Monday, November 23, 2015

Double Your Steve Railsback Fun

Cole's painting of Angie's anxieties in SCISSORS (1991)

Well, darlings, I've been away but now I'm back. In addition to me starting a new job and fighting off a monster cold, Assistant District Attorney Jim Gillespie is all bent out of shape over his impending divorce. Honestly, I can't blame his wife because he's unrepentantly abrasive and often disgusting, but Butch Walker thought that to help him feel better we should take him to the movies. In theory this is a good idea, but the last time he, Butch and I went to a double-feature of EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II, he embarrassed the hell out of me by barfing all over the front row. It wasn't even because the movies were gross, but because he discovered Chivas Regal, lithium and two double-beef supremo burritos don't mix. Also, if Jim insists on driving, his car smells like stale cigarettes and Guinness sweat and he insists on blasting MEAT LOAF's Bat Out of Hell at top volume while he tries to run over pedestrians so riding around with him is a pretty horrifying experience.
But hey, sometimes friendship is a messy job.

And speaking of difficulties with adult relationships and good things that come in twos, today I'm talking about SCISSORS (1991), the long-lost cult-classic-to-be thankfully now available for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray from the good people at KINO-LORBER, written and directed by FRANK DE FELITTA, the madman behind AUDREY ROSE, the BARBARA HERSHEY-demon-rape-classic THE ENTITY and the made-for-TV great DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW; starring a pre-stardom SHARON STONE as the neurotic heroine and featuring DESCENT INTO MADNESS favorite STEVE RAILSBACK in a dual performance as twin brothers.
My obsession with the beloved MR. RAILSBACK may border on the unhealthy. Seeing his name on the screen just fills me with child-like glee. Not only did he traumatize a whole TV-watching generation with his portrayal of CHARLES MANSON in HELTER SKELTER, but he maintains status as a cult icon, injecting every role with his offbeat, mildly unhinged charm. Seriously, is there any other movie like THE STUNT MAN or LIFEFORCE? And who else would've brought such a quirky sense of humor to infamous Wisconsin cannibal Ed Gein? Sometimes I imagine him miraculously appearing in a scene to liven up boring movies. It does not hurt that he is a fellow Texan either.
Also, am I the only one who finds his distinctive voice strangely soothing?

Steve Railsback as Alex Morgan in SCISSORS (1991)

I found out about this film thanks to the good folks at KINDERTRAUMA. And while SCISSORS may not be everyone's idea of a masterpiece, I couldn't help but be charmed by it. With its multiple red herrings, soap opera melodrama, mad psychiatry, undercurrent of sexual perversion and histrionic HITCHCOCK hodgepodging (MARNIE particularly), it reminds me of a less violent giallo film. Sure, it doesn't really make much sense if you think about it too hard, but just go with it and you might enjoy it.
SHARON STONE stars as Angie Anderson, a young woman from Tulsa who lives in a strange version of Chicago that looks like Los Angeles. Angie leads a reclusive existence, taking temp jobs and devoting a majority of her time to repairing dolls and hanging out with her cat. Angie is also plagued by repressed childhood memories involving a man named Billy, a strange repulsion and fascination with a decrepit pig puppet and an intense fear of sex. One night, she is attacked in an elevator by a man with a red beard and defends herself by stabbing him with a pair of sewing scissors. She meets and is comforted by her neighbors, the Morgan brothers, gentle, bespectacled soap opera actor Alex and his scruffy, wheelchair-bound, artist twin Cole (it's RAILSBACK in stereo, folks!). Angie and Alex develop romantic feelings for one another and I quickly realized that I would be a fan of romantic comedies if they featured STEVE RAILSBACK as the male lead. Alex, unlike the other men around her, is dependable, patient and kind. However, despite her hesitant attraction to Alex, Angie remains fearful.
Anyhoo, Angie is called for a temp job and ends up trapped in an apartment that was apparently decorated by the production designer of SUSPIRIA with the corpse of a red-bearded man (stabbed with her pair of scissors, by the way) and a giant blackbird that cackles, "You killed him! You killed him!"
Oh yeah, and then there's some stuff about Cole and how he's faking being crippled and trying to scam Alex and is menacing Angie, Alex's jilted ex-girlfriend who still carries a torch and Angie's psychiatrist feeling romantically neglected by his ambitious politician wife.

