Halloween Revisited: What evil has entered this town?

Halloween Revisited: What evil has entered this town?


“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.” This is how Doctor Loomis describes his patient who has escaped and is on the loose in the small town of Haddonfield. “Halloween” is John Carpenter’s classic horror film written by him and Debra Hill in 1978. This movie was made for $325,000 and 70 million in the box office. Halloween depicts a teenage girl and her friends being stalked by Michael Myers, a murderous and psychopathic mental patient, while his psychiatrist searches for him  on Halloween night. This iconic movie has spawned numerous sequels, influenced an entire genre, and terrified generations of movie goers. Everything about this movie is iconic.

“Halloween” starts with a credit sequence accompanied by its classic score that contains a simple piano melody anyone will recognize. The score was done by Carpenter and sets the unsettling tone of this movie as we hear the piano notes evolve into deep synth chords. We then see the intro to the film. We watch Michael Myers stalk and kill his first victim, his sister, through his eyes. We intimately watch him stalk, grab his weapon, and commit his first act of violence. He walks outside and is greeted by his parents. They take off his mask and we get our first shot of a young Michael who appears to be a toddler in a clown costume with a bloody knife in his hands. His eyes are lifeless as he looks into the distance while his parents look at him speechless. This is one of the greatest openings of all time. It presents the terror and inhuman nature of our antagonist. This opening could be its own short film as it conveys a horrifying sequence of a murderer revealed as family to the victim.

Myers is one of the most intimidating villains ever. We constantly see him getting spotted by Laurie as he just stands watching her. Myers says no words the entire movie, wears a white mask, and is immune to emotion. You never know where he is during the film until he shows himself. Sometimes his breathing may give away his position to the viewer or maybe we get his point of view as we are stuck behind his mask helplessly watching his victims.

We are soon introduced to one of the protagonists, Dr. Loomis. Dr. Loomis, played by Donald Pleaseance, is Myers’ psychiatrist. He refuses to refer to Myers as anything related to humanity using words like “it” and “ evil”. This builds suspense as our villain is presented as more of an unstoppable force than a reasonable threat. The other protagonist is Laurie Strode played by Jamie Lee Curtis. She is a teenager who is babysitting the night Michael wreaks havoc. Michael stalks her and the child she babysits throughout the film. His motives in this movie are unclear adding to the suspense of his character. Throughout the film, we look through Michaels point of view and hear his eerie breathing as he stalks his victims. John Carpenter’s direction is claustrophobic and intense. In one scene Myers, in a police vehicle, is stalking the child Laurie babysits.  The viewer watches from the backseat behind the bars used to house prisoners. This scene stands out to me as Carpenters camera placement is very unique. It is a way to show we are just an audience and we are locked behind a screen. We cannot help this child or anyone in this film. Another scene where the direction stands out is  the use of a handheld camera in a scene that builds terror as Laurie screams for help as she runs from what the script calls “ The Shape”. No one helps her as she pleads for assistance. This adds realism to the scene and grounds it. It also shows us that she is alone in this battle against the supernatural.

Another point in this film is the violence. Horror movies today are marketed on their over the top violence and jump scares. This movie has barely any blood. This movie makes you feel like you are watching something worse than it is. This is an achievement many horror movies today have not received. The use of simple violence grounds the story and creates a more terrifying antagonist. Myers isn’t setting up complicated traps or using special powers to get his victims. He is simply watching, waiting for the right time to strike. The performances in this movie from the two stars are great as Curtis’ fear is shown through her eyes and Pleasence’s urgency is shown through excellent line delivery.

In just under 90 minutes “Halloween” showcases a haunting score, terror, and suspense in a low budget fashion that influenced generations of film. Without “Halloween” the horror genre would be very different. This movie proves you don’t need excessive violence or predictable jump scares to make a horror film. It shows that all you need is passion and hard work to create cinema that is beloved by many.