Halloween ★★★★

Watched as part of my Hoop-Tober 2015 challenge

It's amazing how well this low-budget film has held up for 37 years. It featured the big screen debut of teenage Jamie Lee Curtis, pioneered the slasher-in-a-scary-mask trope, and launched writer-director-composer John Carpenter on a trajectory toward immortality among great filmmakers. This is a true horror classic.

The story starts out in Haddonfield, Illinois in 1963, when six-year-old Michael Myers wearing a clown costume stabs his teenage sister to death on Halloween night. Fast forward to Halloween's Eve in 1978 and Myers (Tony Moran) escapes from the mental asylum to which he was confined. His doctor, psychiatrist Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), is convinced Myers is heading back to his hometown to raise havoc.

Curtis plays Haddonfield high school student Laurie Strode, who spends Halloween night babysitting across the street from a house where her friend Annie Brackett (Nancy Loomis) is sitting for another family. A third girl, Lynda van der Klok (P.J. Soles), plans to borrow one of the vacant bedrooms in that second house, so she and her boyfriend Bob Simms (John Michael Graham) can make whoopie. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis contacts Sheriff Leigh Brackett, Annie's father, to alert him to the danger of a lunatic killer on the loose.

I counted five dead humans and two dead dogs over the course of this film. There was not a lot of blood, surprisingly, and only two instances of female upper body nudity. By modern standards, it's a pretty tame movie. But in terms of suspense and the build-up of sheer terror, it's about as good as gets, thanks largely to Carpenter's incredibly scary score. I don't think I've ever heard background music suit storytelling any better than this.

What's less than perfect are some of the conventions used by Carpenter to keep the tension high ... such as disarming the knife-wielding Myers and then having the potential victim drop the knife near him, not once but twice. Also having a potential victim blankly staring off into space while Myers creeps up is a pretty lazy way to add suspense, and there are at least two or three more jump scares than needed, IMHO.

But overall, this was a defining film for the genre, the first installment in a super-successful seven-film franchise and the source for a 2007 remake. For a production budget of just $300,000~$325,000, it earned an estimated $70 million at the box office. Not bad for an indie. Not bad at all.

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