Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “Halloween.”
The Movie: “Halloween”
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran
Director: John Carpenter
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96 percent
Froemming: Last week, we watched a wholly unnecessary remake of a horror classic with “Psycho,” a movie so lousy I am surprised Gus Van Sant was allowed to direct again. It reminded me of four years ago, when we did a similar thing in the first year of The JOE-DOWN, on our first Halloween Month, when we watched the awful Rob Zombie remake of “Halloween.” A movie that added back story to a character who was more frightening as a blank slate than a troubled kid who listened to KISS and whose mom was Sheri Moon Zombie.
Now, to quote Michael Scott, how the turntables have…
That’s right, this week I picked the original 1978 John Carpenter horror classic “Halloween,” the movie that really ushered in the classic era of slasher horror films. And, quite frankly, John Carpenter movies are always a blast to watch for these reviews. If only he made a movie with John Travolta, then we’d have the perfect JOE-DOWN movie.
Brown, as I ponder how Michael Myers learned how to drive a car after spending most of his life in a mental institute, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?
Brown: By my count, we have reviewed six of the 18 movies John Carpenter has directed. Once we review all of his movies, I think the JOE-DOWN has to end. He’s on our Mount Rushmore with Travolta, Cage and Wiseau.
As for “Halloween,” I’ve seen this movie a couple times. It’s the archetype for all the ‘80s slasher icons like Freddie, Jason and Chucky. As far as my interests, there is no Undertaker in the WWF/E without Michael Myers. And without “Halloween,” Rob Zombie would have just stuck to music.
… OK, that last point goes in the negative column.
Now, while I go find my William Shatner mask, get us started, Froemming.
Froemming: It is Halloween night, 1963 in Haddonfield, Ill. where get a first-person POV shot. We are seeing the world through the eyes of young Michael Myers, who peeps on his sister and her 40-year-old boyfriend making out through the window. So, add being a little pervert to Michael’s laundry list of issues.
We watch as Michael sneaks into the house, watches the elderly boyfriend leave after his good old-fashioned hump session with Judith Myers. Michael puts on a clown mask (that kinda looks like the ones the people wore in “Joker”) and stabs his topless sister to death with a knife.
He then runs out of the house, his parents show up seeing him with a bloody knife and a dazed look on his face.
BOOM! That is all we (REDACTED) need for an origin story for this guy, Rob Zombie. It works, you chucklehead.
Brown: Froemming, I keep seeing you use that term “chucklehead.” And I love it!
Now, I have a bunch of things to point out on this origin sequence, which, I agree, it does better in three minutes than Zombie did in, what, 40?
- I’m assuming the Myers family was doing OK for itself. Wanna know why? Michael goes into the house and the family owns a stand mixer. Stand mixers are status items.
- You’re right about Judith’s boyfriend in that he looks like he’s at least 30. I think everyone aged 20 years in the ‘70s, probably due to that peanut-farmin’ sissy lib Jimmy Carter.
- That hump-and-dump by Judith and her boyfriend ended rather quick. I guess that’s consistent with him being a teen.
- Michael’s motives for stabbing his sister are as flimsy as her reaction to being stabbed. For all the good performances in this movie, from Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle as Michael, there are equally bad acting performances, started with Judith.
- Final point I’ll make for now: HUGE juxtaposition from Zombie’s movie as far as the Myers’ parents. In Zombie’s movies, they’re loud, obnoxious rednecks. Here, they’re yuppies, just standing around asking what’s wrong to Michael and not, you know, taking the bloody knife away from their post-murder trance son.
Froemming: You wrote more on the first three minutes of this movie than is what was written in the script.
Now we flash forward 15 years to 1978, where Dr. Loomis and a nurse are driving in Smith’s Grove, Ill. to pick up Michael Myers, bring him to a judge and have him sentenced for life because the good doctor thinks the man is pure evil. But we are a society of laws, Loomis, you can’t condemn a man to rot in a cell for the rest of his life because you get bad vibes from him.
As they pull up, they notice there are patients wandering the grounds, which seems suspicious because they are normally locked in padded rooms for everyone’s safety.
Loomis gets out of the car to investigate, a rookie move on the doctor’s part. Because as soon as he gets out, Michael (looking more like a lost member of the Bay City Rollers than a WWE superstar in Zombie’s flick) jumps on the roof of the car and terrorizes the nurse.
Brown: Michael runs and jumps on the car and I was laughing so hard because they used a sound effect awfully similar to when Steve Austin would do anything superhuman in “The Six-Million Dollar Man.”
The nurse, who just witnessed an inmate jump onto the roof of her car, decides the best course of action is to *checks notes* roll the car window down?!
Froemming: Bigger question during this…
Brown: It’s not a jailbreak so much as an escape from the …
Froemming: …is when did Michael Myers, locked up and has not said a word in 15 years, learn to DRIVE A CAR??! They do bring it up later, and the best part is Loomis yells at the hospital warden or whatever that Michael was driving pretty well when he escaped.
Now it is Oct. 31, the next day, and Halloween once again falls upon the fine, pot-smoking folks of Haddonfield, Ill. We meet Laurie Strode, who depending on what continuity you follow of the multiple sequels, may or may not be Michael’s long-lost sister.
She is walking to school, when she is harassed by young Tommy Doyle, pestering her about what they will be doing that night for Halloween. I imagine Tommy’s parents plan on getting hammered that night. Good for them. Halloween is much more enjoyable to me for a drinking holiday than St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s.
Brown: It helps both of us as well that we live in apartments and don’t have to spend all night having to hand out candy. Especially in COVID times.
While Laurie is walking to school, she sees a beige station wagon stalking about. And when she’s at school, she looks out the window and sees a lumbering figure standing by that station wagon, sporting coveralls and a mask.
… Were people just able to loiter like this around schools in the ‘70s? That (REDACTED) gets you locked up within the hour nowadays.
Froemming: It was legal, before Bill Clinton took away our freedoms to lurk around schools in spooky masks.
Brown: Guess bored kids in the midwest will have to just lurk around tennis courts in clown masks, like what happened in your town, Froemming!
Along with Laurie’s building paranoia, Tommy is getting harassed by classmates.
Why? Because the Boogie Man comes out on Halloween!
While running away, Tommy falls onto a pumpkin he was carrying and man, I’ve seen wet cardboard with more structural integrity than this pumpkin had.
After school Laurie walks home with her friends Annie and Lynda, who are REALLLLL horned up for Halloween.
Froemming: Can you blame Lynda when she had this guy sing to her?
Brown: I love The Ramones, but Joey Ramone is the ugliest rock star.
Froemming: Roger Waters and Ringo Starr would like a word with you on that.
Brown: Lemmy, too, I imagine.
Froemming: One thing I like about this movie is showing Michael in broad daylight, but only in glimpses. It makes it more creepy, I think, seeing weird shit in the daytime. And as Lynda splits off, Annie and Laurie are talking and whatnot about that night, when Laurie sees Michael behind a bush, only to vanish when Annie investigates.
Where did Michael get that jumpsuit? Well, we learn that when Loomis finds Michael’s hospital whites near an abandoned mechanic’s truck. If only our doctor walked four more feet, he would have seen the dead body of the poor son-of-a-bitch who Michael killed for his ratty clothes.
Also, when Laurie walks home she sees trick-or-treaters already out at, what, 3:30 in the afternoon? What kind of weirdo kid does that?
Brown: Well, this is a world where kids were leaving school in summer clothes (see: shorts, light tops) when it’s supposed to be Oct. 31 in Illinois. Also, there’s palm trees in the graveyard. Maybe trick-or-treating in California (where this movie was CLEARLY shot) happens in the afternoon because, hey, it’s 6:30 p.m. on the East Coast, it’s late enough for us, too! It’s like how Californians get to watch NFL football at 10 a.m. because of timezone differences.
Yes, I know I’m stretching. Carpenter used Michael Bay-to-Ben Affleck reasoning.
Going back to the graveyard, we see Loomis make his way into Haddonfield and heads to the cemetery where Michael’s sister was buried. Here, the good doctor finds that Judith’s headstone has been dug out, presumably by Michael.
He’s returned home. And is apparently as strong as a forklift because he was able to lift a headstone straight out of the ground? It’s not like there’s drag marks near the site where he could have used a vehicle to pull it out. Nope. Plucked out of the ground like a carrot.
Froemming: After this, we have Laurie and Annie getting stoned and listening to BOC’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” which I feel like is a tradition that continues to this day by teens across America.
Brown: I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that BOC’s guitarist is called Buck Dharma. I dunno if I think that’s cool or really lame.
Froemming: Depends on the amount of cowbell he contributed I think.
Well, their stoned adventure takes a bad turn when they see Annie’s dad, who is a cop, outside a store that was burglarized. For a cop, he must be smell-blind, because if there is something that really stinks up things, it is pot. And he doesn’t bat an eye at these two.
He is also crime-blind as well, because he lists the things stolen from the shop: Mask, rope and knives. He probably would not have found Ted Bundy’s murder kit suspicious either.
They take off again, and you know, for stoners, they truly lack that paranoia that most others get from the drug, because they have no idea that the station wagon they keep seeing is following them.
