Synopsis: On a black and unholy Halloween night years ago, little Michael Myers brutally slaughtered his sister in cold blood. But for the last fifteen years, town residents have rested easy, knowing that he was safely locked away in a mental hospital… until tonight.
Tonight Michael returns to the same quiet neighborhood to relive his grisly murder again… and again… and again. For this is a night of evil. Tonight is Halloween!
Halloween (1978) 8.5
Alright, alright… everyone knows John Carpenter’s original ‘Halloween’, even if they haven’t seen it. And everyone knows who Michael Myers is – even if they don’t know his name, they can recognize him.
Whether one likes it or not, ‘Halloween’ (at least the 1978 version) is an integral part of North American pop culture.
Well, I’m pleased to say that the film, despite its 30-year vintage, is still potent. It is a little dated, certainly, but it retains a spooky ambiance that serves it (and its audience) well even now.
It certainly helps that the film has been well-preserved due to its immense popularity; proper preservation can help a film can frequently withstand the test of time. Over the years, this film has been re-released on various home video formats so often that it’s hard to keep track; fans seem to gobble each new version up with limitless glee.
And it really does looks great. I watched it on Blu-ray and the film quality is at its best; I’ve never seen it look so good. Clearly, the producers have been keeping good prints “lying around” for their cash cow’s next milking. All cynicism aside, I’m very pleased with the look of such an old film – and a low-budget one, at that.
Even the sound quality is rather good for a film of that era and pedigree. The job they did in remastering the film is top-notch: the dialogue is clear, crisp, and the infamous score bursts through the speakers with the appropriate punch and vibrancy.
The iconic themes remain effective, if a little repetitive. Both the synth-driven main theme and the Michael Myers “march” come back regularly, but they are used to great effect – not only do they match the sequences’ rhythm perfectly, they also create a tone that was essential to the success of the film.
Another thing that helps to create the tone is the character of Michael Myers. Myers is a peculiar threat: he stalks his victims in plain view, lurking around in the bushes, and waits until an unsuspecting time to attack. He also doesn’t make a sound, he’s stiff, robot-like, and he is seemingly unkillable (even if he is temporarily stoppable).
It was surprising to see that Myers drives and creeps about quite a lot. I had forgotten this and it amused me to see how omnipresent he was, even though he remains in the background most of the time; other characters are hardly aware of his existence, but he casts a shadow everywhere they go.
I was also a bit stunned to see that there was very little blood and gore for this type of film. There was a lot of choking, but, unlike many of its imitators, not so much sticky, gross stuff. I had evidently forgotten a lot of details since I had last seen this film (which, admittedly, had been at least 5 years ago!)
There are a few scenes that had really stuck with me, however, and they are still appealing to this day (spoiler alert!):
-the scene when Dr. Loomis is standing on the curb, looking around, and we see Myers driving a car in the background, but just out of sight of the psychiatrist. It was both amusing to watch and clever enough to impress.
-that final scene when Dr. Loomis looks back to find that Michael has disappeared. The music kicks in and we are left with an empty piece of ground, with more questions than answers and an uncertain sense of security hanging in the air.
-the scene when Myers appears out of nowhere, from the shadows, from behind his prey – all without moving. Carpenter used lights and shadows to hide the killer and faded him into the picture slowly, dramatically. It’s all cinematic trickery, but it works exceptionally well; the audience won’t see it coming any more than Laurie Strode did.
Which finally brings me to Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Laurie Strode in the original series. She (and her friends, for that matter!) looks too old for the part, despite being very young at the time – but she brings so much character to the role that it’s forgivable. Without Curtis in that role, actually, I believe that the film would have had a lesser impact; she conveyed intelligence and likeability – key qualities for garnering an audience’s sympathy and respect. Strode pretty much made her career, and rightly so – it displayed some of Curtis’ core strengths.
In conclusion: ‘Halloween (1978)’ may not be as terrifying as it once was, but it still sets a tone like few films of its ilk have since. Carpenter’s creation is the blueprint by which countless horror films have been made and, while it probably wouldn’t have the same success today, it remains a classic and retains its flavour to this day.