This is an excellent addition to Auteur Publishing’s ever-expanding ‘Devil’s Advocates’ series of film titles and the second John Carpenter movie to be covered following Jez Conolly’s recent study of The Thing (review here). Murray Leeder’s thoughtful, clearly expressed analysis of Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is far reaching in scope while resisting the temptation to become sidetracked into tackling the film’s sequels, remakes and parodies (ideally, the entire Halloween franchise requires a separate book).
Leeder studies the film’s position as a pioneering slasher film, its openness with regard to the identity of the killer (unlike the many imitators which were to follow) and the theme of the Final Girl in Jamie Lee Curtis’ imperilled babysitter Laurie Strode. One of the most interesting sections of the book asks the question: what does Michael Myers want? Michael’s motivations are certainly open to interpretation — are his killings borne of sexual frustration or is he simply a purely evil killing machine? Why does he target promiscuous babysitters? Elsewhere, Leeder covers a range of issues which shed new light on the thematic and stylistic nuances of the film, and he doesn’t just focus on the wonderful camerawork and memorable score. For example, alongside the acknowledged references to Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) it’s less well known how much of an influence Jack Clayton’s Innocents (1961) had on this film. The many shots of Michael standing completely still, doing nothing but staring, are a direct homage to the silent, watchful ghosts of Quint and Miss Jessel (again, like Michael, they are frequently seen in broad daylight amid ordinary surroundings).
Leeder’s book is a joy to read; it’s insightful and well researched and serves as an encouragement to return to Halloween once again and appreciate it as the seminal horror classic that it deservedly is.
Halloween (Devil’s Advocates) will be published on 8 May