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Terror by Night

John Carpenter's Halloween


Look down your back stairs, buddy
Somebody's living there
And they don't really feel the weather

- Iggy Pop, "Neighborhood Threat"


One hour and eight minutes. That's how long it takes -- more than two-thirds of the way through a 91-minute movie -- before we finally get a clear, unobstructed view of the killer. He's wearing a mask, of course, though that comes off near the very end, too -- revealing not evil incarnate, not the boogeyman, but, as John Carpenter put it, "just a kid."

That Carpenter gets by for so long on so little -- a shadow here, a musical sting there, a tactful aesthetic that never shows blade entering flesh -- is a testament to the skill and power of Halloween. Watching it again recently, I was amazed at how laid-back most of the movie feels (until it coils up in the last act and builds up stress). Carpenter grabs us early, with the celebrated (and much imitated) killer's-POV murder sequence; after that, you can almost see him relaxing into the quietude of Haddonfield, taking time to give us a sense of the place, and a sense of dread. Halloween may look dated today, almost quaint, if only because it comes from a decade that still trusted its young audience to sit still and be told a story.

That story, by the way, is as simple and as complex as a fairy tale -- Bruno Bettelheim would have known what Carpenter and cowriter Debra Hill were up to. In his superb work on horror, Danse Macabre, Stephen King points out that the best horror films play out like selections from Grimm. King lists twenty movies that could be summed up that way, one of which may sound familiar: "Once upon a time, three babysitters went out on Halloween night, and only one of them was still alive come All Saints Day."

It's partly this fairy-tale aspect -- the big bad wolf coming after Little Red Riding Hood in the enchanted suburb, with Dr. Sam Loomis subbing for the woodsman who saves the girl at the last minute -- that has kept Halloween alive all these years, a frightening story told and retold around the campfire (often retold badly, as anyone who's sat through the sequels and rip-offs can attest). Among horror fans, Halloween has long been considered one of the Four Horsemen of '70s horror films, the others being The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and Phantasm. I'll go to the mat to defend the greatness of all four landmarks, particularly Chainsaw, but Halloween remains the only one to have crossed over in any big way, to the point that two of the stars of 1998's lame Halloween H20 appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The point is that a sequel to Halloween bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis was cover-story news -- twenty years after the original movie was released. By contrast, Phantasm and Chainsaw have seen a variety of sequels, with no coverage outside the horror press. Few people aside from horror fans really get the other three movies; everyone gets Halloween.

The apparent, and deceptive, simplicity of Halloween sets it apart; like much of Carpenter's other work, it has a cool purity. Even the goofiest of the Halloween sequels, which lacked that purity and flew off in ecstasies of needless exposition about Celtic ritual and the true motives for Michael's murders, showed more imagination than, say, your average Friday the 13th potboiler. (Though some of the Halloween sequels -- the unflushed toilet Halloween 5 being the series' lowlight -- played on about the same level as Friday the 13th, reducing Michael to a masked automaton like his imitator Jason.) There was no additional mythology for Jason, or even Freddy Krueger (well, aside from the "bastard son of a hundred maniacs" thing). Carpenter and Hill created a strong spine to build later stories on, though in retrospect it was unwise to do so. Look at the Halloween series and you see what might have become of E.T. if it hadn't been made by someone as powerful, and as adamant about forbidding a sequel, as Steven Spielberg.

You could also make a case for Michael Myers being the archetype for modern terrors, random death, the nut who comes after you and just ends you for no good reason. Michael, of course, comes from a long lineage, probably going all the way back to Grendel; and even in modern horror movies, Norman Bates and Leatherface were there first. But Norman and Leatherface are emblems of familial dysfunction; we can psychoanalyze them pretty well. Michael has his own family issues, but if we ignore (as we should) the facile psychobabble of Halloween II, which informed us that Michael was really after Laurie Strode because she was his sister, we're left with what Coleridge described (referring to Iago) as "motiveless malignity." Not even malignity, really, since that implies sadism. Like death itself, Michael is neither good nor evil. He's a fact of life. He's the cancer that decides to grow in your body, the car that happens to swerve your way, the blockage that gets comfortable in an artery and stops the blood flow to your heart or brain. You can't do anything to stop these things, and your attempts to explain them afterward sound weak in the face of their power to destroy you.

