It’s not a description that I associate with a horror movie:
[Halloween was] bold, frightening and intense, but with a sense of restraint and subtlety. It brims with the youthful energy of its creators, displaying obvious love for the craft of filmmaking, but it also contains an ineffable elegance and grace that few of its successors could equal.
Director John Carpenter cast the then-novice Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut role. Her mother, Janet Leigh, had starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), the movie film critics cite as an inspiration. Curtis played the female heroine, Laurie Strode.
Whilst Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was released 18 years before Halloween, the film remained a great source of inspiration for John Carpenter, with many creative and casting choices coming as a result of the classic horror. The most obvious ode that Carpenter made to Hitchcock was in the character names of the lead cast with Donald Pleasance’s character Dr. Loomis named after Psycho’s Sam Loomis, as well as Young Tommy Doyle being inspired by Lt. Thomas J. Doyle of Rear Window.
In horror, the jack-in-the-box scare (think of the head floating out of the boat in “Jaws”) is the quickest way to get a scream, but the still shocks (the twin girls in “The Shining”) are the ones that linger with you. “Halloween” has them both, but it specializes in the second.
I’ve not seen the movie; I don’t as a general rule, do “horror.” However, I recently rewatched Psycho. And this description of Halloween tempts me:
Halloween earned its reputation as one of the most merciless and frightening of all thrillers ever with virtually no graphic violence onscreen.
On 25 October 1978, Halloween made movie history:
- “It was the first film to make extensive use of Panaglide, the chest-strapped Steadicam that facilitated the film’s numerous long takes. The gliding camerawork approximates the movement of the human body but with an unearthly, ghostly smoothness.”
- “Halloween is unthinkable without Carpenter’s primitivist, minimalist score, fit to jangle the nerves of even the most jaded viewer.”
An independently-produced film, Halloween grossed $70,000,000 on a production budget of about $300,000 and shooting schedule of only 20 days. News reports claim that its gross was surpassed by Blair Witch Project in 1999 ($140,000,000). But $70M in 1978 = about $175M in 1999.
On 27 December 2006, the Library of Congress added Halloween (archived) along with 24 other films, to the National Film Registry. The Registry, which started in 1989, is “an invaluable means to advance public awareness of the richness, creativity and variety of American film heritage and to dramatize the need for its preservation.”
On 14 October 2022, Halloween Ends opened in Los Angeles and began streaming on Peacock.