John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is not only a modern classic of the horror genre but its influence is still felt to this day. Sleek and controlled it is truly the grandfather of the slasher film and few movies have ever come close to matching its visceral impact.
The movie begins on Halloween night in 1963. A young boy who we will soon know as Michael Myers, butchers his sister without remorse. Carted away to a mental hospital, he will spend the next 15 years incarcerated until he breaks free and heads home for some more killing.
Unfortunately, high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends become easy targets for “The Shape” and it’s becomes a battle for survival over the long Halloween night.
Modern filmgoers might find it easy to be dismissive of HALLOWEEN because it’s much simpler in structure and graphic violence than in today’s frightfests, but the movie was never meant to be a gorefest. It’s a tightly wound suspense thriller and the foundation of what would become the slasher genre.
The tagline for the film reads “The night He came home” and that has more significance than just the Killer’s M.O. Up to then horror was relegated to the backwoods or the nooks and crannies of civilized society. Here was a horror movie that could be happening right next door to your everyday average citizen and that is what’s truly frightening.
When discussing HALLOWEEN it’s impossible not to talk about two aspects: The look and the music.
Dean Cundey’s exceptional cinematography creates a palpable mood of dread and ratchets up the suspense to unbearable heights at time. Shot in gorgeous widescreen (an aspect ratio not typical in horror) and with an early version of the steadicam called the panaglide, the low budget feature looks incredible even to this day.
Director John Carpenter also composed the iconic HALLOWEEN music, creating an instantly recognizable theme that is haunting in its simplicity. The music itself is scary; a driving heartbeat that with just a few notes on a piano, raises the hairs on the back of your neck.
I’m not being uneccesarily hyperbolic when I say that HALLOWEEN is a masterpiece. It’s a MUST SEE MOVIE for any fan of horror or suspense and a master class for budding horror directors who are working on a low-budget.