While her two girlfriends are getting their tricks and treats across the street, bookworm Laurie Stroud is babysitting on Halloween night. A night of carving jack-o’-lanterns and popping popcorn is her Thing, but what Laurie really longs for is Ben Tramer. Innocent angsts, however, should be the least of Laurie’s troubles because the “Boogeyman is coming!” And he’s come home for her.

Bloody Rundown

Considered by many as the scariest movie ever made, John Carpenter’s Halloween was a milestone for slasher films, paving the way to innumerable, yet unmatchable, knockoffs. Halloween not only launched an entire subgenre, but also launched a franchise with seven sequels, comic books, costumes, a video game, action figures, and two remakes by Rob Zombie. For the exception of Part III, the series and merchandise are all devoted to the iconic serial killer, Michael Myers.

houseWith a budget of just $300,000, which was considered low even then, the film grossed $47 million, the equivalent to $250 million today, and remains as one of the highest grossing independent films ever made.

Michael_Myers_-_1963Impressed with Carpenter’s film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad commissioned him to direct a slasher. Initially titled as “The Babysitter Murders,” Yablans conceived the story and subsequently changed the title after discovering there had yet to be a film titled “Halloween.” Yablans gave Carpenter and his then-girlfirend, also a producer, Debra Hill, creative control in writing the script, which includes several personal tributes to friends, colleagues, as well as their hometowns. Hill lent her writing talents to the “totally” authentic teenage girl speak, while Carpenter wrote the dialogue for the impassioned Dr. Loomis.

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With little blood, no special effects, and no gore, the scares, in part, derive from Carpenter’s clever, if not innovative, camera work. His technique of interchanging the perspective of the killer with that of a third-person-objective view effectively created tension, suspense, and then full-blown terror. The opening scene, with the then new Steadicam, allows the audience to only see what the killer sees while he stalks then murders. But the frights begin even before the first scene. In the opening title credits, with a lit jack-o’-lantern against a black backdrop, John Carpenter’s musical score sets the tone for the entire movie.

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The synthesizer-based melody is “simple” yet entrancing, and revs-up the heart-racing suspense. Credited as the “Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra,” the score was solely composed, in just four days, and performed by Carpenter himself. The score is pure genius. The film also features Blue Öyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” which could hardly be more appropriate.

michael-myers-halloweenJust as iconic as Carpenter’s prolific score is Michael Myers’ mask. With few options and budget constraints, production designer and art director, Tommy Lee Wallace, improvised with a $2 Captain Kirk mask from a costume store. He redesigned the mask by enlarging the eye holes, restyling the hair, and topping off the latex with white spray paint. This simplistic mask evoked the detachment necessary to convey a faceless sociopath, and has been a staple Halloween costume for the past 25 years, costing a lot more than two bucks.

NOT-A-GARDENERSet in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, Halloween was filmed in Pasadena, which is the only town in California to resemble the Midwest. Since the 20-day shoot took place in the spring, paper leaves worked to depict the fall foliage of the Midwest. The production also had difficulty procuring pumpkins.

All the performances are unquestionably outstanding. For the exception of the distinguished Donald Pleasance, the cast consisted mainly of novices. Indeed Halloween was Jamie Lee Curtis’ film debut. Evidently, Curtis was so dissatisfied with her audition for the lead role as Laurie Strode that she was surprised she was even cast.

lg_halloween_1978_8[1]Carpenter’s casting of Jamie Lee Curtis, is perhaps a coincidental tribute to Alfred Hitchcock who had cast her mother, Janet Leigh, in Psycho (1960). The mother and daughter Scream Queens would appear together in Carpenter’s The Fog (1980). They would also appear in Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998), directed by Steve Miner. (It should be noted that nepotism was certainly not at play as Curtis’ talent is evident. Furthermore, Carpenter originally sought Anne Lockhart for the role of Laurie Strode.)

3girlsCarpenter wrote the role of Lynda van der Klok specifically for PJ Soles after viewing her performance as Norma in Carrie (1976). For the role of Annie Brackett, Carpetner cast Nancy Loomis who had already appeared in his film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), and would also go on to appear in The Fog (1980).

The performances of the children were also exceptional. Brian Andrews portrayed Tommy Doyle, while Kyle Richards portrayed Lindsey Wallace. Richards would continue her stint in the horror genre with her recent turn in the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (2010 – ).  

halloween_6114524cIn further homage to Hitchcock, Carpenter named the character of Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers’ psychiatrist, after the Sam Loomis of Psycho (1960). Many notable actors were considered for the part of Dr. Loomis, including Christopher Lee who declined the role. (Lee is said to have regretted the decision.) Donald Pleasance accepted the role, and although his scenes only add up to 18 minutes, his presence is profound. Pleasance is synonymous with Dr. Loomis, at least for my generation. He would later reprise the role in four sequels.

halloween_cfb050b3The central character of the film is of course “The Shape,” otherwise known as Michael Myers. Predominantly portrayed by Nick Castle, The Shape was also depicted by four other stand-ins, including producer Debra Hill. The faceless inhuman human is the epitome of the boogeyman whose main goal is to finish his familicide, stabbing and strangling anyone who interferes. More methodical, more cerebral, and more reclusive than his successors, Jason and Freddy, Michael Myers is pure evil incarnate. And he is one of the main components that makes Halloween a timeless classic.

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Die-Anne’s Diatribe

John Carpenter is a genius. Pure and simple.

I will never grow tired of Halloween, which I deem as by far the scariest slasher ever made. The score, the filming, the acting, and the script are perfection. Thank God for Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad.

On a more feminine note, I must toast all chicks who make horror flicks.

HALLO1Debra Hill’s screenwriting skills gave each teenager her own voice, humanizing them which made the film even more scary! Debra Hill was a pioneer for women producers and screenwriters, both inside and outside of horror. PJ Soles and Nancy Loomis were just as stellar in Halloween as they were in Carrie and The Fog, respectively. I’m a huge fan of both. Finally, the very beautiful and very talented Jamie Lee Curtis is my all-time favorite Scream Queen! Although she has starred in her share of horrors, it is high-time that she graces us with her scream again.

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Plot Mutilator

By Hallow’s Eve of 2015!

 

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Deadly Details

Director ∞ John Carpenter  
Producers ∞ Debra Hill, Irwin Yablans, and Moustapha Akkad  
Screenwriters ∞ John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Music ∞ John Carpenter  
Cinematographer ∞ Dean Cundey
Editors ∞ Charles Bornstein and Tommy Lee Wallace
Special Effects ∞ NONE!
Production Design Tommy Lee Wallace
Set Decoration ∞ Craig Stearns  
Makeup Department ∞ Erica Ueland
Production Company ∞ Falcon International Productions
Distributor ∞ Compass International Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date ∞ October 25, 1978
Running time ∞ 87 Minutes (original cut); 101 Minutes (extended cut)
Country ∞ United States
Language ∞ English
 
Cast ∞
Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Nancy Kyes (as Nancy Loomis) as Annie Brackett
P.J. Soles as Lynda van der Klok
Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle
John Michael Graham as Bob Simms
Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers
Arthur Malet as Graveyard Keeper
Mickey Yablans as Richie
Brent Le Page as Lonnie Elamb
Adam Hollander as Keith
Robert Phalen as Dr. Terence Wynn
Tony Moran as Michael Myers
Will Sandin as Michael Myers
Sandy Johnson as Judith Margaret Myers
David Kyle as Judith’s Boyfriend
Peter Griffith as Morgan Strode
Nick Castle as The Shape