While we get ready for the new sequel coming in October, let’s take a look at one of the best horror movies of all time, Halloween (1978). As the Inquisitr reported, the new Halloween sequel looks like it will be one of the scariest horror movies of the year, and the original is one of the most chilling films ever made. But is it as scary with today’s standard of horror?
John Carpenter not only directed the horror classic, he co-wrote it alongside Debra Hill. While many refer to this picture as the first slasher, that prize belongs to Bob Clark’s 1974 movie, Black Christmas (years later, Bob Clark would make another Christmas film, A Christmas Story). But it was Carpenter’s Halloween that made slasher movies famous in pop culture, and his horror flick inspired the ’80s boom of the subgenre.
Halloween, which was originally going to be titled The Babysitter Murders, put scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis on the map with her portrayal of Laurie Strode, and Donald Pleasence as Dr. Samuel Loomis is legendary. The film co-stars Nancy Kyes (Annie), P.J. Soles (who “totally” played Lynda), Kyle Richards (Lindsey), Brian Andres (Tommy), and of course, Nick Castle as The Shape (Michael Myers).
Throughout the decades, Halloween has maintained rave reviews. With a stunning score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the site provides the simple premise for one of the best all-time horror movies.
“A young boy kills his sister on Halloween of 1963 and is sent to a mental hospital. 15 years later he escapes and returns to his home town in order to wreak havoc.”
For a movie with such a simple plot, it sure does pack a lot of scares with a ton of style. But style is all that Carpenter had to work with in the horror flick. In an interview with Consequence of Sound, John Carpenter expounded on this.
“That’s all we had. We only had the style because we had a very slim plot: An escaped lunatic comes back to this town and starts killing these babysitters. A lot of horror can live or die on visual flourish. Horror requires mood and tempo, it’s a little trickier, and usually you’re suspending some sort of ridiculous premise that you have to make people believe in.”
And believe in it we did. Halloween begins with the famed theme song that was also composed by Carpenter. The 93-minute film features an opening sequence that is considered legendary by cinephiles. Using the then new Steadicam, which came about in 1976, Carpenter filmed the opening scene in just one fluid shot. If this was made like most movies, the opening scene would have featured a series of cuts, various angles, and would likely flash-cut across numerous rooms in the house as young Mikey prepared to do his evil deed.
Instead, with a POV that puts the audience in the killer’s shoes, viewers are taken throughout the Myers house in a realistic way that allows spectators to believe the scene. The fluidity of the sequence adds to the realism and the terror as we watch young Michael slash his sister to death. One could watch this horror movie a hundred times, as many certainly have, and the scene of the young boy killing his sister would still be just as chilling as the first time around.
As the film builds, we get to see the dynamics of Laurie Strode’s relationship with her friends. Curtis plays the archetypal final girl. Laurie is fairly innocent, smart, tough, and though she does hit a joint, she’s focused more on studies and babysitting than she is partying it up with her gals. And her friends are the quintessential slasher victims, half-naked partiers who are far more concerned with hooking up than they are with anything else. The banter between Strode and her friends is very entertaining and nostalgic, and this helps move the horror film along as we wait for the action to pick up, and that doesn’t take very long.
Before we know it, Michael Myers is starting to claim his victims while Dr. Loomis continues his investigation. As avid fans know, the simple, creepy, white mask that Myers dons is a William Shatner Captain Kirk mask that was altered. In the script, and even on Rotten Tomatoes, Nick Castle isn’t listed as Myers, but as “The Shape”; he is the embodiment of evil, and his simple presentation is a canvas for the audience’s imagination to paint their internal nightmares.
The way Carpenter presents his killer to the audience is brilliant. For the most part, we at first only see shots of the killer from afar, and as the movie progresses, shots of Myers become closer and closer. Except toward the end of the film, when we do see Michael, his mask is partially hidden from the audience’s perspective (i.e., far away shots, fogged up windows, or darkened profile views). Unlike the majority of modern horror movies, for an R-rated horror flick, Halloween does not have a lot of blood or nudity; Carpenter entices fear with brilliant filmmaking and genuine suspense rather than gruesome gore or naked people constantly popping up on the screen.
There is plenty of scary parts as we witness Michael strangle and stab his victims, but it’s the 20-minute climax that will have viewers on the edge of their seats. Laurie goes to her friend’s house, across the street from where she is sitting, to check on them, and that’s when one of the most epic moments in horror movie history happens. As Strode discovers that each friend is dead, crying and in shock with fear, the audience gets their first clear look at Myers as his pale head slowly reveals itself in the dark shadows behind her.
The climax ends up back at the house where our scream queen was babysitting, and the real terror takes off. The idea of a killer being in such a quaint house, with innocent children, is absolutely terrifying. And where the beginning shots of Michael were landscape or partially hidden, by the time we see our heroine in the closet with Myers breaking down the door, the scene is so close that viewers will feel like they are in the closet with her.
And of course, we all know how the ending goes; Myers is unmasked (it is Tony Moran’s face shown here, not Nick Castle), shot six times, falls two floors landing on the ground outside, and in a scene that numerous horror movies have emulated, he disappears and is seemingly indestructible. So, is Halloween just as scary today as it was 40 years ago? Absolutely!
The reason Halloween has had such staying power is because it’s artistic, very scary, and it is simple; a simple premise, a simple killer, and a simple musical score that is utterly creepy. Sometimes, with horror movies, less is more. Like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, John Carpenter made a film that our imaginations can run free in, and nothing is more terrifying than our own fears.
Warning: The trailer below contains some graphic imagery.
With brilliant artistic direction, great performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, and numerous scenes that are just as scary today as they were decades ago, Halloween remains one of the best horror movies of all time.