Rev., Nov 1, 2018.
Note: there would be a nudity warning were it not for a self-censoring bad print used in analysis. HH, 2019.
A few notes on watching, this year, a Spanish version of Halloween (1978) on youtube, because I didn’t have a TV. And what this revealed to me is that, for the most part, most of the time, on mainstream TV showings of it, we get a censored version. Not a lot is cut out, but enough is cut out to change the pungency of the movie, as it is quite amazing, but true, that showing a few breasts can change the whole demeanor of the movie.
So, what triggers Michael early on, in the 1963 flashback, is that, apparently this is after trick or treat, because he still has his costume on, and part of it, his mask, was tossed on the floor of his room upstairs, for him to pick it up at the kill point, is that he was annoyed and upset that his sister, rather than looking out for him, invited her boyfriend over, and, then, she immediately only paid him attention, then, even more liberal for 1963, they go up to her room for a quick fuck, with the boyfriend coming down the steps surprisingly quickly after, and then he goes up, filled with a loathing for knowing what they were doing, or with wonder at what they were doing, and thinking the worst of it. Now, this means that when he gets a knife from the kitchen drawer, he is commenting on his household, and that there is something going on it that he does not like, that threatens him
this view, as he comes through the dining room, means that he sees domestic rituals as empty and ghostly, devoid of meaning; somehow, she and her actions have emptied them all out, it upsets him
when he comes in by the spot where they began to get into it, making out, there is an inference here of two pareidols, echoing the couple intertwined in a way that imitates the whole piling up pillows to make it seem like a body is there, but also that the couch has become contaminated by outside and grownup sex
there is also a picture in that room, right over where they were making out, before they turned off the TV to run upstairs and turn on sister
not surprisingly, it looks to me like either a Delacroix or Matisse bit of orientalist fluff, a shapely woman in shirt and pantaloons striking a provocative pose with her arms over her head
in this area, Delacroix
But of this gentler, more family appropriate sway in the hips and figure, the snake form
Then he gets to the stairs, up which he knows she is, there is another painting to act as a breadcrumb to cause his mind to continue on in its mad drive to go up there
This is a winter scene
its quick switch to cold from the hot nature of both the odalesk picture and the fact that he knew that he had just passed the place where they were making out, which he saw them doing, wondering what it was, makes this as it were speak to his cold rage, the spot he saw the boyfriend bouncing victoriously down the stairs from his quick fuck, now the cold spot of her turned-offness after the heat, it is a good subtle effect. Now, for some reason, though this is part of it, and then even exaggerated in part two, I latched onto the fact that the camera closes up into the flesh of the interior of the pumpkin in the beginning. Moreover, this flesh is only visible by way of a carving, that is, the pumpkin was “killed” to make it a jack o lantern (there is also a destroyed jack o lantern, and then a carried replacement, later in the movie). I think this then represents Michael’s relationship to the body, and to its interior spaces, that is, to sex, he is overcurious and wants to get going with it, but too young, so he fixates on the body of his older sister, who must be senior year high school at least if she is fucking in 1963, and what this means is that the movie as a whole also is only replaying that title sequence by closing up in on the flesh of the soft body in front of Michael’s eyes. What this means is that, not to get too Freudian, when he stares up into the darkness of the staircase, that darkness, all of it, represents her private parts, her intimacy, the magic world of her nakedness which is taking place in his life right on the other side of her bedroom and bathroom doors, and driving him literally crazy
from this, the stair then is her private parts, projected by his curiosity
it seems he must have been doing this sort of peeping around his sister and her nudity for some time, because, in the scheme of things of how peepers make exciting meaning and arc of plot by sightings, the light through an open door means that the door is open, which means that he is going to be able to see through the door, to see her naked
notice now that he finds his clown mask at this spot in the passage in and up, I don’t recollect if the boyfriend had taken it to play a prank on her then tossed it off as he came up to get serious about having sex; or if it was left there by Michael earlier when he was coming down from the candy party after Trick or Treat, a period of time which demands, symbolically, a death of the ghost represented by the kids costuming, but here is could also, in the momentum of the approaching moment, represent his little boner, which has now become excited by the possibility that the open door offers
and now he is even more titillated by the fact that there remain clothes that she flung off while stripping to have sex in a classic impulsive ritual of clothes doffing to add to the propulsive excitement of as if falling in a spin into the getting laid in a bed, this is a classic trope. Also note, that as it is now seen through the pumpkin eyes of the mask, or the mask eyes, things are more concentrated, we have moved to an intenser stage, a crisis is upon us
what does this mask-eyes mean, POV wise? He has approached the site of the murder with one POV, straight on; but, now, to close up, he has to come in on her in another, more intense POV. Why? On a simple formal level this could be an adjustment of the line of sight to indicate that the optic lens is screwing in to a tighter close-up, the equivalent then of a menacing hand come from afar to close in in a startle moment over one’s face or view. But it might also mean something else.
