Directed by John Carpenter [Other horror films: Someone’s Watching Me! (1978), The Fog (1980), The Thing (1982), Christine (1983), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), Body Bags (1993, segments ‘The Gas Station’ & ‘Hair’), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Village of the Damned (1995), Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001), The Ward (2010)]
Without a doubt, this classic film is one of the best horror movies ever made, surpassing films such as The Evil Dead, The Shining, Jaws, and A Nightmare on Elm Street with utter ease.
So many factors of the film are great – masterful cinematography, an amazing musical score, pretty good performances, a captivating story, and a fine control of suspense. With little gore, Halloween manages to be the slasher that so many others afterward try to set their standards by, and generally reach nowhere close.
It’s true that Jamie Lee Curtis doesn’t look like a high school student, but she had a great performance here for her first film (her previous appearances were on television shows). I adore her character, the fact that she’s a mostly good girl who’s not averse to good times (the weed scene), and she’s just great here. Donald Pleasence, who has a long history of horror before this, dating back to 1960’s The Flesh and the Fiends, is amazing as Loomis, and while occasionally over-the-top, has some of the best dialogue in the film.
Between P.J. Soles (Lynda) and Nancy Kyes (Annie), I have to say I like Kyes’ character a lot more, though Soles’ does have a great piece of dialogue about the lack of necessity of books. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Kyes didn’t have much of a career (she appeared in the third Halloween, along with The Fog, also directed by Carpenter), as I thought this showed a lot of potential.
If there’s any problem with the film, it could be that Michael seems focused on Laura for absolutely no reason. While later sequels attempt to explain this, as far as this movie goes, it’s random with no meaning behind it. In some ways, though, I think that makes it more effective, and given that Nick Castle (who brilliantly plays The Shape, as he’s called) is fantastic throughout, it’s only an additional positive.
The only other John Carpenter film that could compete with this one, in my mind, is The Fog, and while the Fog is good, few movies could ever reach this level of excellence (on a side-note, many may be outraged I didn’t mention also The Thing, but I’m not as big a fan of that one as others). For this movie, though, whether you watch it with or without the additional television footage, you could only do worse. One of the twenty or so horror films I see as pretty flawless, Halloween is a movie that will never get old, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, and the ending will never not be iconic (focusing on different locations seen in the movie with that music playing – perfection).
This classic was covered on Fight Evil’s third podcast. If interested, give it a listen as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss it.