Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tony Moran
A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets.
Original theatrical release 10/25/78
What a Halloween treat to see this in the theaters as an adult. Featuring a new ten minute documentary titled You Can’t Kill the Boogeyman, John Carpenter’s horror staple is enthralling in its new HD transfer. Nostalgia washed over me with the first sign of the orange text on the black screen, eerily backed up with Carpenter’s signature theme. 35 years later and Halloween still reigns supreme in the world of indie horror hits.
I was nine years old when my parents’ poor judgement landed me in the front seat of their 1977 Oldsmobile. Armed with popcorn, a Coke, and my overactive imagination – my young life was about to change at the local drive in theater. Horror took to me like a cat takes to warm milk. My Southern Baptist parents never really seemed too concerned about taking me to see movies like The Omen or The Exorcist; maybe they thought I could handle it – they can’t seem to remember why they deemed this appropriate. I’m just glad that they did. I became obsessed with John Carpenter’s indie masterpiece and still absorb new trivia whenever I run across it. Tonight brought an amazing opportunity: the chance to relieve this past glory and pivotal influence that generates my love the for the genre to this day.
We don’t know anything about young Michael Myers, we can’t even speculate on him being “seemingly normal” before he violently butchers his older sister with a kitchen knife. To me, this is the most troubling thing about Myers in the greater scheme of horror villains – the kid just snaps with no warning and murders his sister, Judith. His parents come home on Halloween night and Michael is standing in the front yard of his Haddonfield, IL home with a confused look on his face. The police arrive and discover the ghoulish murder of Judith at the hands of six-year-old Michael.
Michael is taken to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he’s introduced to Dr. Samuel Loomis (Pleasance), his doctor for the next fifteen years until Michael escapes. Loomis spends an intensive amount of time with his new patient and is ultimately convinced pure evil resides behind those young eyes. “Black eyes” as he calls them “the devil’s eyes”. Michael never communicates, never reacts to his new life, he sits patiently for fifteen long years and escapes the day before Halloween. His destination is Haddonfield for his unfinished business.
I’m not going to do a play by play here. It’s a safe bet that most people frequenting my site have seen the film 35 times already. What I do want to talk about is all the reasons this film was/is such a magnificent piece of horror art for the ages. Carpenter not only wrote this amazing film, but he managed to deliver it to the studios for less than $400k – making it an indie success and then some. The budget was so thin that the fresh-faced Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), went shopping at a local JcPenny to buy her own clothes for the film. This was a perfect storm of possibilities. The actors and crew were so dedicated to this film, and it shows on each glorious frame.
Curtis is awesome as the teenage recipient of Myers’ attention. She’s a little naive and sheltered, but sets the precedent for powerful leading ladies that can be felt in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Anita Blake. I LOVE strong female leads. Pleasence is the only actor I can see portraying the obsessed Doctor determined to find and stop Myers. Being a horror movie, the local police are sure this escaped kid can’t even drive a car, let alone make it all the way back to Haddonfield to murder young Laurie. If you don’t know why he’s gunning for Laurie, then get the fuck out and do some horror homework.
Halloween isn’t dripping with gore, even the visible blood is minimal. What makes this work is the terrifying psychological approach Carpenter took to tell this tale. The unforgettable theme music was the pinnacle of horror themes then and now. Even more impressive is that Carpenter himself wrote the chilling music. Simple but effective. Carpenter’s directional style filled every second of the film with palpable tension and horror, relying on good old American film making instead of gore and extreme scenarios. Dubbed “The Shape”, Myers is the penultimate killing machine. He never speaks, takes off his mask, or even breaks a sweat on his unstoppable journey back to Haddonfield and beyond. You can stab him, shoot him; it doesn’t help. Why he possessed these supernatural killing powers is beyond the audience at the time. Like every other serious Halloween fan, the Thorn bullshit they introduced as a back story for Myers was just that, a huge pile of theatrical bullshit. I don’t acknowledge the other Halloween films and neither should you. Halloween III has its own charm, but shouldn’t have the name associated with it. Rob Zombie made the film his own, and I love his version as well. Other than that – total wastes of time.
This is a horror fan’s Christmas. An evil and mysterious killer, a young and innocent protagonist, kids to make the real life Boogyeman that much scarier, the score, the unrelenting Loomis on Myers’ trail, and inevitable showdown all make this my favorite horror movie of all time. One could argue The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are better films, but this is my favorite for all time, and contributes highly to the fact that this website and article even exist. Enjoy this movie in the dark, nothing but a lit jack ‘o lantern atop your entertainment center.