I’d first watched Halloween a few years back and had mixed reactions. To be honest, I didn’t find it that scary and thought the main characters were naive and simplistic. However, every time the movie airs since my original screening four years ago, I can’t help but watch and give into the charm. The truth is, Halloween is not a movie about plot or action; rather, this is an atmospheric film that instills a sense of dread and mood with every second of screen time.
If you don’t know the basic plot by now, you really need to catch up on your horror-film franchises. Michael Meyers, a psychotic killer, escapes from a mental asylum on Halloween night to return to his hometown and torment a few local residents. There are a few different stories intertwined - most notably, Laurie babysitting and Dr. Loomis trying desperately to stop his former patient.
On the subject of Dr. Loomis, Donald Pleasence is so damn good in the role. He’s a psychiatrist who’s given up on his patient Michael Meyers; instead of trying to save the misguided individual, Dr. Loomis is trying to kill him. It’s a really badass concept and Pleasence grounds the role without making it seem ridiculous (and let’s face it: it is a ridiculous concept). And any Halloween fan should definitely check out Donald Pleasence in a wonderful Twilight Zone episode, “The Changing of the Guard.” It’s a very different - but incredibly powerful - performance about a retired school-teacher who feels he’s accomplished nothing.
As noted, Halloween works because of its atmosphere. The dark, wind-swept streets create an original, effective mood that really feels like Halloween night (or at least how Halloween is supposed to feel). From the opening jack-o'-lantern, to the autumn leaves, to the dilapidated Meyers house, every shot of Halloween is memorable.
It’s these memorable locations that make the ending of Halloween so effective. Without letting too many spoilers enter this review, I’ll say one thing: Halloween ends with shots of locations. I won’t say what those shots mean or why they’re so effective… but trust me, it’s a really creepy conclusion. I like the end of Halloween so much that I refuse to watch any of the sequels… and that’s saying a lot. I love the open-ended nature of the original.
Before wrapping this up, I want to mention two other things. First, the music. The Halloween theme is probably the most iconic soundtrack in cinema history (or at least in the top five). I’ve embedded it above if you want to have a listen. Carpenter composed the soundtrack and did a perfect job creating a haunting tune that adds to the ambience of Halloween.
Second, I love how Carpenter pays homage to The Thing in this film (he’d go on to remake that movie four years later). It’s interesting because almost twenty years after Halloween, Wes Craven would be paying homage to it in the 1996 movie, Scream. If I ever make a horror movie, I’ll have the characters watching Scream for a sense of evolution.
So if you’re at home, having a not-so-scary Halloween, give this movie a shot. If you don’t watch it for the story, watch it for the atmosphere. I think you’ll enjoy it. I’ve embedded the entire movie below (courtesy of Huluween!). As always, let me know your thoughts!
Happy Halloween, everyone!