Horror Movie Review: Halloween (1978)


Halloween is one of the best horror movies I have ever seen, I would be in my top 10 horror movies of all time & I consider it a movie that everyone should see. It is the Star Wars of horror, a genre-defining movie that spawned several of the horror clichés that were so prevalent in the 80’s & 90’s. When people think slasher horror, they think Halloween & 36 years later it is still as important.

Whew…have you got that I love this movie yet?

Halloween is set in Haddonfield, Illinois & on October 31st, 1963 6 year old Michael Myers took a knife from his family’s kitchen & killed his sister with it, stabbing her repeatedly after she has had sex with her boyfriend. The opening 5 minutes of the movie showcases this event all from the point of view of Michael. POV shots are not that impressive by modern standards but Halloween was a front-runner for putting you in the shoes of the killer, seeing it through his eyes especially when he puts his mask on… It was something that would naturally land the movie in a bit of bother.

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Anyway, fast forward 15 years & on October 30th, 1978 Michael Myers escapes the hospital he has been incarcerated in since his sisters murder using the car that was to transport him to his court hearing…there it would have been decided that he would never be released.

The next day on October 31st Michael Myers now disguised in blue overalls & wearing a white mask reappears in Haddonfield. He is there for Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a local school student & he begins following her around. He is seen standing outside her school window, driving past her slowly & later in her back garden. She is naturally a little freaked out but her friends (Annie & Lynda) laugh it off.

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Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) figuring he would go back to Haddonfield if he escaped goes to the cemetery of Michaels sister to find her headstone missing. He goes to Laurie’s father, the local sheriff & they set about looking for Michael.

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That night Michael’s rampage begins as he sets about murdering all of Laurie’s friends before turning his attention to her. Laurie is a survivor though & she manages to fight him off several times. Michael just won’t stay down though & even after being stabbed by Laurie he gets up & attempts to strangle her. Thankfully Dr. Loomis arrives & shoots Michael several times knocking him out of an upstairs window. Even then his body disappears…

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Halloweens story is simple but oh so good, it moves at a great pace & your always on the edge of your seat waiting for what comes next. The stalking scenes are impossibly creepy & so well done, Michael Myers doesn’t speak & the shot of him standing in her garden looking up at her is amazing.

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I love that these particular moments are done in broad daylight & it just heightens the anticipation for the upcoming nightfall. We know that is all Michael is waiting for…

When the killing does start it gets pretty brutal but pretty light on gore, normally this would be a complaint of mine but the movie just didn’t need it. Michael’s actions & his choice of targets are enough. I really enjoyed the way they made Michael think on his feet as well, for example the ‘ghost sheet’ scene. It made him seem so much more dangerous knowing he could think about his next move.

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As much as Michael is important to the story the real star is Laurie Strode, played by an unknown Jamie Lee Curtis making her scream queen debut. She is absolutely brilliant conveying both the sheer terror of the situation & the bravery involved in trying to fight back & save the children trusted to her care.

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Many criticisms of Laurie’s character relate to how she is made to look like a helpless victim throughout & that she only survives through luck rather then determination. I don’t think this is fair, her character is a shy teenager witnessing her friends being butchered by a masked madman who then turns his attention to her. She fights back the only way she knows how…by running. When she is cornered the claws come out & she fights back, I mean she ends up stabbing Michael in the eye with a hanger then using his knife on him!

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Perhaps it’s all the screaming…

It’s not hard to find themes throughout Halloween…this sort of thing doesn’t bother me mostly. I’m all for over-analysis but it can be frustrating to read some scholar stating that ‘Michael losing his mask gives me pleasure as I’ve willingly submitted to the woman knowing that my return to authority will be even more powerful’. Err, yeah right…

It does seem like Michael is targeting those who have sex: his sister & the babysitters. It’s less of a revelation when you realize that any young couple left alone or in charge of a young child will see it as an opportunity to ‘get it on’. Laurie stands out as the virginal style character only because she doesn’t have someone & Michael still comes after her!

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It says a lot about a movie that it has this level of analysis & thought, Halloween’s impact is so important that it has been selected for preservation in the US & is described as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Before I stop gushing about its excellence I have to mention the music…it is as famous as the mask that Michael wears (a William Shatner mask sprayed white-ish & with the eyeholes widen). Throughout, the somber tones fit what your eyes are seeing perfectly but it is the main theme that everyone remembers.

Done simply on a keyboard by the director himself, it is possibly the most iconic horror theme ever.

…and that sums up the movie perfectly I think…iconic.

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There is an argument over giving any movie review a 10/10, it suggest perfection. I think that is what Halloween is. There have been 7 sequels (mostly all bad), 1 remake & a sequel to the remake (better then expected) & the original’s strength hasn’t been hurt. I don’t think it has aged much at all compared to higher budget movies released around its time & after.

I can’t wait until my son is old enough to see it!


Halloween
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