Death has come to your little town, Sheriff.– Loomis
John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher, Halloween. There’s not much more to say about it really, given the reams of essays written about it and its influence on modern horror cinema. I’ve watched it every Halloween since I was introduced to it in high school by a savvy creative writing teacher (hi Miss Cooper!). It’s one of the few annual traditions I hold to.
There are other Carpenter films I enjoy more – The Fog (1980), for instance. But there’s something about this one that sticks in the mind. It’s at once realistic and nightmarish; while there’s no overt supernatural element, Michael Myers’ implacability and utter lack of dialogue serve to create an atmosphere of the inhuman about him – he is simply the Shape. He has no personality, no motivation, no…anything, save his knife and mask. He is a vessel, full of cacodemonic malice and nothing else.
Myers is a force, rather than a character, but with brief flashes of spiteful humour; the trick in the treat, the bump in the night. He stalks his prey; teases and taunts them. He waits for a moment of his choosing – as killers go, he’s less opportunistic than cinematic. He chooses the moments for the fear they will elicit, the pain they will cause. He’s a giallo killer loose in suburban America.
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode is the perfect foil for such a monster. She is…utterly human. Normal. The only thing special about Laurie Strode is that she’s not special at all, save that where her peers die she manages to survive. Indeed, her durability mirrors Myers’ own monstrous resilience. Strode, like her tormenter, is iron at her core. If Myers is a sword, Strode is the shield, deflecting him again and again, until Donald Pleasance’s obsessed Dr. Loomis manages to corner and slay the monster he’s so doggedly sought.
Except, of course, that he doesn’t. Michael Myers survives. It’s what he does. And if recent additions to the franchise Carpenter unwittingly spawned have proven anything it’s Laurie Strode survives as well. Like Van Helsing and Dracula, they’re two sides of the same dark coin, destined to go round and round again and again.