Halloween (1979) and Halloween (2018) are available to rent or buy now.
Halloween is an iconic benchmark of modern horror. Whether you’ve never seen any horror before or are a hardened expert, the original Halloween is required viewing. It encapsulates a rolling dread of being watched as Michael Myers quietly stalks a neighbourhood. Myers is terrifying because he’s not afraid of you seeing him; he wants you to – if only for a second. I recently watched Carpenter’s movie for the fifth or sixth time with a friend (first-timer!), and it still managed to spook us.
Halloween is a masterclass in slow-build tension, sharpening it into a deadly point before going in for the kill. One of the most frightening aspects of Halloween is its voyeuristic camerawork, aligning us with Michael’s perspective. Here, the camera and Michael share a vicious, calculated movement that’s terrifying in delivery. Michael Myers knows there’s a camera watching him, that we are observing him, his cold blank stare, piercing through the protective silver screen that separates our world from his.
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Even when Michael’s nowhere to be seen, Carpenter’s subtle incorporation of Michael’s physiology into the camera’s movement makes it feel like he’s still somehow with us. What we’re watching isn’t a man, but a thing – or perhaps a ‘Shape’, as he’d come to be known. It’s no coincidence that there are multiple cameos of The Thing from Another World, a title Carpenter would come to remake himself a few years later. Michael is Carpenter’s Thing – not of this world, someone entirely evil disguised in a flesh suit. While at the same time, the director’s love of Eyes Without a Face inspires one of the most famous horror masks in film history.
Even more impressive, Halloween has one of the best horror soundtracks in the genre’s history; its titular theme is utterly iconic, with its eerie synth providing an unsettling backdrop to a traditionally quiet American suburbia. Here the unearthly droning follows Michael like a demented organ, poisoning the tranquil silence of Halloween night. This theme would go on to inspire a myriad of iconic soundtracks. Halloween is a brilliant reminder of how the best horror is often executed in the simplest ways – a strange figure in an unsettling mask, watching you, lurking in the silence.
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I’m also recommending David Gordon Green’s Halloween as a double feature because it creates a fascinating narrative and thematic bridge to the original. By re-entering Haddonfield 40 years on, we witness the paradox of Carpenter’s Halloween. For Laurie Strode, that night was cataclysmic, the trauma imprisoning her psychologically while infecting her relationship with her children and grandchildren. But in Haddonfield, October 31st 1978, fell into nothing more than a story – as one teen remarks, “he only killed like four people.” It’s a brilliant dichotomy that feels real in its history. Haddonfield has moved past that night easily, while Laurie Strode relives it daily.
What follows is, in many ways, a re-dressing of the original, but with full intention. This time, Laurie is the predator, and whether he feels it or not, Michael is the prey. It’s fucking fantastic to see Jamie Lee Curtis become this unstoppable force of nature, taking back the power Michael wielded. For the first time, we see Michael on the back foot and Laurie on top.
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Halloween (2018) is bound in a close historical link between the two – both tied to one another. It’s not a case that one will destroy the other as their need for mutual destruction links them. There’s so much rich thematic resonance to be mined from this re-introduction to Halloween’s world. From Laurie’s PTSD to the mythologisation of horrific events, as well as the subversion of the final girl. It’s a beautifully skilled continuation that complements the original brilliantly, and let’s face it, that doesn’t happen very every day.