Classic Review: Halloween (1978)
“Halloween” stars Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, and Nick Castle. Released on October 25, 1978, the film is about a serial killer who stalks and kills teenage babysitters on Halloween night.
The film was directed by John Carpenter, who also directed films such as “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Escape from New York”, “The Thing”, and “Big Trouble in Little China”. There’s plenty of fun stuff to do on Halloween: “Trick or Treating”, eating lots of free candy, running away from masked murderers. OK, so the last part isn’t as fun as the first two, but hey, anything can happen on this frightful holiday. 1978 was the year John Carpenter delivered one of the most influential and frightening horror films in history, which spawned a franchise that has more than one continuity as well as the popularization of 80s slasher films. While it left a dismissive taste in most of the critics’ mouths when it was first released, it went on to become a cult classic for horror fans many years later. This year not only marks the 40th anniversary of the film, but it also marks the upcoming release of its direct sequel, which is also titled “Halloween”, and to celebrate, I decided to take a first look at the film and see if it holds up well in my eyes. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, this is actually my first time watching the original “Halloween” film from start to finish. I’ve heard of it, along with its disappointing sequels, but I haven’t got the time to actually view them myself…until now.
Following the traditional slasher film formula, the film follows a silent, yet deadly, figure named Michael Myers (Castle) who was sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium after stabbing his older sister to death more than a decade ago. After making his escape, he sets his eyes on high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends and hopes to make a killing on Halloween night, all while being pursued by his former psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Pleasence). That would definitely explain the film’s title. The story offered a simplistic and intense experience of being stalked by a psychotic person who is strived to kill someone for no real reason. The lack of explanation as to why Michael Myers is obsessed with murder may come off as underdeveloped or generic for some people, but it can also be one of the reasons why it made such a frightful impact on its audience. Sometimes, not knowing why can be an unnerving thing, as it leaves us thinking about the possible reasons why someone is committing these actions, and John Carpenter’s “Halloween” made good use of that subject. While there’s nothing too special about the plot, aside from the fact that it inspired multiple slasher films that came after it, the film is just as effective as it originally was four decades ago. Rather than relying on violence and endless amounts of blood and gore to scare its audience, John Carpenter used the film’s dark atmosphere and the art of suspense to get people’s hearts racing. Not only that, but he also provided some well-intentioned jump scares that were actually quite scary. Nowadays, we have plenty of modern horror movies that used the jump scares improperly by inserting loud blaring sounds all the time, resulting in annoying many horror fans instead of scaring them. For “Halloween”, the jump scares were balanced out so that they’re more frightening than annoying. As for the cast, the only three actors that stood out for me were Pleasence, Curtis, and Nick Castle as Loomis, Laurie, and Michael, respectively. Curtis made a solid first impression on screen, which helped her earn the title name, “The Scream Queen”, and Castle…well, let’s just say that he’ll be haunting me in my nightmares for a while. In addition to writing and directing the film, Carpenter also provided the musical score, which is still iconic as of today. Like the film itself, the music is simple, yet intentionally haunting, as it tells the viewers that something sinister is lurking around us. I would also give the film credit for its cinematography. Not just because of its wide angle shots, but also because of the film’s opening scene in which it was viewed from the point-of-view of the young Michael Myers. It effectively lets the viewers see what Myers is seeing in his eyes, giving them the perspective on what he’s capable of. As for its flaws, the film does have a couple of slow parts despite its 90-minute runtime, so if you’re into horror movies that are fast-paced and filled with non-stop violence, this one may not be able to win you over during your first viewing.
Overall, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is far from a masterpiece, but it has enough scares and intrigue to spread some frightful cheers. From its convincing cast to Carpenter’s stunning direction, the film is worthy enough to continue its fearful quest to inspire horror fans, both longtime and up-and-coming, for years to come. I still find it hard to believe that it took me that long to finally start getting into this franchise. Good thing I found the right time to do so. Does that mean that I should look at the other sequels as well? Maybe, maybe not, but right now, I’m only going to focus on the film’s true follow-up. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure that Michael Myers isn’t spying on me.
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