A lot of people who know me well will be able to tell you that, without a doubt, Halloween is my favourite time of year. It's not just going to parties, eating a bunch of candy or dressing up either. A lot of it also has to do with the atmosphere of the night itself. There's something extra special in the air on Halloween. It's the same idea as the magic in the air that's present every Christmas Eve, but instead of being whimsical and joyous, Halloween has this eerieness to it that we lovers of the strange and unusual just eat up. There's also the idea of the veil between the dead and the living becoming its thinnest, and whether that's to be believed or not, it certainly adds to the occasion.
So, it's probably a surprise to no one at all that a movie entitled 'Halloween', which contains all the right elements for a movie with its name made the list. While creating this list, I'm a little hard-pressed to land on what my favourite horror movies that also make the "all-time" list actually are. For example, as much as I love the 'Friday the 13th' movies, I'm not sure that for me there's an ultimate stand-out that I have some kind of personal attachment to. 'Jason Lives' is probably the closest it gets, but I'm not sure it's quite enough. With that said, the 'Friday the 13th' franchise probably wouldn't exist without 'Halloween', as even director Sean S. Cunningham fully admits that it is generally a direct rip-off of 'Halloween'. The funny thing is, I prefer the 'Friday' franchise to this, but this first movie is very hard to top.
Much like the classic Box Office pioneer 'Jaws', this is another movie that finds itself under the horror/thriller category (if you wanna call 'Jaws' horror) that proves less is generally more when it comes to a good scare. This much is shown with its low-budget use of all sorts of simple camera tricks. It basically brought the single-shot idea into existence with its creepy opening scene, using a "Panaglide" camera rig. There are also scenes like in the screencap below, where Michael Myers' face is revealed with a simple dimmer on the camera, as if to give the effect of your eyes adjusting to the darkness. It's one of the best "creepy guy in the shadows" scenes in existence - even if it is a little bit laughable that Michael Myers' mask is, in actuality, a modified William Shatner mask.
Much like with 'Elm Street', this one has ended up becoming a sort of "go-to" for taking an interest in everything going on behind the scenes with it. Not only do you learn about things like camera tricks to keep it all nice and atmospheric, but you can gather knowledge like why they chose Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of Tony Curtis and 'Psycho' star, Janet Leigh), and the incredibly short time it took to actually film this (over the course of just 20 days). But the real kicker for me has always been looking back on this movie to see that there's basically no, or at least little-to-no blood all throughout. There are plenty of brutal kill scenes, but it's generally kept in the shadows so that your imagination can do the work for you - that is some effective slasher horror!
While Michael Myers has since become one of the big-timers when it comes to Hollywood slashers, it's not really him that makes this movie. He's a good, creepy villain, and actor Nick Castle (among a few others that had to portray him here) delivers a solid performance as "The Shape", but I tend to really lean on both Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) for their awesome performances here. I love how deadly serious Loomis can get, and sometimes it even makes for a good laugh because it feels so over-the-top. As for Laurie, she's just a fantastic heroine for the time, being a babysitter who has to take care of a couple of little kids through this night's events. She paves the way for all the Scream Queens to come.
While I appreciate the rest of this franchise, as far as I'm concerned, there hasn't really been a chapter of it that quite reaches the same spirit that this one has. This one acts as a horror thriller, but there are also so many elements of the Halloween season throughout this that it sort of stands out as the ultimate chapter of the franchise. Nowadays, it has gotten so convoluted that you can sort of choose your own adventure with the watch-order of the rest of these films. The original franchise goes one way, then Rob Zombie comes in with two of his own movies, and NOW we have it where you basically watch this first one, then carry on with the "40 Years Later" franchise, starting in 2018, and "Ends" later this year... but of course, knowing horror icons, when does anything really "end"?
'Halloween', specifically this one from 1978, has become the ultimate staple of the holiday. In other words, no Halloween season is complete without watching it, and it's been this way since 2007 when one Halloween night on my own, I decided to be the one house on the block to lock the door, turn the lights off and enjoy a movie. It's kind of a jerk move to ignore trick-or-treaters on Halloween night, I know, but I was just in a "tune out" mood that night. I also tend to treat this as a Halloween movie in the same way I treat 'It's a Wonderful Life' as a Christmas movie - I only really watch it during the right time of year. It's a title that may not necessarily be for everyone, but for a fan of old school slashers, this is pretty much where they got their true beginning as a mainstream idea. And amazingly, this one holds up still today more than most of them!