In my opinion, the best Halloween film ever made is John Carpenter‘s original Halloween. It heralded a genre of slasher horror films that gradually deteriorated over the years but Carpenter’s original made-on-a-shoestring film still is the benchmark for this genre.
Subsequent Halloween sequels never really hit the mark, although Rob Zombie’s 2007 ‘re-imagining’ was pretty brutal and visceral it doesn’t come close to matching the sheer atmosphere and tension built up in the original 1979 version. This was the first ‘x rated’ film I ever saw at the Odeon in Leeds and I’ll never forget the screams and tension in the theatre as a teenager. We’d not seen anything like it – perhaps that’s why it still works for me.
After countless viewings, Halloween has never lost its power to draw you in and it’s arguably Carpenter’s finest hour. It’s aged pretty well too and the surprisingly contemporary score (written by Carpenter) never fails to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Carpenter employs all manner of movie tricks that have since become standard practice. The opening shot is masterful using a handheld camera – a technique that was groundbreaking at the time.
Jamie Lee Curtis created the template for the geeky small town teenage babysitter who is relentlessly stalked by the killer – who in this instance is ‘the shape’ aka Michael Myers, who happens to be her brother. Myers is unforgettably portrayed as a chilling, rubber masked automaton hell bent on death and seemingly unkillable.
The brilliant Donald Pleasance plays the killer’s doctor, Loomis – full of portents of doom. He is predictably not taken seriously by the local police until it’s too late. He gets all the best lines of course:
I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.
I’ll give Halloween a spin on the Blue Ray tonight and see if it can still generate the chills…