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December 10, 1978 - Image 6

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-12-10

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Page 6-Sunday, December 10, 1978-The Michigan Daily
Tours benefit hospital

'Halloween':

Trick or treat?

The Hoover Mansion at 2015 Washte-
naw, a 23-room mansion decorated by
local interior designers to benefit the
University's C.S. Mott Children's
Hospital, will remain open to the public
through Dec 17, officials announced.
During the month of - December, the
mansion has been decorated for
Christmas.
The design showcase is sponsored by
the Pediatric Women's Group of Mott

Hospital. Admission proceeds will help
provide an expanded intensive care
unit for care of critically ill children.
The mansion will be open for in-
dividual and group tours through Dec.
17. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
Monday through Saturday. The man-
sion will be open on Wednesdays to 9
p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m.,
according to organizers.

COMEDY DOUBLE FEATURE
THE WRONG BOX (7OOonly)
PETER SELLERS, JOHN MILLS and SIR RALPH RICHARDSON star in this farce of
two brothers waiting to inherit an incredible fortune upon the death of one or
* the other. Set in Victorian England.
MY MAN GODFREY (AT9:05)
WILLIAM POWELL, CAROLE LOMBARD and ALICE BRADY star in one of the
truly great screwball comedies of the 1930's. During this depression take-off
Powell is ruined by the stock market crash but makes a comeback when hired
as a butler.
TUES: Olivier's HENRY V

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
What makes a good horror movie?
That just may be the most arduous
question in the entire lexicon of film
criticism. It is a subject that effectively
cuts across all genres and cults, from
the a teurists to the literarians. It
walks a unique, perennial tightrope
skiringing camp, religious offen-
siveness and psychiatric. oneupman-
ship.
Just what cryptic quality has caused
Psycho to unflaggingly scare people out
of their wits for two decades now, while
a film like The Haunting, on its plot's
surface a far more macabre and
menacing exercise in terror, has long
since been banished to the cinematic
memory vaults? Volumes upon
volumes have been written on what
constitutes the perfect formula horror
technique: The seen vs. the unseen, the
slow-build-to-shock-payoff (The Birds)
vs. the start-to-finish frenzy (Night of
the Living Dead), domestic vs. exotic
locale, and so on. Yet when all has been
written and spoken and shuddered at,
the essence of fear remains so intensely
subjective that the perfect literaly-
visual system for defining it simply
does not exist.
I CAN'T THINK of any genre that can
elicit such dismetrically opposed
audience responses to the same sub-
ject. The super-cult Texas Chainsaw
Massacre leaves me bored and un-
moved; yet a Canadian film called
Black Christmas scared the daylights
out of me last year, while most of the
sparse audiences attending the picture
were derisively hooting it down. Or wit-
ness the reactiabs of Newsweek's David
Anson and The Detroit Free Press's
Susan Stark to a pair of current horror
flicks, Magic and Halloween-Anson
despised the former, waxed wildly ec-
static over the latter, while Stark's
reaction was precisely the opposite.
In short, the horror mythos is so

CINIEMA GUILD

Both shows for $2.50
One show for $1.50

OLD ARCH
AUD

The U-M SCHOOL OF MUSIC PRESENTS
THE UNIVERSITY
CIF MCHIGAN
k
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8at 8PM
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9 at 8 PM
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10 at 3 PM
POWER CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
PREMIERE PERFORMANCES OF WORKS BY GUEST ARTISTS
GUS SOLOMONSJR. (performing in his own work)
e LAURA GLENN (funded in part by the Nat'l Endowment for the Arts)
e GARY LUND
Special performance of Jose Limon's THE EXILES .
Tickets available at the P. T. P. Box Office in the Michigan League
Mon.-Fri. 10 am-I pm, 2 pm-5 pm
Power Center Box Office opens 2 hours before each concert

idiosyncratic that a critic can rely only
on his own gut-level phobias, then try to
combine his primal reactions with his
general notions of good filmmanship.
BU SUCH criteria, writer-director
John Carpenter's Halloween breaks
about even, displaying both the un-
shackled inspiration and the low-budget
pitfalls typically inherent in small, in-
dependent productions. Carpenter,
whose brief career has thus far been
limited to the grade-B realm, is clearly
aiming for more with Halloween than
the standard drive-in shock schlock. He
periodically succeeds in limited, oc-
casionally inspired fashion, yet one
need only compare Halloween with
George Romero's recent baroque,
marvelously complex vampire flick
Martin to realize the general poverty of
ideas that ultimately drags Carpenter's
work into cliche.
The film begins brilliantly, consisting
of one long, calmly terrifying tracking
shot. It is Halloween night, 1963.
Through the camera's eye, we zero in
slowly on a quiet, warm-lit house on a
small-town residential street. We soon
realize we're watching the action
through a character's point of view,
though whose we cannot tell. Carpenter
pans by the windows, revealing two
teenagers making out on a sofa. The
pair shortly retire to an upstairs
bedroom, asthe camera continues on a
stealthy, maddeningly slow trend
around the side of the house to the back
yard.
EVENTUALLY WE hear the
boyfriend take his leave out the front
door, and our unseen protagonist
proceeds through thesrear entrance into
the darkened kitchen. We see a hand
reach out, lift a large butcher knife
from a drawer, then proceed toward the
stairway. Carpenter dazzlingly or-
chetrates our fear of the unknown as
the camera moves up the barely lit
staris to the accompaniment of ab-
solute silence, down a dim hallways and
into a bedroom where the half-naked
girl sits brushing her hair.
She only has time to shout
"Michael!" as we see the hand raise
the knife, then quietly impassively stab
her again and again. The grisly :eed
done, we then backtrack down the
stairs in the same calm, methodical
fashion, retreating out into the front
yard. Sounds of a car door closing, j
parental exclamations of "Michael,
what's happened?" Then wham!-the
camera pulls sharply back to reveal a
six-year-old boy in a clown suit, his face
expressionless, the bloody knife still
clutched in his hand. Carpenter con-
tinues to pan farther and farther back,
illuminating the disproportionate mon-
strosity eminating from that small,
angelic-looking figure standing in the
yard. It is an ingeniously, disorienting
moment-Manson or a Jonestown sud-

