The Past, Present and Future of Michael Myers: Halloween (1978)

Halloween 1978
Halloween 1978

What better way is there to celebrate the fast-approaching, highly anticipated release of the latest (and perhaps final) installment in one of the horror genre’s most memorable franchises – due out October 19, 2018 – than to breakdown each and every entry?

1978 saw the release of one of the genre’s most inspirational films: Halloween. Unbeknownst to writing duo Debra Hill and John Carpenter, their low-budget independent film would go on to generate millions at the box office, which, not only changed the way studios viewed the slasher sub-genre, but also established a well-deserved place in pop culture history.

Even with titles like Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas having been released years prior to its existence, many credit Halloween as the ultimate slasher film. Why? It’s not like Norman Bates, Leatherface and Billy weren’t peculiar and creepy. It’s not like the characters and the situations in which our protagonists find themselves in aren’t believable. Simply put, it’s not one thing in particular. Carpenter’s eerie score, the pale mask, Donald Pleasence’s delivery of the poetic however ominous dialogue, the excellent realism Debra Hill established with the development of Laurie, Linda and Annie, Dean Cundey’s cinematography, Jamie Lee Curtis’s unique scream and overall verisimilitude as virtuous teen babysitter Laurie Strode. All of it. Halloween is perhaps the cinematic “Stairway to Heaven” of the horror genre. It builds tension almost as methodically as Nick Castle’s portrayal of our masked antagonist, Michael Myers, stalks his victims.

Of course, producer Irwin Yablan deserves his fair share of credit, seeing as he’s the genius who had the idea of babysitters being stalked. He even suggested the story take place on Halloween. It’s a remarkable exercise in German Expressionism, in that it relies on shadows and meticulous lighting to evoke solicitude – predominantly in the film’s third act. Cundey’s contribution is ethereal and expressive in that it collectively takes the audience’s minds and emotions to a place of apprehension. The film also works, not only as a cautionary tale, but as an ominous, alarming reminder to be aware or our surroundings. The fictitious town of Haddonfield, Illinois is the kind of place that genuinely felt safe and secure; so you wouldn’t expect anything violent to happen there. Moviegoers who are from small towns were likely more terrified than someone from a city where there’s constantly sirens echoing all around.

Virtually everything is known about the making of this movie, except for curious little tidbits I myself have tried researching. For example, how did they get the rights to Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) the Reaper? How much of their budget went to using that song?

Whenever Jamie Lee Curtis talks about this movie, she almost always brings up the fact her character drops the knife twice. The first time she agrees is understandable; Laurie is disgusted by the knife. The second time, however, she nor John can answer why Laurie dropped the knife. I’ve a decent idea as to why she may have. Hear me out: Laurie was going back into the hallway to get Tommy and Lindsey and arguably, she didn’t want them to see a blood-stained knife, she didn’t want them to be even more afraid and traumatized. It’s simple, but nonetheless it’s certainly plausible. Halloween is indisputably a classic, having set in place much of the now clichéd and formulaic scares we see in modern horror pictures. This movie is subject to its share of criticism, however.

Aside from palm trees here and there in the background, and the lack of trick or treaters at either Lindsey’s or Tommy’s, there’s also the movie’s green quality. In one of the more recent releases, you can actually see headlights up the street as Laurie falls to the ground screaming. This doesn’t show as much (if at all) on the VHS or DVDs. Each re-release actually looks more greener than the last, honestly. Virtually every movie gets re-released every anniversary. I was hoping one of these days, Halloween would be released with some sort of added oranges and yellows. Not a complete tone manipulation like a lot of modern films have; just a little color in the trees and on the ground would be cool to see. Michael’s parents have always bothered me. They pull up and see their six year-old son walking across the lawn, holding a huge knife and all they have to say is, “Michael?!?” At the very least, I expected Mrs. Myers to dart towards the house, worried sick about Judith. Maybe even scream at the sight of Judith’s lifeless body, which then could have attracted Mr. Myers’ attention, leaving an apathetic Michael to himself in the front yard. Just something more than the reaction we got from them. Also, Michael didn’t have trouble getting to Laurie in the closet, he was taunting her. I don’t know why some people believe he couldn’t open the door.

I’m sure there’s more to that scene, too. On the back of several releases, there’s a picture of Michael standing outside the closet door. Sometime between 2006 and 2009, there was word of the discovery of original negatives from the movie, including alternate takes, deleted scenes, etc. Nothing has been released of it, primarily because Billy Kirkus, the guy responsible for discovery the negatives, hasn’t struck a deal with Malek and or whomever else has a say in the matter.

No movie is perfect, but I’d argue Halloween comes damn near close. It has inspired a generation of filmmakers, and continues to do so, forty years after its release. Having seen it recently at an “Insomnia Theater” event, I can honestly attest to the incredible reactions this film receives. Four young women were screaming and covering their eyes. Very few times have I witnessed a reaction at a theater like that. The film’s bleak ending itself is enough to inspire fear from its audience.

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