There’s such a humungous history of classic movies that established itself way before I was born, and that’s why I often prefer watching what’s new and take it a week at a time. But after seeing the 2018 Halloween when it was released, I thought, Why the heck not?
You know the story, and even if you don’t know it inside out, you know about Laurie Strode, the role that broke out Jamie Lee Curtis, and the stealthy, unflinching Michael Myers. All you need to know is this man, having spent fifteen years in a mental asylum, beginning when he committed the most horrific thing imaginable as a small little boy, is, according to Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), something inhuman, something devoid of decency, something hungry for blood. His first victim was on a Halloween night. It’s Halloween again and he’s managed to escape the asylum.
There are two things that make this story told really effectively as a horror slasher. One is these characters (well, besides the obvious) are innocent and typical enough that we feel we’re just like them. The same could be said about the setting. So who’s to say this Halloween or the next, there won’t be the same boogeyman after any one of us for no particular reason? The second, is there are dozens of clever details in the producing and choreography to make us question what is to happen. Is Michael going to be behind that closing fridge door? Is he going to come in the house now that he has the chance? Is this it? How many more fake-outs are going to come?
And something else I just came up with, so you can make that a third, is Michael’s invincibility, or ability to heal from wounds, is not introduced right away. Instead, we witness him stabbing and choking his victims in a manner that looks…easy for him to do. He seems to be very strong but not abnormally strong, so the movie’s context shows how easy it is for someone to be snuck up on and being grabbed by the neck or getting stabbed, and how easy it truly is for a life to be lost. Two things that really help this are; 1) believable screams and chokes of desperation, and 2) not too big a carnage count. A big body count of murder victims, all in the same unaware boat, would’ve made the feature tiring.
In spite of that, call me modernized, but I’ve seen scarier. One thing that didn’t help is I knew from hearsay how much of the story went, and even for people new to the concept, it’s easy to foresee who’s going to die and who might die. Because some of it is predictable, the jump scares aligned with those scenes aren’t quite as terrifying as others I’ve seen. (But that scare when Laurie realizes…my goodness.) It’s more terrifying when you think back on it, on what it must’ve felt like for these people to realize there was no way to escape the clutches of this man about to kill you, or what life was like having to forever look over your shoulder as a survivor. Just like the 2018 Halloween capitalized on.
For me, the 1978 Halloween might not be on a must-watch-every-holiday level, but as a revolutionary sort of production, I can say it still holds up. There are some scenes that are quite effectively nauseating, something impressive for trying something new at the time.