The first time I watched Halloween in its unedited entirety, I was about thirteen and babysitting my siblings. Yes, perfect. This was the late 90s, and the early days of parental passwords blocking television programs. My technology-deficient dad needed my help to set the password, so I knew how to watch anything I wanted. While my brother was excited to see the original slasher film, I remember my sister protesting, saying it was too scary and she’d tell on me. Oh, please. Like any smart oldest child, I asserted my dominance and threatened some sort of blackmail I had been saving on her. Victory was mine that night, and we were all sufficiently scared that runaway maniacs could be roaming around the neighborhood.
John Carpenter’s Halloween from 1978 focuses on a small suburban town, its escaped manic’s return home after fifteen years, and a few teenage babysitters. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the bookish sitter, covering for her friends while they run off to fool around with their boyfriends. She is also the more observant and skittish, noticing the eerie presence following the girls all day. While Michael stalks the girls and moves in closer, his doctor (Donald Pleasence) is trying to find him, before it’s too late.
The film establishes the legend of Michael Myers perfectly. It opens with a first person look at the murder from six year old Michael’s vantage point. It’s perfectly creepy and brutal and seems to lack a soul. In the present, the Myers house looks old, spooky and abandoned. Local kids say it’s haunted and dare each other to go in on Halloween night. That moment when a kid runs into Michael outside the school, we don’t know if there is a recognition, but he runs like he had just seen the boogeyman he was just talking about.
One of my favorite scenes is just a small moment towards the end, so please, if you have not seen Halloween, skip to the next paragraph, major spoilers! I remember perfectly the first time my sister saw this moment, when Laurie thought she had killed Michael upstairs. She tells the kids to run to a neighbor’s house to call the police and sits in the doorway crying and collecting herself. Suddenly, we see Michael sit up behind her! On cue, my sister and I proceeded to freak out, desperately trying to warn Laurie of the danger behind her.
In my opinion, Halloween is the best slasher film out there. The situation is perfect; teenage babysitters with their guard down in their safe town and a manic is stalking them. We love to see Michael stalk, biding his time building his eerie presence and our anticipation at the same time. Our innocent characters are powerless against Michael’s brute, murderous insanity and we love to watch and wait for them to fall. Enough suspense and fear is established to warrant the brutal and gory images of Michael’s murders. Whenever I hear music from the film, the back of my neck feels prickly, bringing instant fear and recognition. Most frightening of all, the film feels very real, like any late night alone in a quiet neighborhood could end screaming and becoming Michael’s next victim. Happy Halloween!
“Boogeyman is coming!”