Earlier this year, I argued that the Caruso cave votives took the form of tiny models of the cave because they had a double two-way purpose. On the one hand, the votary wanted to leave a thank you note that was pleasing, or algamata to the gods, and thus thought it flattering to create an image of his or her experience and report by it and all its models that it was good and worthwhile and appreciated. At the same time, it is conjectured that in an incubation in a cave to have sight of a god or nymph in dream with attendants about to induce dream or by disturbance or massaging of it in the course of the night create intense dream moments maybe even taking on the character of a nightmare, that there would be from this epiphany some elements of it that were well beyond the comfort zone of the viewer. So, a second purpose of the votive, and the reason why it is diminitivized, as if seen through the turned-around telescope, is that the votary also, as well as thanking, wanting to bid good riddance to the god, and distance him or herself from it, never to return.
That is, the votive exists in a nexus, between inside epiphany and outside remembrance of it, and in that nexus there is a spin of both positive and negative views encapsulated in a strange little work of art in which reduction of the memory to a diminutive form takes all the sting out of it, allowing then of this distancing. In the same way, this diminutivizing would explain why it is that so many ancient or folkloric rituals end up getting reduced to things kids do in culture. After a time, we want, even in our observance, to distance ourselves, so we diminish them. Thus, at Halloween, in Trick or Treat, children serve as representatives of the ghosts we want to keep away from our homes, those ghosts we appease with gifts, like we might any ghost or demon, a sacrifice, to calm them down and satisfy them for a time, and then we feel safe again. But because child sacrifice is no longer allowed we have the ghosts present only in the diminutive form of the children, and materially only in the form of their costumes, that element of spirit in or around them that night, and then we appease them by giving them candy, and for that they go away and leave us alone in our good luck. Finally, to finish off the evening, the children have a candy party in which they count up their booty and no doubt engorge themselves on it so that they grow heavy and maybe even sick to the stomach for that then through them to instrument, by way of the deviousness of candy offering, cause at last at the end of the crisscross all the ghosts to cross back over. One of the things that has always confused me about Halloween (1978) is the timing. But it turns out that there is daylight Trick or Treat because that was the thing then, in the 1970s, after a scare of bogeymen putting razors in apples. Then, that means that, later in the movie (see my other piece on Halloween). the reason Tommy is still in his costume is that by the time Laurie arrives he has already had his candy party and thus expelled the bogeyman and it is only then that there is a dysfunction which causes trouble. It would also seem that by this model Laurie’s strange carving of the pumpkin, and procession of it through the living room, after it was all over, is a closing event of the day, to, as it were, carve out an outlet by which the ghosts could leave. Or something like that. But, the point is, Trick or Treat is us adults creating a votive offering to the ghosts to appease them to keep them away, but we reinforce that with diminutivization, just like the Greeks did with their models, to make sure that a nexus exists that distances that danger for good. Thus, just like the Caruso cave model, Trick or Treat is a votive ritual to thank the gods but also keep them at a distance. For this reason, then, I think the raccoon eyes, to target eyes, the two-eyed mask eyes is also a nexus formation, it brings an apotropaic dimension into the POV, it screws the iris tighter so that the boy is not looking at the same time that he is looking, he knows he should not be looking (like peeking through one’s fingers), but he can’t help it, so it is a push-pull mechanism, which tells us crisis time has arrived.
And, then, it is no surprise in the uncut version that the first thing he sees in his mask-sight is his sister’s breast, naked, her sitting naked, sitting pretty after sex too, at her boudoir mirror. She does not see him at first, so it is clear shot of her breast, her nudity, it is forbidden. If he has been in fact peeping on her, this might be his very first breakthrough into full on nudity; worse, nudity he knows has only just a few minutes before been involved in fucking, so the hairs on the back of his neck are excited-outraged by this sighting. It also formally equates his mask-sight with her bosom
there is no question, however brief the glimpse, that he is seeing her breast, not just side boob, or a slice of it, but a full view of it in profile, strong
this, then, almost immediately after he has switched to mask-sight, turns him on, and since he is a little psycho turning on means, immediate repression of the sexuality of it, to turn into an impulse to conquer and expell it all as dirty, so he expresses his desire to fuck her too by slashing her. And notice now, just as I have said of the scene with the roots in the forest in Evil Dead, the POV of the mask sight as he gets closer almost microscopically choreographs a sex act, of intercourse, her body now is placed right between his eyes, in his control and grasp
then he sees her nude crotch, sitting there, entirely exposed, no doubt an excessive bonus, and he profiles it to the sheets, dirty with the fact that she was just rolling around on them having disgusting dirty sex (it is unclear from the existence of any towels if she has showered after or not, but in the logic of the sex scene as related to a woman at a boudoir that would’ve been involved, still, for him, she is filthy with the smell of sex)
and, again, in the uncut version, there is no question, this is pretty daring for its time, a full on crotch shot (usually, in horror, signifying death)
and then, only then does she see that he is there, and start yelling at him, but to do so she pivots around on her chair and so in yelling at him gives him, but not us, a full on frontal view of not only top but also bottom and that is yet another step in the phases of complete stripping bare that the male monster requires to bring a sex act all the way through to the end, so we have moved to actually, paralleling the sex we did not see, having the sex
and then he strikes, and in striking, this in the uncut version only, we see that he has cut directly to her breast, and we get, however blurred in this bad youtube version here, a full on shot of her full breast, so this like copping a feel
and as she attempts protective action, she only squeezes them more together, making them a bigger target
and there is absolutely no question that Carpenter formally reinforced the attack mode of the raccoon target eye by giving it a target it has hit, her nipple in the middle of her rather large breast
and then the two eyes of the mask sight meet up for perfect formal intercourse, as it were, with a double breasted frontal shot of all her sexuality, for him to destroy it
then, in that sequence, under the rain of stabs, she twists and turns, almost as if in a sex scene, here displaced to
and most surprising to me, in a shot I have never seen until this Spanish version this year, the whole sequence ends with her a dead odalesk on the floor, her arm falling over her breasts, entirely exposed to him, almost a sexual pose, and then her leg lifted, for a full on view of her crotch, that is, this is an orgasm shot, a completion of sex, a full conquest shot of the woman satisfied by sex, but in a thanatopic inversion of it
and again, full on breasts, quite ample
and again, as if lingering for a moment, victorious
the surprise theatricality of this shot makes one think of other damsel in distress shots, both carried by monsters, as in The day the World Ended (1959)
or as laid out, like in The Marquise of O (1976)
the archetypal image, of course, coming from Fuseli, the Nightmare, which this is; and which then also strongly suggests that in his action, this event itself has turned Michael into a demon beyond the human (this later copy, with suggestion that mask-sight is related to the horse’s white eyes, the approach of it)
and then he pulls out, and the stairway going down is still a sign of her intimacy, but he is “detumescing” down it, and out
and then his parents whose intercourse and sex gave birth to him, but which remains un-believable, literally, to a child, especially then when sex ed was so poor, they appear in his POV mask site, as if sperm and egg in an educational film; and the movie flips back out now from the POV to the standard set shot to see in frozen tableaux that Michael in fact was dressed in his after candy party costume and he has a knife as if the carver of the pumpkin for the night, in that ritual; but what he has chosen to do, out of rage and outrage at the fact that his sister was having sex, and he did not know what that was, but that it was dirty and she was guilty, for that, the ritual of carving is transferred to the sacrifice of a human being by way of stabbing her nude body to death, a perfect regression to ancient form of the stage of the ritual of sacrifice that I, in fact, now believe is underscored in prototypical space by the rationalized modern form of the candy party and some ritual to close it (in this case, the strange carving of the final pumpkin as if to end it with that—an odd thought that somehow the memory of the Michael Myers case, like its taboo presence at a house in the town, twisted the rituals of the day in Haddonsfield to act out a repressed remembrance of the horror of it all in a distorted candy party ritual that featured a final carving of a pumpkin at the end of it all, to close the whole ritual of the crossover of spirit and body).
