We’re going back to 1978 to one of the original slashers, Halloween. This is a movie that has not only continued to be a constant watch around the autumn season, but has inspired several imitators hoping to capture that same success. I can’t blame them as Halloween was made on a very low budget (it might have been lower then John Carpenter’s first film Assault on Precinct 13), yet generated a major profit. You have to give it credit that while it was not the first slasher movie ever, it was the first to be centered around Halloween.
What’s interesting is despite the spooky surrounding of the holiday, Halloween was the first to set a horror story on that day. I think that similar to why we don’t see Christmas settings in horror stories, Halloween too has a sense on innocence that even represents a right of passage with most children with trick or treating, watching scary movies, and of course, carving pumpkins. Having a dark character like Michael Myers suddenly come into the fold takes away the intentional fun scare to make way for the true scares. So is Halloween the classic that everyone says it is? Well…let’s look at the story.
After a very suspenseful opening that shows a young Michael Myers murdering his older sister, he is sent to a mental hospital where his doctor Samuel Loomis (played by Donald Pleasence) looks to keep him there as he says “I saw nothing but evil in his eyes”. One evening before Halloween, Loomis sees that several inmates have escaped, including Michael Myers, who has stolen a car to make his way home to Haddonfield, Illinois.
In that same town on the same block, teenager Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is getting ready for a typical night of babysitting her neighbors child Tommy while her friends are going to do the same. But unlike her friends like Lynda, Annie and Bob who want to make it a night of romance, Laurie is single, and thus more focused on being Tommy’s friends and making it a nice Halloween. But once the sun sets and the jack o lanterns light up, Myers has made up a costume from a boiler suit and a mask and is heading back to his old neighborhood where Laurie is.
People are constantly phrasing Halloween as the essential John Carpenter film and one of the greatest horror movies of all time. I’m sorry, but I find Halloween overrated. Is it bad? No, not at all. In fact there are some great elements. Speaking of which, let’s get into the atmosphere. The beginning, which is all shown through Michael’s perspective, is a masterpiece in horror staging and setting the mood to let you know that this kid isn’t turning back. He will come out deranged. The rest of the time, you only see him with that mask, giving him the same idea that was occurring with Street Thunder in Assault on Precinct 13; that he’s a force rather then a person.
Jamie Lee Curtis is perfect as Laurie, with a combined sense of tension along with a bookish look that makes her the best choice for this kind of teenager. Donald Pleasance is often regarded with playing the authority figure, but few point out that he has that same sense of unpredictability and crazy that would have rubbed off given his job of watching Michael Myers. It’s too bad that aside from the three leads, I found non of the other characters, even the child actors, that convincing. Laurie’s friends especially only seem to exist to give the movie a longer running time.
It probably has to do with the script, which aside from some good lines and setup, is not that good. If you listen to the way the teens talk, they seem too dumb for the sake of the plot. Even the adult characters just seem like stock cops and stock teachers that may have given this movie more depth. Without it, your stuck knowing whose very likely to get axed off while we wait patiently for Michael to eventually get to Laurie.
Even the way this movie is shot is mixed. Many of the night shots seem clumsy and rushed which I can understand some of the reasoning (there are great moments with the way Michael Myers enters through the dark), but creates an lazy look when compared to how dark was shot in later John Carpenter films. I’d say that out of the things he did for the movie, John Carpenter’s score may be the best as it is chilling and of course, has a memorable synth sound that would be his trademark.
I’ll give this three and a half Michael Myers masks out of five. The setup and situation seems ready to go, but I really wanted better characters out of the teens and a bit more unpredictability with the plot. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if one of the kids had gotten killed? At least there are a lot of elements that can make it entertaining in some areas. This is one horror movie I don’t come back to that often, but I understand why a lot do. Take a look and see if this is one Halloween worth celebrating.