Okay, you've got me: SCISSORS is pretty ludicrous but its enjoyably so. The more you learn to embrace its insanity and SHARON STONE's eye-bulging hysterics, you'll sink into it like a warm bath. Angie's descent into madness is simultaneously silly in its hyperbole and brilliant. Moments recall ALICE IN WONDERLAND, such as the scene where Angie attempts to twist the doorknob only to find it is made of rubber and comes off in her hand and drops down the steps or where the corpse of the murdered man is seated at a child's tea party table while Angie wanders around the apartment in a fugue state.
Aside from me succumbing to the film's RAILSBACKian charms, I think SCISSORS tapped into some personal anxieties I was experiencing at the time.


Angie (Sharon Stone) and Cole (Steve Railsback) in SCISSORS (1991)

The source of Angie's anxiety, much like her long-lost cinematic sister Marnie Edgar, is an episode of childhood trauma involving the touch of another followed by violence. As a little girl, Angie was molested by her red-bearded stepfather under the guise of a game with a pig puppet. This was discovered by Angie's mother, who stabbed him with a pair of - you guessed it - scissors. As an adult, Angie has repressed the memory due to her inability to cope with this substantial trauma. The pig puppet evokes fear but she also uses it to comfort herself in times of distress. Despite the silliness of SCISSORS, I think this element is a realistic depiction of the ambivalence of someone who has experienced childhood sexual abuse. As a young girl, Angie was grateful for the extra attention from her stepfather, ("Do more, Billy, do more," she giggles) but the unwanted touching left her with deep sense of guilt and shame.
She has learned to regard any touch from a man as violation rather than affection.
It's not only men that Angie distrusts, she does not have any female friends she can depend upon either. "I keep to myself," Angie says.
And hey, I can get that. Through most of my young adult life, I was pretty wary of friendships and romantic relationships. I always felt nervous and out of place among my peers partly because I seemed to be surrounded by the kind of people who watch a Marx Brothers movie and say, "Well, I like MARGARET DUMONT -- but I can't stand those three weird guys that are always running around." But also partly because I had learned that people were not to be trusted.
The only time I felt safe was watching horror movies about troubled and damaged people. People can yap all they want about the harmful effects of violent movies, but horror movies are what helped me heal.
Angie's hobby of repairing dolls may be her way of symbolically fixing the damage inflicted upon her during childhood and saving herself.
Alex remarks that one of the reasons he's attracted to her is because he's seen her dolls and loves how she makes broken things beautiful. Indeed.

Angie (Sharon Stone) and Alex (Steve Railsback) in SCISSORS (1991)

Angie struggles to heal and understand her anxieties. She wants to have a relationship with Alex as she senses he is a trustworthy and caring partner. She is not abnormal, but has retreated behind protective barriers she does not entirely understand. In one scene, she undresses sensually in front of her mirror as if in a trance. She possesses healthy, sexual feelings but only feels safe to express them when she is alone. However, at the sight of the pig puppet, she freezes and quickly covers her breasts.

