31 Days of Terror - 'Halloween' (1978)
31 Days of Terror will cover a wide array of horror films leading up to Halloween. We'll be posting our thoughts and feelings on some of our favorites every day for the next 31 days. If your favorite doesn't make it, it doesn't mean we don't like it, so speak up in the comments below!
My last four horror flicks might start to get a tad predictable, but you will likely understand why I picked them. I mainly chose these four because how could I not? John Carpenter's legendary horror film, Halloween, is one of my final picks. and as a pioneer of the expansive and popular slasher genre, it's no surprise.
Halloween was made on a shoe-string budget of $300,000 back in 1978 by the aspiring young filmmaker, John Carpenter. The film became a huge hit, terrifying audiences far and wide. I think what made this film so successful was just how grounded and believable it seemed. A version of Michael Myers in the real world isn't far from plausible, despite the fact that Myers doesn't really ever die. What makes this movie scary, even to this day, is that it takes place in an every-day neighborhood, a neighborhood like mine or yours, which makes the horror hit home; literally and figuratively.
This film introduces audiences to at least two elements that helped shape horror in the eighties and beyond. First; the instantly recognizable electronic score. This score, along with the one that accompanies William Friedkin's The Exorcist, kick-started the electronic score phase, which is actually seeing a bit of a resurgence in popularity today. Just listen to the scores from Stranger Things and The Neon Demon. You can thank John Carpenter for that, who, along with directing the film, also composed the music. Second, there's Michael Myers himself. It could be argued that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was the first slasher with a prominent killer in the form of Leatherface, but Michael Myers was the one that really lit the fuse on the whole sub-genre. Shortly after Michael Myers hit the scene; two other titans of the slasher genre that might not have been the same without Halloween made their debuts; Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees.
I love the seemingly simple yet complex design of Michael Myers. He wears a practical black jumpsuit and dons a creepy William Shatner mask. What makes this design so ingenious is that every time Myers is hiding in the background in a dark room or corridor, you can see the mask emerge from the blackness, but not his body. This gives him a sinister otherworldly look while at the same time keeping him grounded in reality. The scene where he approaches Laurie Strode from behind a dark open door is so ghostly and creepy. I also love how Carpenter uses background space in all of his shots. You're always looking for Michael Myers to make an appearance in the background somewhere, and when he does, it's always at the perfect time and in the perfect place, yet somehow you still don't expect it and nearly piss your pants.
Halloween is widely regarded as one of the best horror films, and it definitely lives up to the moniker. I've seen this film at least five times and even if it's not as scary as it used to be, it still more than holds up and has an atmosphere that is undeniable. Halloween has already become a timeless classic that will never grow old, mainly because it capitalizes on a fear that will never expire: the fear of being followed by someone or something that intends to kill you and will stop at nothing to accomplish that goal.