Historical Circuit: Halloween (1978) – (***½)

There is no horror film more sinister or more brilliant than that of John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Released October 25, 1978, Carpenter’s film went on gross more than $47 million dollars, making it the eighth highest grossing film of the year.  The film tells the haunting tale of Michael Myers, a 21 year old man who fifteen years earlier, murdered his 17 year old sister Judith on Halloween night after she finished having sex.  At six years old, Michael was placed in a mental institution where Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) becomes his primary psychiatrist.  Dr. Loomis however, sees a darkness in Michael that can’t be explained.  He spent a few years attempting to get through to him and the rest trying to keep him locked up.  On Halloween 1978, Michael escapes and goes on a murder rampage through Haddonfield, Illinois attempting to get to his one last blood relative Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis).

Forget Rob Zombie’s version of the franchise and forget the mediocre sequels that followed the 1978 hit (actually, Halloween II is pretty awesome as well), Carpenter’s original set the bar for all “scary” movies that would follow but never measure.  Carpenter’s handle of the film is smart, innovative, and pulse pounding.  Prior to this film, Carpenter had only had two full length features under his belt, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Dark Star (1974).  Halloween put Carpenter on the map.

One of Jamie Lee Curtis' very first roles...

While the screenplay by Carpenter and Debra Hill is the A-typical cheese-fest that horror films offers, the acting of Curtis and Pleasance are some of the best work seen in this genre.  Granted, the bar hasn’t been raised too high in this regards, but it’s a notable mention.  Nick Castle, who actually portrays Myers in his adult, jump suited, William Shatner mask wearing sociopath shape controls an aura that spits out of the screen and sets your fears ablaze.  Michael Myers is hands down the creepiest, most terrifying film killer in my memory.  Put Chucky in front of me, I’d kick him across the room.  Put Freddy in my dreams, I’ll laugh myself awake.  Put Jason in front of me, I’d take him to Central Park ice skating rink and do a triple axle on his face.  Put Michael Myers in front of me, give me a new diaper; I just went on myself.  No question about it.

The most famous aspect of the film, and nearly the franchise, is the outstanding score constructed by John Carpenter himself.  Never has a score been so identifiable or synonymous with a character or genre.   If you’ve lived under a rock all these years or haven’t had the stomach to face the franchise, take a night, introduce yourself to Michael and see how the horror genre was meant to be done.  Halloween is the best horror film.  Ever.

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Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.