It's interesting that the only thing the three lead male characters have in common is that each of them pretends to be something he isn't. Cole feigns being crippled. Alex is an actor portraying a psychiatrist on a soap opera. Angie's real psychiatrist (played by RONNY COX of DELIVERANCE and THE BEAST WITHIN fame) turns out to be her captor and tormentor.
It's also interesting that Alex, who only portrays a psychiatrist, is more instrumental in Angie's healing process than her actual psychiatrist who proves to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Psychiatrists - particularly male psychiatrists - are generally not portrayed well in genre film. Many feminists adopted an anti-psychiatry stance, believing psychiatry to be another agent of the patriarchy to control female behavior. Hey, just ask ZELDA FITZGERALD or FRANCES FARMER.
In SCISSORS, Angie's psychiatrist, Dr. Carter, rather than help her develop tools she needs to cope with her anxieties about sex and relationships, invalidates her concerns and spends most of the session dredging up past trauma. Naturally, this does not help. He also takes a personal phone call during their session which is most unprofessional.
Far worse, though, he is a manipulator rather than a healer, using Angie as a pawn in a scheme for revenge against his adulterous wife who has injured his male ego with her career ambitions and her extramarital affair. Angie has again been violated by someone she trusted.
However, I think the road ahead for Angie at the end of the film is a positive one. Dr. Carter scoffs that she is descended into a psychotic state that she won't come out of anytime soon. But even though Angie appears to be in a daze, she walks out, shutting the door on her past and leaving her captor locked inside the trap he created.
Once outside, Angie looks up from the street and offers Dr. Carter a triumphant half-smile. Though wounded by the experience, she has confronted her childhood demons and survived. She rides off with Alex to a brighter future.

So, hey, in all its goofiness, I guess you can say SCISSORS had a profound effect on me. And I now feel the urge for a STEVE RAILSBACK marathon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Beware of the Naked Man

Charles Bronson aims to wipe the scum off the street in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

Pardon me while I old all over the place, but a lot of things were better in olden times. Jobs were plentiful. Fewer guys named Todd. Political correctness was non-existent. Hipsters had yet to infest every city center with their ham-fisted attempts at irony. People weren't perpetually auditioning for their own reality-TV show.  But most importantly of all, there were video stores. I know there are a few jerks out there who'll pipe up and say, "But it's so much more convenient to stream - any movie you want is available at just a click of a mouse!" I will retort first by saying, "Get off my damn lawn, you whippersnapper!" And second, for those of my readers that did not come of age during the magical era of VHS, there was just something special about taking a journey to your local video store.
First of all, you didn't have the privilege of remaining isolated and you were forced to know how to interact with other people to obtain the movies of your choice. And sometimes instant gratification just isn't everything. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, ERASERHEAD, SLEEPAWAY CAMP and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER hold so many more special memories for me because I had to embark on a quest to find them.
Once you arrived at the video store, you had the chance to browse through rows and rows of creative box art and discover hidden gems. That's how I stumbled upon ALICE, SWEET ALICE and that remains one of my favorite movies to this day. On the other hand, that's also how my high school best friend and I ended up renting NAIL GUN MASSACRE. This was before the day of hideously Photoshopped floating heads, so looking at all the box art was a thrill in itself.
Then when you finally selected your movie, you got to talk about your rental with the sardonic clerk who had ostensibly seen every single movie in the store.
And now that video stores are gone, where the hell are smart-alecky people who have seen too many movies supposed to work? Automating people out of business is how that TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE family got started!
And do we really want to give away all of our jobs to machines? We're turning this whole damn country into WESTWORLD!
These are the thoughts that kept me out of all the good schools.
And speaking of thoughts that kept me out of all the good schools, let's celebrate everything I loved about the heyday of VHS and also CHARLES BRONSON's birthday week with 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983), a sleazy slasher-inspired action flick from those bastions of good taste at Cannon Films.

