Review: Halloween (1978)

A group of babysitters are terrified when an escaped mental patient returns to their suburb at Halloween in this Carpenter classic

John Carpenter‘s Halloween ushered in a new wave of Hollywood monster.

The masked Myers has become a horror icon and is made all the more chilling because, instead of being imbued with supernatural powers or traditional halloween-esque attributes, it’s only a mask that sets him apart from humanity – as well as his insatiable thirst to kill, of course. One large downside to Michael Myer’s history is the film in which he was conceived. Halloween, considered to be a horror classic by many, has unfortunately not been treated kindly by time. Although it has set the standards for hundreds of slasher films since its appearance in 1978 (Scream is an obvious descendant, including as it does the masked murderer who simply refuses to die), the film’s low-budget means it now looks out-dated as does its relatively gore-free (and rather loopy) script.

When Michael Myers (the crazed murderer of Carpenter’s film, not Austin Powers – just to avoid any confusion) escapes the mental institute in which he’s been housed for over a decade he returns to his home neighbourhood and begins a murderous rampage. Overlooked by the authorities, his capture falls into the hands of Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance) who follows his trail of destruction.

Seeing Jamie Lee Curtis grace the big screen for the first time, Halloween is one of the highest grossing independent films of all time. The fact that the actors provided their own wardrobes and the painted leaves littered on set to give the film an autumnal feel had to re-used underline the small budget the film was made with. Plagued with poor continuity and gaping loopholes it is nonetheless an enjoyable watch, if for different reasons than originally intended. Whether you find the picking off of Curtis’s friends by Myers terrifying or downright comic (it is impossible to take the scene where Myer’s dons a sheet and glasses seriously) you will find yourself shouting at the idiocy portrayed by the characters on screen (‘WHY leave the knife behind?’ and ‘WHY go outside alone?!’ being favourites).

Although much of the film now seems rather tame and poorly edited the scene in which Jamie Lee Curtis’s character Laurie is trapped inside a wardrobe and Myers is approaching painstakingly slowly is horror at its finest whilst shadow-dwelling Myer’s expressionless mask makes for a truly creepy killer. The film may have aged and its audience grown immune to such mild horror but it might just make you second-guess accepting an invitation to babysit on Halloween.

Best bit: The last time we see (or don’t see) Myers, if only for its groan-inducing predictability.
Best performance:; Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie.
Watch this if you liked:; Other slasher movies such as Scream.
Best song: The film includes one of the most iconic pieces of horror music, composed and performed by Carpenter himself.
Best line: ‘It’s Halloween – everyone’s entitled to one good scare’.

Gore Factor: 3 / 10
Spine-chill factor: 4 / 10

Michael Myers’s mask is actually a customised William Shatner Star Trek mask. Due to budgetary constraints the costume department could not afford to get an original mask created so they adapted the Star Trek mask for the film. For years Shatner was unaware of the mask’s use.

Nick Castle, who plays the masked Myers throughout the film, went on to write Hook.

Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother is none other than Janet Leigh – infamous star of Psycho.

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