October 28, 2021
“Halloween,” released in theaters in 1978, is a staple thriller film to watch in the Halloween season, especially with “Halloween: Kills” having just been released.
“Halloween” has been a cornerstone of horror media for years. With a new film releasing this year, there is no question that it has shaped a whole generation of horror films, seeping its DNA into every horror film following it. However, has “Halloween” held up?
While “Halloween” spawned a franchise and created a remake in 2007, I can’t say surely that it has held up.
“Halloween” has held up well in the areas of music, cinematography, and the American suburbia backdrop. The main character, your average high school student Laurie, lives in a nice comfortable small town. She’s at the top of her class, has great friends, and she babysits the neighbor’s kid. But on Halloween night, a Boogeyman out loose on the streets of Haddonfield, Illinois, goes looking for her.
Although “Halloween” is not the first movie with a crazed killer out on a holiday killing spree, it is the first Horror film to be set on Halloween. The movie takes place during two different Halloween nights: the night of 1963 and the night of 1978. On the night of 1963, the film begins with a small child that takes the first knife he sees. A child whose instincts call for him to kill his sister, a child who was locked up for 15 years, a child who, inevitably, never grew up. Later, on the night before Halloween in 1978, a man escapes his psychiatric facility—Micheal Myers, the child who killed his sister on that fateful Halloween night. Laurie, while with her best friend Annie, runs into Annie’s father, the town’s sheriff, as he mentions a man who stole a bunch of weapons from the pawnshop. This indicated that Micheal was in town. The music cemented the moment in my mind, I could only dread what Micheal would do that Halloween night.
As the film progresses into the night of October 31, 1978, Laurie searches for Annie, but horrifically finds the bodies of her friends Linda, Bob, Annie, and the Myer’s girl. While this moment frightened me, I did not feel that shock that Laurie had. I wasn’t connected to Annie or even Linda and Bob for that matter. The two were cartoonish tropes of “the teenagers that have intercourse before marriage and then die by the hands of the crazed killer of the film.”
The only moment that got my blood pumping, made goosebumps appear on my skin, and caused me to a terror so great that I started chewing my fingernails (What better tell-tale sign of a good horror movie is there besides biting your fingernails?), would be the scene of Micheal following a crawling and frightened Laurie up the stairs of the house she babysits at. Loomus, Micheal’s psychiatrist, races up the stairs and shoots out five slug rounds into the body of Myers, causing him to fall backward from the second-floor balcony onto the cold, hard ground of an American suburb yard. In the film’s final moments, Laurie asks Loomus “Is the boogeyman dead?” to which Loomus responds “Yes.” There’s no question that this film was groundbreaking in 1978 and the years following. As an article by the legendary film critic Roger Ebert, well known from “Sneak Previews,” put in his review of “Halloween,” “It's easy to create violence on the screen, but it's hard to do it well.” This is something that can’t be understated, with “Halloween’s” use of music and the framing of the camera creating the tensest moment in the film.
I want to say that “Halloween” holds up quite well, but what is preventing me from outright stating that is the sheer fact that horror films, and the “Halloween” franchise itself, have come a long way since that initial release. Micheal Myers has appeared in nine sequels, two remakes, and one cameo in the third movie, as well as three creating alternate timelines to follow, branching from “Halloween,” “Halloween II” (1981), or directly from the “Halloween” film (Like the most recent movies), just to understand what is going on in the films.
The problem that causes me to not call “Halloween” a horror film that stands the test of time is that without the full context of John Carpenter's filmography, or the full history of the horror film genre itself, it can only be viewed as a solid horror movie that has good music and cinematography. A movie that will retain your attention for the 1 hour and 42 minutes of its runtime, it stands as an average popcorn thriller at best, or at worst, another movie you tell your friends you’ve watched.