This coming October, the Halloween movie will be 42 years old which makes it almost double my age. No, I'm not talking about the newest Halloween movie that was released two years ago (but the second one is really good too). I'm talking about the first film in the series, directed by John Carpenter and released in October, 1978. Even though it's very old, this film is probably my favorite slasher horror film , even though I really don't like the genre myself.
What makes Halloween work is how efficient and effective horror works in the film. The story is not too complex, only telling daily life in a housing estate in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois. His character is also not someone different from the ones we usually meet everyday. Some of the young girls, a policeman, a doctor and a few children are housekeeping. Oh, there is one character that we never meet in our daily lives (and hopefully never will), namely Michael Myers.
On Halloween night in 1963, 6-year-old Michael Myers killed his brother with a knife he found in the kitchen, the thing that would be his favorite weapon in the rest of the film, and left his house with a flat expression just as his parents returned home. This scene takes place at the beginning of the film, and in this scene the camera is also seen from Michael's point of view, giving the viewer an uncomfortable feeling.
We see him slowly around the house, see his brother making out with his girlfriend on the sofa, then we take the knife and go up the stairs to his sister's room. All of this happened while the camera was still showing from Michael's point of view, so we saw the up and down knife stabbing repeatedly into his brother's body. From the beginning of the film we have emphasized that yes, this film is creepy. In fact, we also see everything from Michael's eyes, and get a feeling of chills as well as feeling overwhelmed because we can't stop his actions even though we are "united" with Michael. What made this scene even scarier was the fact that it was all made by young children, who should have just entered elementary school.
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15 years later, or in 1978, the small town was celebrating Halloween again . What the residents don't know, there is a killer who escaped from the mental hospital and went to his place of origin, Haddonfield. Michael, now 21, already has the white mask and knife from the furniture store, and he's back on his murder path. The prey this time? A young woman named Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).
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Michael still kills the other residents, but he is very fixated on Laurie. Their first encounter occurred when Laurie put the keys in front of the abandoned Myers home so her father could sell them. Unknown to him, Michael saw Laurie from inside the house and started following her.
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The way he is following her is what makes this film so spooky. It's not really how he kills people who rank number one in terms of creepiness, but how he slowly but steadily follows Laurie around the estate. With piano music that is very distinctive, we see him stand up looking at Laurie through the window and then disappear. After that we see Michael again trailing Laurie by standing not behind and not beside but directly in front of him. He only showed half his body, and then walked towards the bush that covered half of his body.
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It was his behavior that was very creepy. It doesn't run, it doesn't scream. He was just silent, with his white mask and black jacket. This is what I admire about the Halloween movie , how this film can build a creepy and gripping nuance as effectively as possible just from the atmosphere. Not much happens on screen, nor does the film feel fast or rushed. John Carpenter managed to build film tension slowly but surely without missing a second, which ended up producing one of the scariest horror slasher films . Until now, not many horror slasher films have relied on an atmosphere as good as this film.
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What I also admire is how this film, even though it is a horror slasher film , actually doesn't have as many bloody scenes as other films with a similar genre. Even though we are told of a murderer who enters a resident's house and kills those who live in it using a kitchen knife, the murder scene is not as sadistic or brutal as we expect. John Carpenter doesn't use the moment of murder as a creepy point, but rather he builds up the atmosphere slowly but surely which results in a film that doesn't stop tying us off.
The piano song, which appears every time Michael is on screen, also really helps the film build the atmosphere. The piano is not excited to be played, but is played with almost the same tone sequentially and quickly. The result is a scene that doesn't feel too excited or fast but a scene that feels creepy awakens quickly. His music has also become one of the most iconic soundtracks in the world of film, to date.
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