Blu-ray/DVD Review: HALLOWEEN (1978)

Destiny is a very real, concrete thing that every person has to deal with.”

So says an anonymous text read by the teacher of Laurie Strode (played by larger than life Jamie Lee Curtis), a high school student who, on Halloween night, is forced to deal with a destiny so terrifying it forever changes her own perception of the boogeyman. In response, Laurie infers that fate – in relation to Costaine (a fictional philosopher from what I can tell) – “was somehow only related to religion”, while Samuels “felt that fate was like a natural element like earth, air, fire and water.” The teacher continues that “fate is immovable, like a mountain” and that “fate never changes.” Except fate never met Laurie, who in 1978 imprinted cinema with an empowerment that forever shaped the lens of horror, introducing the world to a new force of nature; the final girl.

As destiny would have it, Laurie is without a date for the Haddonfield High dance and has to babysit on Halloween night. Her crush Ben Tramer is oblivious to her attraction until her friends Annie (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda (PJ Soles) intervene (he’ll sadly take that awareness to his grave in the opening of Halloween II). Destiny has also brought to Haddonfield the terrifying shape of Michael Myers (Nick Castle), a seemingly mute escapee from Smith Grove’s Sanitarium who was sent there after butchering his sister at the age of six. With psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) on his heels, Michael gets closer to acting out his providence, one that he has envisioned for some fifteen years. Except neither Michael nor his destiny foresaw Laurie, a lone babysitter who would end up moving the mountains of fate one horrifying Halloween night.

What that particular classroom scene deftly foreshadows and accentuates is the terrifying confrontation with good and evil that unfolds in the suburban town of Haddonfield, one that as Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) puts it is “families, children, all lined up in rows up and down streets.” The identical homes with their illusion of safety are no different than cattle, “lined up for a slaughterhouse” Brackett concludes. Michael is the unmovable mountain, possessed beyond comprehension with a force that separates him from man who, by all means, possesses the determination and inhuman capabilities to rip right through this small town.

And he does, unnervingly losing himself in the shadows of bushes and doorways, almost shedding any concrete shape that exists within a living, breathing embodiment of evil. Michael watches Annie as she scurries off to do laundry in the shed behind the house she’s baby sitting, later manifesting in the back seat of a car where he strangles and kills her. Afterward, he hides in the closet of Annie’s place where Lynda and her boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham) are fooling around, displaying an unearthly embodiment of strength – he lifts Bob up by the throat with one arm – before sticking him with a butcher knife, Michael’s form hidden beneath cascading shadows.

Throughout HALLOWEEN, director John Carpenter – this goes back to what the films lone classroom scene accentuates – treats the films unmovable killer as less than a concrete thing and more of a shadowed idea; the boogeyman. Carpenter’s film begins in the point of view of Michael, placing us within the killer as we observe his actions through his clown mask that hides the illusion of innocence that accompanies a child. Finally, after Michael stumbles outside after having stabbed his sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) multiple times, his mask ripped from his face by his parents, revealing an emotionless and lost look gazing back at the camera. Later after he returns to Haddonfield and even in broad daylight, Michael remains hidden behind hedges, fluttering laundry or a parked car (where Laurie first sees him). We never do see the boogeyman fully revealed.

In contrast, especially the way Carpenter frames his characters, Laurie is seen exposed, vulnerable, innocent and scared. She’s also seemingly the only one who embodies a concern for intelligence, caring that she left her textbook back at school while Lynda drones on about the lack of necessity for such materials (“who needs books anyway?”)


Because within the structure of the final girl that HALLOWEEN establishes, innocence and intelligence are weapons, wielded with the conspicuousness of an unfolded coat hanger.

I would argue though that Laurie’s attributes here aren’t what predetermines her fate, but Tommy (Brian Andrews) and Lindsey (Kyle Richards), the two television hungry kids she’s left to look after. Lindsey, who only wants to continue watching The Thing From Another World, is left in the care of Laurie after Annie decides her night is best spent with her boyfriend, Paul. Does this determine her fate at the hands of Michael? Perhaps not, but in the end he never does enter Lindsey’s house, only lurking in the residing area where Annie’s decision takes her.

Instead as the night would have it, Laurie becomes the paternal figure to not one but two kids, bringing into question the idea of nature verse nurture. One argues that genetics determine behavior, while the other incorporates both environment and upbringing. By nurturing Tommy and Lindsey through popcorn, pumpkin carvings and late night horror movies (a pre-show to the real horror that awaits them), Laurie is altering the balance between what is finite and what is shifting.

This is greatly influenced by the films moral compass, which points the way to its final girl who never quite succumbs to alcohol or sex, instead relinquishing immoral judgement for her duties as a babysitter. As fate would have it, her fastidious moral leanings turn her into guardian and protector, a choice that she makes in that moment despite being seen smoking a joint with Annie earlier in the film. Fate within the slasher genre isn’t pre-determined, but left up to the final girl, whose actions show individual power and fortitude.

But as Costaine expresses in contrast to Samuel’s idea of nature, fate is linked only to religion. And perhaps, falling squarely on the titular holiday which stems from paganism, once believed to worship false gods, religion is for the night cast out, replaced instead with celebrations of the dead. It is after all a night that allows anyone to become something or someone they are not, illustrated through Michael’s – and subsequently our – transformation into a soulless killer. Perhaps, with religion taking a night off to the wickedness, sugar rush and horror movies of Halloween, Laurie is able to become someone she never thought she’d be. Or perhaps fate is a mountain, one that exists in HALLOWEEN solely to be conquered, proving that nothing is completely unmovable like the nature of the final girl.

HALLOWEEN is now available to own for the first time on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack and rest assured, the colors and sharpness are much more visible than in previous releases. The Combo Pack also includes an array of special features such as audio commentary with writer/director John Carpenter and actor Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as featurettes, trailer, and more.

Gregory Mucci
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