Retro Horror – Halloween (1978)

For the day that’s in it, I decided to review my all time favorite horror film. The world’s first introduction to the iconic Michael Myers and the film that launched John Carpenter’s film career. Halloween is an out and out classic. Let’s get into it!

 

Low Budget

Made on a meager budget of 350,000 dollars this could have easily been a cheap flop. However, the lack of money is more than made up for by the creative talents involved. Both John Carpenter and Debra Hill have since become legends in the film industry and it’s clear to see why. The ‘less is more’ approach works wonders in this movie. Add to that the lack of costume design (actors wore their own clothes to save money) and a cheap William Shatner mask turned inside out and what do you get? An unforgettable iconic legend….that’s what you get!

 

Tension

The greatest string in it’s bow is the way the team expertly build tension throughout the movie. After a jaw dropping opening scene, this movie moves slowly with the constant tease that something big is coming and something bad is going to happen. Myers lurking in the background just stalking his prey and waiting is unnerving throughout the movie. The blank expressionless masks giving away no hints of what he is thinking or feeling leaves it entirely up to our imagination. This blank canvas is a stroke of genius as it forces us to fill in the blanks. Myers goes beyond a human figure, he is large and soulless and scary as all hell!

 

Loomis

Donald Pleasance deserves special mention here. He carries most of the movies exposition and also expertly helps to create the ‘beyond human’ persona of Michael. Describing Myers as pure evil and having the blackest devil eyes in the most convincing and terrifying way. His acting talents help elevate Myers and create this myth that he is more than a mortal and more of a vessel for concentrated evil. This breaks down any boundaries and leaves the viewer believing that Michael is both terrifying and unstoppable.

 

Laurie Strode

Jamie Lee Curtis also deserves to be mentioned. Carpenter has confessed hiring her as she was the daughter of Janet Leigh and considered it a tribute to Hitchcock as he was a big fan of Psycho. Fitting then, that Jamie would create her own iconic female lead here in Laurie Strode. Not the typical beauty with no brains villain fodder in most other slasher movies. Laurie is book smart and resourceful. She feels more real and is easier to identify with for the viewer. Jamie embraces the role whole heartedly and gives a compelling performance that has you routing for her to win.

 

Music

John Carpenter composed the music here. Most likely to save money however he is an expert at setting tone and building tension with his score. He has gone on to do this in many other films but this is him at his very best. Everyone knows the Halloween theme music and it features heavily throughout, building tension to a fever pitch. Similar to Myers, it’s always there in the background, ready to pounce!

 

Finale

I’m not going to give anything away. The first two thirds of the movie are all about building tension and creating atmosphere. The pay-off is in the finale. To say it doesn’t disappoint is an understatement. This film expertly cranks out the action and jump scares with wild abandonment. It will have you turning away from the tv and shouting at characters before they meet their doom. Having built the tension for so long, by the time the last act kicks in, you’re completely invested and more importantly, completely on edge.

Halloween is nothing short of a masterpiece. It has been copied many times over and deserves to be studied. It set the bar for films to follow and in my opinion, has never been beaten. There really is only one movie you should watch on the 31st of November and that’s Halloween!

 

What is your favorite horror movie? Did you enjoy my retro horror series? Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

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