Brown: NOT JUST following them, following them FOR HOURS! It was bright outside when that beige station wagon started following Laurie and Annie. It’s pitch dark out and he’s STILL following them.
Is the dumbassery Annie is experiencing genetic, considering that her dad couldn’t tell that Annie and Laurie were hotboxing and listening to Blue Öyster Cult?
… Whatever. She’ll pay for that later.
Loomis meets up with Sheriff Brackett (Annie’s dad) and they head to the ol’ Myers place. Here, they see a dead dog on the floor that appears to have been eaten.
See, Rob Zombie, this is how you create a monster. Not with paper-plate masks and heavy-metal haircuts. Have your movie insinuate that your antagonist KILLS AND EATS A DOG.
Froemming: Loomis says he will stay at the Myers home, since Michael will probably return at some point to snack on the pooch again.
Now we have Laurie babysitting Tommy, while Annie is watching Lindsey across the street. I did love that the little girl is watching the original “The Thing,” a movie Carpenter would later remake that we both really loved.
Annie spills, what, butter on her shirt while making popcorn and talking on the phone and has to do an emergency wash, which the washer and dryer are in the shed in the backyard? This feels like the rich neighborhood of Haddonfield, and if it is, the rest of the town will probably make fun of the rich kids who were dumb enough to get killed by an escaped mental patient.
Brown: How does Annie think it’s OK to walk around the neighborhood without pants for the next 30 minutes? She gets undressed in the kitchen (with a child, what, 10 feet away?) and throws on a dress shirt that was sitting in the entryway? That shirt was probably there for a reason, Annie.
Froemming: It was legal to walk around neighborhoods without pants, before Barack Obama took away our rights to do so. Thanks a lot, Obama.
Brown: Also, explain to me how the power appears out in the laundry room, yet Annie loads up the washer like it’s going to work.
ALSO, explain to me how Annie locks the laundry room after getting spooked, only for Lindsey to open the laundry room FROM THE OUTSIDE when Annie gets stuck trying to sneak out the window.
Froemming: Because shut the (REDACTED) up, that’s why.
Brown: One point I will not shut up about: Why are Tommy and Lindsey not trick-or-treating? We see Tommy in a costume but has no candy. Lindsey, nothing. What kind of monster parents do they have that their parents didn’t let them trick-or-treat? Laurie can take Tommy; she’s not doing anything. And she can take Lindsey with since Annie is really craving her boyfriend’s king-sized candy bar.
Froemming: There was always that one kid in school who had parents who belonged to some crackpot religion that denied their children to enjoy what everyone else was.
That might be the case here with Lindsey and Tommy.
Also, when trapped in the window, her yelling for Lindsey sounded a lot like Nathan yelling MIMSYYYY!
Yeah, Annie dumps Lindsey with Laurie so she can party with Lynda and some dudes, which seems pretty unfair to Laurie. She heads to her car, which is locked and is reminded she needs her keys to drive. Stoner brain, ammirite?
Brown: Hell if I know. I never smoked pot.
Froemming: She finds them and heads back to the garage, where the car is now unlocked, which she does not seem troubled with.
She probably should have. It might have saved her life. Because she gets in the car, realizes the windows are fogged up (Michael is breathing pretty heavily in that Shatner mask) and Myers grabs her from the backseat, killing her.
Now, the faces the actors make in this when killed is hilarious. I think her eyes crossed like she was in a Three Stooges short.
Brown: I was waiting for Annie to meet her pantsless end in the same way Morrie did in “Goodfellas.”
Tommy sees Michael carrying Annie’s lifeless body into the house and starts freaking the (REDACTED) out. But, Laurie keeps telling him that the Boogie Man is not real. Except for the one that sports bell bottoms and sings about the way he likes it (a-huh, a-huh).
And around this time, the most despicable characters of the movie show up across the street in Lynda and Bob.
Why are they so terrible, you ask? Well, let’s run down the checklist:
- Drinking and driving in a suburban neighborhood full of children trick-or-treating.
- Going to another person’s house for the sole purpose of having gross unprotected ‘70s sex.
- For reasons I don’t understand, they bring a lit pumpkin into the room they screw in.
- Worst of all, Bob jokes about ripping off Lindsey’s clothes and having her join in their fun. Lindsey is, what, 7 years old?!
I’m OK with their eventual demise.
Froemming: Bob looks like Jeffery Dahmer. He deserved Michael sticking him with a knife so hard he is stuck on the wall like a poster.
Then Michael puts on a sheet and Bob’s glasses, and terrorizes Lynda. She thinks it is Bob being an ass, but it really is Michael being an ass. And when she calls Laurie, Michael strangles her with the phone cord.
