Tuesday, October 10, 2017

he was watching me

So then there's little ol' me. What am I--two, three, four, five? Somewhere in there. My brain is still figuring out what the fuck all of the things around me are for, and blessed with the wonder that is cinema, movies are just one of many stimuli that get injected into the mix. And, Halloween is just one of those movies. But, oh what a movie. Whether you take Michael as representative of fate, of death, of the inevitable, of moral judgment, of Laurie Strode's id--yes, that's a thing; just see Muir (2009) and it's right there along with his section about fate--Michael is some... thing. However much he appears an average kid in that opening, however much he looks like a normal man without his mask (when Laurie briefly gets it off of him right before Loomis shoots him), and however much the sequels explain him, he is a force of nature, or a force beyond nature. More supernatural than natural...

Except, that isn't really true. I mean, in this film and this film alone. Only in the end, after he has been stabbed with a knitting needle, a hanger, and a knife, and been shot six times--and all of this in a matter of minutes--is he really supernatural. But he is amazingly omnipresent, seemingly omniscient--he doesn't cut off the phone line to the Doyle house until 1) Laurie will be trying to call for help and 2) her failure to do so will make the situation scarier, for example--and he is some sort of mechanical genius--setting out the bodies of Lynda and Bob to pop out just at the right time to frighten Laurie the most--while he seems puzzled by the very mortality of his victims that he is taking advantage of in killing them. Because, perhaps, he doesn't expect them to remain "dead" once he has "killed" them. Michael is, of course, mentally a child, isn't he? He has done nothing but sit in a hospital and stare emptily since he was six years of age. In fact, he is effectively playing a game with Laurie--and with Tommy, mind you; he stalks Tommy first--by circling in on her slowly, building up the tension until he's reached peak fear.

Which is also why he works as a sort of id embodied... But this becomes problematic as you will see. Muir suggests that the specific inclusion of footage from Forbidden Planet might be deliberate because that film--a future-set patch on Shakespeare's The Tempest--involves the id of Dr. Edward Morbius taking on form and sabotaging his mission and killing his crew. Laurie is the uptight one of the female trio at the heart of Halloween, the one who refrains from acting on her impulses. She is interested in a boy, but Annie initially balks not just at Laurie's interest in a boy but here mere interest in anything to do with the dance at all. Laurie does smoke a joint with Annie, but she chokes, she coughs, and she's paranoid about Sheriff Brackett knowing what she was doing. She is the studious one, lamenting that she forgot her chemistry book. She is the Girl Scout, bringing a pumpkin along to her babysitting gig so that she and Tommy can make a jack-o-lantern. Muir takes a quote from Carpenter as support of this id theory--

John Carpenter himself lends some credence to this Freudian interpretation of Halloween by noting that Laurie, "The one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing this guy with a long knife... Not because she's a virgin but because all that repressed sexual energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy... She doesn't have a boyfriend, and she finds someone--him." (Danny Peary, Cult Movies. Delacorte Press, 1981, page 126). (Muir, 2009, para. 15)

Ever the picker of nits, I must point out that, no, Laurie doesn't "keep" stabbing Michael with a long knife. She stabs him with a knitting needle, she stabs him with a hanger, then she stabs him with a knife. One time for each one. Also, I really wish I could remember where I saw--and I swear it was Carpenter himself saying it--that the whole sexual transgression leads to death angle was coincidence; what they really were implying wasn't that Laurie was good and that's why she survived but that Laurie was simply not as distracted so she was able to see Michael coming. But, maybe the distinction there is really just a chicken or the egg problem. What mattered most is what we take from the film, anyway, not necessarily what they put into it. If we see that conservative message--premarital sex is bad, bad people must be punished--than that is what the movie is about. The further explanation from the sixth film actually suggests that morality has nothing to do with it; Michael is there to kill Laurie because (as retconned in Halloween II, she is his sister and he is supposed to sacrifice his family. The thorn cult stuff is actually supported by Michael's awakening in the opening of Halloween 4, but is a bit confusing when Michael follows Tommy around before he ever follows Laurie in this film. On a practical level, of course, this is because each film was made separately, and different filmmakers got involved. The mythology grew. The same sort of expansion happens with Freddy and Jason as well. Later films must justify themselves by building upon what came before with something more than just a body count. And, speaking of body counts, while Halloween II's body count is higher, since Carpenter is involved, you can see that most of the kills there serve Michael's need to get closer to Laurie. Not all of them, but then again, maybe he is simply acting out Laurie's request, that she wants him all alone, just the two of them. Plus, that second film references Samhain (mispronounced as so many people mispronounce it) as the Celtic lord of the dead, which is just as wrong as the pronunciation, but in the film's universe, we could take this as setting up the revelations of the sixth film.

Or we could come back to the id.


Laurie is the sexually repressed one of the group. And, who dies here (not counting Chris Hastings--the guy whose clothes Michael takes, a character who got a name and a backstory in in a comic called "Halloween: White Ghost"...

(An odd sidenote: taking the events of that comic into account, the presence of that matchbook from the Rabbit in Red Lounge in Hastings' truck is just a coincidence, and it's not actually the same matchbook from the station wagon dashboard that Loomis notices earlier in the film. Since the film never quite frames it so that Loomis necessarily notices the dead body in the grass there, this means Loomis is connecting dots that aren't really there.)

--or the two dogs Michael kills) except for the sexually active friends close to Laurie? The one detail that could ruin the id theory, though, is that at best, Laurie was a toddler when her older brother killed her older sister back in 1963. But, even then, maybe she was there in that house while Judith was having sex with Danny Hodges. And it wasn't about sexual repression yet, of course, but little Cynthia Myers (the future Laurie Strode) was jealous. She couldn't punish Judith herself, of course, but she could call out psychically to her big brother, and what then of Michael? Losing who he was in favor of this singular impulse of his baby sister. He picks up a weapon, he dons a new face to hide the one he no longer needs, and he murders his older sister because she put her own base needs before looking after the baby.

Michael couldn't be himself, again, of course. So, he is hospitalized. And, there he remains until one day, Laurie sees her friends doing things she wishes she could do. And, Michael is called back to Haddonfield.

 

 

 

 

 

But, I was talking about me.

Works Cited

Muir, J.K. (2009, October 31). "The Tao of Michael Myers? Or The Hidden 'Shapes' of John Carpenter's Halloween (1978)." John Kenneth Muir. Retrieved from https://johnkennethmuir.wordpress.com/2009/10/31/the-tao-of-michael-myers-or-the-hidden-shapes-of-john-carpenters-halloween-1978/

4 comments:

  1. Aside from the unrelated Halloween III, which I love, I haven't seen any of the sequels (that I can remember...I watched a LOTTA horror films as a kid, but I don't have your power of recall). After reading all that stuff about the mythology, I don't think I ever will see them, either. Sounds like they ruined the sublime simplicity of the premise.

    I find the concept of Michael spending all those years staring into space, perhaps, the scariest part of the movie.

    The Forbidden Planet thing is interesting. I'd never noticed it before. Usually I dismiss Freudian interpretations, but thar detail makes it difficult in this case.

    Other than Freddy vs. Jason, I've never seen a Jason film. Are they good on any level.
    vs

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  2. The first Friday is a classic. I actually listed the fourth in the series (The Final Chapter) as my "top" slasher film in my YouTube countdown last year. I think from 6 (Jason Lives) through 9 (Jason Goes to Hell), they are actually increasingly well made films in their own right (aside from a bit of silliness in 8 (Jason Takes Manhattan). And Jason Goes to Hell in particular is a pretty good film, slasher, horror, or otherwise.

    The good thing with a series like that is you could skip the worse films (3 and 5) and stop before you get to X, and the movies will still work. You could even skip 7 and 8... actually, if you watched 1, 2 (which isn't as good but is necessary), 4, 6, and then 9, you'd have a fine slasher series right there.

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    1. Thanks. I will give them a go. Very intrigued you rated the fourth so highly. It's funny I've missed seeing them completely considering I watched every horror film I could in my childhood.

      But I don't think anything (not even Halloween) could beat Scream as my all-time favourite slasher!!

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    2. Specifically, I rated the fourth as I did because of its role as exemplar of what a slasher film is. Not necessarily because it is the best

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