There's always a danger when you watch older films. Things have been copied and improved upon in more recent films, and the original one can seem stale, boring, or slow. There's also the matter of hype. People regard a film as a classic, they praise certain characters, they regard it highly as one of their favorites. So I was originally very excited to sit down and watch the original Halloween, but I left it very disappointed.
One of the things I noticed very early on and stuck with me throughout the entirety of the film is the way it is shot. The film opens with a killing scene. It's very slow and deliberate and not entirely shocking. We're seeing it happen through the killer's eyes and the killer happens to be wearing a mask, so we only see through the eye holes. While that in and of itself is very clever, it was ruined for me by the fact that the way we could see the knife through the left eye hole and the location of the victim meant the knife couldn't have possibly been making contact. I understand he didn't want to show the full on gore, but it sure seems to me you can make a choice to have the knife visible and yet still film it right. Similar things would happen later in the film, particularly in car scenes. The killer gets into a car alone, and it's a sort of police car, with a barrier between the front and back seat. The camera follows the killer into the car then films from the backseat even though we are supposedly seeing what the killer is watching. Again later two girls are driving to their babysitting jobs, and the camera is sitting in the backseat behind them even though there's no one in the backseat. Perhaps he was trying to create a sort of feeling of always being watched, but for me it just felt wrong.
This is also just an incredibly slow moving movie. Beyond the opening scene, there is no killing until 50 minutes in. Before that we get a lot of, well, I can't call it character development or story development - we follow Laurie and her friends around, and occasionally get a scene of Michael Myers' psychiatrist Loomis trying to convince the police that his patient is a threat. Even as the killing begins it's very slow moving, as no one realizes the first victim is dead, and it takes a while for him to kill the next two. When all the previous victims are finally revealed to Laurie, things can finally get suspenseful and we see some action - but just barely.
I was really expecting Laurie to be a much stronger character. She gets a lot of praise. Maybe I've just seen too many stronger final girls that came along later, but I didn't find her brave or clever. She takes brief stabs at Myers and then foolishly assumes he's dead without even bothering to make sure. Twice. I can understand the first time making that mistake, but after you stab a guy in the neck and he still gets up to come back at you, I think I'd be checking for a pulse the second time around. Especially since you didn't actually stab him in a vital area. Of course Michael Myers didn't stab Bob in a vital area and he died instantaneously, so maybe this movie exists in some alternate reality where hearts are in a different place.
I realize I'm nitpicking here and that may not be entirely fair. I guess my problem is that a lot of these little things were not issues with technology of the time, or perhaps that time period's trends and tastes - they're just off and they disrupt from the narrative for me, which was already moving at a snail's pace.
The way the movie ends, we were clearly being set up for a sequel. It's clear that Myers has a thing for Laurie in particular, but we're not told what. Loomis tells us a little about his history with Myers, but his decision that there is pure evil living inside Myers seems rash without knowing any further details. I couldn't help but think of the recent Hatchet series, where the first film ended on a cliffhanger and the second movie continued and gave us more back story on the characters. Perhaps if I had been able to watch Halloween and Halloween II back to back, I could appreciate this a bit more. It just seems like there were probably scenes in this film that could have been taken out to give us a complete story in one film instead.
As it stands, I can give this film respect for helping to launch a genre, I'm just a little surprised that it managed to inspire anyone.
So this is the part where I invite you to tell me how right or wrong I am. Is the first film generally regarded in a negative fashion, and I have to keep going to appreciate the series? Or is there something in this film that I'm missing? Is my characterization of Laurie all wrong? I beg of you to enlighten me.