a critiQal film review Halloween (1978)

Plot: In 1963, 6-year-old Michael Myers stabbed his 17-year-old sister to death on Halloween. He was sentenced to the Smith's Grove-Warren County Sanitarium for his crime. But this Halloween, he's escaped from the Sanitarium, and come back to his sleepy little hometown of Haddonfield, searching for his next victims. Their only hope is Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Pleasence).

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After a long hiatus, critiQal is back! And, just in time for Halloween, it’s time for another movie review. This time, with the holiday fast approaching, it seemed like a good idea to go back and watch Halloween, the classic film that launched Michael Myers (and Jamie Lee Curtis). Would this classic still be worth a look, or would our first retro review since returning be a negative one?

Jamie Lee Curtis is introduced to moviegoers in Halloween and does a decent job in her role as Laurie Strode. While she looks a bit old to be in high school, her performance seems natural enough that the rest of the character – what there is of it – works well enough.

Donald Pleasence is the real acting talent in this first film, though, despite Curtis’ later fame. He gets to spend the most time introducing viewers to Michael Myers, via his recounting of his history with the killer. While prepping viewers for the cold serial killer they are to meet later, he also is the only really scared character running throughout the film, which just adds to the tension of the film.

The film’s creepy theme music also helps. With it’s bare piano notes echoing through the film, the sound just adds to the overall effect, as the film slowly builds towards it’s climatic final sequences. With that eerie music as a backdrop, even the everyday scenes of the film take on a much more menacing tone, as the killer slowly stalks Laurie and her friends.

Like most older horror films, most of the running time of Halloween is spent before the on-screen killing even starts. Films today are garnered more on the shock and awe factor rather than any suspense, and viewers may find themselves wanting to fast-forward a bit. But they shouldn’t, because the buildup is the best part of Halloween.

Thanks to it’s age, the film really takes a hit when the killing begins. Outdated and lacking blood (or sound for the most part), the on-screen killings are sadly lacking in this day and age, to the point of absurdity. Viewers may find themselves laughing as the cheesy killings occur, which really disrupts from the suspense the film has been building up to that point. It’s odd, really. Since there isn’t very much gore, one would think the killing sequences would have held up better. Instead, they just come across as cheesy, especially after watching what special effects deaths now can be like.

With a long buildup made better with that creepy theme, the final sequences (which are very tame by today’s standards) aren’t really worth all the buildup. In fact, they are a bit disappointing when viewed today, and ends the movie on a rather dull note.

Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the original Halloween. While John Carpenter’s talent still shines through in the buildup, the rather tame ending coupled with some outdated death sequences really hinder the film’s overall effect. After seeing what could be done with more modern effects (with remake Halloween (2007)), it’s no wonder the original is a bit disappointing after all these years.

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