Halloween is obviously, without a doubt, the quintessential Halloween movie. The film and the holiday share the same name, how could they not complement each other? Halloween has earned its place in pop culture. It was one of the first films in the slasher genre, which is still played out today, spawned an expansive film franchise and it introduced the world to one of the most famous movie villains of all-time: Michael Myers (Nick Castle). Not to mention, the film announced to the world the directorial talents of John Carpenter and the acting chops of Jamie Lee Curtis. Including all of these wonderful things, Halloween is still a wonderful piece of filmmaking and one of the finest horror films ever made.
One cannot mention the film without, at least, referring to the score. It creeps under your skin and makes you paranoid about what is right around each corner and builds tension and suspense. It is a major factor in how scary Halloween is. It is one of the most famous in cinema history and has ingrained itself on American culture. Which is all the more remarkable because director John Carpenter pulled double duty and composed the score himself. The talent of John Carpenter as a director was also a huge reason this film is as great as it is. His deft hand behind the camera and his ability to draw fantastic performances out of unknown actors is a feat that should not go unnoticed. Jamie Lee Curtis deserves as much credit as Carpenter. Her performance as the virginal, studious, and resilient Laurie elevates the film above many other low-budget horror films. Other horror films are amateurish and dull. Halloween has a lively, entertaining, and creepy atmosphere and that is due to the combination of Curtis and Carpenter. It seems like they worked in perfect harmony to create this work of art.
The character of Michael Myers is one that warrants further examination. Not only is he one of the most famous slashers but he remains one of the most famous villains in cinema history. When thinking of the film, Michael Myers is what I begin to think of and I realize that without him and his skulking walk, seeming invincibility, and uncanny ability to disappear, Halloween wouldn’t have become as big of a cultural phenomenon as it is. While Curtis and Carpenter help make the film, the character of Michael Myers helped make it great.
Many of the greatest horror films rely on atmosphere and slow-burning tension to unsettle and make the audience uncomfortable or they rely on a few, brief jump scares that causes the audience to shriek in terror. Halloween masterfully weaves together both and it creates an absolutely terrifying film experience. The atmosphere was created first. The opening titles and theme set a tone for the film and it never deviated from it. The setting only adds to the atmosphere. Halloween in a small town is a huge deal. With it being Halloween, you know there will be scares and having it located in a small town makes it more personal. The tension continues to build until the final confrontation. When Michael follows Tommy (Brian Andrews) and when he follows Laurie are both tense, frightening moments. You are left wondering what will happen next. In addition to building an impressive atmosphere, Halloween has its fair share of jump scares. There are moments of pure terror punctuated by Michael Myers popping up from nowhere and killing someone. It’s unexpected and you can’t possible prepare for it. It’s the ever-increasing tension interlaid with these small bursts of action and terror that make the film so effective. From the beginning you are hooked and can’t bear to look away even during the violent killing scenes. Halloween was frightening when it was released and still remains frightening today.
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