Cult American director John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 slasher Halloween receives a timely 35th Anniversary rerelease this week in advance of its holiday namesake. Society has a penchant for masochism and craves that fear once in a while, and yet very rarely in recent years has a movie delivered anything close to that. It’s with no thanks to the spew of contemporary horror that the genre still has a legacy; a legacy born out of the influence of Italian giallo directors like Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, Hammer Horror and the visionary work of the “Master of Suspense” himself – the one and only Alfred Hitchcock.
The groundbreaking genre cinema of those who went before them was thus masterfully adopted for American audiences by the likes of Carpenter, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, who between them turned horror cinema into something that was far less an intangible hellish world and much more a torrid, unbearable reality where anybody could be a killer; the impact of this cannot be overlooked. Halloween subsequently takes its audience into the mind of deranged killer Michael Myers, who at a tender young age stabbed his older sister in a frenzied attack. After many years incarcerated in a mental institution, Myers breaks free to continue where he left off, resulting in a bloody and nerve-racking suburban killing spree.
There are many reasons why Carpenter’s first venture into the horror genre is still considered so powerful and effective to this day; the fantastic ability of its director to make use of every aspect of the frame means that the audience unknowingly find themselves clambering around in their seat as they try to check in every nook and cranny for the bloodthirsty killer; or the chilling, cold and ultimately memorable electronic score that still has the ability to send a shiver down many a spine. What’s more, the style, structure and plot seen in Halloween remains overtly recognisable and still serves as the archetypal template for the slasher picture to this day.
Carpenter’s monumental Halloween will always have a place in the canon of American horror movies and seems destined to be continuously discussed by fans, film critics and academics alike. Most importantly, however, it serves as exceedingly high quality entertainment that does everything a good horror movie should. Throughout, Carpenter’s iconic frightener leaves you feeling unsafe even in your own home, mindfully wary of that shadowy stranger across the darkened street – just as Hitchcock et al. did so masterfully in countless classics before it.