John Carpenter’s Halloween set the standard of the slasher genre and paved the way for every other franchise. Although no other film has even come close this simple yet suspenseful take on horror. At the time, the story of a masked man killing innocent people was unheard of. The sheer idea of a human being doing that on the big screen was terrifying by itself. Besides ‘Psycho’, this was a fresh take and history in the making.
Sure, there were other slashers to come before it, like ‘Black Christmas’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. However, they didn’t quite capture the essence of suspense Halloween did. Also setting the format for future slashers: Pick a killer, setting, specific date and you’ve got a movie. Using this blueprint, we’ll be reviewing just why Carpenter’s magic put this in the “best horror movie” conversation.
“On a cold Halloween night in 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers brutally murdered his 17-year-old sister, Judith. He was sentenced and locked away for 15 years. But on October 30, 1978, while being transferred for a court date, a 21-year-old Michael Myers steals a car and escapes Smith’s Grove. He returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, where he looks for his next victims.”
The town of Haddonfield is convincingly scary by itself. Small town, quiet streets and a ghost story from that Halloween night in 1963. Carpenter is able to use this to his many advantages. There are many scenes where the towns people just don’t care all that much, almost like nothing out of the ordinary could ever happen. Leaving no room for potential witnesses, making Myers’ plan all the easier.
The lead “goodie two shoes” is Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s the typical smart, curious and courageous hero the audience is supposed to latch onto. Though back 78’ these “typical” roles weren’t so typical yet. Curtis has a great performance, you’re able to be by her side from the beginning, therefore you dread during the intense scenes.
Rounding off we have her friends Annie, Lynda and Paul. Who actually have time to develop, before you know… Still, compared to other supporting characters in the genre, you get a chance to know them.
Finally, we have Donald Pleasence as Michael’s Doctor, Samuel Loomis. Who’s the only person who knows exactly what Michael’s motives are. Warning everyone and doing his best to stop him. Which makes for a great climax during the ending scene.
Michael Myers, known as “The Shape” stalks his victims before he slaughters them. There are multiple POV shots of him lurking, teasing the audience for what’s to come. They can only sit and watch as Carpenter’s eerie music plays.
You see, that’s what makes it work. The suspense, you know what’s about to happen to the characters but you can’t do anything about it. It all works. While other franchises have focused on the gore aspect, John Carpenter’s Halloween focused on the unknown instead. There wasn’t much blood used to begin with. After all, it’s scarier what you can’t see than what you can.
Halloween (1978) will always be a standout in its respected genre. With an ending that’ll almost guarantee to give you chills. Carpenter is able to use shots of empty places while having The Shape’s breathing in the background. As the breaths get louder, it signifies that he’s everywhere. Shocking us with its creativity and downright terror, the film set the standard for all its predecessors. Though like I said, there just hasn’t been anything like it since.