One of my earliest movie memories is of a night where I sat on a pull-out couch in my grandparents’ basement, and shared Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza with my older sister. There was a smaller couch to the left, and a tiny television high in the upper-right corner of the room. Normally, in that setting, my grandmother and I would watch everything from ROMPER ROOM to GENERAL HOSPITAL, but that night was different.
That was the night HE came home.
JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN (1978) is, arguably, my favorite movie of all time. Yes, there are plenty of contenders for that title, but I have watched few as often — and, most likely, none more. Even as a kid, the movie captured my attention on a level I still can’t quite explain. It wasn’t terrifying (like JAWS), or groundbreaking (like STAR WARS), but it affected me even more.
I can now recognize it as a triumph of indie filmmaking, but young Me wouldn’t have known the difference between a big-budget studio film, and a relatively cheap production made by a bunch of ‘kids’ who had a dream.
And HALLOWEEN is a dream come true. It is not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination (the opening scene, for example is filled with gaffes), but it feels perfect. From the moment Carpenter’s iconic 5/4 time signature theme song starts, to the less-shocked-and-more-frustrated look on Dr. Sam Loomis’ (Donald Pleasence) face at the end, HALLOWEEN is a thrilling joy to witness and consume.
Michael Myers (aka ‘The Shape’), in my humble opinion, ranks behind only Darth Vader on the list of greatest film characters. While the increasingly awful sequels (and regrettable remakes) made have dulled the shine, the unrelenting force of pure evil and dread embodied by Myers is half of THE reason why HALLOWEEN still works all of these years (and countless viewings) later.
[Side Note to Rob Zombie: The ‘Why’ behind Michael was never important — and that exact lack of knowledge is why we feared him. The unknown is far scarier than a giant hobo who is looking to avenge a messed up childhood.]
And, of course, there is Jamie Lee Curtis. While we can easily recite names like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor, Laurie Strode is tragically under appreciated when talk turns to strong female characters. Laurie is intelligent, funny, resourceful, and a true fighter — and watching Curtis capture all of that in her first feature film role is spellbinding. Michael is the horror, but the ultimate success of HALLOWEEN is due to just how much the audience is rooting for Laurie to survive. For me, she will always be THE ‘Final Girl’.
One of my favorite quotes attributed to famed director Alfred Hitchcock is how he enjoyed “playing the audience like a piano.” With HALLOWEEN, John Carpenter created an unforgettable symphony that still sounds fresh and immediate today.
5 out of 5 Beers