I do not remember phone cords being that strong growing up in the 80s-90s. No way in hell Michael killed her in this fashion. Laurie, meanwhile, thinks it is Annie making sex noises to her on the phone.
They sure have a weird friendship.
Brown: I’m glad I have friends that didn’t call me in mid-coitus. Either they have manners or else weren’t getting laid enough to do that. I’m guessing the latter.
It’s here that Loomis FINALLY sees the beige station wagon from the insane asylum carjacking.
… Loomis, it’s been down the street from you LITERALLY all night. Can people in this movie only see seven feet in front of them like a genome soldier from “Metal Gear Solid?” No one in Haddonfield has proper awareness of anything!
Sensing that something is up, Laurie decides to go across the street to check on her friends.
This is how I think Laurie imagined how this would go.
Froemming: Nothing good can come from going into a spooky house to check on missing friends. That is just science, people.
Laurie does, and enters a bedroom where she sees Annie splayed out in a …
With Judith Myers gravestone behind her head.
She then is spooked as Bob’s dead body swings out of the closet, then she sees Lynda with the goofiest dead person look on her face crammed into a cabinet of sorts.
That’s what you get for a night of pot smoking and bumping uglies.
Brown: Michael’s strength is weird in this movie. He apparently has the power to lift a headstone out of the ground, across town and up a flight of stairs to where Annie’s corpse is. But, he’ll have trouble opening a flimsy closet door in a bit.
Anyways, Michael slashes Laurie’s arm and pushes her down the stairs. Not at the base of the stairs, mind you, but over the railing and onto the stairs. Ouch! That would probably (REDACTED) you up worse, but Laurie gets it together and tries to run out the door. Only, Michael propped the patio door closed with a rake, which Laurie eventually breaks the glass door to unhinge.
This movie would be an A++ if it had the wherewithal to have Michael step on the rake and blast himself in the face like Sideshow Bob.
But I guess it’s a bit much to ask a movie to do the same joke a TV show would do, what, 15 years later?
Froemming: Laurie runs to one house screaming bloody murder, the owners turn on the porch lights, look, see nothing but trouble and promptly shut their lights off again.
Real dick move there, neighbors.
Brown: That is the most midwestern part of this movie.
Froemming: Laurie then runs back to the Doyle house, where she has to throw a potted plant at Tommy’s window so the little shit wakes up to let her inside the place.
And he takes his sweet ass time moseying down the stairs to let his cut up and frazzled babysitter into the house.
She has Tommy go upstairs to hide with Lindsey, and as she looks over the place, notices a window is open, so you know she is in trouble.
Not the kind of trouble some knitting needles can’t handle though.
Brown: Yeah, Michael gets a knitting needle in his neck, only to shake that off and chase Laurie upstairs. She hides in a closet, which is the first place that Michael looks for her. And like I mentioned before, Michael takes an embarrassingly long time to break through the door for a guy who can hoist a full-grown man/teenager up by the neck. However, Laurie takes a wire hanger to Michael’s eye.
Way to use combat strategy from Dwight Schrute: The eyes are the groin of the face.
Froemming: With Michael down, Laurie has the kids run up the road to safety. And when Loomis sees them, he realizes Michael is in the house they just bolted out of. Apparently he can’t hear very well either, because I am pretty sure just minutes ago Laurie was screaming, very loudly, for help.
Laurie is sitting there, holding the knife she used to stab Michael after she poked him in the eye with the wire hanger, again, like a Three Stooges short, and we see him bolt up like the Undertaker getting his second wind in a WWE match.
He then attacks Laurie, who yanks off his mask for a brief moment, and we see what Michael Myers looks like: A doofus with a lazy eye due to wire hanger stabbing.
Brown: Yeah, unmasked Michael looked a little like child Jason Vorhees, only with hair and less soggy.
Here, Loomis shows up and does what any red-blooded American would do: Shoot first, ask questions later!
Froemming: Do you think that is how he became president of the United States in “Escape from New York?“
Brown: Clearly. I just wish Loomis would have kept shouting “YOU’RE THE DUKE” at Michael when he unloaded his revolver on him.
Since bullets are Michael’s only weakness, Loomis shoots Michael out of a second-story window and onto the cushy
California Illinois grass outside. Loomis checks on Laurie, then checks where Michael fell, only to see that Michael is gone.
Know what Loomis really needed here? A cool one-liner like Busta Rhymes had in “Halloween: Resurrection.”
Froemming: Let’s drive our beige station wagons down to recommendations!
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Oh yeah, it is a good slasher movie and Carpenter’s score is really great in it.
Brown: Of course. “Halloween” is a classic for a reason.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: