Masked Myers Murderous Mayhem
Like so many others my introduction to horror came at the hands of John Carpenter's "Halloween" a movie which I wasn't old enough to watch when it was originally released back in 1978 but like so many teenagers ended up managing to watch it before I should. I certainly remember being creeped out by it when I first saw it and although compared to modern horrors it now seems a little tame it still manages to scare you through your imagination rather than visual gore.
After brutally murdering his sister at the age of just 6, Michael Myers finds himself institutionalised where psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence - The Great Escape) attempts to understand what caused the troubled child to act in such an evil manner. Fifteen years later, Michael escapes his incarceration and heads back to the family home in Haddonfield where he starts stalking the teenage girls in the neighbourhood especially Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis - Forever Young).
The thing about the original "Halloween" is that you are not just watching it all happen from the outside; director John Carpenter masterfully crafts a movie through various techniques such as camera angles to draw us into the storyline so that it feels like we are part of the movie. It doesn't really matter that the actual storyline is nothing really special; it is the fact that the movie oozes tension which makes it so memorable. For example for most of "Halloween" we don't actually see the killer Michael Myers rather than we see what he sees, this makes the movie interesting and it makes you wonder what it he's thinking and what his next move will be.
Back to the actual storyline well you could state that "Halloween" was influential of setting up several rules when it comes to what is basically a slasher movie. You get a bunch of teenagers who are easily dispensable except for the one who is "a good girl" because she is still a virgin. The fact that so many modern horrors are still so influenced by Halloween endorses the fact that it is a great movie. What does make it interesting is that we have a killer who we see committing their first murder at the tender age of 6 and then returning to the scene after escaping incarceration to continue their murdering spree. Although "Halloween" leaves certain elements of unexplained the fact that we have the build up to the killer gives it a slightly different slant to many horrors.
Of course horror these days is notoriously visual as well as often violent and this is where "Halloween" splits viewers. I like the fact that most of the frights are caused by a heightened sense of tension allowing you to use your imagination to scare yourself. But the fact that the effects are at times slightly dodgy and the gore is minimal will most likely put modern horror fans off who lust for the torture porn of the likes of "Hostel" and "Saw".
Plus then of course there is the acting which I will readily admit is not a very high standard, but then what do you expect from what was a low budget horror movie. Donald Pleasance does a fine job as psychiatrist Sam Loomis and adds a bit of gravitas to a movie which at the time didn't feature a well known cast. One of the most memorable quotes from "Halloween" comes from Loomis when he says "I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... *evil*" which pretty much sums up the character of Michael Myers perfectly. As for Michael Myers well we don't often see him thanks to the camera techniques but in those few scenes where the mysterious killer appears he does come across like a killer with no conscience and it works perfectly to heighten the fear factor.
Then of course you have Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, a pretty much stereotypical good girl who shuns all the promiscuity that her friends enjoy. Well "Halloween" was Curtis's first big screen role and not only launched her career in the movies but also gave her the title of being a scream queen. To be honest there is nothing that special about Curtis's performance, towards the end you do get a real sense of terror by the way she acts but up until then the performance had been pretty average.
What this all boils down to is that yes, compared to many modern horror movies "Halloween" does feel incredibly dated and the lack of over the top visual gore will no doubt get some young horror fans wondering what all the fuss is about. But for me it still remains one of the best horror movies to have been made because scene after scene it builds up a huge amount of tension to the point that you are literally on the edge of your seat when something unexpected happens which scares the crap out of you. It's with out a doubt the best movie from the huge "Halloween" franchise which sadly went on far too long and personally much better than the Rob Zombie's Halloween remake/ re-imagining from 2007.