Director: John Carpenter
Dead teenager movies are a genre of movie that, growing up in the mid 90s, I became very familiar with. I saw them all at one point or another, and Halloween for most of my young life was basically just another one of them. I did not know that in fact, was the force behind the phenomena all along. As far as formulas go, it is impossible to take slasher movies seriously anymore, but that was not the case when John Carpenter made this movie back in the 70s. I’ve always liked Carpenter as a director. From interviews and commentaries, it seems like we would both be into the same kind of movies (both of us revere Rio Bravo…) and his original Assault on Precinct 13 is one of the best campy exploitative action terror movies I’ve ever seen.
Halloween of course owes a lot to the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, even down to the leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis, the daughter of Psycho’s leading lady, Janet Leigh. Both Michael Meyers and Norman Bates are curious killers, both being traumatized by different events in their lives that have left them scarred and bent, maybe not so much on revenge, but on perpetual recreation of said events. They are in a sense, frozen in time, repeating the same motif over and over again, just like their respective movie franchises would wind up doing. Both movies rely heavily on POV style shots to put you directly in the terror filled atmosphere of the movie. It’s also interesting to note that both movies are considered to be extremely violent, but in each movie, the blood is absolutely minimal. For a combination of budgetary and artistic reasons most of the kills in Halloween are done by sleight of hand camera tricks rather than as they would be today, by gallons upon gallons of fake blood and severed body parts.
This movie also has a very memorable musical score. It’s piano theme is perhaps the most memorable horror music of all time, or at least right up there with the Jaws theme or the Friday the 13th theme (a franchise which even creator Sean Cunningham freely admits to being a low rent Halloween ripoff)…. What really can be said of the acting here, or in any of these movies? The characters mostly are involved in mundane teenage activities for most of the movie while the tension ratchets up around them. Eventually they are shocked into the realization that there is a killer on the loose. Curtis is one of the best of the 80s “scream queens”. Donald Pleasance, who played many great villains in his career, plays Sam Loomis (a name which is another callback to a Psycho) the doctor of Michael Meyers, a character whose primary job is to fill us in on a lot of back-story we would otherwise have no way of finding out about. This is one of those horror movies I try to watch every year around the holiday it is named after. Unlike the sequels this movie still manages to feel organic after all these years, and most importantly, it does what every horror movie ought to aspire to do; be scary.