Halloween (1978)

Although HALLOWEEN is credited as being the prototype for the modern Slasher picture, we find that it hardly shares anything in common with films like FRIDAY THE 13TH or MY BLOODY VALENTINE. These films strictly rely on shock and exploitation over a growing tension and suspense, and are modeled far more closely after the Italian efforts like BAY OF BLOOD or BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is in a class unto itself. It is an experiment in terror that continues to haunt audiences nearly forty years after its initial release.

HALLOWEEN follows a young group of teens who are stuck babysitting on this frightful night. Unbeknownst to them, an escaped lunatic has broken free from the local sanitarium, and has made his way back to the small town of Haddonfield with the fretful Dr. Loomis hot on his trail. As each of the teens settle in for the night, the masked killer makes his approach, knife in hand. The boogeyman is real.

With HALLOWEEN, John Carpenter has demonstrated a complete control over film as an art form. From his specific use of color to the chilling score, Carpenter marries each of the individual elements within the medium to produce a growing sense of suspense and an oppressive mood that carries us through until the final frame of the film. Lighting is key in HALLOWEEN. We see the juxtaposition of Michel Myers' white mask contrasted against the absolute darkness of the hallways in each of the houses, warning us of his presence. Carpenter does something more with each death, as well. Not a single drop of blood needs to be shed for us to feel the sheer impact of each of the murders. Myers strikes with a ferocity that is unmatched by any other killer within the genre, yet there is a macabre beauty to each death as he admires his handiwork. The murder of Bob, in particular, is shocking in its simplicity, but nonetheless brutal and unexpected.

Haddonfield could be any town in Midwestern America, a look that producer Debra Hill strove to achieve when staging the film. This is no remote hotel. We have left the misty graveyards of Eastern Europe. Death has finally found us in our own backyards. Not only that, but it is our friends or our children that are now at risk. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the quiet girl next door perfectly as Laurie Strode, a seemingly fragile and vulnerable character than is forced into action when faced with certain death. She is the progenitor of the "final girl," the sinless virgin who is the only one left to defend us against this faceless evil. Donald Pleasence stars in his defining role as Dr. Sam Loomis, who is really quite maniacal in his own right, as well. Loomis is convinced that Myers is a being of pure evil, and that his must be stopped at any cost. As we will continue to see later in the series, Loomis is willing to take any risk to capture and kill Michael, though his methods are often called into question. Evil, itself, takes the shape of Nick Castle, whose imposing stature and expressive use of body language give Michael Myers a terrifying personality that is as cold and soulless as the knife that he wields.

Although John Carpenter has generously borrowed from earlier films like BLACK CHRISTMAS, HALLOWEEN is still given credit for establishing many of the defining characteristics that make up the Slasher genre. It is perhaps the purest and most unadulterated form of any Slasher film, cutting away the unnecessary elements of sex and gore to make room for the more effective moments of unbridled terror. HALLOWEEN is every bit the classic that it has been made out to be, and it has been director John Carpenter's finest achievement.

Rating: 10/10.

Movies like HALLOWEEN:
MALEVOLENCE, FRIDAY THE 13TH, PSYCHO, BAY OF BLOOD, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.

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2 comments:

  1. Great review of an amazing film. It has never gotten tired for me. I can watch every time and still enjoy it and even leave with a bit of an unsettled mind.

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  2. I thought you might appreciate this one, Joe!

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