Sunday, 31 October 2021

Halloween



Halloween doesn't mess around. Once we pass through a jack-o'-lantern's eye we are immediately deposited inside the head of Michael Myers, the supernatural murderer who drives John Carpenter's film. We are helpless passengers; party to his crimes and slowly being instructed in the structural rhythms that will underline this piece. Halloween presents threat as something intertwined with a sustained, voyeuristic, perspective - violence as an actualisation of leering masculinity. If we stay in this space, contextualising the remainder of the film through the lens of these moments, then Halloween's opening - a famous, (fairly) unbroken point-of-view sequence that takes us inside a house then up the stairs to commit a murder - is clearly the defining moment in Myers' young life. It's the night he seized upon his bubbling desires then, clumsily, trespassed into a realm of satisfaction. 

This first murder seems, in as much as this deliberately vague film allows us to ascribe a motive, to be about jealousy and obsession; a very young Myers struggling with the idea that his sister has a life that does not, solely, revolve around him. We are given no real clue about the interpersonal make-up of this household but, unlike Rob Zombie's revision, this Myers family don't seem especially desperate or emotionally violent. Indeed, the shock of the scene is rooted in its mundanity, the senseless aspect to the murder. Judith Myers isn't seen to rebuke or scold her little brother; her boyfriend neither mocks nor embarrasses him. Michael's justification - whatever it is - is internal, an act born out of the singular, secret, desire to take a kitchen knife and plunge it into his sister's chest. It's key then that Carpenter places this sequence upfront. It isn't recapped once Myers escapes or when the bodies start turning up, it's presented as the film's inciting incident. 

Myers' subsequent life appears to revolve around the events of that night, the murders that follow positioned as fragments of his first, perfect, kill. There's a sense that Myers has spent the intervening years turning these seconds over and over in his mind, dissecting then reassembling that night, thinking of new ways to tackle the same problem - the women (in this instance a group of babysitters) who neither notice nor desire him. Myers has grown physically, to manhood, but his emotional landscape has withered, stuck on the same stunted compulsions. This preoccupation with realising fantasy is evident in the massacre he generates later. Each of Michael's killings are orchestrated to satisfy some sort of desire, perhaps a need for variation to exert itself within his first experience? This obviously lends his murderous actions an uncomfortable, sexual, dimension. The women he slays are objects to him, unfeeling pieces for this killer to exhaust himself upon. Dolls to be rearranged then pulled apart. 

Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie is our way through this madness, her perspective eventually just as important to the film as Michael's. Sequels arranged Laurie into the role of a younger sister for this sitter slasher, making her something closer to an objective that can be chased in perpetuity. Laurie then functioning as quarry across as many films as Curtis was prepared to sign on for. In this first film though the connection between the two characters is based on observation. Michael watches Laurie, sizing her up, marking her as a potential target. Crucially, Laurie notices him too - she stares back at Michael, catching him before he's had a chance to dart away, puncturing the spectral anonymity that Myers otherwise seems to possess. In her friendship group, Laurie is the least experienced. While her friends have steady boyfriends and are both sexually active, Laurie frets about a boy even knowing she's interested in him. In this sense Laurie has not yet fully assumed the self-involved detachment or general passivity associated with adulthood in this film. She survives Michael's attacks because she's still able to tap into the childlike wits we see demonstrated elsewhere, most notably by Brian Andrews' Tommy Doyle, who clocks Nick Castle's The Shape repeatedly. 

No comments: