The Lasting Mark of John Carpenter’s “Halloween”

The best way to explain the considerable impact John Carpenter’s original slasher has had on me can best be expressed through that infamous Halloween eve when I was a kid. Long before cable, network television played horror movies on Halloween; My brother and I were given the option to watch either “Creepshow” or “Halloween” my brother and I took the option of sitting to watch “Halloween.” I can fondly remember it as one of the worst Halloweens ever because when we sat to watch John Carpenter’s classic we were so scared by the second half that we started crying. This decision later was regretted by us and my mom took the time out to calm us down by letting us watch “Creepshow.”

The movie affected us, sure, but not nearly as much as the shapeless, formless, merciless pale monster known as Michael Myers. Even after so many years of attempted obscurity and separation from the source material, even after a wholly uneven story line based around the mark of thorn and Michael attempting to off his family blood line and even after Rob Zombie tried to add rationale to Myers psychotic meltdown as the shape, 1978’s “Halloween” is still an unstoppable juggernaut of a horror film going in to its thirties.

Even with the alternate universe 2018 sequel to “Halloween” where Michael was housed for decades in an asylum and returned to wreak havoc, he still manages to be terrifying. We even get the heavy implication that Laurie Strode was but a blip on Michael’s radar, as he was mysteriously drawn to Haddonfield, and still he creates a campaign of vicious violence on the denizens of the small town he once terrorized. I figure if there’s someone to go to within my grasp about “Halloween” it’d be the man who wrote all of the fantastic “Halloween” comics.

Stefan Hutchinson of Devil’s Due Publishing explained to me that “The reason that The Shape became iconic was probably that he comes straight from the unconscious. He appears in a dreamlike manner that belies his brutal physical nature. I think it’s primarily because [the movie is] so simple. Its primal horror in that it taps into faceless fears and shadows in the corner of the bedroom. Halloween deals with archetypes and broad strokes – with traditional fears coming to life in an everyday setting.”

I think what’s made Michael such a prominent force in the horror genre in spite of being outed as a sort of rip off of “Billy” from 1977’s “Black Christmas” is that he’s such an enigmatic force. He targets mainly women and is compelled to essentially violate them as much as possible without ever actually penetrating them sexually and yet when he’s approached with a dominant male force his impulse is to stop them and destroy every essence of their being. Take Lynda’s rendezvous with her boyfriend in “Halloween.” Michael’s psychotic urges don’t so much seem to act upon his need for murder but in his demand for attention and sexual confusion.

When he impales Lynda’s boyfriend in the 1978 original, he takes away every inch of manhood he possesses and then tilts his head, thus taking on his form which he uses to destroy Lynda who is vulnerable and in the buff. I like to believe that Michael didn’t so much demand Judith’s attention as he was in love with her; which I believe is where much of his merciless power stems from. He wants to keep re-enacting the death of his sister and does so twice in the original Carpenter film. For further validation on this theory, take the story P.O.V. in “30 Years of Terror” that allows Michael to re-enact Judith’s death yet again.

Michael is an amorphous entity without a single semblance of logic to his murders. Sure his obsession with his sister is one cornerstone in his methodology, but like Hutchinson’s comics, this monster creeps in to every inch of his victims lives and affects them without their realization. He’s the bogey man, a force of nature whose own mask acts as a manifestation of the blank soulless guise that leads him to choose Laurie Strode. Long before we discovered they were brother and sister, Laurie was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and she survived. Hence why Michael’s continued fascination with her progressed in to the series eventually leading in to “H20.”

It’s also likely why he was drawn to her granddaughter Allyson in 2018’s “Halloween.” What “Halloween” has done for so many years that many horror movies haven’t, is kept that air of mystery, that riddle to the begging questions that we never truly were able to have answered; and because of that it’s remained a truly entertaining glimpse at seasonal terror that’s impossible to explain, without reason, and completely without remorse. When you’re trick or treating this year, look out for the bogey man and fear the man behind the mask, because there just may be another Michael Myers lurking somewhere wishing he had you all alone. “Halloween” is still an unstoppable cinematic force, much like the boogeyman. Keep an extra eye toward your windows.