HALLOWEEN poster artwork
DONALD PLEASENCE.....Dr. Sam Loomis
JAMIE LEE CURTIS.....Laurie Strode
NANCY LOOMIS.....Annie Brackett
CHARLES CYPHERS.....Sheriff Leigh Brackett
NICK CASTLE.....The Shape/Michael Myers
Directed by JOHN CARPENTER
Written by JOHN CARPENTER and DEBRA HILL
Produced by DEBRA HILL
REVIEW BY GENE SISKEL
Don't see Halloween in an empty theater on a weekday afternoon. See it on a weekend night in a packed house. Halloween is a film to be enjoyed with a boisterous crowd; it's an "audience picture," a film designed to get specific reactions from an audience at specific moments.
With Halloween, the most often desired reaction is screaming. It's a beautifully made thriller---more shocking than bloody---that will have you screaming with regularity. Halloween was directed by John Carpenter, 30, a natural filmmaker and a name worth remembering. Eight years ago as a film student Carpenter worked on the Academy Award winning short, The Resurrection of Bronco Billy.
Halloween begins with a magnificent four-minute tracking shot of what turns out to be an 8-year-old boy murdering his sister after he discovers her having sexual relations with her boyfriend. The film is set on Halloween night, 1963, in a sleepy small town in Illinois. The tracking shot begins as the boy is outside his home. Along with him we watch the young couple leave the room, walk upstairs, and go to bed. The young boy then dons a Halloween mask, and director Carpenter, maintaining the correct point-of-view, has his camera and us peer throught the mask as the young boy walks into his sister's bedroom. He is holding a long knife in his hand.
After the stabbing, the film jumps forward to Halloween night, 1978. The young killer is about to break out of the sanitarium where he has been held for the last 15 years. He will return to his hometown, and he will terrorize three teen-age girls. Donald Pleasence plays a psychologist on the killer's trail.
Right about now some people may be thinking, "What can be so good about a film involving a young man attacking young women?" All that can be said in the film's defense is, with the exception of two demure shots of girls undressing, Halloween does not pander to the violence-prone. This film is meant only to thrill.
Rich Corliss, the excellent film critic of the late New Times magazine, offers an even better justification of the violence in Halloween. Corliss says that horror films such as Halloween are ferociously Old Testament; they punish "both the heroine-exhibitionist and the viewer-voyeur." In other words, the girls in Halloween are punished for fooling around with sex, and we the viewers are "punished" (with thrills) for watching the girls.
So much for theory, Halloween works because director Carpenter knows how to shock while making us smile. he repeatedly sets up anticipation of a shock and delays the shock for varying lengths of time. The tension is considerable. More than once during the movie I looked around just to make sure that no one weird was sitting behind me. It's that kind of movie.
Halloween plays on ancient fears of children being left alone, of babysitters being forced to turn to children as allies in moments of stress, of other people doubting what you are certain you saw in the shadows of the night.
Director Carpenter wisely keeps his killer hidden from direct sight. The killer is wearing hospital bandages over his face; he is photographed mostly in shadows.
It's one thing to make an effective thriller out of night scenes, but it's a considerably more difficult achievement to scare the daylights out of us with daylight action. To my mind, the best sequence in Halloween is a dodge-'em game the killer plays behind some shrubbery as the school girls walk home in the afternoon.
To state the obvious, Halloween is not a film for youngsters. It is properly R-rated for its ever-present threat of violence.
Review © 1978 THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. All Rights Reserved.
Poster artwork © 1978 COMPASS INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. All Rights Reserved.
Title and logo designed by Karen Rappaport
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