Horror Movies for Feminists: Halloween (1978)

Synopsis: A murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets of suburbia.

Why feminists will watch: Halloween is the template for many teen horror movies that followed. The first of the famous franchise (eleven and counting) was created by John Carpenter, who treated this thin, pulpy script with an auteur’s touch. As a result of his artistry it features tons of fantastic cinematography with tightly controlled shots that build tension until you’re ready to crawl out of your own skin. Young, then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis stars as the original final girl Laurie Strode, and embodies white suburban anxieties about sex and morality. Only the “good girls” like smart, chaste Laurie prevail.

This infamous scene where Laurie is stalked by the villain as she walks home from school will stay with you for a long time, both because of the suspense and because of the masterful use of the camera and music to build that suspense. What horror lurks in each car, behind every curtain, in the halls of every school, every dad, brother, boyfriend, and mean girl a villain? This fear that white, middle-class suburban bliss is a facade for something evil is explored again and again in horror movies, more recently in the work of Jordan Peele.

Note: Rob Zombie casually snuck a rape scene into his 2007 remake, so stick to the original.

Is it gory? Yes, but forty-some years later, the gore looks pretty cheesy. Don’t let it deter you from this classic.

Is it problematic? Absolutely. When you’re done, disassemble it like a serial killer.

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