Made for $300,000, Halloween allowed movie-maker John Carpenter the luxury of wearing many hats. In addition to directing, he co-wrote the script and score. Remarkably, the opening titles contains a memorable motif. Straightaway, the music raises our expectations for what's coming next.
Stalking a lonely house at night, Mike Myers (Will Sandin) ends up slaughtering his sister. Moments later, he runs out and the camera reveals his identity. With the butcher's knife still dripping blood, Myers turns out to be a young boy. A powerful opening, so how does Carpenter follow this?
Throughout the story, babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) often glimpses a masked figure. She fears him, yet cannot explain his presence. While I've always felt that the closing segment was rushed, Halloween could never be a self-contained entity. Hence the many sequels and remakes. What makes the original effort so commendable is discipline. When Myers goes on the rampage, Carpenter doesn't shower the screen in blood-soaked expressionism. Admirably, suspense rather than gore informs his creative process.
Overall, Donald Pleasence comes across as a force of nature. He delivers a pitch-perfect performance as Dr. Sam Loomis. As proof of his genius, I recommend the scene where he scares some kids hanging around the old Myers building.
For horror fans, a documentary entitled Halloween – A Cut Above the Rest proves to be even more fascinating than the finished film.
(Released by Compass International Pictures and rated "R" by MPAA.)