Monday, November 06, 2006

A Termite Art Halloween: (1978)

There are two sorts of movies that demand constant use of the fast-forward button. One is a mystery that is so terrible that you don't care to watch, but you've invested so much time in already that you at least want to know the resolution, thus you fast-forward to the end. The second is a movie that is so unbearably suspenseful and scary that you have to fast-forward ahead for fear your blood pressure will rise to the point of restricting the flow of oxygen to your brain. John Carpenter's Halloween is one of those movies. By the final half hour, I was heading for the fast forward button every five minutes. I just couldn't take it. I'm a wussy, ok? A big fat wussy. I admit it.

It's amazing to me that Halloween is this good, because I've seen several of the sequels, the recent Halloween: Resurrection as well as either Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers or Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers — to be honest, I can't tell which one based on the various plot descriptions I could find and, I suspect, if we'd asked Donald Pleasence before he died, he probably couldn't have told the difference either — and they were uniformly terrible. By late in the series, Michael Myers' supernatural powers of murder and mutilation were informed by — I shit you not — druid curses. There is nothing scary, nor cool, nor fun, nor interesting about druid curses. This once again confirms my theory that druids ruin everything. (Druids, please address all rebuttals and curses, to the Termite Art Complaint Department, c/o Drew Tillman, East Gebip, Kansas, 20394).

Back in 1978 before all that nonsense, Carpenter crafted a stripped down piece of true horror. I mean, this movie is totally terrifying. There are only two ways someone could not be scared by Halloween: either a)they are, in fact, a mass-murderer cursed by druids, in which case the film would play sort of like a well crafted episode of This Is Your Life or b)they've seen so many of the crummy Halloween knock-offs that they mistake Carpenter's inventiveness for the cliches which suceeded it.

Otherwise it's impossible to resist the persistent mood of encroaching, unavoidable horror. The Halloween sequels and the Friday the Imitators ratchet up the gore and the complexity, so much so that it's fun, in a morbid way, to guess how one of these slashers will kill next ("Ooooh a caulking gun! That's gonna hurt!"). Halloween proves you needn't be bloody to be scary — few of the murders have more than a light trickle of blood, but all will have you covering your eyes and, yes, reaching for the fast forward button. The end, where "The Shape" seems to materialize out of nowhere from the shadows behind Jamie Lee Curtis and later sits straight up after getting stabbed in the gutular region more times than any human should be able to withstand, you can't wait for the movie to end, not because it's bad, but because you just can tolerate much more suspense.

Thank goodness the malpractice suit waiting to happen named Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) arrives to shoot Michael six times, to knock him off a balcony to the lawn below. By the time Loomis looks out the window to make sure Myers is dead he's already scraped himself up and wandered away, leaving Loomis to cackle the classic line: "I shot him 6 times! I shot him in the heart — but... HE'S NOT HUMAN!" Actually he doesn't say that in Halloween (which ends right after Myers' body disappears), but in Halloween II (which picks up right after Myers' body disappears). Which means that I've also seen Halloween II. It stunk too. But the original, the only one Carpenter directed, is still great. See that one.


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