Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
Jamie Lee Curtis
“Death has come to your little town, Sherrif…”
– Dr. Samuel Loomis
After a long, hot summer, it has finally returned: October. For those of us who love horror films, being scared, or even just enjoy decorating our homes and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, October is a special time of year. It arrives at a crawl-pace, and seems to pass by so quickly, which is why it’s important to savour each and every day of autumn. For me, that includes a tradition of compiling a list of 30 horror films, and watching one every night of the month in an attempt to stay constantly in the Halloween mood. It’s a routine not entirely dissimilar from those chocolate advent calendars… but with more screaming, and a heck of a lot more blood.
As the editor of the Blood Theatre, it seems that these days I spend the majority of my time doing exactly that: editing reviews and articles, mainting the website, and rarely having the opportunity to sit back and write. Which is unfortunate, because I love having the chance to reflect on some of the horror films which I love (and every so often hate). It gives me the chance to re-live them… to re-experience them, and in some cases, get just a little bit nostalgic. Which is why, on the occasion of it being the first of October, I thought it was only too appropriate to present to you a review of my very favourite horror film of all-time: HALLOWEEN.
For those of you who read one of my very early reviews of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, you may recall my mentioning that I actually viewed FRIDAY THE 13’TH, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and HALLOWEEN all for the first time, together, one Halloween night in my youth. The three films left an incredible impact on me: FRIDAY THE 13’TH was raw, visceral, and unrelenting; NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET was almost poetic, darkly sinister, and packed a concept that made you question reality itself; however, HALLOWEEN became my favourite of the three films almost instantly. It was atmospheric, suspenseful, and unforgettable. I don’t think there is another horror film that I’ve watched as many times (admittedly, the film has probably seen over 50 plays between my VCR and DVD player), and it has held up on every subsequent viewing. To me, it is the perfect horror film.
The story is brilliant in its simplicity: in Haddonfield, Illinois, a six year old boy murders his sister on Halloween night. He spends the next fifteen years in the Smith’s Grove mental institution under the care of a psychiatrist who comes to realize the unspeakable evil that lies behind the boys eyes. And then, one cold October night, Michael escapes and returns to Haddonfield to begin what is to become, a legendary massacre. Enter: Laurie Strode, and her friends Annie and Linda… three highschool girls who, thinking that their Halloween night will be a routine evening of babysitting, become the target for Michael’s bloodlust. Why them? Well, until the (originally unintended) sequel came around, there was nomotivation… no reason. And therein lies the horror of HALLOWEEN.
Perhaps it’s the memorable performances: the film debut of young, innocent Jamie Lee Curtis; the intense eyes of Donald Pleasance; thetotally air-headed dialogue of P.J. Soles; the stiff attitude of Nancy Loomis; or the endearing and honest face of Charles Cyphers. Maybe it’s the haunting image of Michael’s white mask slowly emerging from the darkness, courtesy of the sheer artistic brilliance of Dean Cundey; the unforgettable, nailbiting minimalist soundtrack; or the story, written by the now-legendary John Carpenter and the late Debra Hill. If we take a moment to step back, we realize that it could be any number or combination of those things. So, perhaps better yet, it’s important to recognize that HALLOWEEN has become one of the most important horror films ever created because, in an astronomically rare occurance, allof the elements were there: the stars aligned and gave life to a masterpiece in creative tension.
When people ask me to list off my top five favourite films, even if the list isn’t specifically horror themed, HALLOWEEN will always be there. Personally, it has been a very significant film in my life, and I will forever be grateful to John Carpenter for creating it. Its shoestring budget proved that all you need to make a great, timeless classic is a passion for filmmaking and a daring imagination.
I leave you now, on this cold October 1st, as a heavy rain falls outside of my window… much like that fateful night when Michael escaped from the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. Before the nightmare began. Before HE came home.