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Sunday, October 24, 2010


      In the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, on Halloween night, 1963, a young boy brutally stabs and kills his sister . After being institutionalized for fifteen years, he escapes and returns to Haddonfield, armed with one spooky mask and a large knife.  Sam Loomis, his doctor, is on the hunt to find him before he kills again. 

     What is there left to say about John Carpenter's "Halloween" that hasn't already been said?  This was the movie that made me the horror fan I am today, on top of scaring the hell out of my 9 year old self. And it's still one of my all-time favorite movies of any genre.  "Halloween" is one of the most famous and influential horror films in history.  For what little budget they had, John Carpenter and  Debra Hill made an extremely effective, but completely independent and low budget movie that until 1999's "The Blair Witch Project" was the single highest-grossing independent movie of all time- and scared the pants off an entire generation of movie-goers while doing so.  Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter became household names and Michael Myers became an icon of terror.

     Carpenter's original Michael Myers is so scary because he gives us no back story whatsoever.  All we know is some guy in a really creepy mask is stalking babysitters on Halloween night in a midwestern small town. That's it. It's so blatantly simple. And scary. "Halloween" scares us on a psychological level.  John Carpenter never really gives us a full, good look at Michael Myers really until the last 20 minutes or so.  Like the shark in "JAWS", we hardly ever see him. Only fleetingly, here and there.  He's always silently lurking off to the side, or in the shadows.  We are forced to use our imaginations while watching "Halloween".  John Carpenter expertly strings us along- tensing us up one minute, then allowing us to relax the next.  Then taking us off guard, Michael strikes.

     "Halloween" instantly takes us back to childhood, and how scary childhood could be.  What was that noise outside my window?  What was that shadow?  We all know what it's like to be home alone.  Or the boogeyman in our closet.  Just the word "babysitter" alone used to strike terror in the hearts of many children around the world.  Somehow, you were never as safe as you were with your parents home.  Especially on Halloween night.  "Halloween" personifies everything that scares us, then and now, and does exactly what it was meant to do to us- frighten us to death.  It's so frightening because we relate to it- it's every small town we all grew up in.  From that horrifying opening POV shot to that last, blood-freezing frame, we're mercilessly at the hand of the director- and he knows it.  Carpenter's use of light and shadow, color and darkness, plus that unforgettable music combine to make horror history.

     It's a bona-fide classic that inspired a million knock-offs and changed horror forever.  "Halloween" was no product of Hollywood studios.  This was an organic labor of love by a bunch of twenty year olds making a low-budget, independent movie for about $300,000 because they were passionate about it.  It was truly fresh and inventive, and there's a reason why it was so successful.  John Carpenter and Debra Hill joined creative forces, went against the grain, and came up with a classic horror film that will be remembered forever.  And "Halloween" has probably the most famous score ever for a horror film, besides "JAWS".  Kudos to "Black Christmas" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for laying the groundwork, and for John Carpenter, who, inspired by it, created and unleashed a horror masterpiece.


Dream Warrior said...

Not only do I think Halloween is the very best horror film of all time, I think it's one of the best films of all time. In much the same way that Psycho is universally considered a classic.

mallory said...

I "TOTALLY" agree with you. Halloween is one of the scariest films I've ever seen, and basically it still terrifies loads of people because of its SILENCE and SUSPENCE. You really dont understand why Michael is standing hidden behind blankets but this terrifies you, you feel impotent because the protagonists dont know about his presence and so they can't do anything to oppose him, so he's a lot more frightening! ...great post anyway.

(I found your blog looking for Michael's pictures to show a friend of mine who thinks any horror film made before 2000s sucks because of the lack of VISUAL EFFECTS and TONS OF BLOOD. I know, he shouldn't be my friend anymore...)

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