Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as arguably the quintessential slasher movie that paved the way of deranged homicidal villains in cinema history, filmmaker John Carpenter (Escape From New York, The Thing, (1982) Big Trouble In Little China) directed a film as a spiritual successor to Hitchcock’s signature picture about a deranged psychopath who escapes from a psychiatric hospital, returns to his childhood home who stalks a teenage girl and her friends while his psychiatrist tracks him down in an attempt to put a halt on his patient’s killing spree. The premise I’m referring to is none other than the original Halloween.
Halloween was released in 1978. (same year Christopher Reeve’s Superman came out) It became a surprise hit with several critics such as Roger Ebert. In addition to critical acclaim, it managed to make money at the box office solidifying John Carpenter as a respected filmmaker inspiring iconic slasher film including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Child’s Play, Hellraiser among many others. Halloween is selected by The Criterion Collection on LaserDisc issued spine number 247.
Halloween spawned a franchise consisting numerous sequels that tried to recapture the essence. However, each sequel was either an underwhelming disappointment or just a total cluster fudge. Rob Zombie directed a remake in 2007 and a sequel two years later. Both of them failed to capture lightning in a bottle. Besides sequels, the franchise also sold merchandise featuring t-shirts, costumes, action figures, comics etc. The original is my favorite horror movie of all time.
A follow up to the original Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode, is scheduled to come out as the title suggests where it takes place forty years after the events of the first film with Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Eastbound and Down, Underworld series) writing the screenplay. The rest of the sequels like Halloween: H20 and Rob Zombie’s remake are discarded in favor of going back to its roots.
Today’s review doesn’t contain any important SPOILERS. If you’ve never ever ever seen John Carpenter’s film that paved the way of slasher films, feel free to read this article. Does Halloween still hold up after four decades? Time to find out!
Positive & Negative Elements
Positive: Jamie Lee Curtis (in her film debut) & Donald Pleasance both did an excellent job for their respective performances as Laurie Strode & Dr. Sam Loomis.
Fun Fact: Janet Leigh, who starred in the original Psycho and also Jamie’s real-life mother, made a cameo appearance in Halloween: H20. I’d assume that John hired Jamie because he’s a fan of Hitchcock’s work and considers him one of his primary influences as a director.
Nick Castle (one of John Carpenter’s collaborators) did a good job for his portrayal as Michael Myers. Every time you see Michael, you know he’ll give you the heebie jeebies.
For a low budget movie, Death Scenes felt strategic, using shadows to deliver a bone chilling atmosphere rather than leaving gruesome stains. Hear me out, this was a low budget project, because practical effects were scarce.
Scare Tactics were realistically used without shoving way too many jump scares in your face.
Michael’s mask is modeled after William Shatner’s appearance.
John Carpenter did an excellent job directing, writing and composing. He’s extremely multitalented as a filmmaker, writer and conductor. He’s like a one-man band besides Robert Rodriguez. Rob cites John as a role model.
Speaking of conducting, John wrote and orchestrated the iconic theme. Similar to The Simpsons spoofing Cape Fear’s theme, Halloween’s theme is used for exaggerated parody. Over the years, the theme is played for laughs.
Cinematography was carefully shot using an effective Perspective of View Shot (POV for short) during the opening scene, camera trickery to feel Michael’s presence.
Not actually a spoiler, the Prologue establishes Michael’s first kill. Thus, we understand who he is without a single word. A good example of “show don’t tell.”
Dr. Loomis briefly mentioned his history with Michael prior to escaping.
Two characters watch The Thing from Another World. John Carpenter went on to make a darker version of The Thing with Kurt Russell.
Unlike Rob Zombie’s disastrous remake, nobody acted like a complete total jerk. They were relatable people making you care for Laurie and her friends.
Sam Loomis’ name is taken from a character in Hitchcock’s Psycho, not Gus Vant Sant’s god-awful remake.
Negative: To be honest with you guys & gals, I couldn’t find anything wrong with this movie. I’m giving The Cast & Crew an Extra Point for making this movie as flawless as possible.
The Final Verdict: A, FOR APEX!
All I can say is in fact, Halloween is one of John Carpenter’s best films and also one of the best horror films next to The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street as bona fide masterpieces. If you’re looking forward to the upcoming 2018 movie, I strongly recommend the one that started it all. Halloween remains as my favorite horror movie of all time.