Updated: Nov 15, 2019
Directed By: John Carpenter, Written BY: John Carpenter and Debra Hill, Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles, Nick Castle.
Given that its reelhorrorshow’s first Halloween as a functioning website, it seems only fitting that we should return to the grandpa of the slasher genre, John Carpenter’s Halloween.
I should point out I am probably the worst person to review this movie. It’s my favourite horror film and I love everything about it, so it's impossible for me to view it impassively. So strap in for a few paragraphs of gushing, fawning and masturbatory fanboying.
Halloween was by no means the first Slasher movie. With films like Psycho (1960), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) coming before. It did, however, perfect and shape the genre into the behemoth that the Slasher genre became. Without Halloween, there would most likely be no A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), no Friday the 13th (1980), no April Fool's Day (1986) and no Scream (1996). Halloween is easily as influential to horror as Star Wars (1977) is to Sci-Fi.
The plot should by now, need no explaining but just in case you have never seen I will bring you up to speed.
It’s Halloween, 1963 in the small town of Haddonfield Illinois and young Judith Myers and her boyfriend are getting their freak on if you know what I’m saying. Judith’s boyfriend gets the job done alarmingly quick, dresses and departs. As Judith sits, treating herself to a post-coital hair brushing the camera shifts to a POV shot of someone ascending the stairs. They lower a mask into place and we the audience enter Judith’s bedroom, still from the intruders perspective. A hand goes up and we see that it's brandishing a knife which then comes crashing down, stabbing repeatedly at Judith until she collapses, dead.
The unseen assailant then turns and heads downstairs and into the street. Judith's parents arrive the camera changes perspective to reveal that the killer had been Judith’s six-year-old brother, Michael, all along.
Jump forward fifteen years and we are introduced to Dr Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) and Nurse Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens). They are travelling to collect Michael, who Loomis has been working with for the last fifteen years, and take him to court. On arrival at Smiths Grove Insane Asylum, the pair discover that there has been a breakout as all the patients have gotten loose and are wandering the grounds of the hospital.
Michael attacks nurse Chambers and while she survives the encounter, Michael steals their car and escapes into the night. Now just how Michael who has been incarcerated since he was six years old, knows how to drive has been the subject of debate for many years. They never really answer this. Loomis has some throwaway line about how he was “doing very well last night,” when questioned about it. Incidentally, Adam Green, director of the Hatchet movies made a spoof deleted scene entitled Driving Lessons, whereby Michael (played in this instance by Kane Hodder), Sits a Driver’s Ed course. It's on YouTube and its hilarious so you should check it out.
Loomis knows exactly where Michael is heading and races off to Haddonfield hoping to stop him once and for all.
It’s at this point in the movie we meet our protagonist. Enter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), in a career-defining debut that would see her become Scream Queen extraordinaire. Laurie Is a bookworm and completely at odds with her two gal pals, Annie (Nancy Kyes) and Lynda (P. J. Soles). All they are interested in are boys and sex while Laurie, The original, virginal final girl is more interested in school and her part-time babysitting job. Halloween kick-started the whole, the virgin gets to live while her slutty, sinner friends all get killed, by way of punishment for their dirty deeds. John Carpenter always denied this as unintentional. He explains that Laurie is the only one paying attention. She isn’t distracted like her friends are.
While walking home from school the three girls are followed by some freak in a car. A while later a mystery man appears to be watching the girls from behind a bush. This freaks Laurie out, while her friends take the whole thing to be a big joke.
That night Laurie goes to babysit Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews) and also ends up looking after Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) because Annie who should be babysitting her would rather do the nasty with her boyfriend. Meanwhile Loomis has made it to town and has convinced Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) of the very real threat posed by Michael Myers.
Annie and Lynda should have taken things a little more seriously because before you can say “Kitchen Knife,” Michael shows up rocking a pale Captain Kirk mask and murders them both.
Michael then sets his sights on Laurie. Forcing her to fight for her survival as she fends him off by utilising Knitting Needles and Coat hangers as makeshift weapons until Dr Loomis shows up and shoots Michael six times, “SIX TIMES!”
Michael, sent reeling from the barrage of bullets, falls from the balcony. Loomis runs out onto the balcony and looks down, but Michael is nowhere to be seen, ending the film on a cliffhanger that was never meant to be resolved with a sequel.
Laurie: “It was the Boogyman.”
Loomis: “As a matter of fact it was.”
Role end credits and that iconic score by John Carpenter.
When asked about their favourite horror films most people give the same answers, Psycho, The Shining, The Thing. Halloween is often in there somewhere and that’s because it's such a simplistically brilliant movie. There is no real hidden depth to its story. Michael is essentially the shark from Jaws in human form. He prowls the streets with no motive other than to hunt and kill. Remember, he and Laurie was not related at this point. She was merely intended as nothing more than another victim who Michael simply underestimated.
The filmmakers sought to make a movie that could have the same impact as The Exorcist (1973) had done five years earlier. They hired John Carpenter on the strength of Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and he and Debra Hill set about writing a script, originally called The Babysitter Murders. It was producer Irwin Yablans who suggested setting it Halloween astonished that nobody had thought to do it yet. The rest, as they say, is history.
After Halloween it became the norm in slasher movies to use public holidays as a setting for slaughter. Friday the 13th, April Fool's Day, Silent Night, Deadly Night. Although Black Christmas (1974) had got in there first, but Halloween set the trend.
Halloween was a hit. It grossed $47 million against a budget of $325,000 so it was no surprise that the studio wanted sequels. And sequels they got. Some good, some, god awful.
Everything about Halloween cements it in place as a classic of horror cinema. It’s scary enough that it need not use gore to grab your attention. The accompanying music score is perfectly unsettling and now so iconic that even people who haven’t seen the film know what movie it's from. Michael Myers and that blank, expressionless mask have earned their place at the head of the table when it comes to the movie killer hall of fame. You can’t go to a film convention without seeing at least five Michael Myers Cosplayers.
It is an annual tradition that we watch this movie every Halloween night in our home and it never gets old. There have been many sequels and many imitators over the last 40 years and John Carpenter’s Halloween remains unsurpassed and unequalled.
Here’s to another 40 Years.