FEARnyc 2016 Retro Movie Review: John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978)
By Dr. Zaius
Friday, October 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Halloween – 1978 Available now on DVD, Blu-ray, and Amazon Video
Written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles, Kyle Richards, Nancy Loomis, Nick Castle
Original release date: October 25, 1978
FEARnyc screening: October 27, 2016
There is almost nothing left that can be said about John Carpenter’s Halloween. It is widely recognized as a classic of horror, one of the scariest movies ever made, and the film that inspired and jump-started the slasher sub genre. What I can offer is perhaps a fresh perspective. You see, on Thursday night, at the final night of the weeklong FEARnyc horror film festival, I took my 12-year-old son Brandon to see Halloween on the big screen for the first time.
Introduced by FEARnyc director John Capo, Halloween starts with a long uninterrupted take tracking the killer arming himself, heading upstairs, putting on a clown mask, and stabbing a girl to death. We find out this was 6-year-old Michael Myers, and the victim was his older sister Judith. “That’s him?,” Brandon whispered. A few seconds later, when a 21-year-old Michael leaps on top of Loomis’s station wagon to escape, “That was him?” Sitting next to him, you could feel his body tense up when Carpenter used one of his taut musical cues. Having seen Halloween countless times, I was enjoying my son’s experience more.
If you’ve been living under a rock since 1978, you may watch Halloween now and find it cliche. But that is because this is the film that started almost all of them. The trope of the “final girl,” the one virginal youth who alone can survive evil. Sexed-up teens who say, “I’ll be right back”¦” who won’t, of course, be back. The silent killer who won’t stay dead and always comes back for one more scare, yep, Michael Myers pretty much invented that. The thing that stands out the most re-watching it is just how simple it is. There aren’t any complex special effects shots, or crazy makeup. There is no gore and almost no blood to speak of, and this is the movie that started slashers! My son commented after that a lot of the time Michael Myers “just stood there” and that that “made it scary.” Carpenter’s score and the camera shots by DOP Dean Cundey are the real stars of the movie.
Halloween is as much a “must-watch” during this season as It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story during Christmas time. It is by definition and title, the seminal horror movie. It routinely ranks in the Top 10 on lists of Scariest Movies Ever, and I think it should be closer to the top. There is just something uniquely terrifying about a plain white mask slowly coming out the darkness. Halloween is a must-watch for horror fans, and for film fans alike. It is my favorite horror movie of all time.
FEARnyc wrapped up its first horror film festival last night. Before Halloween, they showed Michael Myers: Absolute Evil, a documentary-style account of the Myers’ murders as if a true crime story. That is available now on YouTube.