Ok so since it’s October, I’m going to run through all of the Halloween films (including the Rob Zombie remakes) and give you guys the definitive list of the best and the worst. I’m going to try to do one every day or so. I’ll probably do some sort of ranking at the end too. Halloween has always been my favorite horror franchise. The first of the series, (and the only one directed by John Carpenter) came out in 1978 and was, arguably, the first proper “slasher” flick. Though it’s fairly tame in terms of blood and guts, even for it’s time, it’s got that John Carpenter charm so it’s dark and brooding and creepy and it doesn’t have to rely on gore to scare you. Most importantly, it’s got that famous Halloween music. You know, this music. By the way, that music is written by John Carpenter himself. (He loves to score his own movies: Prince of Darkness and The Fog) And everything is lit and shot so well, the whole thing just oozes scary.
The pacing is great as Carpenter slowly builds the scares for the audience. We frequently see the mysterious masked man (Michael Myers) lurking off to the side somewhere and just staring at characters without their knowledge. It really gets into your head and you start to wonder if there’s somebody staring at you from out the window or even in the room with you. The first film in the series is great because it’s so simple. There’s no reference to some of the larger overarching plotlines of the rest of the Michael Myers saga. It’s unclear whether Carpenter had these plotlines in mind during the first film. I’m thinking not; it seems like he retrofitted the storylines when he wrote the sequel.
Like I said, the plot of the first movie is pretty basic. We start off with a long tracking POV shot of through the eyes of Michael Myers as a 6 year old boy. He slowly stalks around his house and after his sister enjoys roughly 30 seconds of hot sex with her boyfriend (who promptly leaves), Michael kills his sister with a big butcher knife. Fast forward 15 years. We meet Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance). He’s a psychiatrist who’s been treating Michael in an asylum since the murder. He’s convinced that Michael is pure evil and must never be let out of the mental hospital. Just then, he breaks out, steals Loomis’ car, and returns to his childhood house in Haddonfield, which is also the town where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) lives now.
So it’s Halloween night and Laurie and her high school friends have plans to either babysit neighborhood kids or to bang their (boyfriends or both). Don’t worry, they’re all of legal age; they’re well into their late 20s or 30’s. (Illinois standardized tests be holding everyone back.) Loomis tracks Myers back to Haddonfield and tries to find him before he starts killing again. Of course, he’s too late and Michael starts carving up the babysitters like a bunch of goddamn Thanksgiving turkeys. Well, wrong holiday but you get it. Of course, we’re all aware of the rules you must follow to survive a horror movie: Stand up straight, don’t drink, do drugs, have sex, or say anything like “I’ll be right back.” We basically know who’s going to die and when. Laurie decides not to take all this murdering lying down and she fights back, stabbing Michael about the face and neck with a series of non-lethal weapons. Well, at least she tried.
I’m not going to spoil the ending, though I’m sure you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you haven’t seen this one. Just go watch it. It’s fantastic. Halloween is consistently ranked among the all time scariest movies. It’s the slow building of suspense combined with the utter mystery as to why this little boy just snapped and became a soulless killing machine.
Lets talk about why Michael Myers is such a great killer. A big part of it is thanks to that mask of his. The face in the mask isn’t inherently scary. It’s not angry, or deformed. It’s just blank. Something about that cold emotionless face just staring at you from a distance or remaining blank while he’s stabbing you with a huge butcher knife is really kind of disturbing. And the sound of Michael breathing heavily through the rubber mask will echo in your head and haunt you long after the movie is over. Fun fact: Due to the low budget of the film, the mask is just a Captain Kirk (Star Trek) mask with some white spray paint and some minor DIY alterations. Michael’s black eyes peering out from that white mask will forever be one of the greatest images in the history of horror. He never runs but he’s always following you. That calm, cold, relentless presence of his is hard to understand and it’s just really unsettling.
- Is it scary: 9- Music, pacing, acting, lighting, everything in this movie works so well together to make it really scary.
- Originality: 9- There had only been a couple of slasher-esque films before this but Halloween really set the bar and created the slasher as we know it today.
- Blood: 3- Like I said, this one was pretty tame, even for its time. But Carpenter shows us that you don’t need a lot of blood to scare the hell out of us.
- Believability: 7–For the most part this was all pretty believable. Towards the end, when shit is getting intense, A couple of the characters do things (or don’t do things) that I didn’t quite believe. Laurie runs up the stairs and hides in a closet. Minus 1 point.
- Setting/Cinematography: 8- Carpenter does some great things here with light and shadows. Things are dark and creepy throughout the whole movie. I also like the idea of turning a quiet suburban community into a slaughterhouse.
Final Score: 36/50