Classical Film Reviews · Film Reviews

Classical Film Review: Halloween [1978]

Filmed in 1978, John Carpenter’s Halloween is younger than some of the other films we have looked at for the Classical Review. But… it is Halloween and this is a genuinely scary, yet also extremely tastefully well-crafted, horror cult classic.

As low-budget and rushed as the filming may have been (it was shot in just 20 days), this fabulously stylistic slasher invented many of the genre’s clichés and grossed Fifty Five million dollars worldwide. It was one of the most successful independent films ever made with its effects seen in films such as the Friday the 13th series, in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Scream and most modern horrors!

In an apogee of filmic manipulation, the suspenseful stalkings and morbid killings are seen from the subjective vantage point of the killer- a few times while looking through his mask. Other scenes are viewed through the characters in danger’s illusory point of view, accompanied by the heavy breathing of murderous peeping tom Michael Myers, who is referred to as ‘the bogeyman’ or “The Shape” in the credits.

I shalln’t talk much about the storyline because it doesn’t actually matter and no one really cares for the minutiae.

Importantly, however, this film set in motion the Puritanical, psycho-pathological principle that one’s survival was directly proportional to one’s sexual experience. Sexual awakening means not just the death of innocence but actual death! They should teach you THAT in Sex Ed- hello reduction of teen pregnancy rates. In this film, murders often occur after sexual encounters when victims are distracted and off-guard.

Steadicam is extensively used throughout the film, lending it a yet more disconcerting palpation. The audience is left spending every scene feeling disjointed, insecure, unsettled and… well, plainly paranoid! Around every corner lurks potential danger- every shadow, noise or space is treacherous- safe havens will betray you in an instant…

Carpenter deliberately pays homage in various ways to Alfred Hitchcock, master of suspense’s Psycho; Halloween’s characters have names taken from the film, and the screaming babysitter Jaime Lee Curtis is the daughter of Psycho’s poor Janet Leigh, so memorably stabbed in the shower.

Often nothing is revealed when something is expected, but sometimes the unexpected is shockingly exposed!