HALLOWEEN (1978) Reviews of John Carpenter’s seminal slasher

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‘The trick was to stay alive’
Halloween is a 1978 American slasher horror film directed, produced, and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis (Prom Night; Terror Train; Scream Queens) in her film debut. The brainchild of executive producer Irwin Yablans (Hell Night), and originally titled The Babysitter Murders, the film was the first instalment in what became the Halloween franchise.


Halloween was produced on a budget of $320,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, and $70 million worldwide, becoming one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Psycho (1960).

Halloween had many imitators and originated several clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike many of its imitators (including its own first sequel), Halloween contains little graphic violence and gore.

In 2006, Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

John Carpenter’s original 1978 Halloween was released in the USA by Lionsgate on 4K Ultra HD, plus Blu-ray, on September 25, 2018. A British release followed on 1st October.

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Plot synopsis:
On Halloween 1963 in Haddonfield, Illinois, six-year-old Michael Myers murders his older sister by stabbing her with a kitchen knife.

Fifteen years later, he escapes from a psychiatric hospital, returns home, and stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends. Michael’s psychiatrist Doctor Sam Loomis suspects Michael’s intentions and follows him to Haddonfield to try to prevent him from killing…


” …cleverly segues from the proliferation of wide tracking shots of open, sunlit spaces in the first half to the darkness-swamped, mounting claustrophobia of the final half-hour, which evolves into a breathlessly tense, extended chase, trapping our trend-setting heroine […] in a series of confined spaces. It’s comfortably familiar to genre fans these days, but Halloween deserves every bit of its lofty reputation as a holy slasher text.” Horrorscreams Videovault

“After a promising opening, Halloween becomes just another maniac-on-the-loose suspenser. However, despite the prosaic plot, director John Carpenter has timed the film’s gore so that the 93-minute item is packed with enough thrills.” Variety, December 31, 1977

“A genuinely scary, stylistic and tasteful, extremely well-crafted slasher/horror classic.” Filmsite.org

“Innovative (check out the gliding camera moves for starters), inventive (it cost zilch, so the young crew used all their ingenuity), compelling and featuring watchable turns from Curtis, Pleasence and co, John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s film is a genuine landmark in the horror-thriller genre.” Film4

Halloween nails the quintessential quality of its message: its menace is faceless and, for most of the film, seen only as a shape or as the gaze of the camera. Myers isn’t shackled by humanizing elements like motivation or fancy gimmicks. He is distinctive in his lack of identity. His only purpose is to be a deadly power pursuing girls and boys awakening to their sexuality … The real merit is in crafting the antagonist as an archetype…” Let’s Kill Everybody

” …thanks to the endless series of ever more pointless sequels, reboots and reinventions – especially those that have tried to expand the story and characters, or make unnecessary stabs at social commentary. Add to those the countless imitations that emerged in the early 1980s and beyond, and you might expect the film’s thrills to be diluted by over-familiarity – but if anything, all these other films have done is make the original seem even more impressive – a no-nonsense, stripped-down horror movie that has no pretensions and simply gets on with the job of scaring the living daylights out of the audience with admirable skill.” The Reprobate

“A superb essay in Hitchcockian suspense, which puts all its sleazy Friday the 13th imitators to shame with its dazzling skills and mocking wit. Rarely have the remoter corners of the screen been used to such good effect as shifting volumes of darkness and light reveal the presence of a sinister something.” Time Out

MOVIES and MANIA rating:


In the UK, Halloween was awarded an ‘X’ certificate by censorship body the BBFC and distributed by Miracle Films.


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