A hugely influential and undisputed genre classic, John Carpenter’s Halloween holds a special place in the hearts of many horror fans — especially myself.
Just the mention of the 1978 film Halloween is enough to plaster smiles broadly across the faces of horror fans. The consensus is that it’s more than likely, the most beloved horror film of all-time. But why do fans consider John Carpenter’s Halloween to be the best?
There are numerous reasons as to why people are so enamored with the classic film. I wanted to delve into that subject and explain my reasoning for why I consider John Carpenter’s masterpiece to be my favorite film ever and why I fell insanely in love with the Shape, aka Michael Myers. I mean, who could deny affection for a film that basically defined the genre?
Let’s be honest…a blank, pale, emotionless serial killer who hunts down and kills members of his own family (even though the family member concept didn’t form until the sequel, Halloween 2), is morbid and atrocious to say the least. So why does someone and something so vile, garner so much love?
That exact characteristic is one of the many reasons I adore the 1978 horror classic.
My first viewing of the film, was a copy my father had recorded on VHS back in the eighties. Upon my first watch, I found the film to be uneventful, dull and dare I say, a tad boring. It wasn’t until my second viewing years later that I was able to comprehend and respect the classic film in its entirety.
As an adult, I could appreciate the subtle beauty the film had to offer — something I wasn’t able to do the first time around. There didn’t need to be buckets of blood or grand kill scenes to convey the madness and ferociousness of the film. Long drawn out panning shots, created a seriousness and an unease that really festered and shook me to the core. I was mesmerized at how the Shape silently and stealthily stalked his victims, strategically maneuvering himself about in the background in a handful of scenes.
The very idea of someone watching your every move without your knowledge, is a terrifying and frightening thought. See, for me, it’s never been about the kills in the film. Instead, it’s all about how the Shape plays with people, staying in the shadows, keeping himself concealed until he sees an opportune moment.
What really made my affection for the film and its boogeyman blossom, was the Shape’s relentless pursuit of his target and his ability to retain damage and keep going — like some type of supreme supernatural force.
By stripping down and dehumanizing his subject, Carpenter was able to put Myers into a category all by hisself. The Shape was not just a normal boy who’d developed into a sadistic killer, but something completely different and otherworldly. The Shape only cared about one thing, culling his victims.
Trying to figure out the mindset of the Shape, really captured my imagination. It was a struggle to decipher what was going on behind his eyes, what his thought process was (or wasn’t) as he stalked each victim. Because let’s face it, we all know “that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”
As many might not know, the original title of the film wasn’t Halloween, but in fact, The Babysitter Murders. A fateful title change gave the film the push it desperately needed, along with the addition of the amazing score by Carpenter. The majority of the film was shot in Pasadena, California, even though the events take place in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois.
Aside from the low budget, shooting during spring proved another challenge for Carpenter, as the film takes place on Halloween. Providing set dressings and finding pumpkins were a difficult task at the time.
One of the things that really made me fall in love with the film was how quickly and cheaply the film was made. On a budget of a mere $320,000, Carpenter was able to shoot the film in just three weeks. He also created the horrifying and nerve racking score in only 3 days, a feat all in itself. Those aspects, to me, stood out in a big bad way. To create such an infamous and indelible character, and a film so surprising and frightening in such a short amount of time, skyrocketed my intimate adoration for Carpenter’s classic.
Some of the scenes are unforgettably remarkable and memorable, forever searing their way into my subconscious. The scene were Annie gets killed in the car, is one of my all-time favorite kill scenes of any film. The kill was bloodless, and yet the brutality of the kill and the spookiness of someone in your backseat (an urban legend) is almost too much to handle.
A lot of fans claim Halloween to be their favorite film, however they’re absolutely clueless to the fact that Michael Myers has a middle name. I won’t say what it is, as true fans already know.
The Shape, to me, is such a substantial character, unlike any other slasher in the genre. He’s highly intelligent in his hunt, and soars powerfully above his fellow horror icons with that trait. He doesn’t need to make jokes, or use plain brute force. Instead, he methodically gathers information before he systematically picks apart his prey — the trait of a true psychopath.
The 1978 Halloween film is responsible for the slew of likeminded slashers that followed, along with a few Carpenter-directed masterpieces. If not for the creation of this legendary film, we wouldn’t have films such as The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness, or Cigarette Burns. The latter two of which I consider to be the greatest cinematic accomplishments in all of film.
Whether you agree or disagree with my reasoning, there’s no denying the substantial impact the film has made.
In short, I’d like to thank John Carpenter for giving us numerous years of great horror films and many, many influential characters. The original boogeyman will forever live on in our hearts and our minds. So why do you love Halloween?