Halloween (1978)

Rating: B

Dir: John Carpenter
Star: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles

Thirty years have now passed since Carpenter’s seminal slasher pic. How has it stood up to the test of time? The answer is, surprisingly well, though certain aspects have become so familiar, to the point of cliché. For example, the maniac who suddenly comes back to life, when you think they’ve been killed, is now such a part of horror-movie culture, it causes rolling of eyes. One can only speculate what kind of an impact it had, three decades previously, to an audience not used to such things. There are a couple of things which have lasted particularly well: the soundtrack, which adds an enormous level of menace, to things as simple as heroine Laurie Strode (Curtis) going to school, and the performances, especially from Curtis, in her feature debut, and Pleasence, as psychiatrist Dr. Loomis – though both have had long, successful careers, it’s this film which remains their most recognizable, and for good reason.

It’s been a very long time since I’d seen this in its entirety, probably twenty years or more, and so much of it had slipped my memory, especially in the middle. I was surprised at how long it takes to get going – after the opening, it’s probably an hour before there is another on-screen death, a languid pacing which could have a modern audience shifting in their seats with boredom. I can’t say it bothered me too much, however: I found things to keep me amused, such as the frequent footage on TV of The Thing – which, of course, Carpenter would go on to remake himself, to great success, a few years later. Of course, it’s made easier by the knowledge that things will eventually kick into gear. When they do, it’s still prime-quality suspense and terror, enhanced [and this is where so many remakes, and indeed horror movies in general, go wrong] by the fact that you do care about the character in peril. While chunks are now too familiar, through frequent repetition, its place in the horror Hall of Fame is fully justified.