“Death has come to your little town, sheriff.”
A psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence) is deeply disturbed to learn that his “evil” patient (Tony Moran) has escaped from an asylum and returned to his home town, where he killed his sister (Sandy Johnson) 15 years earlier as a six-year-old (Will Sandin). On Halloween, masked Moran quickly sets his murderous sights on a trio of friends: bubbly Lynda (P.J. Soles), wise-cracking Annie (Nancy Loomis), and straight-laced Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Donald Pleasence Films
- Horror Films
- John Carpenter Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
While he’s “not as sold” on John Carpenter’s cult “horror thriller” as are “many of its cultists,” Peary nonetheless asserts that Halloween is the “scariest horror film since Psycho and the most imaginatively directed”. He describes how Carpenter “builds tension by repeatedly using a subjective camera; quick editing; driving, piercing music (which he composed); and the creative use of light and shadow and color (particularly black and white).” He adds that Carpenter “blends the dark, spooky atmosphere essential to Val Lewton; the humor and suspense that go hand in hand in Hitchcock; the cheap — but fun — tricks and shocks found in William Castle films; and the graphic violence that is the staple of the post-Night of the Living Dead American horror film.” He writes that while he finds it a treat “watching the three Middle American teenagers” — who are “smart… witty, and appealingly unconventional” — “jabber away about boys, school, dates, sex, etc.”, he finds it “regrettable that even this film — like its many inferior imitators — thrives upon the deaths of sexually promiscuous, half-dressed young women”.
I’m in agreement with Peary’s review — and I appreciate his intriguing analysis of serial killer “Michael Meyers” (who would return again and again — and again — in most sequels and remakes to come). Peary writes that he doesn’t “think the intriguing Michael is evil, just insane. There’s that six-year-old inside a man’s body, and everything he does — including his murders — is part of a mischievous game.”
He points out that while Michael “could kill his victims quickly… he prefers to hide behind bushes and in closets, peer into windows, scare them, tease them with loud noises” — and, in a notable scene, “before he attacks Soles, he stands in the bedroom doorway with a sheet over his body and glasses on his covered face.”
Meanwhile, “in his never ending struggle with Curtis… he pretends to be dead several times, only to rise and resume his attack” — a decidedly unique take on the “never assume he’s dead” trope of horror movie victims.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie
- Highly atmospheric direction and cinematography
- Many effectively scary moments
Yes, of course, as a classic of the genre.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)