Run-time: 1 hour, 31 minutes
Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, Nancy Kyes
I don't remember the first time I ever saw Halloween, but I do remember the fright that the image of Michael Myers has always brought me. Those of you who've been reading me recently will know that I consider Myers to be one of the scarier horror villains to grace the silver screen, and that the film itself is near the top of the list of films that have traumatized me during my lifetime. So, it was quite the decision to try to take the film in again, considering how much it has scared me in the past. And so, to celebrate Halloween, I re-watched the iconic movie whose namesake stemmed from the scariest holiday of the year.
The film is actually pretty simple when you think about it. It starts with a young Michael Myers viciously murdering his older sister then fast-forwards fifteen years to then-present day 1978. Myers finds a way to break out of his mental institution and make his way back to his hometown, where he starts to stalk babysitters on a fateful Halloween night. That's the exact premise that John Carpenter and fellow screenwriter Debra Hill started with, and they ran with it from there. I watched one of the interviews on my copy of the film, and Hill talked about how they listed out a number of potential scares for the movie then worked the screenplay around each of the scares. It's not as though the storyline is going to blow you away, but the thrills and chills should do the trick.
Most of the fear in the film comes from the suspense that the atmosphere creates, but a big chunk of that fear also comes from our villain himself. Referred to on-set as the Shape, most people know him as Michael Myers, a man who is purely evil and wears a modified William Shatner mask to keep his face hidden for most of the film. There's something inherently creepy about the mask itself, but the reason that Michael scares me so much is the fact that he's completely silent for the film's entirety. Never once does he speak (even in the prologue where we see him as a child), and the most we ever hear in terms of a sound from him is his breathing behind the mask. The white, expressionless mask, combined with his complete silence, makes Michael Myers one of the scarier villains I've seen grace the silver screen. I've had many a night where I thought I saw him standing outside my own window. He's that ingrained into my subconscious.
The rest of the cast does it's job relatively well, but it's not like we're getting A-grade acting here. The film was shot on a budget of $300,000, so there really wasn't much in terms of quality acting to be bought. However, we do get a decent (if drawn-out) performance from Pleasance, and it's a nice introduction to Curtis, who would go on to be known as the "scream queen" after this role.
While the scares aren't necessarily as terrifying as I remember them, you can't take away from the overall creepiness of the film, which is greatly accentuated by the musical score that Carpenter created. The score landed as the second best horror film score on the list I posted a few days ago, but it's simplicity is where it gets you. While not quite on the level of the Jaws score, which almost becomes a character itself, the score for Halloween is utterly fantastic.
Ultimately, Halloween isn't quite as scary as I remembered it, but it's still quite the fright-fest, and it's the golden standard when it comes to Hollywood slasher flicks. Many franchises have attempted to imitate this film, but nothing will ever quite reach the bar in the slasher genre that Halloween set. So, if you're in the mood for a scary movie tonight, give this one a shot. It's sure to give you a scare or two.