I didn’t grow up loving horror movies. In my youth, I thoroughly enjoyed Halloween much like any other kid did. Dressing up as characters, going block to block collecting candy, and going through the candy stockpile for the rest of the night. What wasn’t to like? However, I had yet to obtain the love for horror. The scariest character I ever dressed up as was Beetlejuice. Otherwise, it was action heroes or comic book characters.
My love for the horror genre wasn’t born until my sophomore year of high school when I got my hands on a copy of the Wes Craven-directed, Kevin Williamson-written Scream. The appeal for the film wasn’t so much horror. It was the Party Of Five star Neve Campbell, Friends star Courtney Cox and the high school element of the film. However, I was glued to this horror film, loving every second of it. While Scream became a favorite of mine, I was curious about one element inside that film: the horror movie all these teens were watching at that big party. Before my high school era was over, I ended up finding that movie and watched it. Then, I watched it again… and again… and again.
At that moment, I had changed. I was now a fan of the horror movie genre and Halloween was the film responsible for this new found admiration. From there, I would continue to seek out horror films left and right. Norman. Freddy. Jason. Leatherface. Pennywise. The Devil. Dracula. Frankenstein. The guy in the slicker. Ghostface’s sequels. Jigsaw. I watched them all. While my knowledge of horror has vastly grown since my high school years, one thing has remained the same: on my list of favorite horror films ever made, Halloween sits alone at the top spot, and I’ll explain to you why.
His name is Michael Myers. At the young age of six years old, on Halloween night in 1963, he decided to pick up a large kitchen knife, put on a clown mask, and proceed to murder his eighteen-year-old sister Judith. There was no reason for it. He simply did it and never spoke a word. For fifteen years, Michael sat in an insane asylum in silence, having never spoken a word in all that time. It’s not until one evening, the night before Halloween, where he broke out, donned coveralls and a mask, and decided to wreak havoc once again on his hometown of Haddonfield on Halloween night.
It is Myers who, in my opinion, stands out in the realm of “slashers”. Unlike Jason Voorhees who drowned due to teen incompetence, or Freddy Krueger who was a child murderer burned to death by vengeful parents, Michael Myers is unique because there is no definitive reason for his terror. In comparison to Heath Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker in The Dark Knight, Myers has no backstory. There isn’t a key reason that explains why he is evil. He is simply an unstoppable force of nature. A force that is intent on killing whatever crosses its path. An emotionless killing machine who’s thirst for death is never satisfied.
His name is Sam Loomis. He is the psychiatrist who was tasked with helping young Michael. However, after trying for eight years with no change, Loomis began to realize that this young individual was no normal youth. What was inside that individual was, as he put it in the film, “purely and simply evil.” He spent the next seven years doing whatever he could to keep his patient locked up, believing that releasing this being into the public would result only in death. Loomis’ greatest fears are realized when Myers broke out of the asylum, and with that, Loomis must stop at nothing to halt Myers before he adds more to his victim list.
Her name is Laurie Strode. She is the quiet, shy girl senior who’s best friends are wise-cracking smartass Annie and pretty cheerleader Lynda. She’s dedicated to her school work and quietly crushing on Ben Tramer while her friends are the life of the party. Laurie is the friend who, while babysitting, agrees to relieve Annie from her babysitting duties so she can join the party with Lynda. However, as the night goes on, Laurie senses something is odd. When her friends don’t answer her calls, she decides to investigate for herself by going to the house across the street, where Annie is supposed to be. What develops is a night Laurie will never forget.
Yet, while she is running on fear and adrenaline from the terror of Michael Myers, Laurie never surrenders. She does not quit. She fights against death. She hits, runs, wrestles and stabs at The Shape with whatever she can get her hands on. Moreover, she does so while still protecting the children she’s been watching. Laurie is both a survivor and protector. She temporarily stops Michael and tells the children to “Do as I say now!” as she prepares for his next attack. Laurie is the first ever “final girl” in horror and to this day, she is still at the top of the list.
Halloween was an original story thought up by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, two young filmmakers looking to make a name for themselves. On a budget of only $320,000, they set out to make a good horror film. A horror film that wasn’t set in a distant country, but right in the heart of the United States. For decades, horror films were set in dark castles with mythological beings of the night. Now, Carpenter and Hill were presenting a frightening being that was walking the streets of the suburbs on Halloween night. A story about a “boogieman” who murders at will, a psychiatrist who is trying to find him and a teenage girl who fights to survive the terror. Their story and vision, blended with the talented onscreen presence of Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence and Nick Castle, resulted in what became the biggest independent film ever, holding that title for two decades.
Halloween is the grandfather of the slasher film. After it came Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play and scores more. Yet, in my opinion, those films don’t capture my attention the way Halloween does. I respect those films for being icons in the industry, but they don’t hold a candle to Michael Myers. Their stories don’t intrigue me the way Carpenter and Hill did with their script and film. I don’t care for their characters the way I care for Laurie, Annie, Lynda, and Loomis. With Halloween, I feel the sense of not only a good horror movie, but a good movie period. One with a story, driven characters and a score that would go down as one of the greatest and most recognizable themes in film history.
While its many sequels never captured the same essence of the original film, Halloween still remains, in my opinion, as pure cinematic gold that should be at the top of any horror movie marathon. It is a perfectly balanced story of a deadly force and a pure resistance. A chaotic terror and an unbreakable will. Michael Myers, the human embodiment of dark homicidal rage, and Laurie Strode, the teen girl who evolves into a guardian of life. These are the primary elements of why Halloween is my absolute favorite horror film.