A 19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis makes her film debut as Laurie Strode, a bookish, anti-social highschooler unaware that while she babysits on Halloween night, a psychotic maniac lurks in the neighborhood. The strong, silent type, this hulking being quietly walks the town in which he killed his sister 15 years earlier, back for more after a hospital escape. Meanwhile, his horrified doctor (the ominous Donald Pleasance) waits, as single-mindedly obsessed as the killer he's chasing.
Forget heavy backstory and emotional structure. With Halloween, what you see is what you get: kids as sitting ducks, faceless evil, and nail-biting suspense. With a reported $300,000 budget and a deep knowledge of film, Carpenter pays homage to Romero, Hitchcock, and favorite horror films from the '50s and '60s. But rather than create an antagonist that's a freak of nature (like a vampire or a werewolf), or a man-made deformity (Frankenstein's monster), Carpenter devises a mysterious non-entity. "The Shape," as he's called in the end credits, is certainly human but encompasses other indefinable details. He walks like a zombie and stares like a child, but what is he? Could he really be the Boogeyman of folklore and slumber party stories?
In creating shock value, Carpenter uses no blood, no gore, and no cats leaping through windows unexpectedly. Instead, he utilizes smooth, creepy camera moves -- peering around corners with just the right speed -- and the frustrating moments that crop up when a killer's on the loose: stuck doorknobs, lost keys, and painfully slow-moving characters. And Carpenter's opening sequence, with its long single shot from a slasher's point of view, is still fun and surprising a quarter-century later.
Fans of the genre will appreciate broad references to horror history -- such as placing terror in an otherwise peaceful location -- as well as specific stuff, like naming the doctor Sam Loomis (the boyfriend character in Psycho) or casting Curtis, best known at the time as Janet Leigh's daughter.
The experts and fans that name the same films over and over when listing fine 1970s independent movies should include Halloween. It's an inexpensive, efficient non-studio thriller made by a hungry group of young filmmakers. Many sequels, all terribly inferior, would follow, as would Jason, Freddy, and other unstoppable -- and often lazy -- mad slashers. Future horror filmmakers trashed story, going for extensive body counts and increasingly "creative" styles of murder. So many forgot to take a lesson from John Carpenter and his "psycho," Michael Myers -- keep it simple, stupid.
Run time: 91 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 25th October 1978
Box Office Worldwide: $47M
Budget: $300 thousand
Distributed by: Compass International Pictures
Production compaines: Compass International Pictures, Falcon International Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 48 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.9 / 10
Director: John Carpenter
Producer: Debra Hill
Starring: Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, Nancy Kyes as Annie Brackett, P.J. Soles as Lynda van der Klok, Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett, Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace, Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle, John Michael Graham as Bob Simms, Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers, Arthur Malet as Graveyard Keeper, Mickey Yablans as Richie, Brent Le Page as Lonnie Elamb, Adam Hollander as Keith, Robert Phalen as Dr. Terence Wynn, Tony Moran as Michael Myers, Will Sandin as Michael Myers (age 6), Sandy Johnson as Judith Margaret Myers, David Kyle as Judith's Boyfriend, Peter Griffith as Morgan Strode, Nick Castle as The Shape, Barry Bernardi as Dead Mechanic (uncredited), John Carpenter as Paul, Annie's Boyfriend (voice) (uncredited), George O'Hanlon Jr. as Mr. Peter Myers (uncredited), Darla Rae as Student (uncredited), Gwen Van Dam as Sanitarium Nurse (uncredited)
Also starring: Debra Hill
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