So, strange, I have watched the scene many times, but only if you see it with the breasts involved, do you appreciate the degree to which Michael’s stabbing is an inversion of his sick curiosity over his sister’s sex, and his disgust at the betrayal of his fantasy of her for having disgusting dirty sex with some boy who is just using her, so he sees her nude and for that reason kills her, to purify himself of his rage and feelings of corruption, in her presence (acknowledging the theory that producer Moustapha Akkad brought an honor killing idea into the mix). But, then, this whole sexual sequence seems to parallel a ritual of the encounter with ghosts and spirits on Halloween, and the two are nicely folded into each other here.
Now, the issue of sex, of course, comes up at both the planned babysit visit by Annie to have sex with Paul, and then the fact that PJ Soles and Bob get the house to themselves, so they go have sex upstairs in the master bedroom. I have mentioned before how weird it is that they are fucking in someone else’s bed in someone else’s house, and it does not bother them at all. But, then, it kind of does, because they need, nonetheless, to create, if not a romantic, then a “their space”, inside the remote space, to make them feel, for the time of their sex, at home. So, in typical movie cliché of Icantwaittohavesex rushing to have sex, they tear off their clothes and let them fly on the floor. This is what I call a clearing out, where somehow in order to make the sex work you have to clear out from you all the mental reservations and worries of the world, but also any physical restraint that might prevent your body from taking in in full the exciting escalation of the action and thus carry it on through by a growing momentum of interaction to full on orgasm, and successful sex, in the logic of the sleepover one night stand world. So, yes, they do toss their clothes all over the place
and their clothes are draped on the bed, as if to say, this is, for the time being, my territory (the shirt on post as a herm)
now a curious touch is the lit pumpkin. Where might it have come from? How did it get there? Again, I have noted there is a certain time curiosity in the carving of the pumpkins in this particular town’s ritualization of the events of the day, with their ancient ghost-appeasement roots. Normally, a jack o lantern would be carved beforehand to sit outside on one’s porch on Trick or Treat night to not only keep ghosts at bay, to scare off evil in an apotropaic way, but also to show by a sign that this was a house that was participating in the ritual, as it does in, for example, Lincoln, NE, where not a third of the houses participate. So, in addition to its deep apotropaic function, it also signifies an intercession votive, come in, we are participating. It may be, then, that after it has served its function for outdoor Trick or Treat some people brought it in just for fun for the sake of the party for it to say it is party time and this is still Halloween. I imagine Soles fetching it from the porch and taking it upstairs to simply say that, it is still the holiday, and we are, by this sacred sex, participating in the human sacrifice ritual evasive form of sacred sex. That, then, is why a pumpkin is placed next to the bed. But then, it could also signify, as per the preceding, her carvable flesh, her smiling happiness at having sex, her body heat, so it serves as a kind of signifier of teenage sex too. It does seem to smile and even make faces as, when they roll about, they partially obscure it, for it to almost as if an avatar of Michael as a child, but this time in a sex positive way, to gaze on the sex
and one must say their movement in the sack is a bit odd, at one point, he rears up, the pumpkin smiling
then he kind of separates from her, as if concerned with something other than her breasts, sweating right beneath him
but there is an amazing formal separation or pass on in this shot, from the pumpkin, to another presence it might already have suggested, as in his moment of pulling off, as if there is a problem, or the classic getting into it, but, then, feeling some presence haunt them (though usually it is the girl who balks), we see (and this shot too, I think, is rarely shown, as it seems that most TV versions of the movie cut this scene as it shows too much of the up and down and in and out of intercourse), we see a passing shadow of Michael Myers, and he just walks through the scene, like a shadow over their sex!
