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Halloween (1978)

Taking the time to sit down and review this film has been one of the most daunting tasks I have undertaken since I started this page. Giving myself the space to pass judgement on a film so beautifully crafted and perfectly executed is something that I'm unsure I have earnt the right to do. This is the one film that for me defines me as a horror fan, without my discovery of it as a young teen I don't think I would have become the fan of the genre that I am. This is a statement that I know rings true with so many other fans of this dark, twisted corner of cinema that all of us hold so dearly and is the reason this film holds its place as the greatest horror film ever made on the majority of top tens across the board.

As horror fans, it is nion impossible to talk about the Halloween holiday without automatically associating it with the quintessential horror villain that is Michael Myers. This is testament to the impact that this film has had, not just in horror but in cinema as a whole. All of that is owed to the the incredibly creative and talented duo of John Carpenter and his then partner Deborah Hill. The two of them created a phenomena like nothing before, that changed the way horror was made for decades to come and still to this day. Taking a budget of just $325,000 and the right to have full creative control, John Carpenter made history with his B-movie slasher Halloween. A film that not only grossed $70 million at the box office but created one of the most beloved horror franchises in the genre.

Before we even get a single frame of picture on screen this film opens with the signature 5/4 halloween theme which is instantly associated with this franchise, something many other films have tried to replicate but have never been as successful as what Carpenter did here. His score defines this film and makes it as impactful as it is. As proof of this, it is said that the film was screened to a test audience without the score (due to it being the last thing to be finished on the film) and it is said that it was considered terrible and panned by critics. The soundtrack is so iconic and recognisable, although my favourite isn't the well-known, most associated ‘Halloween Theme’ and is actually the slower, calmer and to me most haunting ‘Myers House’ track. This is the one that screams Halloween to me and the one that gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it.

We are first introduced to the opening credit sequence of a signature pumpkin carving as the camera slowly draws in closer. Something which would later go on to be a staple in many of the sequels. From there, we are then shown an insight into how groundbreaking this film was going to be. Having the first scene as a one shot tracking camera sequence throughout the Myers house, immediately demonstrated to us the way in which Carpenter was exploring new realms and breaking film making boundaries and norms in order to make this film a success. The choreographic precision that must have been required to execute that scene effectively, on schedule and on budget is a real indication to the commitment the cast and crew had for this film.

With such a small budget, Carpenter and Hill had to overcome their biggest hurdle as they were very limited on who they could afford to star in their film. Before the role of Dr. Samuel Loomis was given to the legendary Donald Pleasance, it was offered to both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who refused the $25,000 that was offered to them. Lee has later gone on to state that he very much regrets not taking the role that defined Donald Pleasance's career. As much as I would have enjoyed Lee's take on the character, I don't believe anyone would have given a greater performance than Pleasance. He embodies this character and without him I don't think this franchise would be the same. The lead role was given to the then unknown Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh, who had a similar career defining role in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. I can only imagine their connection only amplified the excitement surrounding this films marketing campaign. Curtis most definitely grasped her first opportunity in a leading role and her performance subsequently set the precedent for final girls in horror.

This film has a very linear plot, which I believe is part of the reason it is as effective as it is. Everything is well contained and simple in its narrative. On paper, this is a teen slasher. But in the hands of a quality film maker it became the pinnacle of horror in which all slashers to follow would aim to achieve, even with the complete lack of backstory or motivation for why Michael is slashing his was through Haddonfield. This is something that would come across as frustrating in most cases, however here all it does is pave the way for us to use our own imagination to create our own conclusions and theories as to why. This is something that more often than not can be more terrifying than anything that could ever play out on screen. Michael having Laurie as a victim is purely coincidental due to her posting the keys at the Myers house early on in the film. His pursuit of her is out of obsession and not attraction. This is something I think the later films lose along the way. Micheal is a mindless killer that only seeks to destroy what gets in his way. He has no purpose and creating one only dampens the fear that he personifies.

For me this is Michael at his best. The most naturally imposing without being robotic. He spends so much of the film just standing, staring and stalking his prey, something that is highlighted so well with Carpenters POV camera work. Nothing shows the level of simplicity needed to display Michael's effectiveness better than the scene in the kitchen when he pins Bob to wall and takes a step back and watches curiously as the life leaves his victims body. The simple tilt of his head as he looks on is one of the most iconic moments in this film, a scene that is captured so brilliantly by Carpenter. Although Nick Castle is credited as ‘The Shape’, multiple cast and crew wore the mask at one point or another during this production and even a dog handler was brought in to play Micheal. Who would have thought that a white painted Willam Shatner mask would going on to be one of the most recognisable and feared masks is all of horror history.

Given that this film was filmed in the 70s and by today's standards of gore and violence, this could come across as rather tame. I am a strong believer that in horror less is more, something that this film handles perfectly and is one of the reasons as to why it still holds up today. The limited need for effects work only helps the film still feel relevant in horror. The minimal blood we do see on screen is done so subtly, in an almost red Giallo style. I think pairing this with master cinematographer Dean Cundey's insistence on beautifully lighting the set in moonlight blue tones only enhances the classic aesthetic of this film.

Sitting down to dissect my favourite film of all time certainly had me questioning my audacity to do so. It reminded me that I didn’t set out to be a reviewer and certainly wouldn’t consider myself to be a critic, I am simply a fan of horror and love to discuss it with like minded people. If this is not a review, I’d say this is a love letter to the film that introduced me into a world of horror and one that has now become such a big part of my life. For me this isn't just an iconic horror film, this is a film that I owe everything to as a fan and for that all I can say is, thankyou.



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