Halloween ★★★★

Hooptober 3.0, Film 4/32

A chilling horror film from director John Carpenter, Halloween is not without its age spots (what else did you expect after 38 years?), but remains an effective thriller to this day that has influenced a genre ever since it was released. Though Carpenter heavily riffs off of Alfred Hitchcock's horror masterpiece Psycho, Halloween is scary in its own right, though it often uses the same skills Hitchcock demonstrated in Psycho to make Halloween enter the next level of scariness.

Okay, the acting is bad. I tried to lessen the hurt there, but it honestly was really bad. In saying that, however, I do not expect much in this regard. The point of the film is to scare you, not wow you with the prowess of that actors. That said, it was bad enough to mention.

On the positive column is practically everything else. Brilliantly utilizing sound in a fashion shown off by Hitchcock's Psycho, the film utilizes deeply unsettling sounds that honestly scare you on their own. Forget the visuals. The sound is scary enough on its own thanks to the film's use of sounds that not just alert you that something scary is about to happen, but have no chemistry whatsoever with your ears. When watching a film such as this, the score really sets the mood and boy does it ever accomplish this in Halloween.

As far as the characterization of Michael Myers goes, John Carpenter does a great job establishing the lore of Myers and telling rather than showing. Instead of showing us his time in the mental institution, it merely tells us what happened there, which ups the scariness and impact of the stories. In most films, this is a mortal sin. For horror films, it can be a brilliant tactic and Carpenter uses it perfectly. Thanks to the doctor's descriptions, we get a clear picture in our minds of what Myers is, what he looks like, and how he acts. This mental image is far scarier than anything Carpenter could have shown us.

Additionally, the film never rushes proceedings. It is more than happy to sit back and wait to build anticipation. Rather than having Michael run around killing everybody in sight, he bides his time and significantly ups the tension by building it and building it up. This anticipation completely boils over when things finally hit the fan and the tension is dialed up to 11. While cliched by today's time, the climax of this film was really the first of its kind (if I am not mistaken, Halloween was the first film to kill the antagonist only to bring him to life again). Plus, though it can be a bit silly at times thanks to it being done to death by 2016, Carpenter handles the reveals very well. With over the shoulder shots from Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) to Michael's "dead" body, the shot of him standing up becomes all the more terrifying. As a result, this is truly a film that defines the horror genre and the way in which we watch the movie, become terrified, and yell at the screen, "BEHIND YOU". Halloween is ripe with these moments and really benefits from it.

Halloween is a tough film to watch nowadays. Though there is an ever present sense of dread, a killer score, and endless tension, the film has truly been copied on a daily basis since its release 38 years ago. As a whole, Halloween is a thoroughly scary and entertaining affair from John Carpenter with unmistakable influence from Psycho and on later films. Interestingly, there is little-to-no gore in Halloween, yet films that will rip it off for years to come bathe everybody in blood. Odd. The foreshadowing of the characters watching The Thing (which Carpenter remade a few years later) is also terrific and a funny little detail in hindsight.

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