Humanstein On Bloody Disgusting: The Boogeyman, Fear, and Responsibility – A Close Analysis of ‘Halloween’ (1978)

With David Gordon Green’s “requel” to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic in theaters today, I thought I’d link to one of the favorite pieces I’ve written, a close reading of the 1978 film that postulates that Michael Myers might actually be the goddamn Boogeyman and tries its hardest to prove it. It’s still my pet theory and I think revisiting the original film with it in mind recolors it in an interesting way, especially if you’re able to divorce your reading of the first film from the various sequels (as the new film requires you to do).

Not only is this piece special to me because it’s the first time I wrote for another site besides my own, it’s also full of some of the ideas and writing I’m proudest of. Unfortunately, there are a handful of text formatting issues in the version of it rendered on the Bloody Disgusting site, but all told I’m still very proud of it. You can read the piece for yourself here: The Boogeyman, Fear, and Responsibility – A Close Analysis of ‘Halloween’ by Nathan Steinmetz

A few choice excerpts to entice you below:

One of the most obvious qualities of Michael Myers that sets him apart from his slasher brethren is that he is a stalker. He is methodical and calculated. He observes, he judges, and only then does he act. He’s not bringing down terror and death on the children of those that wronged him or any other of the later slasher tropes. Michael Myers weighs his observations of his would-be victims on some unknowable scale, and once his decision has been made, he kills.

I spend a good amount of time in the piece breaking scenes down, closely examining the quixotic and difficult to parse performance we get out of Michael and attempting to contextualize his choices. I think I do a pretty good job.

Another interesting tidbit that this reading brought to me is the idea that Michael is explicitly judging Laurie and her friends out of fear for (or identification with) Tommy Doyle.

When the story returns to Haddonfield, it’s Halloween morning in 1978 and we’re introduced to two characters that are the core of both the film and this analysis – Laurie Strode and Tommy Doyle. Tommy is a young boy, Laurie his teenage babysitter. Laurie’s father, a real estate agent, has asked her to drop a key off at the Myers home. Unbeknownst to our new leads, Michael Myers has returned and is watching from inside his childhood the home, analyzing and judging their actions. Tommy informs her that she shouldn’t go up there, that the Myers home is a spook house and should be avoided at all costs.

Of course, Laurie is too old for such childish superstition. She teases him for it before completing the task she’s meant to. Laurie is a beacon of responsibility, but Michael only sees the few instances in which she behaves, well, like a teenager. What he sees is a young boy being mocked for his fear by someone sworn to protect him. I posit that Michael begins to immediately identify with Tommy Doyle and begins to fear for his safety, perhaps seeing Tommy as himself and, horribly enough, Laurie as his sister.

I believe the close reading I performed back in 2016 helps crystalize and clarify what exactly Michael is doing, and I think it makes him all the more interesting, and all the more terrifying.

Taken as an individual film, Halloween is about the value of fear and the necessity of being responsible.  Those that chose to ignore their fear (or shirk their responsibilities) are punished, lest their bad example corrupt or harm the innocent souls around them and lead them into danger. Myers’ identification with Tommy Doyle leads him to stalk and judge the actions of those deemed responsible enough to safeguard and protect the children of Haddonfield. Michael Myers does what he does because he is The Boogeyman, set to remind us all why responsibility and fear are important – because they keep you and those around you safe.

So, why not take a read and see if you agree with my take on Michael? It may help give Carpenter’s classic a new dimension for you.

I’ll likely be revisiting a lot of the ideas I toy with in the linked piece once I’ve gotten my chance to see the 2018 film in a few hours.

Enjoy!

Humanstein

Nathan is a film writer, an aspiring filmmaker, and a junk food enthusiast. He's also the founder of Humanstein.com and loves a good cup of coffee.