The first flick in the trilogy from director John Carpenter, Halloween almost single-handedly invented the 1980s slasher genre. Escaped lunatic Michael Myers (no, not the Austin Powers actor) goes on a murderous baby-sitter-slaying rampage on Halloween. Only baby sitter Jamie Lee Curtis (the quintessential scream queen) and psychiatrist Donald Pleasence can stop him.
“But you can’t kill the boogie man!”
Halloween is ultimate the perfect example of a late 70’s slasher film. It has been copied to death and in many ways is more 80’s than 70’s. I say this because it influenced a generation of “like films” that spawned a generation of slasher releases. As one of Carpenter’s greatest creations, it represents a simpler era that focused on the idea of scaring its viewers. No cgi, no fancy editing, just raw powerful emotional intensity accompanied by a music score that simply gets under your skin. We are introduced to an evil man who lives to kill. What transpires is an elevation of his character into supernatural as he is killed and then vanishes as if the event never happened. This trait would bleed over into the future Friday the 13th character as well as several others to follow.
For starters, you have a good mix of acting from otherwise (at the time) fairly unknown actors. One of the differences between “Halloween” and its copies was that you cared about the characters and didn’t look at them as just a mere body count. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) was a heroine you could root for and who you wanted to be the “final” girl who grew strength from the horror situation she was in. And how perfect was the casting of Dr. Loomis? Who could have pulled off this part better than Donald Pleasence? His intensity made us believe that Michael Myers was indeed evil himself and that the doctor believed he had no choice but to destroy him. We can believe that Dr. Loomis is a man who is terrified and yet is a man on a mission. A lesser actor would have made the film a comedy and not a classic with the lines he has to deliver believably.
The story itself never has a need to get overly complex. 6-year-old Michael Myers murders his sister Judith. He is committed and sent away to returns 15 years later (per escape). Haddonfield, Illinois sets the stage for the Myers house of which Michael returns with a vengeance. As per the title, it is Halloween night providing a natural cover for his masked appearance. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) finds herself stalked by the killer in addition to her school classmates. Michael becomes a realized version of a real life boogeyman who inflicts terror into the small town while adding to its body count. His image is kept simple with a mask, blue overalls, and usually a knife as his weapon of choice. The fact that he never speaks also adds to his enigma.
Like true evil there was no reason for Michael Myers to be evil (in the first film) he just was and that made him scarier. When we see his face after Laurie has pulled his mask off, his face is blank; he has no reaction to attacking her, no joy, no sorrow, void of emotional response. He just stops to put his mask back on and then goes back to attacking her. A very chilling film even after watching it in repeated viewings.
The mask, which is famous for being a repainted Captain Kirk mask is so mundane and solemn that it elevates our character into a perception that the mask is our killers true face erasing any need to see his actual face beneath. The character of Michael Myers, a rather common sounding suburban name, has propelled itself into iconic status instantly associating its name with this white-masked killer. “Halloween” would spark a franchise that while still prosperous would never quite top its original. It also inspired a remake which took its story even further by adding more background to his origins.
The movie would gross 47 million over a basic budget of $325,000. Still today with numerous releases, re-packagings and inclusions it still pulls in a profit from horror fans. Perhaps its biggest attraction is that it is a knowingly effective product that almost requires repeat purchases promising equal takeaway as the day it was released.
First of all what worked for me:
– Good acting and interesting characters.
– The “Shape” appearing behind Laurie from the darkness.
-The music is simple but works so well. Even if you never saw the movie you know the theme.
-The “Shape” having a blank human face under that mask (A William Shatner Mask painted white, how funny is that?).
-The feeling that the “Shape” is watching everything and around every corner.
-The killing of the dog, so simple, you see very little but you know what is happening.
-The fact that you see very little blood but you think you see gallons.
-Jamie Lee Curtis. She was believable and every schoolboy had a crush on her.
What doesn’t work for me:
Nothing, I love this movie.
Bonus features on Halloween 35th Anniversary Blu-ray™ include:
All-new commentary track with writer/director John Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis;
“The Night She Came Home” new featurette with Jamie Lee Curtis (HD);
TV & Radio Spots;
Additional Scenes from TV Version