denly made terrifyingly plausible.
UNFORTUNATELY, that sequence
constitutes the shock highlight of
Halloween, and we've stil got nine-
tenths of the film to go. It is now fifteen
years later: Michael, turned 21 and
confined, since the murder, to a mental
institution, makes his escape on a rain-
swept night just as his psychiatrist
(Donald Pleasance) is making final
arrangements to have him permanen-
tly committed. Stealing the doctor's
car, Michael streaks off back to his

as young neighbors and prime objects
of Michael's murderous intent, exuding
a down-home naturalness distorted into
madness by film's climax. Through the
course of the picture Michael never
speaks, indeed never shows his face un-
til almost the very end, adding a mythic
luminescence to his already inhuman
aura.
YET ANY SUCCESSFUL film, even
of the horror genre, needs a minimum
of logic to proper it, and Halloween of-
ten frustratingly fails the test. It simply

Nancy Loomis is pictured in a scene from "Halloween," a low-budget thriller
currently at the State Theater.

Get the Christmas Spirit!
SING CHRISTMAIS CAROLS
with TIlE
U-M MEN'S GLEE CLUB
TUESDiY DECEMBER 1Zth
Beginning at 3:00 P.M. ONTHE DIAG

hometown to reinitiate his murderous
predilections. The following night just,
happens to be-you guess
it-Halloween.
The picture's essentially threadbare
script now becomes painfully apparent.
Our maniac protagonist once again
'stalks teenage girls while the doctor,
declaiming balefully about the "ab-
solute evil" incarnate in Michael, at-
tempts frantically-and quite incom-
petently-to track him down. That's all
there is to the plot, and the many
aesthetic and functional pyrotechnics
Carpenter " musters up just aren't
enough to carry the film through the
next hour and a half.
HE MAKES A nice try, though. There
are some truly exquisite elements in
Halloween: Carpenter masterfully
utilizes the mosaic of small-town cor-
nerstone America menaced by a mon-
sterous, malignant force from without.t
He bathes the screen in slow, sweeping
pans of passive tree-lined streets,
quiety simmering from day into night.
Carpenter wisely confines his grisly
tale to a 24-hour period and his prime
locale to a single residential block.
There he zeroes in with the patience of a
master, allowing tensions to build with
an excruciating languidness to an
inevitable apocalypse. Jamie Lee Cur-
tis and Nancy Loomis perform credibly

defies plausability that village
authorities would refrain from infor-
ming its citizenry that a psychopath is
on the loose (Michael's doctor inex-
plicably asks the local cops not to
publicize it), especially on the one night
of the year every child in town is out
trick-or-treating. Community protec-
tion seems to consist solely on a lone
patrol car forlornly cruising the streets
while the doctor skulks furtively around
Michael's childhood house in the totally
mistaken hope that he'll return it to
(though admittedly no one can skulk
quite as well as Donald Pleasance).
Carpenter's mostly adroit editing
now and then leaves much to be
desired. One moment his town appears
in full summer bloom, the next moment
the ground is strewn with autumn
leaves. In one scene the sun is burning
brightly, in the next the grass and
pavement are drenched with rain
water. These inconsistencies may seem
slight, yet they do grievous damage to
the eerie spell Carpenter is trying to
weave over his audience-they make
you realize rather jarringly and sud-
denly that it's only a movie, and a
slightly tacky one at that.
BUT EVEN Carpenter's imaginative
grasp fails him near film's end. When
Curtis stumbles upon three corpses in
rapid succession, the effect is that of a
kind of funhouse kitch, or horror turned
grotesquely comic. Even a subsequent,
climactic, shock sequence involving
heroine, madman and doctor comes
across as repetitious to the point of
parody, and a final mystical plot twist
at the very end seems not so much
ingenious as slightly deceitful.
Newsweek's Ansen commences his
adulating critique of Halloween by
citing the joys of "the pursuit, in
disreputable ;places, of undiscoveeed
talent." The unfortunate aspect of such
a diamond-in-the-rough search is that
usually the disreputable places weigh
just as heavily on the finished product
as does the undiscovered talent.
Halloween, for all its compelling tricks,
is a work that not only doesn't match
Carpenter's talent, but often distorts it
into inferiority. One must hope that
next , time around, potential and
material will even themselves out for
this ingenious young filmmaker.

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