Charles Bronson as Leo Kessler in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

The Bronsonator plays Leo Kessler, a hard-nosed quiche-hating Los Angeles homicide detective who's tired of creeps finding loopholes to evade justice. With the help of college-educated new partner Andrew McCann (ANDREW STEVENS), Kessler investigates a series of homicides of young woman. The perpetrator is none other then Ted Bundy-inspired (he even drives a tan VW bug!) office equipment repairman, Warren Stacy, who despite his buff physique has trouble attracting a date. Warren's misogyny and painfully fragile masculine ego prevent him from relating to women as anything other then contemptible pleasure objects and does not understand why his condescending, abrasive advances are met with rejection.
Hell hath no fury like a developmentally arrested man-baby scorned, and Warren stalks his unrequited objects of lust before stripping buck naked and stabbing them to death. Not only does this method of murder serve as a substitute for sex in which Warren can have total dominance, but also conveniently does not leave physical evidence.
Warren also has a knack for arranging airtight alibis, which makes Leo's pursuit of him all the more difficult. When Warren sets his perverted sights on Leo's feisty student nurse daughter, Laurie (LISA EILBACHER), Leo decides to take a shortcut and plant a little evidence.
Unfortunately, Warren just hires cynical, amiably sleazy crackerjack criminal defense attorney Dave Dante (character actor extraordinaire, the late beloved GEOFFREY LEWIS) and is sprung free to pull a Richard Speck and slice and dice a houseful of student nurses into veal cutlets.
Then it's time for the Bronsonator to dispense some good ol' fashioned street justice.

Gene Davis as Warren Stacy, the rampaging naked serial killer in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

Other reviewers have noted that 10 TO MIDNIGHT has much more in common with DIRTY HARRY than the DEATH WISH films for which BRONSON became famous, with its disillusioned detective, sadistic serial killer and critique of a criminal justice system that does nothing to protect its citizens from savvy predators. 10 TO MIDNIGHT also incorporates elements of slasher films, which were extremely popular at the time. The first victim is dispatched FRIDAY THE 13TH-style while having sex with her boyfriend in a van parked in the woods. Warren's systematic stalking and slashing of the house full of student nurses is a cornucopia of slasher tropes including a shower attack, a potential victim hiding under a bed while another victim is stabbed to death right above her and a prolonged chase of the Final Girl.
And can you really die from being stabbed in the stomach because according to this movie and the FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels, that's completely plausible.

It's a pretty well-acted and entertaining movie. J. LEE THOMPSON, stalwart action director who helmed the Gothic-infused slasher delight HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME a few years earlier, keeps everything stylish and snappy. BRONSON brings his usual likability and commanding presence to a stock role. Likewise, ANDREW STEVENS is good as his more ethical idealistic partner and potential love interest for the leading lady. My favorite, though, is LISA EILBACHER as Laurie Kessler. Most slasher movie Final Girls are still in their teens or in college, but Laurie is a grown woman trying to overcome childhood baggage as she progresses through adulthood. Though she still has a relationship with her father, it is clear he was often estranged from her and eschewed his parenting duties for the sake of his career. With the loss of her mother at a young age, Laurie ostensibly raised herself. Though she bears some reasonable resentment, she is not portrayed as incomplete or damaged. She is confident, tough-but-vulnerable, sassy and resourceful under distress. EILBACHER is refreshingly natural in the role and as a result, Laurie is always relatable.

Lisa Eilbacher as Laurie Kessler in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

