Whether or not you feel that, excluding Psycho, this was the first of its genre- it is definitely the most influential (for better or worse) and easily the most famous. John Carpenter’s Halloween, like Romero’s NOTD before it came out of low-budget nowhere land, and paralysed audiences around the world upon it’s release, turning it’s cast into stars and ensuring that horror movies would never be the same again. Almost thirty years on, even though horror movies have become much darker and more grotesque, this still stands at the top of the pile as a timeless, chilling and effective film which will have you reaching for the light switch, or knife, when you hear a creaking at the top of the stairs.
A boy who killed his sister many years ago escapes from his asylum, and from the care of Dr. Loomis, the only person who remotely understands him, and decides to go on a kill crazy rampage in the town he was born, seeking and killing his relatives, and any other fool who gets in his way. So begins the legacy of Michael Myers. The film follows Laurie, the virgin teenager and mother of all modern scream queens, dateless and forced to babysit on Halloween night as she tries to escape Myers.
While the plot is hardly outstanding, it is Carpenter’s direction which makes this a classic. He knows how to create and build tension, to get the most from his cast, and for any wannabe directors this is essential viewing, as it was all done on a low budget. Employing original camera angles, effective use of the hand-held, and a memorable score all help create an atmosphere that most modern horror movies cannot reach. Everything in this movie is designed around ensuring that the tension is unrelenting. This was also one of the first ‘modern’ movies that showed youth that the world was not as safe as they had been led to believe, that our parents are not as reliable or trustworthy as we thought. The scene where Laurie is turned away from a neighbors house by a simple flick of a light switch underlines this. Suburbia is not sanctuary, and sometimes we can only rely on ourselves. However, it is when Laurie is pushed, that her strong character and instinct to survive and protectc comes out.
Jamie Lee Curtis is of course outstanding in her role, but the supporting cast are all strong. Pleasance creates a legend opposite to Myers with only a few scenes and not much dialogue, and Loomis and Cyphers in smaller roles are effective as always. The film seems ageless even now, looking past the hair and fashion largely because the themes of being threatened and scared by an unseen force, and being held under seige by the same force when it presents itself are still relevant today. Something as simple as Myers peaking out from behind a bush can still send shivers, and yet there is a beauty in the cinematography- like Assault On Precinct 13, sunsets lend a reflective, emotive force, but it is after the sun has set that the fun really begins.
This 2 disc edition is a must for all horror fans, with lots of extra features which compliment the film.
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts- is this Carpenter’s best? Is this the definitive slasher movie?