by Levi Olson
(aka The Unknown Murderer)
The following post contains major spoilers for John Carpenter’s “Halloween” (1978).
I wondered what was going on in this movie because John Carpenter has denied the film is a moralistic punishment of premarital sex, and he hasn’t explained what he was going for, either.
A scene with Annie and Laurie turned out to be the crucial piece of the puzzle that I needed, and I’d like to give some examples of what I found:
When Laurie is talking with Annie while they were driving in Annie’s car, she seems to be overreacting to the idea of going out with Ben Tramer. This underlines her fear of moving forward in her relation to men. This is after she sings to herself, “I wish I had you all alone,” and Michael steps out from behind a hedge(?) to watch her walk away.
Also, it’s inarguable that Michael’s first murder is sexual in nature. When he’s watching the knife come down as he stabs his sister, the act of killing, to him, is obviously an imitation of the sex act. And his sister is making some pretty funny noises…
Listen to Laurie’s conversations regarding boys and relationships throughout the movie. Then, note that when she finally meets Michael, he represents her worst fears in two things:
1. His face is a blank, because she doesn’t know what her future lover will look like.
And I’m not trying to be dirty or crude here, but:
2. Note the thing in his hand that he wants to penetrate her with. When he does so, he will draw blood and she will “die.”
Now, notice that Laurie’s friends are not afraid of sexual intercourse. This is why when Annie and Linda die, they die by strangling. Their deaths are sexually charged: Annie in a car, steaming up the windows, and Linda by telephone cord, which is mistaken by Laurie for a phone-sex prank. Both of the girls make obviously sexual noises when they die. They’ve already been where Laurie is afraid to go, so penetration means nothing to them. This is not a punishment of their behavior; it simply reinforces that Michael is Laurie’s boogeyman and manifestation of her worst fear, not theirs.
When Michael kills Bob, he does so with a knife, which is weird … but Bob’s never been penetrated before (that we know of). And when Michael cocks his head, I’d like to think he’s wondering what Bob’s got that he doesn’t.
Laurie is most comfortable being with children. She’s still a child herself, but her friends are not, because their childhood selves “died.” In fact, she is hiding behind the kids during most of the film in an attempt to avoid dating, which she fears could lead to the death of her childhood self. She takes Annie’s responsibility upon herself, freeing up her friends to go and mess around with their boyfriends. This seems to be a selfless thing at first, but she is simply afraid. Of course, when she faces her boogeyman in the end, she does the right thing and protects the children by putting herself between them and Michael.
When Michael is trying to kill Laurie near the end of the film, they move from the couch to the upstairs bedroom, just like his sister did in the beginning. But Laurie retreats into a closet, as far as she can go, and fights back multiple times with a penetrating weapon which holds male symbolism, I think.
Loomis is a true father figure because he shows up at the end of the film to put some bullets into Laurie’s boogeyman, just like any good dad should if someone is trying to “kill” a daughter. Then, he agrees with Laurie that Michael is the boogeyman.
I love this movie. It’s a masterpiece, and if John Carpenter knows what he was doing — and I suspect he knows full well — he created a simply perfect horror film. It took me many, many watches before the last piece of the puzzle clicked, and I saw what was going on (that’s on me, not the movie!) and it made me realize that any horror film worth its salt will feature a villain that represents the worst fears of the main character(s) in a subtextual way.
P.S. You know that scene near beginning of the film where Laurie just got out of school and heads upstairs to her bedroom, only to look out her window and see Michael staring at her near the laundry?
He’s “between the sheets.”
John Carpenter knew full well what he was doing.