I think that's really what Halloween teaches us and why its appeal is so strong. Few people are genuinely, literally afraid of what David Cronenberg called "the man in the basement with the knife." Well, yes, we'd be afraid if we actually met that man some night, but I don't think anyone leaves the theater afraid that Michael Myers, or someone like him, will creep up the bedroom stairs. We fear what he represents -- chaos, death. Laurie Strode's biggest fear prior to Halloween night is the possible rejection by her crush Ben Tramer. "Death has come to your little town," Dr. Loomis informs Sheriff Brackett, as if the sheriff had forgotten that Death came to this little town once before, fifteen years ago. Haddonfield is our neat, orderly life; Michael is the X factor, the unpredictable element bringing it all down.




So how is it as a movie? Does it still hold up? To be sure, like a lot of classic films (and not just in the horror genre), watching it today requires a certain amount of selective amnesia: You have to forget the many sequels, the many quickie rip-offs. I often wonder how Halloween would play today for someone who has never seen it before; enough time has passed that a Halloween virgin hasn't necessarily been living in a cave -- there are teenagers old enough to drive now who weren't even born yet when Halloween III came out, for Christ's sake. To someone weaned on Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer (the former a good, solid horror film, the latter a late-'90s answer to The Burning and its ilk), Halloween may seem rather corny and sedate. One can only hope that today's teenagers, as they mature, learn to appreciate the subtle chills of Halloween just as those of the Halloween generation later learned to appreciate the films that influenced Carpenter, such as the Val Lewton productions.

Halloween revisited, for the most part, is as fresh as ever. Apart from the very 1978 hairstyles and bell bottoms (will viewers in 2016 laugh at Neve Campbell's outfits in Scream?), the movie feels as if it could have been made yesterday, especially if you catch it on DVD, where Dean Cundey's razor-sharp cinematography betrays no sign of age. That is to say, stylistically it could've been made yesterday; within the film itself, there are quite a few only-in-1978 giveaways.

One crucial difference becomes particularly evident once you've seen Halloween H20. The teenage girls in Halloween don't look like girls -- they could pass for college sophomores. In Halloween H20, and in most of the teen horror movies made around the same time, the girls really look like girls. One girl gets killed in H20 who looks as if she maybe stopped playing with Barbies the year before. It's unpleasant to watch. Yes, watching Annie and Lynda meet their doom is also unpleasant, but the murders in the new slasher films have a creepy child-abuse vibe. In other words, no actresses who look remotely like Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles and Nancy Loomis as they looked in 1978 would be convincing as teenage girls in today's slasher movies. There is a practical reason for this: In 1978, it was still okay for teenage characters to be nude in movies, so directors needed youthful-looking women in their 20s, or at least over 18, to put the tits on the screen that put the asses in the seats. Today, nudity in teen movies is fairly rare; when an American Pie or a Road Trip actually shows us the money, everyone falls over in shock.

If Halloween were made today, too, you can forget about the great performance by Donald Pleasence -- there would be no Donald Pleasence. A short, bald, stocky British guy in a movie for teenagers? Today it'd probably be Jennifer Lopez as the obsessed Dr. Samantha Loomis. This has less to do with the inability of teenagers to watch older actors (after all, teen audiences in 1978 had no problem with Pleasence) than with Hollywood's inability to display any sign of intelligence.

Hollywood would never make Halloween today, and of course it didn't make Halloween then, either -- it was an independent, out-of-nowhere, word-of-mouth smash hit, a grassroots cult moneymaker like many indie horror movies from Night of the Living Dead to The Blair Witch Project. Unfortunately, the distribution apparatus that kept Halloween running for months, even years in various re-releases, simply doesn't exist today. Back then, movies hung around for a while, in first-run, second-run, and drive-ins. Movies had time to build a following. You don't see that nearly so much today, when there are so many movies that if a new film doesn't take in at least $20 million in its first fortnight, there are four other movies waiting to bump it off America's screens and into Blockbuster. Today, a tepid novelty flick like Blair Witch builds its own cult, via the Internet, months before the movie even sees the light of a projector.

Today, an independent horror film with no stars except for a pudgy British guy and an actress fired from a TV series, a no-name director who nevertheless has the balls not only to put his name above the title but also to compose his own score (Paul Thomas Anderson, move over), almost no onscreen gore, a body count that reaches a grand total of four -- today, you might read about such a movie when it got released directly to video. If that movie happens to be genuinely frightening and stylish, its quality may spark word of mouth among people who pass the videotape around, but it wouldn't be the same. The lightning that was John Carpenter's 1978 Halloween could not strike today.


I love Halloween as much as the next horror geek, and as a confirmed fan I feel I've earned the right, over years of repeat viewings, to goof on it a little, affectionately. As a screenwriter, Carpenter never claimed to be Ben Hecht, and my favorite clunker in Halloween is when Sheriff Brackett gets all self-righteous on Loomis' ass: "If you're right, Doctor ... [dramatic pause] ... damn you for letting him out." I always want Loomis to say "I didn't 'let him out,' you idiot, he escaped -- are you in the same movie I'm in?" (To be fair, Loomis does advance this defense, rather feebly, in Halloween II in the face of the sheriff's enraged grief.) Sheriff Brackett in general is so stupid I wonder how he manages to put his pants on in the morning, much less rise to the rank of sheriff. I mean, a store has been broken into; a mask, some rope and a couple of knives have been stolen; along comes a shrink bearing dire warnings of an escaped lunatic who stabbed someone to death in this same town while wearing a mask -- good ol' Sheriff Brackett just shrugs.

If you're in the right Mystery Science Theater 3000 mood you can have a great time with Halloween the fiftieth time you see it. Laurie Strode, for instance, displays superhuman speed at the art of coathanger-straightening, and reveals an equal aptitude for coathanger-aiming. Have you ever tried unbending a coathanger? The hook part is easy, but if you want to end up with a lengthy weapon with eyeball-gouging range, you then have to unwind the other end wrapped around the neck of the hook. To do this you need fingernails of exactly the right length -- neither too short nor too long to pry the ends apart. If you have a heavy-breathing guy in a mask trying to terminate you with extreme prejudice while you're doing this, your hands will probably be shaking, so add at least a minute to the process. Bottom line: you'll be tagged and bagged before that coathanger ever gets unbent.

Another favorite howler is when Annie goes to her car, finds it locked, goes back to the house for the keys, returns to the car, and blithely opens the car door that had been locked, without actually unlocking it herself. She actually opens the door with the same hand that holds the keys. Now, either she just got so sidetracked ad-libbing that great ditty about Paul that she just doesn't notice, or there is some deeper meaning. A third possibility is that Carpenter and Hill kind of winced as they staged this scene, hoping the suspense would carry them over the bump of illogic. And on first viewing, it does: the mind registers only that the door is open -- Michael's in there. Only on subsequent viewings does the pin of sarcasm pop the balloon of suspense.

Such wise-ass remarks at the movie's expense aren't so much criticism as a weird form of appreciation. Flaws can make a film homey, human, more enjoyable. Also, I can't think of many moments like that in Halloween 5 -- the entire movie is flat-out moronic, and it's not good enough on any level to justify sitting through it more than once, never mind the countless viewings necessary to catch a film's quirks and oddities. (I do the same thing with my own sentimental favorite movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.) And you can also picture Carpenter, down-to-earth as he is, laughing at his film right along with you. He might even point out goofs you hadn't noticed before, as he does on his audio commentary for the Halloween laserdisc. Certainly he'd be the first to say the movie isn't strictly perfect -- even though, on the level that counts, it has its own perfection.


John Carpenter has little use for conventional heroes. They're boring -- they're much more interesting if they have a few rough edges. Carpenter doesn't do "heroes." For this reason, excellent character actors have jumped at the chance to work with him, whereas Carpenter has never really worked with a star, because as William Goldman says, stars play gods. (Kurt Russell is a possible exception, but Russell owes his adult stardom largely to Carpenter, who directed him in Elvis and proved to the world that Russell was more than just a former Disney moppet.)

What Carpenter does, and does so well, is the anti-hero -- from the disgruntled space slackers in Dark Star to the scruffy vamp-slayers in Vampires. Snake Plissken is nobody's idea of a neat, presentable hero you'd take home to meet your mom, but at the same time he's Carpenter's half-parodic Clint Eastwood icon. Anti-heroes, in the context of mass entertainment, are regular people forced by circumstance to act heroically, though they really would rather stay out of it. By this definition, there are two anti-heroes in Halloween: Laurie, of course, and Loomis. (The fact that their initials mirror each other -- Laurie Strode, Sam Loomis -- is probably one of those unintentional details that Carpenter gets a kick out of whenever some Halloween scholar asks him to explain what he meant by it.)