GENE DAVIS is unfortunately wooden as Warren Stacy, often coming off as petulantly pissy rather than cold-blooded. However, the portrayal strangely works in the character's favor: a grown man pitching tantrums is far more repellant than any psychopath.
And you will never hear anything but gushing praise from me about GEOFFREY LEWIS, particularly when he is playing a gleefully sleazy attorney.
But while 10 TO MIDNIGHT is shamelessly entertaining, let's look at its depiction of the legal system.
Real life has little influence over Hollywood and I doubt any producers have been in a court room unless it's for their own cocaine possession. Therefore, 10 TO MIDNIGHT's sanctimonious assertion that the system is broken is pretty riddled with holes.
I can't exactly say the same for its brethren DIRTY HARRY, which arose from '70s cynicism about the institutions we constructed to protect us but failed to do so and fear that perhaps society had gone too far to one end of the spectrum to ever return to a balanced center.
In Harry Callahan's hunt for Scorpio, he acts under a ticking clock, determined to save a teenage girl who has been buried alive with only a few hours to live. He adheres to the rules until necessity dictates otherwise. I can't speak for Constitutional law in the early '70s, but Harry's obtaining Scorpio's rifle (which he does in the course of his legitimate search for Scorpio) and finally catching Scorpio himself are acceptable considering the extraneous circumstance. And while roughing up Scorpio would have a penalty, a human life hanging in the balance takes precedent over the right to a lawyer.
Harry Callahan cries that "the law's crazy" because he has done the right thing to save a young girl's life and prevent a dangerous (not to mention racist, homophobic and misogynistic) psychopath from hurting others. He is prevented from maintaining justice for the people by heartless bureaucrats who seem to care more about technicalities of the law than the citizens those laws were created to protect.
On the other hand, Leo Kessler planting evidence on Warren isn't in pursuit of justice, just sloppy police work. He is emotionally invested because Warren has involved his daughter and takes a short-cut.
I also don't think it was proper police procedure to illegally seize Warren's sex toy and brandish it at him during an interrogation ("Do you know what this is for? It's for jackin' off isn't it?" Leo snarls). No matter how freakydeaky he thinks it is, it's irrelevant to the murder investigation and I doubt he could get a judge to sign a warrant for it.

Leo Kessler (CHARLES BRONSON) is mystified by Warren's sex toy in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

10 TO MIDNIGHT would have us believe the criminal justice is full of loophooles in which clever criminals are all able to afford top-notch lawyers and manipulate their way back onto the street as wishy-washy liberals wring their hands and shrug over technicalities.
The legal system is flawed and not always fair (might equals right far too often), but not in the way the film depicts.
There's a misconception that Constitutional rights are only there to protect murderous psychopaths and child molesters go free, when the most commonly quoted statistic is that 97% of criminal defendants are ruled guilty.
Most of the judges in criminal court (at least where I live) are former prosecutors and therefore inclined to believe everyone is guilty. And there are a large chunk of defendants not poor enough to be eligible for a public defender but too poor to afford a private attorney, so most go without the skilled representation of a legal artist like Dave Dante.
And the number of defendants freed due to technicalities, in my experience, are zero. Exceptions are made if the investigating officers were acting in good faith. If a defendant is acquitted due to their Constitutional rights being violated, the investigating officers were negligent or corrupt in performing their duties.
In fact, if Warren Stacy were not such a despicable creep, the audience would be howling over lack of police ethics.
I also doubt that an attorney as savvy as Dave Dante, no matter how unethical, would propose an insanity plea as an alternative to the death penalty when there is clear evidence that the defendant was aware his criminal actions were wrong. Additionally, in California (as in several other states) the burden of proof would be on the defendant so I doubt this would have been proposed as a cavalier solution.

Criminal defense attorney Dave Dante (Geoffrey Lewis) and Warren Stacy (Gene Davis) in the court room in 10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)

Though Leo remarks that Dave Dante is scum, Dave is the one who is just doing his job. Everyone is entitled to the best defense possible (or at least one within their financial means) and Dave is simply defending his client to the best of his ability. It's Leo's sloppy and unethical police work that guarantees Warren Stacy will go free.

In the context of the film, I love the ending. It's dramatically satisfying and I don't know if anyone could have brought as much gravitas to that moment as CHARLES BRONSON does. However, in the context of the real world, Leo Kessler would then be rushing to obtain the services of a Dave Dante-type criminal lawyer he once hypocritically denounced.
Would the system still be considered to be broken if Leo were to be acquitted for murder? That's a question the film doesn't bother to consider.

