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HALLOWEEN (review)

Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis

Sheriff Leigh Brackett: It’s Halloween; everyone’s entitled to one good scare.

It’s kind of amazing to think that 35 years after Michael Myers came home, HALLOWEEN is still being talked about. John Carpenter probably didn’t expect that his slow-stalking, masked killer would become an icon of the genre and spawn numerous sequels and rip-offs throughout the years, but here we are. And the legacy is well deserved. The new Blu-ray transfer is beautiful in both its visual and audio aspects, and it has, pardon the pun, killer new cover art to boot. October is the perfect time to revisit this film, or if you’ve never seen it (and there are those out there, many of whom I know personally), there could not be a better time to check it out than right now.

One Halloween night, when Michael Myers was a mere 6 years old, he climbed his way up the stairs of his family home with a mask and a clown costume and brutally stabbed his older sister to death with a knife. Why? Well we never really find out. Perhaps he objected to his sister’s sexual exploits and was some sort of uptight puritan. Or maybe he was upset that he didn’t get enough candy while out trick or treating. Either way, this boy gets caught when his parents come home, and he is sent off to a psychiatric hospital for the next 15 years. On October 30th, Michael was supposed to have a visit from Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), but that never happens as Michael has escaped the asylum. Loomis, having known his patient and his evils for quite some time, returns to Myers’ home in Haddonfield, Illinois, to stop whatever diabolical plans the escaped patient has.


Now, on Halloween, 15 years after he killed his sister, Myers has returned home to wreak havoc on the local teenagers. He begins to stalk teenage girl Laurie (Jamie Lee Cutis, a relative unknown at the time) and her horny babysitter friends (including P.J. Soles of CARRIE fame). Why? Maybe because he is just plain ol’ crazy, or maybe he just hates 15 year olds. Either way, this is a night the boogeyman is real and Dr. Loomis must find him before he kills again.

HALLOWEEN is one of those seminal introductions to the slasher genre, and one that, even though I first saw at a young age, I’ve never really found particularly scary. In fact, I spend about the first half of the movie wondering when exactly things will start to happen. I do this every time. But the older I get and the more times I watch HALLOWEEN, I appreciate it more and more for its simplicity, rather than its ability (or inability) to illicit frights. From the sets, the costumes and even the painted white mask that Myers wears, everything in this film is simple, from the opening credits to the final scene, but it never feels cheap. And that alone is worth the watch every single time. Carpenter’s direction allows the simplicity of the film to work to his full advantage.

It’s a slow film, showing the main character, Laurie, go about her daily routine of leaving the house and going to school, meeting her friends after class and humming and hawing about not having a date to the dance. It’s typical teenage stuff. The true focus isn’t so much what’s happening in the foreground but rather the background action that matters more. In the scene where Laurie is in a car and talking to her friend’s father, in the background we can see the car Michael has stolen come up to the intersection behind where the girls are parked, wait, and then drive off. It’s slow and brooding, just like Michael himself. I don’t find this scary, but I find it utterly disturbing..


There are many things I’ve come to appreciate in HALLOWEEN, one of them being that iconic score that was written by Carpenter and performed by him and his friends. That said, I also find the repetitive nature of the music to be one of the greater annoyances in the film. Every new scary scene has almost the exact same musical accompaniment as the one before it, and after an hour of the same music, I begin to find it tiresome. But considering that this is the only drawback in a movie I’m particularly drawn to, I’d say that isn’t that bad at all.

HALLOWEEN is the third full length feature that Carpenter helmed, and while it might not be my favorite of his films, it is an astounding beginning to a career that would scare the heck out of audiences in the years to come with the likes of THE THING and THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS. HALLOWEEN is one of those films I watch every year because it still manages to find a warm place in my heart. It takes my favorite holiday of the year and makes the boogeyman real for at least one glorious night.


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