It is as if he is the Nemesis, the god of carnage, to warn youth, do not have sex, bringing trouble getting it up to boys, for that purpose
then, oddly, the moment passes, and he gets back into it and then it is in this attack that he seems to get back what he lost (my guess is that for a brief moment it seemed to him his dick was not getting hard enough to function, but then it recouped); and in this we see some breast nudity from Soles, they really get into it, it is presumed, by the movement of the bodies and the blankets, that orgasm is had by both; and then he rolls off, happy, satisfied, and as he rolls off, we get the fullest shot we will, also cut, of PJ Soles’ breasts, as if to speak to the happy girl, happy in sex, satisfied, relaxed, that is, her after sex in precisely the same position vis a vis the having of it as his sister was in Michael’s attack
it is also to be noted, as if in an involuted micro-formalization of the scene, her nipple is quite hard, and her breast is heavily profiled by the pumpkin, indicating how hot she is, but also that the pumpkin, the gaze of the world upon her is, as it were, biting her nipple
and then they have a smoke, with more casual, aftersex shots of her nipple, indicating presumed assumed normal intimacy of bodies, even if they are just horny teens
then when he goes off to get a beer, she never to see him alive again (this also then a survivor view), she snuggles down in in life comfort and satisfaction of just having had her brains fucked out, as the language was back then
and, then, the prankster arrives at the door. The prank is made believable or plausible by the fact that they are in fact soiling some other people’s sheets, they are rudely having sex on the sheets of the master of the house, they didn’t wash them, or put a new set on, they just jumped in, so this is kind of jokey acknowledgement of their journeyman or interloper status (oddly, this Halloween I saw some ghost idease, someone had a New Yorker cartoon of a husband discovering an unfaithful ghost wife, and the ghost the woman was caught with had escaped detection by becoming the bedsheet (this could be an old joke)
then in Trick or Treat itself there was an inflatable display where an owl sat on a ghost tree, that is, a tree form, but it was a ghost). Also, he did play with his glasses, and put them on after sex, so this might be a ball spike joke to say how much he liked it, since he put his glasses on after sex too
she clearly, given the fact that she had previously put up a pumpkin to give them some atmosphere, seems to interpret all this as an overture for round two, because she drops her sheet and asks him if he sees anything he likes, even if he has just spent a good amount of time with them, boys, a few minutes later, they are all good to go all over again, in the uncut version she does show a lot of chest, and a hint of nipple
and then he is not him but Michael so she gets testy and bails out for the phone where, with more show of nipple, her second sex act comes in the form Michael likes it best as, a murder with a phone cord
Michael’s experience with seeing them having sex, and then that they put a pumpkin up to light the way, imprints on him an idea of how people have sex today so to counter it in his thanatos version, sex equalling death, he comes up with the tableaux of Annie, whom he has taken from in the car up to the bed, to place there, then he has placed his mother’s tombstone, which he stole from the cemetery, and he has put the pumpkin here, and, also, by the way, disposed of PJ Soles and Bob in the closets, and this is his statement of “for me sex is death, and I will always only want to kill those who like my sister had sex around me in a way that entirely screwed me up by exposing me to it all way before I could know what it was” or something like that (the Freudian version of fetishism being a child sees thy parents having sex, thinks it violent, looks away, wherever the gaze falls, thy fetishize)
all in all, then, an uncut version of the movie discovers a few more intricate wrinkles in the wiggle room that Carpenter wove around his little drama, and in so far as these make clearer the inversion of sex with death, but death choreographed on the model of sex; and in so far as the ritualization of it, as if an ancient rite, clarifies that this sex ritual is a variant on the human sacrifice aspect of the end of the Halloween ritual, which in Haddonfield takes the form of carving a go-away pumpkin at the end of it all, and Trick or Treat and kids just being the nexus psychopomps to carry it on in a diminutive way that does the job so that the danger cannot come back to us–all of this once again, on yet another level, enriches a viewing of this really very careful little masterpiece of filmed horror.