31 Days of Horror Movie: Halloween (1978; R; 91 min)

For me, Halloween is the ultimate scary movie. Every year I try, and fail, to watch it all the way through without having to turn it off. This year, I almost succeeded: I only paused it once! Of course, it was very sunny outside and I sat way, far away from the screen, but…baby steps!

John Carpenter’s masterpiece was filmed in just 21 days for only $320,000 in 1978. Carpenter also created all the music for the movie, which to me, is the bow on the present that is this super scary movie. Just hearing the opening score or the pounding piano sequence that plays whenever Michael Myers is on the move can make my heart rate jump and my insides turn to jelly. So, thanks to Mr. Carpenter, our Halloweens will never be the same!

Now, all that being said, Halloween the movie does have its problems, too! Read on…

Halloween opens in 1963, when a six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his sister Judith to death on Halloween night (Problem: his stabs don’t actually land anywhere near his sister). Fast forward 15 years, and Michael’s doctor, Doctor Loomis (the amazing Donald Pleasance), is going to visit the insane asylum where Michael lives, in an effort to make sure he never gets out. But he’s too late. Michael has just broken out and he manages to steal the car Loomis is in, heading back to his hometown of Haddonfield (yes, it’s a problem that somehow Michael can drive).

Meanwhile, three teenagers named Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Linda (one of the mean girls from Carrie and who says “Totally” every 5 seconds), and Annie (the production designer’s wife, who is possibly the worst actress in the history of horror films, is annoying, and yells all her lines) are preparing for Halloween night in Haddonfield. Laurie and Annie will be babysitting children just across the street from each other, while Linda plans to party with her boyfriend. Now the boy, Tommy, who Laurie is babysitting, warns her as they walk to school, telling her to not go near the abandoned old Myers house ’cause it’s haunted. Yet, and this is a problem: Annie picks up Laurie in her car, in full sunshine, to go to the houses where they are babysitting, and when they arrive it’s full dark outside, and she’s babysitting Tommy, who lives close enough to walk the same way to school with her. Huh?

Okay, so back to the story. Michael has been following Laurie all day. She has noticed him several times (cue creepy music) but thinks it’s just her imagination. Now, if I saw a tall man in coveralls wearing an expressionless mask standing among my hanging sheets in the backyard, I’d freak out. But not Laurie.

So, it’s Halloween night. Dr. Loomis has taken up post at the old Myers house to await Michael’s return. But he’s too late, ’cause Michael is after Laurie and her friends. As the night unfolds, teenagers neck (and more, in about 3 seconds flat!), none of the kids being babysat get to trick-or-treat (yes, that’s a problem), and Michael starts picking the teens off, one by one. But will he get to his ultimate goal, Laurie, before the night ends? Or will Dr. Loomis catch him just in time?

Additional insights: While this may sound like your everyday teen slasher flick, it’s not. Carpenter uses lighting and scene setting to build amazing tension and suspense. Often we can see Michael and know he’s just a man, yet his dead eyes let us know evil resides within, evil that cannot be reasoned with, evil that cannot be stopped. And perhaps the simple storyline makes his evil all the more scary to watch. All in all, an amazing movie (despite the storyline problems) that will remain in my top three for a very long time!

  • Top Scare: Every one with Michael and the piano music
  • Heartbeats: 4 3/4 out of 5
  • Gore factor: 1 1/2 out of 5
  • Suspense factor: 5 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 17 and up, for nudity and theme of storyline
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