Well, Constitutional law aside, 10 TO MIDNIGHT is good ol' fashioned exploitation fun and I don't think it's ever possible for me to dislike a CHARLES BRONSON movie. Even in those later DEATH WISH sequels where he starts rockin' sweat suits and starts to look more like ED ASNER, I still just love the guy. ROGER EBERT declared 10 TO MIDNIGHT to be "a scummy little sewer of a movie" and that "the people who made (it) have every reason to be ashamed of themselves." That's quite a compliment from the guy who penned the great trash classic BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS!

And while searching for a clip of the ending, I discovered this clip which made me love the Bronsonator even more.
I knew we were always on the same page!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Death Has Come To Your Little Town, Sheriff

Michael Myers ready with a knife in HALLOWEEN (1978)

By the time I post this, it will be after midnight, but it's Halloween every day of the year in my heart. And there was a hell of a night in my neighborhood too. Those jerks across the street, of course, had their Hallelujah house with undead cheerleaders gushing blood from botched abortions and gay men transformed into monsters by some unspecified disfiguring STD.
I thought maybe Otis Calhoun had given up. I thought maybe that prison bromance had softened him up.
But nobody bears a grudge quite like a Southern redneck.
In the distance you could hear the growl of the motorcycle and the sound of two men howling like wolves. Then out of the darkness of the night, Otis Calhoun emerged, riding on the back of his brother Lyle's motorcycle, dressed as Bluto from ANIMAL HOUSE and carrying a jack o' lantern with one hand and a Wild Turkey bottle in the other. He bellowed something that sounded like, "Chug a beer for Satan!" and, like he did many years before, hurled the jack o' lantern straight through the brand new picture window. Then Lyle plowed the motorcycle straight through the garage where Otis sprayed all the Hallelujah house with bourbon.
From that point on I lost track of all the mayhem, but there are emergency vehicles around the block and it looks like the Thomas's garage is on fire. I have a feeling November is going to be a busy month for Otis Calhoun's parole officer and Butch Walker, who's excited that Otis is back on the streets because he needs a new car.

And speaking of Halloween mayhem, it's time for the film that inserted the holiday into the annals of horror history. That's right, before JOHN CARPENTER and DEBRA HILL came along no one had made a horror movie about Halloween before. The tenth film in the 31 Days of Halloween review-a-thon is none other then the seminal low-budget classic HALLOWEEN (1978) written by DEBRA HILL and JOHN CARPENTER, directed by JOHN CARPENTER and starring the ultimate Scream Queen JAMIE LEE CURTIS as the shy babysitter besieged by the boogeyman.
Even if you haven't seen the film, you know the plot and it was re-used and re-invented countless of times by both independent and studio imitators.
The film opens with a point-of-view tracking shot through a house on Halloween night. This is already disorienting to the audience as we don't know who we are or why we're grabbing a butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer. We are both a helpless voyeur and complicit as seventeen-year-old Judith Myers is stabbed to death after having sex with her boyfriend. And the guy was a total minute man too.
To our shock, we discover the perpetrator is six-year-old Michael Myers, her little brother.

Six-year-old Michael Myers has killed his sister in HALLOWEEN (1978)

Fifteen years later, Michael's psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (veteran DONALD PLEASENCE) insists Michael should never be released; He's purely and simply (dramatic pause) evil.
But before he can be transported to a maximum security institution, Michael escapes and heads back home to Haddonfield, Illinois, right in time for Halloween.
Shy, thoughtful Laurie Strode (JAMIE LEE CURTIS) has an evening of baby-sitting planned while her more extroverted friends sardonic Annie (CARPENTER regular NANCY LOOMIS) and boy-crazy Lynda (cult favorite P.J. SOLES) are trying to sneak some sex and underage drinking into the mix. But little do they know of the evil that is stalking them...

