Here we are, at the end of all things SHOCKtober 2023! My, how time flies when you're having horror movies. It's been a terrific time for me, giving a few films a second chance, revisiting some old faves, and watching many more that were entirely new to me--a couple of which have become new faves. But what to choose for the last movie of the month? After much consideration and poring over the list of your favorites until my eyes fell out (it's 951 movies, after all), I said you know what, let me put on some Uggs™, take a sip of my pumpkin spice coffee (my supply is dwindling, by the way), and be a basic bitch: It's time for la raison de la saison. It's time for Halloween (1978).
I actually don't make it mandatory viewing every year, opting instead for anything that feels atmospherically-appropriate because I've seen Halloween so many goddamn times that I could probably do a 99% accurate one-woman show of the entire thing, music cues included. But something about this year, it just felt right. It felt...not fresh, exactly, because that's impossible. It's not as if it would hold any surprises for me, but I was excited all the same. It's like I was the third kid trailing behind Laurie in the pumpkin parade, going "ooooOOOOoooooo."
In the 2010 and 2017 lists of readers' favorite horror films, Halloween ranked #1. In 2020, it dropped to #4, with Suspiria (2018) taking the top spot. I'd be surprised if Suspiria held the top spot next time around--yes, I think that's a perfect film and it certainly ranks as one of my favorites, but it's possible there was some recency bias (or perhaps Gaylords of Darkness listener bias) happening. I could be wrong! We shall see. But I'd be equally surprised to see Halloween regain the top spot. Do the kids jive with it anymore? It feels like no.
Of course, I am generalizing, and there are always going to be those who like to put the stab-stab to horror's sacred cows, calling them "boring" or "not scary" or "not actually that good" or whatever. Scream, it seems, has taken over as the slasher top dog. It's got a healthy, vocal contingent that came of horror age with it, and the newer installations bring back legacy characters while still centering a young demographic. Essentially, Scream keeps on Screamin' in a way that brings together multiple generations of horror fans. It works in a way that Halloween does not and never has, with its offshoots, multiple reboots, explanations, and timelines.
Even though I take a year off from it here and there, though, I'll always love this movie with my whole heart. It's too ingrained. It terrified me too much during the entirety of my youth: That shot of Michael sitting up and turning to look at Laurie was (and honestly, still sort of is) the stuff of nightmares. For a long time of my horror-loving life, I could not envision anything scarier than Michael Myers. Except maybe Pazuzu.
As for Laurie Strode, I think I've been too hard on her in recent years and the fact that it's ultimately Dr Loomis who saves the day, even if the respite is only temporary. I can't help but be dazzled by more proactive gals like your Chris Higgins, or the gals who really fucking went through it like Sally Hardesty. But really, every Final Girl really fucking went through it, yeah? Why am I making this some kind of Final Girl Oppression and Going Through It Olympics?
Girl Scout Laurie goes from watching a monster movies with the two kids in her charge to finding the dead bodies of literally all of her friends in the blink of an eye. She's relentlessly pursued by a maniac--a smooth-walking maniac, but a maniac nonetheless. She runs, she fends him off and fights back on more than one occasion, and she still has the wherewithal to take care of those kids. She's fucking great, and I take back every single moment I cared that Loomis SHOT HIM SIX TIMES.
Speaking of Loomis, I know--I KNOW!--that he's essential for making Michael Myers something more than a mere weirdo. Without Loomis, there is no Shape. But my gawd, Loomis. His diagnosis of Michael, which is that the man is an "it" who is "evil," is based on ~*~vibes~*~. Yes, Michael stabbed his sister to death. There's clearly something going on! But otherwise, we are told that he simply stares at walls. He doesn't hurt anyone in the hospital. He doesn't say a word or make a threatening gensture. But Doctor (DOCTOR!!!) Loomis looks in his eyes and knows he is evil. What fucking Sally Struthers correspondence course did he take to earn his degree certificate?
That said, of course he was right, so thank goodness he didn't opt for Air Conditioner Repair or TV/VCR Repair, amirite?
I had such a great time revisiting this movie. The music still hits. Nick Castle's physicality is oddly underrated when we're talking about great horror performances. I still adore the girls (Annie is forever my sarcastic queen). It's still crazy how quick the sex is between Judith Myers and her boyfriend. I still wonder who was going to look at the Myers house? Like, who was the prospective buyer for whom Laurie Strode had to drop off keys?
So I don't know, if you're anything like me in that you've seen Halloween so many times that you love it but you also you've wrung every last possible drop of in-the-moment enjoyment from it...maybe you haven't. Maybe you'll find yourself wishing you had it all alone...just the two of you. What I'm really talking about here is FATE.
I guess that's a wrap on it! Thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting and the such, it's been a hoot indeed. If you want to keep up with Thanks to everyone who has subscribed at Avenue X. I'll keep cross-posting Final Girl content here and posting other writing. I've also been guesting a lot recently on the Evolution of Horror podcast--many of my episodes are on the Patreon, but there are free ones, too. I also still have my column in every issue of Rue Morgue magazine--I've usually got a few reviews in there as well, and the occasional feature. Just throwing that all out there.
So I'll be around a few places and back here soon. Until then, as always, make every tober a SHOCKtober!