Review: Halloween (1978)

Happy Halloween, everyone! And by that, I mean depending on where in the world you are. Technically it’s no longer Halloween for me either, but I tried my best. Welcome to the first in a new breed of post, one every Halloween, in which I review the Halloween horror franchise. Don’t worry, this won’t be like a 10-year-long series, I plan to do more than one each Halloween, but I felt like I’d be devaluing an incredible film by pairing this with a (probably) lackluster sequel. So, yeah, next year, Halloween II-III! But, for now, let us focus on the first, the first Night He Came Home!

John Carpenter’s Halloween was released in 1978, and is considered by many to be the first modern slasher flick, defining many of the tropes of the genre, including the rules made famous by Scream.

It was directed by John Carpenter, written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, scored by John Carpenter, and starred Jamie Lee Curtis and Ernst Stavro Blofeld himself, Donald Pleasence. It was released in 1978 to the tune of an astounding $47 million on a budget of only $350 thousand.

It tells the tale of an escaped mental patient, Michael Myers/The Shape, imprisoned 15 years earlier for the murder of his sister who goes on a (seemingly) random murder rampage across his hometown, fixating randomly on Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie and friends. Look, I know the sequel gives a reason, but I don’t really care right now. Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis, Mikey’s therapist, spends the whole film attempting to capture him.

Many horror films do not hold up well under modern scrutiny, especially without the eye of the beholder holding a previous love for that film. Perhaps surprisingly, John Carpenter’s Halloween is not one of those films. I really enjoyed it, and found it to be a rather tense, well-shot, well-paced horror movie, another unique film from the enigmatic John Carpenter. Having never seen an entire film from the franchise, I had no idea quite what to expect, but the film that I viewed both satisfied and surprised me. It was visceral, it felt genuine, and it was enjoyable in its genius. Watching it, I felt like it was at times a scavenger hunt to locate Michael in the background as he passed by, or in a reflection on a stove, or in a window, etc. There were so many of these shots, sort of blink-and-you-miss-them cameos before his first full-on appearance, and even a few afterward.

Don’t mistake me, Myers was intimidating as all get-out. His mask was genuinely chilling, even knowing it to be a painted Shatner mask. It was simultaneously near-human while also being completely alien, falling right into that uncomfortable location known as the Uncanny Valley, which works perfectly for an inhuman killer’s look. His jumpsuit is simplistic, nothing overly complex, no bells and whistles, and his plan straightforward, yet methodical. His methods brutal, yet oddly childlike, as he pins someone to a door through their chest, then looks at them with an odd fascination.

Nothing about Myers is, as a character, relatable, which is perfect. He doesn’t need a sympathetic backstory and some weird pseudo-destiny arc to validate his existence (*cough* Rob Zombie *cough*), and he benefits with the sense of mystery he possesses, his random killings more terrifying than familial hatred.

Laurie is perhaps one of the greatest “final girls” to ever exist, up there with Ellen Ripley for most bad-ass, that’s for sure. She handles the impossible situation given to her incredibly well, much better than I would’ve, that’s for certain. While Dr. Loomis does need to save her in the end, a lesser character would not have made it as far, and certainly not with both children intact.

Speaking of Dr. Loomis, Donald Pleasence does fantastic in the role of jaded psychologist turned prison warden, attempting to contain the unstoppable. His character was fairly interesting in this film, though he did suffer from limited screentime. I’m intrigued to see where his character goes in sequels.

The plotting is incredibly simplistic, yet well done, allowing for strong dialogue and all-around decent performances to carry the film to success. There is perhaps little to distinguish Halloween from your typical slasher flick, yet it is one of the first to grace the screens of cinemas. Perhaps the vanilla of slasher flicks, but I really like vanilla. Highly recommended, John Carpenter’s Halloween is an instant classic and a worthy entry into the horror canon. It’s certainly an A+!

a plus grade

And there you have it. What do you think of John Carpenter’s Halloween? What’s your favorite slasher franchise? Barring that, what’s your favorite horror movie, just in general? Leave your thoughts down in the comments section down under, and I’ll catch you on the down low. Laters!

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