When Halloween was released in 1978, there was no such thing as the "slasher movie." Halloween created this genre almost single-handedly. (Some may argue that 1974's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre deserves some credit.) And while it may seem tame today when compared against the movies it helped inspire, Halloween is still a classic horror movie.
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and Nancy Loomis
The opening scene, a masterfully well-done first-person tracking shot, finds a 6-year-old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) stalking and murdering his older sister, Judith (Sandy Johnson,) on Halloween night in 1963. There's no motive. No reasoning. No remorse.
Flash forward to Halloween, 1978. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is travelling to Smith's Grove, a mental institution, to supervise the transfer of the twentysomething Michael Myers to a more secure facility. But it's too late. Myers has escaped and Loomis fears he's heading back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois.
Meanwhile, in Haddonfield, high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is preparing for a babysitting assignment on Halloween night. As she leaves school, she keeps seeing a mysterious figure pursuing her through the town. Little does she know that she and her friends will each encounter Michael Myers that night.
Wearing an eerie, featureless mask, Michael Myers (or "The Shape" as he's credited) is the prototypical horror movie slasher villain. One thing that sets Myers apart from the innumerable and inevitable clones that followed in his footsteps is that there is no known reason behind his relentless pursuit of Laurie and her friends. Dr. Loomis has a clue to Myers' mindset and he can only say that "what was living behind that
boy's eyes was purely and simply evil." There's no explanatory scene to justify his motives. There's no convoluted backstory. (Although the 1981 sequel, Halloween II, would create one that became increasingly ridiculous with each passing entry in the series.) Here in the original film, Myers is just an unstoppable killing machine that director John Carpenter likened to a force of nature.
Even though it was a highly successful and influential movie, Halloween was a film created on a shoestring budget by a bunch of twenty year old kids. While it does have occasional flashes of brilliance -- like the aforementioned opening scene -- it also boasts a large quantity of silly dialogue and bad acting. But what it lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in menace and suspense.
Halloween may not scare today's generation, which may explain Rob Zombie's iffy 2007 "reimagining", but it's worth seeing the original, undiluted Michael Myers story as it was meant to be.
Trivia: From a budget of $325,000 the film went on to gross $47 million at the
US box office. In 2008 takings that would be the equivalent of $150
million, making "Halloween" one of the most successful independent films of all time. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)