We’re down to the top three horror movies ever created. I’m excited; how about you? For a long time the number three film was the most financially successful indie film of all time. But Halloween is not on this list for the money it made; it’s here for the nightmares it generated.
Laurie: Was it the boogeyman?
Dr. Sam Loomis: As a matter of fact, it was.
It’s the night he came home.
Halloween may not be the first slasher film ever, but it’s the best. I suppose you could consider Psycho a slasher film, but Norman basically kept to himself unless you disturbed him. That isn’t the case in Halloween, and the good people of Haddonfield had no idea what was coming. Michael Myers was a hunter, and he arrived on Halloween night with a mission in mind.
Much like Hannibal Lecter was introduced by Dr. Frederick Chilton describing his heinous deeds to Officer Starling before we get Lecter’s chilling on-screen introduction, Michael Myers’ doctor, Sam Loomis (remember that name, Psycho fans?), played by Donald Pleasence, gave unyielding assessments of his patient repeatedly in Halloween. Pleasence’s performance oozed nervous tension as he repeatedly tried to warn the Haddonfield Police of the danger that was coming for them.
Michael Myers would not have been nearly as daunting and frightening if it weren’t for some of the setup Loomis gave him. My personal favorite story was: “I met him 15 years ago. I was told there was nothing left. No reason, no conscience, no understanding; even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.” This is what we learn about Michael as he slowly makes his presence felt in Haddonfield.
Halloween was filmed in 21 days during the spring of 1978 on a budget of $320,000. It is still one of the most successful independent films of all time. Never has so much been done with a butcher knife and a modified William Shatner mask. Yes, for those of you who didn’t know, Michael Myers’ iconic mask is actually a William Shatner Halloween mask that had the eye holes widened and was then spray-painted bluish white. That’s right, the face of The Shape is none other than Captain Kirk.
And we must not forget the wonderful ‘final girl’ in Halloween. She was basically unknown before this film, but Jamie Lee Curtis was chosen to play the chaste (although we do see her smoking weed) Laurie Strode. And here is yet another tip of the cap to Psycho from Halloween. Why is that, you ask? Although she wasn’t the first actress selected for the part, one factor that helped lead director John Carpenter to finally select Curtis was her DNA. Jamie Lee Curtis is the daughter of Janet Leigh, the actress who played Marion Crane, the victim in the legendary Psycho shower scene. Carpenter thought it would help promote the film if the daughter of the actress in one of the most memorable horror scenes ever showed up in his film. Hello, horror dynasty. What other mother-daughter team could say they were in two of the greatest horror movies ever? None.
Michael Myers did not have the personality of Freddy Krueger, and although a beast in his own right, he didn’t have the sheer juggernaut power of Jason Voorhees. But Michael Myers always seemed worse than either of them. Maybe it was the mystery, the wondering of what was lurking behind that mask. But whatever it was that went into making this most memorable monster, it could not have worked out better, and Michael Myers became one of the greatest movie villains ever. And it was, in the end, the brilliance and creativity of director John Carpenter and the sheer terror evoked by Michael Myers that drove Halloween to its rightful place atop the slasher genre.
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