Hello everyone and welcome back to #moviemonday. Today is the last Monday in October which means that today’s movie will be the last #spookyseason movie until next year. I’ve really embraced the Halloween spirit this year and I’ve been watching movies that I usually wouldn’t as horror isn’t my favourite genre, but I’ve said many times this month that I have found aspects of horror that I do enjoy, and so I am glad that I challenged myself to watch some different movies. With that being said, after today I will be taking a break from horror as I’ve been talking about it a lot lately and I know that not everyone enjoys it.
Today, I am ending #spookyseason with a bang. I am talking about the scary movie of all scary movies, today’s #moviemonday is all about Halloween.
Let’s dive into Movie Monday.
Halloween was released in 1978. The movie was directed by John Carpenter. The amazing Jamie Lee Curtis made her acting debut in this movie.
On Halloween night, 1978, teenage Laurie Strode faces the most terrifying night of her life when escaped killer Michael Myers makes his way back to his hometown and begins wreaking havoc on those who live there. Michael Myers is a terrifying killer on a slashing spree, and he’s got his sights set on Laurie.
Laurie Strode is the movie’s protagonist. She is the typical all American girl. She’s kind, she’s respectful, she’s a good student. She’s a babysitter. She is shy, studious, and she doesn’t date much.
The movie’s antagonist is Michal Myers. Michael stabbed his sister to death when he was just a child, and after spending years in the sanitarium, he escaped on his way to court. After his escape, he made his way to his hometown in Haddonfield and there he began his killing spree. Michael is a lurking, hulking, terrifying figure. He is the boogeyman. He is ruthless. He is described as being pure evil, and I will talk about Michael’s impact more in the themes section of this discussion.
There is an ensemble of characters in this movie. Annie and Lynda, Laurie’s more outgoing friends. Dr. Sam Loomis who describes Michal Myers as pure evil. Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace, the children who are being babysat by Laurie, etc. All of these characters are important because at some point or another in the movie, they are all victims of Michael Myers. Some survive, others don’t but there will be no spoilers here. Watch the movie.
Halloween is a slasher movie, and some would argue that this movie is the reason that slasher movies became popular in the 80s. I think it is also fair to suggest that Halloween defined, or helped to define, many of the themes and tropes that are now almost automatically associated with horror movies.
When I think about Halloween, there are a few themes that come to mind. The most prominent one in my opinion is this idea of good vs evil. Haddonfield is an idyllic suburban town. Laurie Strode is a shy, innocent young high school student. Michal Myers is the evil that descends upon this idyllic town. He ruins it. Things so horrific don’t happen in places like Haddonfield. Haddonfield is a safe, suburban, good place but this person, this figure has arrived and he is murdering that image. He has ruined the idyllic bubble of Haddonfield. He has made it a place of fear, a place where bad things happen. Laurie faces Michael Myers, she is the personification of the idyllic place because she is the idyllic, good teenager and Michael shatters her world, the same way he shatters the town of Haddonfield.
Fear and violence are also very prominent themes in this movie. Halloween is a violent movie. Michal Myers is a violent man. He creates fear wherever he goes. He stalks Laurie, he lurks around corners, he appears, then disappears, then reappears. She sees glimpses of his figure, watching her, staring at her, and she is scared of him. Michael Myers kills violently. He stabs his victims. He seems to be this unbeatable, terrifying figure, and I think that this movie is an excellent one to study if one is analysing violence onscreen.
There are certain tropes that are depicted in Halloween that have become associated with the horror genre. Some call them the “rules”. The movie Scream touches on this in a really creative way as the characters in that movie are watching Halloween in one particular scene, and they discuss how to survive a horror movie. Scream is another movie that I have watched recently, however it didn’t make it into my final #moviemonday list for October, but I will touch on it again at some point in the future.
An important trope in this movie is the idea of the “final girl”.
This is a trope that is common in horror movies, and the idea is that only one female character will survive. That female character is usually a virgin. In Halloween, studious Laurie Strode is the movie’s “final girl”. She is shy, bookish, and claims that her studious nature “scares boys away”. Her lack of dating experience makes her the innocent virgin character. It is important to note that in this movie, Michael’s violent attack scenes are usually juxtaposed with scenes of intimacy. A character’s sexual awakening, or sexual activity signals a loss of innocence and this exposes them to being victims of violence. This is where the “rule” comes from – if you want to survive a horror movie, don’t have sex.
