Over time, Halloween has become an iconic film of the horror genre. It is often cited as popularizing the slasher film and creating many horror movie tropes we continue to see used today.
Directed by John Carpenter, Halloween was made on a relatively small budget of about 300,000 dollars, while making over 70 million in the box office. Proving just how financially successful independent, low budget films good be.
Halloween tells the story of an escaped psychopath named Michael Myers. Myers, whose been locked up since he was a child for killing his sister Judith (Sandy Johnson), has now broken out of his mental ward and is returning to his home in Haddonfield, Illinois. There he stalks 17 year old Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who is babysitting on Halloween night. The only one who may be able to stop Myers’s terror is Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), Michael’s psychiatrist from when he was a boy.
I know a lot of people don’t find this film very frightening by today’s standards, but I think that has more to do with how society views horror. Modern day horror flicks are plagued by pop-up jump scares that are paired with loud sounds. No longer is it about building up tension, but rather just have the film go silent, followed by a loud noise that makes the audience jump. Making them think that they were scared. Very few modern horror directors (like James Wan) pull off the jump scare in a clever and unique way.
I don’t believe Halloween has got any less scary over time. The subtle horror aspects infused with the sharp musical score (written by John Carpenter himself) make this film what it is. The very simple but effective music adds to the tension that builds from Myers stalking various people. The music will spike as you can see Myers standing in the background, surrounded by the darkness. Very creepy.
One of the biggest reasons I love Halloween is how the film was shot. Being on a low budget gives Halloween this sort of gritty look to it. It all feels very practical and real. The tracking shots that John Carpenter uses when the camera slowly moves between houses really builds up tension in a way I haven’t seen before. At least, not done as well. He utilizes simple but creative camera shots to give the point of view of Michael Myers, as the audience hears his deep breathing through the mask.
Michael Myers symbolizes pure evil, and the fact that he can get up after being repeatedly stabbed and shot gives him this “indestructible force” aspect. As if he isn’t even a human and more like an entity.
The climatic scene when Laurie makes her way into the neighbor’s house when the audience knows Micheal Myers is already inside still scares me to this day. The horrors that ensue are well done and effective. Many other films have taken inspiration from these iconic scenes between Laurie and Michael, who acted and performed very well. Again, the gritty way Halloween was shot really adds to the experience.
Finally, the ambiguous note the film ends on suits it nicely and I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way.
I recommend Halloween to all who have an appreciation for horror. It is a horror movie classic that will continue to be a staple of the genre for many years to come.