HALLOWEEN (1978) – Film Review

On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers brutally murdered his seventeen-year-old sister, Judith (Sandy Johnson). He was sentenced and locked away for fifteen years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a twenty-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.

Happy Halloween, folks! I hope you all had a great October filled with plenty of scary movies, candy, and great memories. It’s hard to believe, but yes, we are actually at the end of the month, which means Halloween.

When I was younger, I used to go trick-or-treating and I absolutely adored it. Even on October 1st, I would be counting down the days until Halloween night so I could put on my scary costume and go door-to-door collecting tons of candy to eat the whole night. Usually, my candy lasted about a week, as I tried my best to preserve as much as I could.

But, as you get older, you get a bit too old to go trick-or-treating, and so you create new traditions to do instead. For example, in recent years, my family and I have sat around the house watching horror movies while decorating our front porch, and handing out candy in costumes. It’s still a genuine blast to do so and to see how excited everybody is for the big night.

However, one thing that I have been doing every Halloween night ever since I was a small child, is watch John Carpenter’s 1978 classic slasher Halloween. It’s a movie that I probably shouldn’t have been watching at such a young age, but I did it anyway. It’s not necessarily something I would classify as “scary”, but it most certainly is a broodingly dark and atmospheric story of evil personified in human form. It may only be ninety-one minutes including credits, but it’s plenty of time to create for one of the greatest horror movies of all-time.

Courtesy of Compass International Pictures, Aquarius Releasing

Carpenter’s direction here feels so robust and so creepy. Every single shot in Halloween feels like it has a purpose in the story, whether its establishing the characters such as Laurie Strode and Michael Myers, or if it is just to create some much needed tension and atmosphere, Halloween is an unrelenting masterclass in suspense. All of this is further boosted by the marvelous cinematography from director of photography Dean Cundey, whose shots here look cold and dreary, yet also strangely comforting. Halloween is the perfect movie to watch by the fireplace on Halloween night while snuggling up in a blanket.

But aside from all of the excellent directing and cinematography, the film is remarkably well-acted too. The late Donald Pleasance delivers a quiet and nuanced performance as Doctor Sam Loomis, who feels like the calmest and collected character in the story. The whole town is unhinged as teenagers get picked off one by one, but Loomis is always the person who tries his best not to panic. He is quite assured that no matter how long it will take, he will find Michael Myers and deal with him however he sees fit.

And of course we can’t forget about Jamie Lee Curtis, who delivers one of, if not the best, performance of her entire career as Laurie Strode. She basically invented the whole idea of “final girls” in horror cinema. She is a character that always feels powerful. She’s the one person that you feel can take down Michael Myers. On the surface, she may look like just an average girl, but underneath all that is a deadly woman just waiting for her prey, and Myers is right in her line of sight.

It’s truly fascinating to think that Halloween came out back in 1978, because even all these years later, it still holds up incredibly well. Sure, there are some scenes where the sound effects may come across as a little bit corny and some of the kills are hugely tame, especially compared to the kills in the recent 2018 Halloween sequel, but back in 1978, the stuff that they showed in this movie was probably considered to be astoundingly violent.

And although the kills in this original 1978 Halloween are not up to par with the kills in the most recent entries, it doesn’t really matter because, at the end of the day, John Carpenter managed to create one of the greatest, most suspenseful horror films of all-time with such a simple yet wonderfully creepy concept.

With its outstanding lead performance from Jamie Lee Curtis and its excellent direction, John Carpenter’s Halloween is a tension-filled horror masterpiece.

Overall Grade: A+

MPAA Rating: R

Cast: Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles, Nancy Loomis, Nick Castle, Nancy Kyes, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, John Michael Graham, Nancy Stephens

Directed by: John Carpenter

Distributed by: Compass International Pictures, Aquarius Releasing

Release Date: October 25, 1978

Running Time: 91 minutes

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