I get asked what my favorite horror movie is all the time.
Without skipping a beat, with no hesitation in the response, I always respond even before the question is done being asked. My utmost, favorite and unabashedly all-time number one horror movies is without a doubt, Halloween (1978).
Yes I know, everyone loves this movie. It’s the quintessential Halloween flick. Pay no attention to the fact that I was born on November 1st so basically as far back as I can remember I was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” every Halloween at midnight. This undeniably plays a big role in how my life is so intertwined with the movie. Now that some essential background information has been established I hope you will indulge in my explanation of my love affair with Halloween.
My love for the film is more on the technical side as that is what draws me to a film. The characters are great! Don’t get me wrong, I mean you have Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as the typical shy good girl next door babysitter, and her two friends, Lynda played by P.J. Stoles, fresh off the set of Carrie as the ditzy blond; and Annie, the spitfire bratty cop’s daughter played by Nancy Keys. Rounding out the cast was an epic 5 day work week for Donald Pleasance earning him $20,000 for 18 minutes of screen time that would solidify him as Michael Myer’s greatest foe for years and sequels to come.
But that’s not what makes this my favorite movie. Like I mentioned above, the technical aspects are what made this film so iconic. Things like the well-known fact that the mask was a Shatner mask that had been so perfectly retooled so as to exude the face of the everyman, and the darkness and emptiness that lurks underneath and behind the eyes of possibly anyone. It brought to light that any of us could inherently have a little bit of “The Shape” in us.
Carpenter made Michael Myers an average person and through the lack of too much backstory allows us to fill in the blanks ourselves, adding a bit of our own psyche to the character making it scarier and more personalized. His choice of Nick Castle as a body type to play the character over a hulking stuntman is just another minor but perfect choice that made the character so generic enough that if he took off the mask, he could be lost in a crowd in seconds.
The cinematography and use of the Panaglide camera changed the way low budget filmmakers could now think of composing their shots, in essence, birthing a new look for the horror genre that has followed to this day. Carpenter’s iconic score is the glue that holds the film together, transforming a slow scene into a nail-biting, peeking-through-the-fingers tension-filled moment.
Halloween was a cultural phenomenon that ushered in a new era of horror that painted a target on suburbia, touching the psyche of generations to come. No more Gothic monsters in lands far away. Now your bedroom closet became a place to fear as much as a creepy castle in Transylvania. The grounded-in-reality aspect of an ordinary person driven to kill. A monster making his way back to his home where it all started, to finish what he started. A juggernaut driven by motivations that only he knew. It was something horror fans had never seen before. It was a watershed moment that spawned countless sequels, copycats, and gave rise to the slasher subgenre that would dominate the next decade in horror.
Halloween will forever be the film that I think of when I think of horror. I feel that it captures the essence of the genre, and as a person who grew up in the 80s and 90s it speaks to my generation. Halloween, while not a perfect film as even the greats have their flaws, is a masterpiece of cinema, art, and the passion of an up and coming filmmaker at the time.
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