My personal favorite horror film. From the lengthy first tracking shot to the final story twist, this is Carpenter’s masterpiece.
Halloween night 1963, little Michael Meyers murders his older sister. All-hallows-eve 1978, Michael escapes from Smith’s Grove sanitarium. Halloween night, Michael has come home to murder again.
The story is perfectly simple, Michael stalks and kills babysitters. No bells or whistles, just the basics. It’s Carpenter’s almost over-powering atmosphere of dread that generates the tension. Like any great horror film, events are telegraphed long in advance, yet they still seem to occur at random, never allowing the audience to the chance to second guess the film.
The dark lighting, the long steady-cam shots, and (most importantly) that damn eerie music create the most claustrophobic and uncomfortable scenes I have yet to see in film. There is a body count, but compared to the slew of slashers after this it’s fairly small. That and most of the murders are nearly bloodless. The fear is not in death, but in not knowing.
The acting is roundelay good. PJ Soles provides much of the films limited humor (and one of the best deaths), Nancy Loomis turns in a decent performance and then there is the young (at the time) Jamie Leigh-Curtis. Her performance at first seems shy and un-assured, yet you quickly realize that it is perfect for the character, who is herself shy and un-assured and not at all prepared for what she is to face. And of course there is the perfectly cast Donald Pleasence as the determined (perhaps a little unstable) Dr. Sam Loomis. Rest in peace Mr. Pleasence.
If the film has a detrimental flaw, it would be the passage of time. Since the release of this film so many years ago nearly countless clones, copies, rip-offs, and imitators have come along and stolen (usually badly) the films best bits until nearly everything about it has become familiar. Combined with the changes for audience expectations and appetites, one finds much of the films raw power diluted. To truly appreciate it in this day and age, it must be viewed as it once was, as something unique.