From an English Literature student’s point of view, I think it is hard to watch a movie like Halloween without thinking about the idea of violence against women. Michal Myers does not only hurt and kill female characters, but he does stalk, terrify, and viciously attack Laurie Strode. He picked her. He saw her, he followed her, he attacked her. Why? Because he could. He zoned in on her. This is important. Laurie Strode is a good kid. She does everything “right”. She’s kind, she’s a good student, she’s a good friend, she’s responsible, and yet a violent man still decided to target her. This is significant. Unfortunately victim blaming is a problem that exists in the world. The victim can be male or female – victim blaming still exists. People are told what they should have done, what they shouldn’t have done, their every action is scrutinised, but the sad fact remains that you can do everything “right” and still face violence, and I think that Laurie Strode’s experience is an example of this. Laurie Strode may be fictional, and her experience may be fictional, but Laurie Strode exists. Michael Myers exists. There are Laurie Strodes in the world. There are violent predators who stalk and attack victims that they know, or victims that they’ve randomly selected. It’s a scary fact, and I think analysing a movie like Halloween from a somewhat feminist view is part of the reason why I think that the scenes where Michael Myers is silently stalking Laurie from an uncomfortably close distance are some of the scariest scenes in the movie. The action scenes, and the violent scenes are tense, and fast paced, but the scenes where he is stalking her are so incredibly unsettling. These scenes build tension and the threat of danger becomes closer, more tangible, and more frightening every time we see a glimpse of that white mask.
Halloween is just over an hour and forty minutes long. I think that this movie creates tension in a very clear way. The first part of the movie is composed of “the shape” creepily staring at Laurie from close distances. Outside her school window, down the street from her friends, in her neighbour’s clothesline. Laurie begins to get scared, she wonders if she is seeing things, but the creepy appearances of this strange figure are playing on her mind. I said already that I think these scenes are the scariest scenes in the movie, and this is because these scenes are the moments where terror is created within the horror. In my breakdown all about the difference between terror and horror, I shared Ann Radcliffe’s thoughts on horror and terror, stating that horror is in the moment and it is caused by something terrifying. It is fleeting, but terror is a more complex feeling, made up of anxiety and dread. Terror builds over time and it is caused by flashes of strange figures in the distance or ominous noises late at night. Laurie keeps seeing strange glimpses of this terrifying figure, she is getting anxious, dread is setting in, this is where terror is introduced and tension builds because audiences know that Laurie is in danger. It’s not a matter of if Michal will strike but when.
Something that I really like about this movie’s structure is that the opening scene shows us what we need to know. We see a young Michal Myers commit a vicious crime, then we see him escape the sanitarium all these years later. We see the violence that he is capable of before he returns to his hometown, and then we’re back in Haddonfield and we, the audience, are aware the town is in danger but the residents of the town are unaware. When the camera follows Laurie for the first time, we are suddenly introduced to the fact that Michal Myers has set his sights on her, he’s watching her from a distance, and she has no idea. We are not experiencing this movie from Laurie’s point of view. We are outsiders looking in as this terrible night plays out.
There is a shift in the movie that occurs when the day turns into night. During the day, Laurie was getting scared but she’s brushed it off and she’s ready to babysit. Michael’s first kill, (no spoilers, watch the movie) signals a shift from stalking to violent action. Once he has killed his first victim, we have moved into the movie’s second act. The action has begun, the slashing has begun, and from this point on the pace picks up because now Laurie is in active danger. The question is no longer when will he strike? He has struck and now it’s time for Laurie to fight him and run.
My final thoughts are that when I think of horror movies, the first movie that I think of is Halloween. I’ve said many times in the last few weeks that horror isn’t my favourite genre but there are aspects of it that I enjoy, but with that being said, Halloween is a movie that I am impressed by. I admire this movie for many reasons. I think it is an example of really good storytelling. I think this movie presents one of the most terrifying villains. I think that Michael Myers is one of the most frightening and iconic villains that there is because of the way he has managed to embody and personify evil. He doesn’t even speak, and yet he is a presence that cannot be ignored. I think that this movie has to be talked about when one is talking about horror movies because it has influenced the genre so much. I think that this movie can be studied from many different angles as there are so many interesting and complex themes and ideas that can be explored. I talked about a somewhat feminist approach in my above points because I do think that this movie can be studied when thinking about violence against women, and also the portrayal of violence onscreen. I also think that this movie could be studied if one was going to talk about subversive literature because this movie does subvert the idea of the safe, idyllic, suburban town. This place, this supposedly perfect place is the backdrop to such a horrific night, and the key thing to remember is that Michal Myers is not an outsider, he is not an unknown threat that has come to Haddonfield, he is from Haddonfield. That is his home. He is not just going there, but he is returning there. Such evil emerged from this perfect place, and I think that is a concept that would be really interesting to study and discuss in greater detail. I’m very glad that I watched Halloween and I think it is the perfect t movie to finish out the month of October with.
This has been Movie Monday. I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen Halloween? What do you think of it? Let me know.
This will be the end of #spookyseason movies and as I said, I will be taking a break from horror movies for a little while. Speaking of spooky season, I hope you all have a brilliant Halloween. Have fun and stay safe.