By conventional movie wisdom, Laurie registers more strongly as heroic because we can see her developing into a hero -- we observe the character arc. Loomis, by contrast, stays pretty much the same from start to stop. By Pleasence's own insistence, we know precisely nothing about Loomis except that which advances the plot. His backstory is seen entirely in terms of Michael. Does he have no other patients? For fifteen years he's been fixated on Michael, as if Michael's own madness had swallowed Loomis whole, become his world. Loomis, of course, is like no psychiatrist we've ever met; he's more like a renegade detective, and the only reason he tolerates the oafish Sheriff Brackett is that he needs the imprimatur of the law. When you see him wearing a crisp dark suit early in the movie, it feels wrong somehow; Loomis looks more at home in his rumpled trenchcoat. Yet if he resembles 20th-century gumshoes, he's actually closer in spirit to Sherlock Holmes, with Michael as his Moriarty. It's as if he didn't exist without Michael.

When Laurie Strode assumed the Loomis role in Halloween H20, it was just one of many wrong notes, but perhaps the loudest one. For all of Laurie's appeal in the first film, and for all Curtis' skill as an actress, it turned out that the Halloween mythology needed Loomis a lot more than it needed Laurie. Michael needs an obsessional adversary, a yin to his yang, and Halloween H20 sorely suffered from the absence of the late, great Donald Pleasence and his most memorable character.


Such a fog of mystery gathers around the killer -- the Shape -- in Halloween that some of the subsequent movies rushed to fill the void. One could spend hours deconstructing why he kills, whom he kills, and how he kills. (His methods of murder are fairly mundane by today's standards: stabbing and strangulation.) A case could be made that he's playing out a sort of incestuous, presexual fascination with his sister, whose boyfriend jokingly dons Michael's clown mask before Michael himself puts it on and gets busy. Michael is six years old when he butchers his (half-nude) sister, and perhaps his understanding of sex -- fearful, resentful -- stops developing at the age of six. Associating killing with fucking, he goes after teenagers, who are sexual, and spares children, who are presexual like him. Carpenter has been accused of devising a movie in which sex leads to death for girls, but there are two large things wrong with this criticism. First, a woman cowrote the script. Second, Carpenter did not invent the sex-and-death link. The connection between eros and thanatos, as David Cronenberg put it, has been around for centuries, in and out of the horror genre. The same energy that can create life can also destroy it.

The criticism also ignores the fact that Michael kills Bob -- poor Bob, toes dangling while Michael cocks his head quizzically (for me the most chilling image in the movie). Much has been made of the phallic knife, but Bob's fate inverts the meaning: the knife sticking out of him looks like nothing so much as his final erection, helpfully provided by Michael. The knife does have a certain penetrative significance, but Bob's murder signals that all bets are off, that females aren't the only ones getting poked here; thereafter, the knife will fail in its duty, inflicting only surface wounds or being turned against its wielder. It takes phallic power of a different sort, Loomis' gun, to bring Michael down -- though not for long.

That bit where Michael cocks his head has always haunted me. The consensus is that Michael is simply admiring his handiwork, which certainly seems a valid reading. But God only knows what's going through his head. Perhaps he's thinking about the ruse to come, when he puts on a sheet and Bob's glasses. Perhaps he's thinking about that boyfriend from 15 years ago, who so rudely diverted his sister from taking him trick-or-treating. (Michael was, after all, already dressed in his clown costume, presumably waiting for sis. As he ascends the stairs to Judith's room, the clock strikes ten -- he's been waiting a long time, "inhumanly patient," but only up to a point.) Perhaps, too, Bob is the first person Michael has actually watched die -- he didn't have a very clear view of Judith or Annie at their moments of death. Perhaps Michael is standing around waiting to see what happens next: Is he really dead? Is this particular part of the game over now?

In any event, the moment is almost unique in the horror-movie genre; its odd power is matched only by the scene in Last House on the Left when the sadistic killers, spattered by the blood of the two innocent girls they've murdered, stand around silently in the forest, as if confronting -- if only fleetingly -- the enormity of what they've done. Few other horror movies pause this way to take the full measure of death, the true obscenity of a person who was once alive but now, due to one's own actions, is not. Certain moments in Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven strike the same chords, but those disreputable horror guys were there first.


