Halloween

1978, Movie, R, 93 mins

Review

HALLOWEEN
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A modern horror classic. On Halloween night in 1963, a six-year-old boy in a Halloween mask stabs his sister to death after she makes love to her boyfriend. He's institutionalized--until, exactly 15 years later, he escapes and returns to his small Illinois hometown once more to wreak Halloween havoc. His psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) proclaims "The Evil is loose!" and is in hot pursuit with the authorities. Meanwhile Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) seems to be the only girl in town without a date for Halloween. All her high school friends seem to have hot dates scheduled but bright, bookish Laurie must settle for a quiet evening of babysitting, fending off trick-or-treaters, and watching old science fiction movies on television. Just another boring evening? Hardly.

There's nary a drop of blood on screen in this rollicking funhouse of a movie but there is enough sheer cinematic ingenuity on display to coax screams out of the most jaded gorehound. Cheap thrills--often accompanied by a joybuzzer noise on the soundtrack--lurk on the periphery of nearly every frame and film history allusions abound. Fans the moving camera also have reason to cheer as the Steadicam prowls the suburban streets unexpectedly turning into ominous point-of-view shots accompanied by creepy piano music (composed by the resourceful Carpenter). The performances are also far better than average for this kind of fare. Pleasance is a hoot as he gnaws on the scenery and the pleasingly equine beauty of Jamie Lee Curtis--at the beginning of the fondly remembered Queen of the B's stage of her career--enhances her sensitive performance.

HALLOWEEN was the surprise hit of the 1978 Chicago Film Festival. Some over-enthusiastic critics even compared it with Hitchcock's classic PSYCHO (which starred Curtis's mother, Janet Leigh) but such comparisons are silly and groundless; HALLOWEEN is just a superbly made unpretentious thriller whereas one can make higher claims for PSYCHO. Furthermore Carpenter's clean, economical style owes a much greater debt to another master craftsman--Howard Hawks. From the opening--a long Steadicam point-of-view shot seen from behind a Halloween mask--to the climactic battle in which Curtis fends off the maniac time after time, only to have him rise again, Carpenter displays an astounding stylistic assurance for a young director working with a low budget.

Made for less than half a million dollars, HALLOWEEN grossed well over $50 million on its initial release making it the single most successful independent feature of all time. Two sequels, both produced by Carpenter, were woefully inferior to the original, but a third--released in 1988--wasn't too bad. leave a comment

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