- Directed and Scored by John Carpenter
- October 25, 1978
A mental patient, Michael Myers, who was committed to a sanitarium for murdering his teenage sister on Halloween night when he was six years old, escapes fifteen years later and returns to his hometown where he stalks and kills while under pursuit by his psychiatrist.
Halloween is one of those movies that for me is as good today as it was when I first saw it. It is a masterpiece of low budget filmmaking with iconic music and a surprisingly good script performed by great talent. How can you not get a classic out of that? But most importantly is it certified John Carpenter as a master of horror of the era.
And the music Carpenter came up with for this movie is just so simple yet so perfect. There has rarely been music better conceived of for a film than what we get here. It sets the tone of the movie and works to make the viewer nervous and tense as well as just highlights things as they occur.
The level of gore we get is surprisingly minimal. Compared to other horror films of the time we see little blood or squishy innards. We hear the noise of the knife piercing the victim and see the blood on it but often not much in the way of guts and violence. Rather usually we get a brief glimpse of the aftermath letting our mind do much of the work for Carpenter and friends. You are teased making the payoff is so great and satisfying.
We get a great deal of buildup to Michael Myers’s rampage but not very much rampage. He does a large amount of stalking but not too much killing but when he does he just kills. There’s no reason given why he is the way he is. All we know is that on Halloween of 1963 he came home and murdered his older sister. It just happened and that makes it terrifying. Never knowing why something happens makes an event so much more disturbing.
Too often movies make the mistake of explaining why the killer kills. What is more effective is when you don’t know why. There may be a pattern to the killer’s killing spree but without a clear explanation you’re always left unsure of who they will kill next. Random is the true terror. In the context of the story all Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in a career making role) knows is she is just some random victim of a crazed maniac.
Myers is slow and methodical. He just keeps coming and stalking his main victim Laurie Strode. He’s there watching and then disappears like a whisp of smoke in the wind. Why the focus on some random person? The subconscious implication is that it could be anybody.
Our heroine-if you can call her that-is a studious teenage girl. Not ridiculously studious and not to the contrary is she ridiculously sex obsessed. She’s a normal teenager with a good head on her shoulders who is the focus of evil one Halloween night. Carpenter created a character and not a caricature.
Donald Pleasance took on for better or worse a career defining role as Dr. Loomis. The man had a great resume prior to this but his role here is what most likely comes to mind when the public thinks of him.
Loomis’s fear and panic on that dark and stormy night helps set the tone for the story. We know something terrible is coming. And there is also the implication something terrible has already happened. With the patients at the asylum all outside the implication is the staff inside are all dead. Otherwise why would the patients be outside? They kinda gloss over that bit and I think it should have been looked at a little more.
Halloween itself is around 90 minutes so there isn’t much time for fluff. They flesh out the situation and the characters pretty quickly. Interestingly everything we learn about Michael never comes from anything he really does. It’s all Dr. Loomis who has been watching this individual for 15 years giving exposition. Michael is silent other than some heavy breathing.
Carpenter and company created magic here. He made a simple and to the point yet very effective slasher film that set a standard that many others have tried to emulate. It was genre defining. Heck it was the first to use the open-ended ending where the killer appears to have survived their final disposition.
Halloween is a classic slasher film as well as being a classic bit of moviemaking. It is to the point and very effective in using what it has. This is a must see for not only horror fans but general movie goers as well!