Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Incredible Shrinking Slasher

Last night I watched the original Halloween on DVD (boy, does it pain me to have to qualify that statement by adding "the original" before the title). As you're no doubt aware, it's the granddaddy of the modern slasher film.

I'm happy to report that it holds up pretty well, 34 years (!) after it was made. It's also a surprisingly bloodless affair; as it's almost chaste compared to the other films it spawned. It's more like a Hitchcockian suspense thriller rather than a horror movie.

Incredibly the film was made for only $320,000! Even in 1978 dollars that was ridiculously cheap. I bet most films today spend more than that on the craft service alone.

All in all it's very well made and director John Carpenter did an amazing job, especially considering it was only this third theatrical film. Of course since you're reading about it on my blog, you're no doubt thinking, "Oh boy, he's gonna start pointing out flaws." You're very perceptive.

The first seven minutes of the film are all one continuous shot, seen from the point of view of Michael Myers, the villain of the piece. Here we see Michael creeping around in the kitchen and reaching down to grab a large butcher knife from a drawer. Remember that: he's reaching down.

Next we see Michael wander through the family dining room. Note that his vantage point is quite a ways above the top of the table.

Michael then reaches down to pick up a Halloween mask, which he puts on his face. He walks up the stairs to his sister Judith's room, where she's brushing her hair after a recent roll in the hay with her boyfriend. Apparently Michael disapproved of his sister's sluttery and stabs her to death with the butcher knife to teach her a lesson she'll never forget. Please notice that once again he is looking (and stabbing) down at her.

Michael then walks down the steps and out the front door, just as his parents drive up. The camera then switches away from Michael's point of view and we see that he's really a six year old child, no more than four feet tall.

Apparently in addition to being an evil little psychopath, Michael is also a shape-shifter of impressive ability. He's able to enlarge himself to the size of a full grown adult who has to reach down to pick up objects. Or perhaps he's able to stretch his legs to stilt-like proportions. Either way it's an amazing ability.

One more thing: just as Michael exits the house, his parents drive up, get out of their car and approach him. Mr. and Mrs. Myers seem oddly calm and unconcerned throughout this scene. As the camera slowly pulls away from the grim tableau, they just stand and stare at their young son, curiously nonchalant about the fact that he's dressed like a clown and holding a bloody butcher knife.

Mrs. Myers is so unperturbed by the whole thing that she even puts her hands in her coat pockets as she continues to stare at her little monster.

But don't get me wrong. This is just a minor little glitch in an otherwise excellent movie. I don't want to give the impression that it's bad or riddled with inconsistencies, because it really is worth a watch. I'm not going to point out any more or the mistakes or flaws in it.

Oh, all right. You talked me into it.

The bulk of the movie takes place on October 31st in Haddonfield, Illinois. Look at the scene above. Notice how... lush and green everything looks. The scenery looks downright tropical. 

I can assure you that there's no way the foliage would be that green at the end of October in the Midwest. The leaves would be various shades of red and yellow, if there were any left on the trees at all. Most likely they'd all be lying in the front yard, forcing you to go out and rake them in order to shut up that bellowing slag your friends told you not to marry.

A bit later we see Laurie Strode, the heroine of the movie, walking down the street. This time a few dead leaves blow down the sidewalk in a brave attempt to convince us that it's Fall. It works, for the most part.

Until the very next scene in which the leaves have all magically disappeared again. Whoops!

OK, OK, that's enough. I'm not gonna point out any more problems. It's a really good movie and they made it for next to nothing and it's not fair to-

OK, one more thing.

At the beginning of the movie Michael Myers steals Dr. Loomis' car and speeds away in it.

Michael has been institutionalized since he was six years old. He's never driven a car nor been taught to drive. I guess it's not impossible, as he could have observed his dad driving when he was a kid to see how the pedals and such operate, but it's still a bit iffy.

Michael then drives 150 miles (!) to Haddonfield, where he begins stalking Laurie. One hundred and fifty miles. The distance is even specifically mentioned in dialogue. That's a pretty impressive road trip for someone who's never been behind the wheel before. It's a sure bet he'd have to stop and get gas at least once. Did he pull up to the pump and calmly fill 'er up while wearing his white William Shatner mask? 

And how did he find his way to Haddonfield? He was six years old when he was taken from there. Did he go into the filling station and buy an Illinois road map? Did he have trouble folding it up when he was done?

Once he's driven the 150 miles to Haddonfield, he doesn't stop there. He spends the entire first half of the movie cruising around town, stalking potential victims. He ominously follows young Tommy Doyle, who Laurie often babysits, for several blocks.

He then tails Laurie and her friends in broad daylight.

He even drives right past his nemesis Dr. Loomis, his own personal Captain Ahab. Watch carefully and you'll see Michael patiently waiting for the right of way before he pulls onto the street. He may be a psychopathic killer, but he knows his traffic laws!

Then he starts following Laurie and her friend Annie.

In fact he follows them around until nightfall!. So not only is Michael Myers somehow able to figure out how to drive a car, he figured out how to find Haddonfield, then once there cruised around town for hours without ever once attracting the attention of other motorists or the police. In my mind that's more impressive than his seeming invulnerability.

OK, I'm on a roll. No sense stopping now!

Lastly, I'd like to give Judith's boyfriend credit where credit is due. He definitely deserves some kind of award-- a jackrabbit award perhaps. In the opening scene, he suggests to Judith that the two go upstairs to her bedroom for a romp in the sack. Note the time code at the bottom of the screen as they reach the stairs: 3:17.

At time code 4:41, we see him putting his clothes back on, telling Judith he has to go. That's 1 minute, 24 second later. One minute and twenty four seconds to run up the stairs and into Judith's bedroom, disrobe, do the deed and put his clothes back on. 1:24! That's gotta be some kind of record. And not a good one, where Judith is concerned.

Minor glitches aside, it's still a good movie. Really, it is. Go watch it. 


  1. This cracks me up! I have never seen this movie, and am still afraid to watch it lol. The red car in the photos you shared looks just like the car my stepdad had when I was growing up. Same color, same everything. Bizarre.

  2. As I said in the post, it's definitely worth a watch. More suspenseful than scary, in my opinion.

    The first one is definitely the best. All the many sequels, not so much.


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