Cliff’s review published on Letterboxd:
My name is Cliff Barnes, and whenever anyone of a certain age meets me, they say, "What, as in Dallas?". So how come no one ever says to Dr Sam Loomis, "What, as in Psycho?".
I hadn't watched Halloween in many years until tonight, unlike certain Letterboxders I can think of. Guys, it's not the law that you have to watch it every October, y'know!
I'm just not that big a fan of it, and tonight I think I figured out why: Laurie Strode isn't really a very interesting character. I don't feel I know what makes her tick, compared to a contemporary like Alice from Friday the 13th. Plus, Jamie Lee Curtis (arguably to her credit) doesn't do vulnerable as well as Adrienne King, and if we're talking Final Girls then Sally Hardesty is the one to beat. Perhaps Sally isn't particulary three-dimensional either, but Marilyn Burns knocks that role out of the park. Anyway, compared to Laurie, Dr Loomis is a much more interesting character, but he's barely in it. He's a fucking nutter, though you only get glimpses of that; I'd love to have seen a version of Halloween that follows him more than it does Laurie.
I will admit though, that when the title music kicked in at the very start, I felt that special chill that you get from a horror classic, and was optimistic that I'd remain slightly scared for the whole 90 minutes. Sadly that wasn't the case. The opening scenes are good, especially the one with Loomis and the nurse driving to the hospital, but everything feels a little bit flat after that.
It is a better film than Friday the 13th, for sure. John Carpenter has a really great way with jump scares (there are a lot of them!), so it's a shame that jump scares very rarely affect me. But today I've also watched films by Alfred Hitchcock and Brian de Palma, and they simply do suspense a lot better than Carpenter. (And this is a suspense film much more than it is a slasher, due to the lack of interesting kills.) Halloween never got my heart racing the way that those other two movies today did. Admittedly that might've been largely because they were first-time viewings, whereas I've seen Halloween several times, but I didn't feel much tension until the final 10-15 minutes.
But it's only really Carpenter's music (I think he's a far better composer than he is a screenwriter or director) and Donald Pleasence's performance that make me rank this above Friday the 13th. Of the other seminal slasher flicks, I rate it below Black Christmas and Prom Night, although I'll happily admit I've only seen each of those twice, so they probably just seem fresher to me because of that.