on October 31, 2013
During the fall of 1978, the devil came home - to Haddonfield, Illinois.
Upon its initial release, Halloween had difficulty finding its traction with moviegoers, but after a few positive reviews, John Carpenter's horror flick was off and running. Even more spectacular is that fact that the film was produced on a ridiculously tiny budget of $325,000, eventually cashing in big with an impressive $70 million.
By now, most everyone is probably at least vaguely familiar with the concept of the boogeyman and quite possibly even well-acquainted with the boogeyman himself - the man in the white mask that walked around stalking babysitters, Michael Myers. This cold-hearted killer has engrained himself in pop culture, creating legions of fans, endless merchandise, and several sequels featuring the character, including two reboot films. Myers is the villain everyone loves to hate, having been forged into the spitting image of evil - unrelenting in his mission to stalk and eventually eliminate his prey.
The creation of the Michael Myers, one of the most iconic and recognizable characters in the horror genre, leaves little doubt that Halloween is the greatest horror film ever created.
Directed by John Carpenter (Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog) and co-written with Debra Hill, Halloween stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, who along with her high school friends, Anne (Nancy Kyes), and Lynda (P.J. Soles), is stalked by an escaped murderous mental patient, named Michael Myers (portrayed by five different actors, including Nick Castle & Tony Moran). Desperate to find him before he kills innocent people in the small town of Haddonfiled, Illinois, Myers' doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), sets out to stop him. However, Myers' whereabouts is unknown to everyone, except for two young children, Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews) and Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards). Charles Cyphers also stars in a supporting role as Sheriff Leigh Brackett.
Halloween is not only the best horror film ever created, but it's also the most important horror film ever created - okay, maybe it's the second most important film, slightly behind Psycho. Following in the footsteps of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, Halloween continues the trend of a modern day killer unleashing his fury on the innocent women of suburbia. Both of these films took the simple premise of a mysterious killer shadowing beautiful women - just before mutilating them, and made it, well - hip and frighteningly entertaining. There's just something so nail-biting and downright creepy about a man lurking in the shadows waiting to strike a moment's notice.
While Halloween is responsible for elevating the career of director John Carpenter, it's also responsible for introducing Jamie Lee Curtis - the (at the time) unknown daughter of "scream queen" and Psycho star, Janet Leigh. The amount of screen time devoted to her character was quite sizable, regardless of the fact she'd never acted in a feature role. Regardless, Curtis demonstrated the scared, vulnerable qualities required to be the leading lady in this unnerving, often unpredictable slasher flick. She's innocent, likeable, and had the make-up of a future Hollywood star - even though it's safe to say no one could have predicted the future roles she'd amass. She would go on to star in several popular films, including True Lies, Trading Places, and three Halloween sequels (Halloween 2, Halloween H2O, and Halloween: Resurrection).
Today, John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis are the top names that casual movie lovers typically associate with Halloween, but let's not forget that back in 1978, there was only one star of Halloween (pre-release): Donald Pleasence. As the hard-nosed Dr. Sam Loomis, Pleasence has the film's most memorable lines, including the famous "...the devil's eyes" line. He took on a role that he was incredibly uncertain of at the time - and wasn't even the first choice for the character. As such a low-budget production, Halloween was unable to gain the interest of original sought-after, popular actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Still, Pleasence turned out to be the right man for the role of Dr. Loomis - which quickly became the role that would define the rest of her career. His professionalism illuminates this role as the overly concerned doctor, and he obviously become a fan favorite - which is never more evident in the way he returned to the role for four sequels (five Halloween films in total).
The success and legacy of Halloween led to the creation of several similar, yet moderately unique horror films, including Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Regardless of the success of those individual franchises, Halloween still stands out as the one film that jump-started the slasher craze of the 1980s and beyond. Without Halloween, there's little doubt that the more recent horror franchises, like Scream, Saw, and a slew of easily forgettable knockoffs, would have enjoyed the same successes that they achieved. And, while the slasher "craze" is currently non-existent (at least for the moment) from overuse and a lack of progressive originality, there's little chance Michael Myers won't rise from the ashes again one day to stalk babysitters (or his female relatives if you liked the direction of the sequels).
Overall and on its own, the original Halloween is the best and most important horror film ever conceived or created. Even today, the story is as solid as ever, but the acting, camera shots (in which we see through the killer's eyes), and imagination also have withstood the test of time. Sure, the film owes some of its success to Psycho, but the character of Michael Myers/The Shape/The Boogeyman has taken on a life all its own - which eclipses the wildest dreams of his creators. The fan base of Halloween is strong, despite that fact that the original conception might not be as scary to this generation as it was the previous generations. Although the inclusion of several sequels to the franchise certainly diluted the original storyline, Halloween will forever and always be one of the greatest films (and not just of the horror genre) to ever grace the big screen.