Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles, Donald Pleasence
John Carpenter, Debra Hill
There are only two horror films that have every TRULY scared me in my life.
The first was the masterful original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
The second is John Carpenter's "Halloween," one of the most suspenseful, haunting and vivid films I have ever witnessed and one that, even now after watching it, I will find myself checking closets and leaving lights on after yet another viewing.
The film opens innocently enough. We see a young teenage girl and her boyfriend. It is rather obvious they have just had sex and then, suddenly, out of nowhere her six-year-old brother enters the room and stabs both of them to death.
He is institutionalized under the care of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), however, he escapes from the institution and returns to his old neighborhood. He finds the babysitters still babysitting, many of whom either know of his story or were in the town at the time. They include Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), Lynda (PJ Soles) and others. "The Shape" (soon to be known as Michael Myers in sequels) is portrayed by Nick Castle, though he's always behind his familiar mask.
"Halloween" works because it is an overwhelming sensory experience. While it is graphic, it is more suspenseful and haunting than it is violent. Every aspect of the production is haunting, from the musical score, to the lighting, to the production design and Carpenter's direction capitalizes on all of it. Many directors spend all of their energies on creating special effects or going over-the-top with blood and guts. While I cannot immediately dismiss their films, I always find them unsatisfying. When I am watching a horror film, I want my entire being to be altered by the experience. I want to feel the fear, the chills, the anxiety. I want to feel my chest beating and my breath becoming disrupted because I don't know the next move. Too many directors believe that awesome killing and technology can take the place of the emotional experience, but for me a true horror film...a true masterpiece of a horror film is a film that toys with the emotions of the audience to such a degree that it messes with one's psyche.
Twenty-five years after its release, "Halloween" remains one of the most frightening films ever released. It is the most powerful type of horror film because it seduces the viewer to such a degree that even when it is most frightening it is impossible to not watch. With strong performances from Curtis and Pleasence, and a script that chooses suspense over violence, John Carpenter has created one of history's greatest horror films.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic