Of course, it had to be. The quintessential Halloween movie is the one named after the day itself. It’s the best. It’s John Carpenter’s Halloween.
The film that defines the time of year, it’s also a film that for 31 years now has defined my birthday and although it’s not my favourite film, it’s just simply the best goddamn slice of Halloween viewing that there is.
The best slasher film ever made, Halloween is, by today’s standards, an absolute phenomenon and Carpenter’s finest film.
On October 31st 1963, in Haddonfield, Illinois, a six year old boy named Michael Myers stalks and brutally murders his sister with a kitchen knife. Young Michael is then taken to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he is confined under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis. There he stays for the next fifteen years, living out his life in a state of catatonic silence. Until October 30th 1978, when Loomis arrives at the sanitarium to find the patients roaming free. Michael steals the Doc’s car and zooms off into the night…
…and back to Haddonfield.
From that point on, pursued by Dr. Loomis, Michael proceeds to stalk young babysitter Laurie Strode and her friends as they go about their Halloween babysitting duties. Why? It will all become clear…
It’s a story that’s well known by now. Halloween is bigger than the genre. It’s one of the most accessible horror films of all time and also, one of the most effective.
The film stars Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice, Phenomena) as Sam Loomis, the obsessive doctor who has made keeping Michael locked away his life’s work. Pleasance takes the role and absolutely sells every manic minute of it. Halloween would also feature the feature film debut of a young unknown actress named Jamie Lee Curtis. This is the film that kick-started her “Scream Queen” career that included films such as Terror Train, The Fog and Prom Night.
Halloween also introduced us to now legendary cinema maniac Michael Myers. His image, including the boiler suit and the white, expressionless “William Shatner” mask are as recognisable as Freddy’s glove or Jason#s hockey mask.
Michael is an unstoppable killing machine that is best summed up in the words of Dr. Loomis,
“I met him, fifteen years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding; even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and, the blackest eyes… the *devil’s* eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil”
Myers is such an impressive villain, he made it onto my (still incomplete) horror sleeve…
Halloween succeeds without resorting to extreme gore set pieces and a death every ten minutes. In fact, barely a drop of blood is spilt on-screen. It’s a genuinely creepy experience, aided by frequent POV shots and Carpenter’s instantly recognisable theme tune.
The franchise has now stretched to seven sequels, including Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which made the bold move in stepping away from the Myers storyline. Rob Zombie’s remake was released in 2007, with the sequel to that film, H2, being released in 2009. The franchise and fans’ love of Michael Myers show no signs of dying with the news that Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer will be collaborating on the third of the reimagined sequels.
Halloween is a real genre-definer. It set the slasher template, later fleshed out and cemented in 1980 by Friday the 13th, a film almost exactly opposite to Carpenter’s. Halloween is a shining example of suspenseful, low budget horror movie making. It’s a classic in every sense of the word. It’s a film that you don’t even have to be a horror fan to enjoy.
So today being Halloween, do yourselves a favour and celebrate Halloween the way it should be done. By watching Halloween. With sweets and beer.