Horror movies, like classic Pixar movies, tend to be based on fun but flimsy pretexts that can make for a wildly entertaining moments but which hard to sustain—increasingly difficult, even as commercial exigencies demand that sequels be made.
I’m reminded of this every time I see Halloween. (Or any of its sequels, come to think of it, except 3, which is a mistake on its own terms, at least.) Halloween‘s premise is ridiculously simple: A child murders his sister and her boyfriend with a knife and is committed to an insane asylum where, instead of receiving treatment, his doctor becomes convinced that he has no soul and is the embodiment of pure evil.
In 1978, this was kind of a batty premise instead of the most tired cliché in movies, and the whole thing is strung together with a kind of funhouse attitude where the big shock is that the doctor is right: The Shape (nee Michael Meyers) is not human. He’s Evil.
And he’s evil in such a way that a relatively minor injury makes him lie flat on his back as though he were dead, but only for a minute or so, until Laurie Strode lets her guard down. Seriously, I think she kicks him in the shins at one point and he falls down “dead” and she’s, like, “Oh, wow, what a relief he’s finally gone.”
The great final shot (of him) makes the movie a fun campfire story but, boy, it doesn’t make for an interesting premise for a series.
Clean, confident directing energy from John Carpenter, oozing style, and the first movie about a psycho killer that didn’t look like it was made by psycho killers and that played at the mall where you didn’t have to worry about getting killed by psychos.
The acting is…what would you call it? Legitimate? Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles and Nancy Loomis as the Carpenterian urbane chicks, and there are dudes in this, too, somewhere, but Donald Pleasance is the only one (besides The Shape) that matters.
Iconic music by Carpenter. Finished at #9 for the year, raking in $47M on a third of a million budget, so it’s only natural that it would ruin the film industry and the lives of everyone involved. (I exaggerate. Slightly.)
Carpenter didn’t want to spend his life making this movie over and over again, so when he made II, he completely (and utterly arbitrarily) killed Michael Meyers. But as we know, Evil Never Dies, unless Evil Dies Tonight.