Many reviewers interpreted the film as reactionary and puritanical due to the fact that the virginal Laurie survives the night while her sexually active friends are made into mince-meat, but I think this is an overly-simplistic view. HALLOWEEN was created in an eye of a cultural storm: after a decade of social upheaval and economic crisis, there was finally calm and affluence. I'm sure many were convinced this return to stasis would not last and this contributes to the point of view of the film that we are never really safe, no matter how many protections we have.
Evil is not in an Old Dark House or in the rural badlands: it has invaded upper-middle-class suburbia.
In some sense, the Michael Myers character is a reaction to the cultural results of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution but not quite in the way most reviewers have hypothesized. CAROL J. CLOVER, writer of the brilliant MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS, has stated the audiences for HALLOWEEN and the slasher films that followed are "the children of feminism." Following both social movements, the divorce rate rose substantially and the family dynamic changed permanently. Many children now came from homes with a single, working parent and did not have as much supervision and attention as their counterparts of previous generations.
At the same time, because of the economic boom following a decade of turmoil, society shifted from social consciousness to instant gratification.
Michael Myers is representative of the anger of the latch-key kid generation which lost some of their own childhood due to the actions of adults.

Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Lynda (P.J. Soles) and Annie (Nancy Loomis) in HALLOWEEN (1978)

His older sister, who is supposed to be taking care of him, ignores him to have sex with her boyfriend. It is not the act of having sex that signs these character's death warrants: it's the preference for instant gratification over responsibility.
Sex in American culture is perceived as an entrance into adulthood. Therefore in horror films, it's not sex being demonized but the fear of adulthood and the loss of childhood innocence.
Michael, in his fear of adulthood, remains a developmentally arrested child. When he is briefly unmasked near the end of the film, his facial features are child-like and boyish. Like most Americans, he is repelled by sex and cannot perceive women as anything other than mothers or whores.
His inability to mature and to comprehend the changing world around him in turn causes him to completely lose any sense of identity or personality. He becomes nothing but a robotic killing machine seeking out sister surrogates to punish, all the while wearing a featureless mask.

Michael Myers pins Bob to the door in HALLOWEEN (1978)

HALLOWEEN, like all horror films about teenagers, is a coming-of-age film underneath all the stalkings and stabbings. Laurie is far more responsible then her instant gratification-seeking friends. She's on the other end of the spectrum, completely selfless and always doing things for other people. But Laurie is at an age where she is deciding what kind of woman she would like to be. Like Michael, she has reservations about adulthood but she does not allow her fears to arrest her. Though introverted and studious (her hobbies are reading and knitting), she is not quite the prude that many reviewers construe her to be. After all, she gets high with Annie right before her baby-sitting job. Like most teenagers, Laurie is curious about sex and romantic relationships, but she's not going to rush into anything before she is ready. Unlike her friends, she knows both these things entail responsibility. The deaths the sexually active characters face, in addition to the death of their childhood, could also represent the ramifications of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.
"Guys think I'm too smart," she shrugs.
Laurie's transition into adulthood is achieved through survival; she is resourceful and courageous in the face of adversity. In surviving her battle with Michael Myers, she not only grows from child to woman, but grows into the kind of woman that she wants to be, rather than what other people want her to be.
It's arguable over which horror movie character deserves the title of First Final Girl, but its undeniable that Laurie is the template future Final Girls adhered to.
I really resent those boneheads whining that HALLOWEEN is anti-feminist when Laurie demonstrates herself to be intelligent, resourceful and strong. She would like to have a boyfriend but is independent enough that she does not need one to define herself.
Laurie Strode is a feminist.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in HALLOWEEN (1978)

And while I'm talking about strong, resourceful women, let me take a moment to give a shout out to the late DEBRA HILL. Not only did she co-write and produce one of the most influential horror films of all time, but she rose through the ranks of low-budget horror to become a successful producer in male-dominated studio Hollywood. That's no small feat, I can tell you.

