John Carpenter’s Halloween is, hands down, my all-time favorite horror film. My mom made me watch it when I was in elementary school; she recognized the importance it had, and she had never truly been affected by a horror film the way she had been with Halloween when she saw it in the theater. As I watched the film alone in the dark, I became entranced. It’s a tradition in my house to watch it every Halloween night.
*SPOILER ALERT…BUT HAVE YOU REALLY NOT SEEN IT!?*
The film begins with Michael Myers as a six year old murdering his teenage sister with a knife. As a result he is committed to a mental institution 150 miles away. Fifteen years later, Michael is set to be transported to a court room by a nurse and his psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). As Dr. Loomis and the nurse approach the facility on a rainy Devil’s Night, in the dark shadows patients are roaming much like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Dr. Loomis knows Michael has done something terrible to concoct this, but before he can do anything to stop him, Michael steals the nurse’s car and heads to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.
Jamie Lee Curtis, the ultimate Scream Queen, is believable as dorky and neurotic high school student Laurie Strode who has nothing better to do than to babysit on Halloween night. Michael stalks Laurie the entire day of Halloween; Laurie picks up his presence numerous times, and each incident is creepier than the one before it, though her friends laugh off her fear and label her a scaredy-cat.
Set to the best (and most recognizable) horror film score of all time, the suspense never leaves you, even during the daytime when you know that probably nothing is going to happen right at that moment. We know that Michael is a ruthless murderer as Dr. Loomis explains to the sheriff of Haddonfield that he has no soul as he desperately tries to track him down. The kill scenes are most horrific because there is not a thought given during them; Michael doesn’t seem angry or sad…he is completely devoid of emotion and appears to have no qualms in killing everyone in an effort to get to Laurie. The only time you see a bit of Michael’s personality is when he wears a sheet with one of his victims’ glasses over it in order to lure a girl into thinking it is her boyfriend, proving how cunning he truly is. The scene has an almost childlike quality, perhaps showcasing how Michael is still a (psychotic) child inside since he never had the chance to grow up within society. Laurie emerges as our heroine as she keeps herself and the children safe, but in order to keep the scare going (and probably the sequels), Michael lives but we don’t know where he’s gone. The final shot is of each dark, empty room within the house and then on the middle class suburbia street while we hear Michael breathing through his mask, leaving us with the feeling that he could be lurking in any corner.
Halloween is a somewhat typical slasher film (though one of the very first), and most of the acting is bad. So of all of the horror films I’ve seen, why is it my favorite?
It’s the feeling of dread and suspense throughout the entire film, when even though you’ve known for years who lives and who dies, it still makes you tense up; it’s the insanely creepy expressionless mask that Michael wears while killing people one by one; it’s the incredible music that instills fear as soon as you hear it; it’s the old adage of an escaped mental patient being the scariest killer of all; it’s that these killings happened in a regular town, in a neighborhood just like ours; it’s the obsession with his dead sister, as evidenced by his removal of her headstone that he later puts on display; it’s a horror film that actually takes place on Halloween (my favorite holiday), which most horror films do not. Maybe the scariest part of all is that we never hear Michael Myers speak; our imagination can draw our own conclusions about the type of Boogeyman he is because he could be anyone.
Jessica's Final Review
We’ve all seen a million slasher films, but Halloween was one of the first and set a huge precedent for other films to attempt to live up to. It’s hard to believe that an independent film became such a huge, lasting success, but I think the magic of the movie lives on because it wasn’t a huge budget film. It’s scary, it’s suspenseful, and its fear is lasting, and that’s what you need in order to create one of the best horror films of all time.