Hello Geeks and Ghouls, Famous Monster here. Well, the day has finally come – it’s Halloween! 31 days. 64 films. I couldn’t think of a better way to put the kibosh on this epic month of movie watching than with the boogeyman himself, Michael Myers.
No, not The Love Guru Michael Myers – I’m talking about THE Michael Myers, as in the silent stalker from John Carpenter‘s 1978 classic, Halloween. Today’s final entry of 2012’s 31 Days of Horror is a triple-feature including Halloween, Rick Rosenthal‘s 1981 sequel, Halloween II, and Tommy Lee Wallace‘s 1982 cult film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
“Death has come to your little town, Sheriff. You can either ignore it, or you can help me stop it!”
Haddonfield, Illinois. On the night of October 31st, 1963, 6-year-old Michael Myers stabs his older sister to death with a kitchen knife. The troubled young boy spends the next fifteen years at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he is placed under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence). On October 30th, 1978, a 21-year-old Myers escapes the psychiatric hospital, steals a car, and makes his way back to Haddonfield to kill again.
Decked out in dark blue coveralls and a white mask, Myers (aka “The Shape”) begins to stalk high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes) and Lynda Van Der Klok (P. J. Soles). Suspecting that Myers has returned home to ‘finish the job,’ Loomis heads to Haddonfield in an attempt to prevent the psychopath from killing again.
That Creepy Scene:
The most interesting thing for me about John Carpenter‘s Halloween is how many of the more unnerving sequences are in broad daylight. My favorite scenes come early in the film when Myers is leisurely patrolling Haddonfield. You see him standing beside a hedge, or in the backyard standing between sheets blowing on the clothesline.
You’re given access to the killer’s point-of-view, with an over-the-shoulder shot of Myers watching Laurie walk home from school. What is so clearly defined in sunlight becomes a terrifying silhouette at night – Michael Myers (played by Nick Castle), or ‘The Shape’ as he’s credited as, is most effective when standing still.
“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 that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil…” – Dr. Sam Loomis
John Carpenter’s Halloween set the gold standard for the late ’70s-’80s slasher subgenre. While Hitchcock’s Psycho and Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre no doubt inspired Carpenter’s film, Halloween is really the ultimate extension of the ‘maniac with a knife slaughtering teenagers’ genre. The film builds tension through the constant suggestion that something horrible lurks just out of Laurie’s (and the audience’s) view.
By shifting to the killer’s point-of-view, the audience is forced to embody the psycho-slasher – peering through Michael’s mask, seeing the victim cowering in fear (or unaware of his presence) and hearing Myers’ steady, haunting breath. With a peerless score by Carpenter himself and a strong ‘final girl’ in Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween is the ultimate horror film – managing true terror with very little bloodshed.
Halloween invented its own subgenre, spawning so many rip-offs it’s impossible to name them all: Friday the 13th, April Fool’s Day, Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, Graduation Day, My Bloody Valentine – all films that assured us that terrible things are happening on specific dates because of psychosexual anxieties in the guise of masked killers.
Picking up where the first film left off, Rick Rosenthal‘s Halloween II follows Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis as they attempt to survive the onslaught of Michael Myers, a knife-wielding maniac who refuses to die.
Myers stalks the deserted halls of the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in search of Laurie, offing dozens of nurses and orderlies in a variety of gruesome ways. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) uncover the chilling truth behind the crazed psychopath’s murderous rampage and why the madman is so set on finding Laurie Strode.
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Halloween II was intended to be the last chapter of the Halloween series to revolve around Michael Myers and Haddonfield, but after the poor box office performance of 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the Michael Myers character was resurrected six years later in 1988’s Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.
Written and directed by Tommy Lee Wallace (Stephen King’s It), Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the only installment of the Halloween series to abandon the Michael Myers storyline.
A crazed toy salesman is brought to the hospital babbling and clutching this year’s most popular Halloween costume, an eerie pumpkin mask, thrusting Dr. Daniel Callis (Tom Atkins) into a bizarre Halloween nightmare.
Working with the salesman’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), Daniel traces the mask to the Silver Shamrock Novelties company and its founder, Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).
Ellie and Daniel uncover Cochran’s shocking Halloween plan and must stop him before trick-or-treaters across the country are killed instantly by an ancient brain-melting pulse transmitted from Silver Shamrock headquarters.
While initially dismissed as a failure, Halloween III: Season of the Witch has become something of a cult classic as a fun, albeit silly little Halloween film that embraces the celtic traditions of the holiday and manages to be spooky without slapping the audience with one slasher cliche after another.
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