But as much as I love Laurie, Annie Brackett may be my favorite character. The sarcastic best friend is a favorite horror movie trope of mine as that's the role I play in real life. Though I would probably face sudden death at the knife blade of a masked maniac for being so sassy, I just can't shut my mouth. NANCY LOOMIS grants her a terrific HIS GIRL FRIDAY-style snappy delivery, and aside from Dr. Loomis, has the best lines in the movie.
"I hate a guy with a car and no sense of humor."

Nancy Loomis as Annie Brackett in HALLOWEEN (1978)

And what about Dr. Loomis you ask? It's through his character that the film explores the concept of evil. In HALLOWEEN, evil has no explanation. Do we ever really find out the specific reasons why a six-year-old boy would stab his sister to death? The sequels would posit all kinds of theories but here, there is no real explanation. The graveyard cartetaker, Mr. Lowry, tells Loomis another tragic story involving hacksaw mayhem one town over, remarking that "every town has something like this."
Evil is not exclusive to Haddonfield it is everywhere in every small town in America. As mentioned before, no one is safe from it. Even Laurie in her hesitancy to take risks is not safe.
Evil in HALLOWEEN is an unstoppable force of nature. In Laurie's high school philosophy class, the lecture focuses on the idea of fate.
"Fate is immovable like a mountain...fate never changes," the teacher lectures.
Perhaps this implies that the mayhem transpiring on Halloween night was meant to happen and there are larger forces at work.
He is equated by Tommy Wallace, Laurie's baby-sitting charge, to the boogeyman: an all-purpose monster symbolizing all things that are malevolent to children. The boogeyman, too, is a way we try to understand the forces of evil in the world through myths and stories.
Michael Myers is the equivalent of a hurricane, with no emotions or personality to hinder him, leaving a path of death and destruction.

Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) does not realize Michael Myers has risen behind her in HALLOWEEN (1978).

He cannot be stopped. Laurie stabs him with a knife, stabs him in the eye with a coat hanger and stabs him in the neck with a knitting needle but he still will not die.
Even after six gunshots and a fall from the second story, Michael survives.
He is both a supernatural monster and a human monster. Supernatural in that he is more force of nature than human. He is both the inexplicable evil that men do and a vessel for the forces of evil themselves.
In the last scene of the film, Loomis looks down where Michael's body once lay and finds that it is now gone. He is unsurprised; he knew this would happen.
There is a montage of all the places Michael has been that night, now empty, as we hear his labored breathing over the soundtrack.
Not only can evil not be defeated, it's everywhere.

Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis in HALLOWEEN (1978).

With his featureless white mask, robotic compulsion to kill and supernatural abilities, Michael may also represent the ultimate force beyond human control.
"Death has come to your little town, Sheriff," Loomis states.
Michael Myers is also the equivalent of the Grim Reaper and our ultimate fate that cannot be defeated, death.
As one leaves their childhood and teenage years behind, death looms a little closer.

Annie (Nancy Loomis) does not realize Michael Myers is lurking outside in HALLOWEEN (1978).

It's through stories of the boogeyman and horror movies that we can attempt to understand the forces of evil in this world and help face our fear of death safely.
Laurie is an observant young woman and, as someone tentative to act, she is a watcher. In that respect, she is representative of HALLOWEEN's audience. Those that watch HALLOWEEN do so because they are trying to face their own fears.
While much attention has been paid to the fact that sequences in the film are shot from Michael's point of view, they forget to note that there are also sequences shot from Laurie's point of view. While Michael is a representative of evil, Laurie is a representative of good and both these forces are a part of us.
Unlike her friends, who are not interested in facing anything going on around them and instead settle for the brief escapism of sex, drinking and drugs, Laurie observes, is brave enough to investigate when she suspects something is wrong and strong enough to survive her brush with evil.
Ignoring the problem does not make it go away and it's Laurie's perceptiveness and her strength to face things rather than hide that allows her to survive the night more then her status as a virgin.

Laurie Strode and Tommy Doyle watch the horror movie marathon in HALLOWEEN (1978)