Director: John Carpenter Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis & Tony Moran Synopsis: A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish adolescent girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets. Rating: 18 Runtime: 91 minutes
Horror films don’t come much more iconic than John Carpenter’s Halloween. The film was made on a small budget, and was directed by a man who only had two full length features to his name at the time, while surely no one involved could have had any idea as to just how a big a hit Halloween would become. Halloween introduced audiences to The Shape, aka Michael Myers, brought Jamie Lee Curtis into the mainstream and also set about making a whole new set of rules that the horror genre is still abiding by today.
To say that Halloween had an impact would be an understatement, as it is possibly one of the most influential horror films of all time, and has brought about many imitators, sequels and poor remakes. The likes of Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and even films like The Terminator all owe a debt to Halloween and John Carpenter.
Halloween is one of the first horror films I recall watching, and it is still a film that return to each year without fail. While the scares may be lacking after the umpteenth watch, and some of the dialogue now seems unintentionally funny, Halloween remains one of those horror films that can be watched over and over again. The iconic score that plays over the opening credits sets the tone wickedly for the rest of the film, and is a clear statement of intent towards the audience of what they should expect.
What the film may lack in scares, it makes up for in palpable tension. With Carpenter setting out his stall early on, he manages each scene perfectly and shows a clear knowledge of how to make each shot look perfect. The steady camera work contemplates the slow-moving style of the film, as each movement, just like the films antagonist, seems carefully chosen and crafted with such precision that film schools must surely use this body of work as shining example of how to do things.
Alongside Carpenter, the cast does some excellent work. Despite already looking 40 here, Jamie Lee Curtis shines in her first full length role as the teenage high schooler who has to babysit at Halloween. She also became an icon in horror, while reprising her role as Laurie Strode a further three times. Donald Pleasance is also excellent as Dr. Loomis, and makes the cheesiest lines sound like fine art, as he spends the entire film trying to convince everyone of the threat that Michael Myers actually carries and all the while having no one believe him until it is too late.
Despite my love of the film, it does have it faults. The acting from Laurie’s high school friends can be laughable at times and some scenes may come across as inadvertently funny nowadays. However, these faults cannot take away from what a masterpiece Halloween is. It laid the groundwork for the slasher genre and became the go to reference for anyone attempting to make a good, low-budget horror film. I would even go as far to say that it is still the greatest horror film ever made.
In summary: Halloween is a masterpiece in suspenseful horror, and still packs a punch 36 years after its initial release.