The strange thing about Halloween is how it gets inside you, as if each piercing sting of Carpenter's musical score were driving the film deeper into your head, like a dark blue nail. For a few days, every movie you watch becomes filtered through Halloween. Two days after giving Halloween another run on my TV, I happened to watch Blue Velvet for the first time in a few years, and damned if David Lynch's masterpiece didn't align perfectly with Carpenter's masterpiece. It was the same story! Here, though, the roles were shuffled around: Instead of the older, experienced Dr. Loomis as the protector, you had the young, untested Jeffrey Beaumont; instead of the mute psycho Michael Myers, you had the entirely too talkative psycho Frank Booth (with his gas inhaler instead of a mask); instead of the virginal Laurie Strode, singing softly to herself, you had the sexually complex Dorothy Vallens, who sings "Blue Velvet" in a crowded nightclub as if singing to herself. But the triangle -- protector, victim, monster -- was intact! Not to mention the famous scene in which Jeffrey hides in a closet and is discovered by the knife-wielding Dorothy -- not just any knife, but a big-ass kitchen knife, a Michael Myers knife. (Jeffrey's coathanger skills apparently aren't up to snuff.) Yes, David Lynch had seen and worshipped Halloween, and had covertly remade it here. I couldn't believe I was the only one who had ever noticed this.

This, of course, is the highest foolishness. At best, Lynch could be said to be drawing from the same well of archetypes Carpenter does -- knight in shining armor, damsel in distress, dragon -- but that's as far as it goes. Yet that's how strongly Halloween imposes itself even on one's experience of such a strong film as Blue Velvet -- I mean, this was Blue Velvet, man, not The Other Sister or something. (Though The Other Sister has ties to Halloween because its title describes Laurie's identity as revealed in Halloween II ... You see what I mean?) I can't really say that Blue Velvet would have been better if Kyle MacLachlan emerged from the closet at the end and stuck a coathanger in Dennis Hopper's eyeball. However, I can say that Jeffrey's level of discourse on evil ("Why are there people like Frank? Why is there so much trouble in the world??") pales next to Dr. Loomis' justly celebrated monologue.

"If you have the right face saying the right words at the right time," David Cronenberg once commented, "you've got everything cinema has to offer." Donald Pleasence is certainly the right face, the right voice -- exhausted, bewildered by this incomprehensible, unreachable evil. And they're definitely the right words; the speech is short but not sweet, a capsule review of Michael, leaving a shudder in its wake. In that scene, Michael is very much in the room; Pleasence's peerless delivery, and Carpenter's rhythmic prose (it's his finest hour as a screenwriter), evoke Michael for us so vividly that we see him with his blank, pale, emotionless face, stonewalling Loomis' therapy for eight years. We see that unmasked face exactly twice, fleetingly, in moments of distress. Abruptly disempowered when the mask is ripped off, he looks dazed, almost skittish; we don't really see what Loomis is talking about. But in other moments, behind the mask while he's taking care of business, Michael probably fits the description. How odd, then, that he selects a mask as expressionless as his face. A mask behind a mask.


Jamie Lee Curtis has said that her two best roles were Laurie Strode and Helen Tasker (in James Cameron's True Lies), and I can understand her point. Both are repressed women who let the armor of ladylike demeanor fall with a resounding, gratifying clang (and if you follow the link to my True Lies review, you will find the same observation made seven years ago; no, I'm not immune to cannibalizing myself). The Laurie of 1978 has more in common with Helen than with the Laurie of 1998 as seen in Halloween H20. The thirtysomething Laurie rang no bells as an alcoholic headmistress; she would have grown up more like the sensible Helen. (What better way to be safe from Michael than to marry Arnold Schwarzenegger?) You don't really appreciate Curtis' performance in Halloween unless you play one of her early, shy, quiet scenes right before one of her later, shrieking moments of desperation. The contrast is jarring, yet her transition in the movie is natural; if you watch it from beginning to end, you never question how this wallflower turns into someone who can find it in herself to hammer on someone's door, screeching for help. Few actresses are better at this kind of character arc -- the asexual or sedate woman who becomes sexual or ferocious.

