSE, HE KNOWS YOUR ALONE, etc, more movies from the 70’s & 80’s. just a suggestion! :)

      • Lauren Taylor

        Love suggestions! And yep, I know December will call for some Christmas themed flicks!! :)

      • jmacgrath

        OMG yes!!! Black Christmas and Funhouse FTW!!!!

        • WalkingDeadGuy

          I second that! ‘Black Christmas’ is amazing and an underrated classic! May I also suggest ‘The Sentinel’ and ‘Dawn of the dead’ :-)

          • Lauren Taylor

            I already did Dawn of the Dead about a month ago!

        • Lauren Taylor

          Of course I’ll do Black Christmas come Christmas! :)

          • WalkingDeadGuy

            Oopsie, my bad. I probably even commented on the ‘Dawn of the Dead’ article too. hehe. Well anywho, can’t wait to read your next article, Lauren :-)

  • PrestonXI

    Lauren:

    Excellent overview of many of the important themes in Halloween.

    I teach a class called Culture of Film where I show films that have either influenced or been influenced by American culture and I am showing my students Halloween this week. We will no doubt be discussing much of the same points that you mentioned in this article, including the idea of fate, the nature of evil, and the moral aspects of the film.

    Many of my students (9th – 12th grade) have never seen the movie, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to it, especially since they have grown up in a “post-Halloween world” where most of the horror films they are familiar with have been influenced by Halloween. During my initial overview of the film the other day, some of them were getting pretty creeped out by the concept, since I emphasized that it was one of the first horror film to bring horror to the suburbs.

    • Lauren Taylor

      That sounds like my kind of class. I studied the horror genre throughout history and such when I got my MA. I taught a few classes at the university included Reflections of Society in the Horror Genre. Definitely fun to see what influenced movies or what movies influenced!! :)

      Let me know what they think!!!

    • djblack1313

      Preston, do you ever post your outcomes/assessments of how your students respond to movies/subjects like this? i’d find it very interesting to see if your students find HALLOWEEN to be “boring” or “too slow” or the like. if you do ever post results or whatever i’d love to read it.

      • PrestonXI

        Lauren…

        That is awesome that you have taught some classes on horror! That would be my dream teaching gig! What is your MA in? I am almost done with my MA in secondary education.

        djblack1313…

        I almost never post on here, but I could definitely post student reactions after we watch Halloween in class.

        So far, they have really enjoyed the films I have showed them (Modern Times, Sunset Blvd, Touch of Evil, Vertigo, The Manchurian Candidate). They especially liked Vertigo. I work at a performing arts high school, so the kids tend to be more open to classic films. Even if they don’t “enjoy” them, they usually appreciate them from an artistic perspective.

        • Lauren Taylor

          MA is in History & Fine Arts!
          Wish I could teach again, but I think horror has evolved so much in the last 10 years that it just wouldn’t be the same.

        • djblack1313

          Preston, that would be GREAT!

          & Lauren you rule! :)

  • Goretorium

    We can’t wait until Halloween! 2 days until the dead awakes!

    @Goretorium

  • ThunderDragoon

    Can’t wait to finally see this in theaters on Tuesday.

    • K-Dogg

      JEALOUS, my shitty city , or anywhere in Canada, will be doing this. SUCKS !!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • K-Dogg

        Not be doing it , that is.

  • Frey

    Great article! I remember seeing Halloween as a child and it scaring the hell out of me. What sets it apart from the sequels (Zombie’s versions too) is the lack of explanation in why Mikey is who he is. There is no retarded back story about how his redneck family treats him like shit. You just get the idea that he is evil in the purest form. Although the sequels are fun to watch I feel like they take away from the original. Could you imagine if Halloween were a stand alone film? With that kind of ending laving everyone wondering “what the hell just happened and why was the babysitter targeted?” I think it would have been even more brilliant than it already is.

    • Lauren Taylor

      Agreed.

  • Taboo

    Love all of the Halloween movies (Season of the Witch included) and I’m a bit sad I can’t see it in theaters like I was planning to :(

  • reanimator567

    Great article Lauren! This is hands down my favorite movie of all time. I had the privilege just recently to see Halloween in the theatre for its re-release and it stills holds up very well even in “today’s society”.

    I really enjoy your articles and I can’t wait for your next one. Are you able to let me know what movie you will be writing about next?

    • Lauren Taylor

      It’s usually spur of the moment! Sometimes I do plan, sometimes I don’t. I’m still up in the air for next week!

  • niceguyeddie1971

    Excellent points on the Midwest theory and the school lecture Strode spoke on somewhat foreshadowing events soon to come. I am in the throes of writing my second novel and was lucky enough to be signed by a major literary agency for my first. Michael Myers had a profound influence of shaping the antagonist of the novel. Hopefully you’ll pick it up at Barns and Noble someday in the near future…again great work :)

    I would have commented a few weeks back but I just regained power from super storm Sandy and I’m playing catch up.

  • The movie spread the awareness do not spoil the things and also give us a education to avoid the evils to be a reasonable person of a society.

  • ok