HOLLYWOOD—When it comes to watching a really scary movie, nothing tops the list like John Carpenter’s 1978 classic “Halloween.” This film has so many things going for it that it literally set the precedent in my opinion for the horror genre. Some would argue that Carpenter gained many of his tricks from the Bob Clark 1974 classic “Black Christmas,” which is true to some degree, but that film lacked a notable villain in my opinion which is why “Halloween” excels.
There is a level of simplicity and originality in this spooky flick that no film till this day has been able to replicate or even come close to. The film opens on a scary note, with a presence stalking teenagers who are making out. That figure later enters the home, grabs a large butcher knife and stabs his sister to death. As the individual leaves the home, it is revealed that the murderer is a six-year old boy named Michael Myers.
The movie than flashes forward to 15 years later, where Mr. Myers has been locked away in a mental institution. His doctor Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) pays a visit to ensure that the dangerous patient isn’t given the go ahead to escape, and all hell breaks loose.
The rest of the movie plays with the idea of just “who” is Michael Myers and why has he returned to his home of Haddonfield. “Halloween” does something that other horror films fail to do: it builds suspense and unexpected jolts to the audience when they least expect it. For example, there our multiple instances where we get point of view shots of the villain appearing from spots we least expect, that is scary in my opinion. The film does a great job at not just building suspenseful moments, but sustaining the suspense until the big reveal.
The narrative is a straight shot without being too complicated: psychopath stalks babysitter and her friends. The audience has no precise idea why that is, which makes the story more compelling. Most villains tend to be one note, but Michael Myers is not, he might be more developed than heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). That William Shatner mask, just screams nightmares for most people. It’s simplistic, yet frightening when you see it in the dark or during the day.
Another notable element that sets “Halloween” apart from many other horror flicks is the score and music composed by writer and director John Carpenter. I mean how many horror flicks do you know that have there own theme music and you can spot it from a mile away? Not many, to be honest “Halloween” propels to the top spot if you’re asking me. That music is just the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard captured in cinema, and it’s done with a piano. Without the music this movie would not be nearly as frightening. Carpenter proves that sound is a critical element for any movie, but with horror it’s vital.
I think what I appreciate the most about “Halloween” is its goal to not splatter violence into the audience’s face as most films of the horror genre exhibited in the 80s and so on. Fear is not always about what you see it’s about what you don’t see. This was not a movie that had a large body count either, three teens to be exact, but if you count the murder of Judith Myers than you have four. And the bulk of those crimes take place near the third act of the movie, so the pacing increases slightly, but the climax may be the thrilling moment for audiences.
We’ve never seen a horror flick before “Halloween” where the villain who was human, was nearly impossible to defeat. Laurie stabbed him with a knitting pin, a hanger and then in the chest with a butcher knife. Yup, none of that worked, it took Dr. Loomis firing six bullets into Myers before the horror was finally over? Or was it? The big cliffhanger is the fact that Myers survives those shots and escapes into the darkness.
Till this day “Halloween” is a movie that I still watch with the lights on, I can’t think of a moment that I’ve seen the original film without the lights turned off. Nearly 30 years later, the film is labeled as one of the top horror films of all time for five reasons: a frightening villain, a lovable protagonist, a narrative that is simple, it wields suspense like no other and a score that sends chills down the spine. Don’t miss this classic, but if you do watch don’t do it alone!