If Halloween can be narrowed down to one theme, it's repression. The movie itself is repressed; Hitchcock would have admired the way Carpenter artfully avoids explicit bloodshed. The only truly bloody moment in the film comes when Michael slashes Laurie's arm, and, like similar moments in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Carpenter's The Thing, it's just enough to make the audience cringe: We may not know what it's like to be strangled or stabbed, but all of us have been cut. You don't need to see the spurting gore to get the full impact of the violence; Carpenter understood that the worst violence is that which is allowed to unfold in our own imaginations. (He couldn't really avoid being explicit in The Thing, because he was dealing with mutations and transformations that had never been shown before -- there was no way he could imply the severed head skittering around on spider legs.)

The repression runs throughout Halloween, even in small details like the rambling guy escorting Loomis around the graveyard; he's telling a grisly story, but just as he's about to get to the payoff, Loomis interrupts him. The motif would be complete if Lynda and Bob didn't get to have sex, but they do manage to get it on -- even though "the phone keeps ringing." Bob takes it off the hook and gets back to business; the same phone will later interrupt Lynda permanently. Laurie, of course, thinks it's just Annie -- long-dead Annie -- playing another phone prank. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Indeed, nobody in Halloween really communicates. "Nobody believes me" is little Tommy's refrain about his fear of the boogeyman, but it might as well be Loomis talking. Everyone is distracted by something at some point, missing a key bit of information that would end both Michael's rampage and the movie prematurely, if they were able to notice it. We laugh when Loomis turns his back to the street, very obligingly allowing Michael to drive right past him, though we may be forgetting our own oversights and distractions in life. Focused so intently on the scene of the crime, scanning the area for clues, we would probably miss the car, too. Carpenter plays on both the comedy and the horror of not being able to see or understand what's right there in front of us ... or, more likely, right behind us.




"Now it's dark," says Dennis Hopper at several points in Blue Velvet (just to bring that movie onstage for one final bow), and Halloween can be summed up in those three words. Someone came up with a fairly enticing tag line -- "The Night He Came Home" -- which describes what the movie is about, but, as Jamie Lee Curtis has pointed out, the tone of Halloween is all about the encroaching darkness. It catches the unreasonable fear that kids feel when nightfall is only a few minutes away. It means having to go to bed. It means being asleep, vulnerable to God knows what things hiding in your room. It means being in the dark.

Michael is the death you don't see coming. It comes for everyone eventually, out of nowhere. When I was a kid, I remember being scared shitless by the sequence in The Ten Commandments -- yes, that all-time campfest -- wherein the firstborn sons of Egypt met Osiris prematurely, taken by "the terror by night." That's what Michael is: the terror by night. Halloween is supposed to be the one night of the year when the fun begins after sundown, but Michael, who had no fun on that Halloween night in 1963, isn't about to abide by that. He turns Haddonfield into the town that dreads sundown. (Incidentally, there is a forgotten horror film called The Town That Dreaded Sundown, based on the true story of a Texarkana killer, that predated Halloween by one year.) When a masked lunatic is on the loose, the darkness that cloaks mischief and pranks can also befriend death.

There are four other words, unspoken onscreen, that rattle around in our heads at the end of Halloween. They are words familiar from many campfire tales (which Halloween essentially is), and they are: still out there somewhere. As in, "The killer was never caught -- they say he's still out there somewhere." (Ironically enough, Judith Myers says something similar -- "He's around somewhere" -- when her boyfriend asks where Michael is; it's as if she's predicting his future as a campfire boogeyman.) Well, the end of Halloween is the last word in still out there somewhere. "You can't kill the boogeyman," says little Tommy, and he turns out to be the movie's leading expert on that topic. This is the flip side of that syrupy song "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tale, with its comforting message that your loved one, no matter how far away, is "underneath the same big sky." Yeah, and so is the boogeyman.

In 1978, before the sequels and rip-offs, audiences were left with that heavy, awful information. He's gone, the evil has gone (to quote Loomis in an earlier context), and guess what? Nobody knows where he is now, but he's out there somewhere. Carpenter ends his film not on the lawn, where Michael should, in a sane universe, be lying dead; not on the sobbing Laurie; not on the grim Loomis; but on a series of shots of everywhere Michael has been, all the places evil has touched -- houses and doorways a lot like yours. It's Carpenter's final trick on the audience, not a treat at all. There you go, kids; now go out into the night, and see him on every street corner, and look for him in every house. Now it's dark.


The images accompanying this review were, um, borrowed from www.halloweenmovies.com. A comprehensive web resource for all things Halloween; please do drop by.