The eerie piano soundtrack to John Carpenter’s Halloween has become legend, the villainous Michael Myers set the bar for all future horror antagonists, and the slasher genre burst out into popular culture. This instant horror classic has become a favorite for this time of the year, and certainly not without reason. Halloween was unlike any movie before it, and the techniques used to frighten audiences have become so influential in the horror genre, its devices can be seen in other classics like Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th.
The film opens with a boy of only 6 years of age brutally murdering his older teenager sister. Michael Myers – the young boy – is sent away to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, where psychiatrist Dr. Loomis spends the next “eight years trying to reach him, and the seven after that trying to keep him locked up”. For Dr. Loomis has realized the true nature of Michael Myers, that behind those eyes lay nothing but “pure and simple evil”. After years of locked-up solitude, Michael escapes the institution to return to his home neighbourhood. Fuelled by some sick obsession with teenage girls, Michael stalks a group of babysitters in the town.
Without giving away any more of the plot, I’ll simply say that Halloween is horrifying in a rudimentary form of the word. It draws on our anticipation and fear to pursue terror, and John Carpenter directs masterfully in terms of creating this frightful tale. Filming techniques that had not been used before in slasher movies that preceded Halloween, like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, included the camera being placed in the killer’s perspective, adding to the tension of the victims. Also, the psychology behind the murderer played the largest role it had since Psycho, and the concept of absentee parenting contributing to the killer’s state of mind. Carpenter also emphasized morality in the way that those who sinned, i.e. had sex or took drugs, were more likely to die first.
The iconic quality of Halloween, coupled with its appreciation for human’s fearful responses, has made it a must-see to any fan of the horror genre, or even of film in general. John Carpenter near flawlessly directs this story (which he also wrote) in that it induces fear and features several murders, yet it focuses primarily on the element of fear and not the gore itself. This may make it seem outdated to some audiences, but overall is highly successful in digging its way into the audience’s minds. Even days later some may still be hearing that haunting soundtrack and thinking that Michael Myers is lurking just outside their window, and stands as testament to its success as a horror film. Halloween also doesn’t glorify certain characters, while still delivering a somewhat moralistic undertone. The influence upon other slasher flicks revolutionized the genre, from the single innocent-girl protagonist to the nature of the killer, Halloween is a fantastically frightful and well-crafted horror film.