Halloween cover


Halloween is a 1978 American independent slasher horror film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. The film was the first installment in what became the Halloween franchise. The plot is set in the fictional midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. On Halloween night in 1963, a six-year-old Michael Myers murders his older sister by stabbing her with a kitchen knife. Fifteen years later, he escapes from a psychiatric hospital, returns home, and stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends. Michael's psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis suspects Michael's intentions, and follows him to Haddonfield to try to prevent him from killing. Halloween was produced on a budget of $325,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, and $70 million worldwide, equivalent to nearly $240 million as of 2012, becoming one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Halloween had many imitators and originated several clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike many of its imitators, Halloween contains little graphic violence and gore. In 2006, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Some critics have suggested that Halloween may encourage sadism and misogyny by identifying audiences with its villain. Other critics have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in 1970s America, with many of Myers's victims being sexually promiscuous substance abusers, while the lone heroine is depicted as innocent and pure hence her survival (however, the lone survivor is seen trying to smoke marijuana in one scene, but she didn´t like it). Carpenter dismisses such analyses. Several of Halloween's techniques and plot elements, although not founded in this film, have nonetheless become standard slasher movie tropes.

Plot and StoryEdit

On Halloween night, 1963, in fictional Haddonfield, Illinois, 6-year-old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) murders his older teenage sister Judith (Sandy Johnson), stabbing her repeatedly with a butcher knife, after she had sex with her boyfriend. Fifteen years later, on October 30, 1978, Michael escapes the hospital in Smith's Grove, Illinois where he had been committed since the murder, stealing the car that was to take him to a court hearing. The following day – Halloween – in Haddonfield, high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) continually sees Michael, now wearing dark blue coveralls and a white mask, first at her school, then on the street. Laurie's friends, Annie (Nancy Kyes) and Lynda (P. J. Soles), dismiss Laurie's concerns. Then, later at her house, she sees Michael outside, in the yard, staring into her room. Laurie is startled and unnerved. Meanwhile, Michael's primary psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance), having anticipated Michael's return home, goes to the local cemetery, finding that Judith Myers' headstone is missing. Later on, Loomis approaches Annie's father, Sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), and the two quietly look for Michael. That night, Laurie babysits a boy named Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews), while Annie babysits a girl named Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) across the street from the Doyle house. When Annie gets a call from her boyfriend, Paul, to pick him up, she takes Lindsey to the Doyle house. Annie gets in her car to pick up Paul but she is killed by Michael, who was hiding in the back of her car. At the Doyle House, Tommy spots Michael carrying Annie's body and tries to tell Laurie, who dismisses his claims as the boogeyman. Later, Lynda and her boyfriend, Bob, enter the Wallace house and head to the bedroom, where they have sex. While downstairs, Bob is impaled on the wall with a kitchen knife, then Michael strangles Lynda with a telephone cord as she talks on the phone with Laurie. Feeling unsettled, Laurie heads over to the Wallace house, only to find Annie's body with Judith Myers' missing headstone along with Lynda and Bob. Suddenly, Laurie is attacked by Michael and falls backwards down the staircase. She runs out of the house, screaming for help, but to no avail. Eventually, she flees back to the Doyle house, but the door is locked as she sees Michael approaching in the distance. Laurie screams for Tommy to open the door quickly. Luckily, Tommy opens the door in time and lets Laurie inside. Laurie then instructs the children to hide and then realizes that the phone is dead, and that Michael has gotten into the house through a window. As she sits down in horror next to the couch, her hand falls on a knitting needle. Michael appears and tries to stab her, but she counterattacks his move, and stabs him in the neck with the knitting needle. Laurie makes her way to an upstairs bedroom and tell Tommy and Lindsey it's all over, but Michael appears to have survived Laurie's counterattack and continues to go after Laurie. She orders the kids to go in the bathroom and lock the door and attempted to hide in the closet by herself, but Michael finds that she is in the closet by breaking a hole in the door. Again he tries to kill Laurie, but she attacks him by first stabbing Michael in the eye with a clothes hanger, in which he drops the knife that Laurie then picks up and stabs him with. Michael collapses and Laurie exits the closet carefully before telling the kids to go call for help. Meanwhile, outside, Dr. Loomis sees Tommy and Lindsey running away from the house and suspects that Michael could be inside. Michael gets up and tries to strangle Laurie, but Dr. Loomis arrives in time to save her and shoots Michael six times in the chest. Michael falls from the second-story window, onto the lawn below. Laurie asks Loomis if that was the "boogeyman", to which Loomis says it was. When Dr. Loomis looks over the balcony, he finds Michael's body is missing.


The cast of Halloween included veteran actor Donald Pleasence and then-unknown actress Jamie Lee Curtis. The low budget limited the number of big names that Carpenter could attract, and most of the actors received very little compensation for their roles. Pleasence was paid the highest amount at $20,000, Curtis received $8,000, and Nick Castle earned $25 a day. The role of Dr. Sam Loomis was offered to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; both declined the part due to the low pay (though Lee would later tell Carpenter that declining the role was his biggest career mistake). English actor Pleasence — Carpenter's third choice — agreed to star. Pleasence has been called "John Carpenter's big landing." Americans were already acquainted with Pleasence as the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967). In an interview, Carpenter admits that "Jamie Lee wasn't the first choice for Laurie. I had no idea who she was. She was 19 and in a TV show at the time, but I didn't watch TV." He originally wanted to cast Anne Lockhart, the daughter of June Lockhart from Lassie, as Laurie Strode. However, Lockhart had commitments to several other film and television projects. Hill says of learning that Jamie Lee was the daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh, "I knew casting Jamie Lee would be great publicity for the film because her mother was in Psycho." Halloween was Curtis' feature film debut and launched her career as a "scream queen" horror star. Another relatively unknown actress, Nancy Kyes (credited in the film as Nancy Loomis) was cast as Laurie's friend Annie Brackett, daughter of Haddonfield sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers). Kyes had previously starred in Assault on Precinct 13 (as had Cyphers) and happened to be dating Halloween's art director Tommy Lee Wallace when filming began. Carpenter chose P. J. Soles to play Lynda Van Der Klok, another friend of Laurie's, best remembered in the film for dialogue peppered with the word "totally." Soles was an actress known for her supporting role in Carrie (1976) and her minor part in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976). According to one source, "Carpenter realized she had captured the aura of a happy go lucky teenage girl in the 70s." The role of "The Shape" — as the masked Michael Myers character was billed in the end credits — was played by Nick Castle, who befriended Carpenter while they attended the University of Southern California. After Halloween, Castle became a director, taking the helm of films such as The Last Starfighter (1984), The Boy Who Could Fly (1986), Dennis the Menace (1993) and Major Payne (1995).

Critical ResponseEdit

Critical response to the film was mostly positive. Although Halloween performed well with little advertising — relying mostly on word-of-mouth — many critics seemed uninterested or dismissive of the film. Pauline Kael wrote a scathing review in The New Yorker suggesting that "Carpenter doesn't seem to have had any life outside the movies: one can trace almost every idea on the screen to directors such as Hitchcock and Brian De Palma and to the Val Lewton productions" and claiming that "Maybe when a horror film is stripped of everything but dumb scariness — when it isn't ashamed to revive the stalest device of the genre (the escaped lunatic) — it satisfies part of the audience in a more basic, childish way than sophisticated horror pictures do." The first glowing review by a prominent film critic came from Tom Allen of The Village Voice in November 1978, Allen noted that the film was sociologically irrelevant but applauded Carpenter's camera work as "duplicitous hype" and "the most honest way to make a good schlock film". Allen pointed out the stylistic similarities to Psycho and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968). The following month, Voice lead critic Andrew Sarris wrote a follow-up feature on cult films, citing Allen's appraisal of Halloween and saying in the lead sentence that the film "bids fair to become the cult discovery of 1978. Audiences have been heard screaming at its horrifying climaxes". Renowned American critic Roger Ebert gave the film similar praise in his 1979 review in the Chicago Sun-Times, and selected it as one of his top ten films of 1978. Once-dismissive critics were impressed by Carpenter's choice of camera angles and simple music, and surprised by the lack of blood, gore, and graphic violence. Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports 93% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 45 reviews, with a rating of 8.4 out of 10. Many compared the film with the work of Alfred Hitchcock, although TV Guide calls comparisons made to Psycho "silly and groundless" and critics in the late 1980s and early 1990s blame the film for spawning the slasher sub genre, which they felt had rapidly descended into sadism and misogyny. Almost a decade after its premiere, Mick Martin and Marsha Porter critiqued the first-person camera shots that earlier film reviewers had praised and later slasher-film directors utilized for their own films (for example, Friday the 13th (1980)). Claiming it encouraged audience identification with the killer, Martin and Porter pointed to the way "the camera moves in on the screaming, pleading, victim, 'looks down' at the knife, and then plunges it into chest, ear, or eyeball. Now that's sick." More than 30 years after its debut, Halloween enjoys a reputation as a classic and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978.


Halloween spawned seven sequels, a 2007 remake of the same name directed by Rob Zombie — and a 2009 sequel to the remake, Halloween II, which is unrelated to the sequel of the original. Of these films, only Halloween II (1981) was written by Carpenter and Hill. Halloween II begins exactly where Halloween ends and was intended to finish the story of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Halloween II was hugely successful, becoming the highest grossing horror film of 1981. Carpenter did not direct any of the subsequent films in the Halloween series, although he did produce Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), the plot of which is unrelated to the other films in the series. He also composed the music for the second and third films, along with Alan Howarth. After the negative critical reception for III: Season of the Witch, the filmmakers brought back Michael Myers in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. The sequels feature more explicit violence and gore, and are generally dismissed by mainstream film critics. They were filmed on larger budgets than the original: In contrast to Halloween's modest budget of $320,000, Halloween II's budget was around $2.5 million, while the final sequel to the original, Halloween: Resurrection (2002), boasted a budget of $15 million. Financier Moustapha Akkad continued to work closely with the Halloween franchise, acting as executive producer of every sequel until his death in the 2005 Amman bombings. With the exception of Halloween III, the sequels further develop the character of Michael Myers and the Samhain theme. Even without considering the third film, the Halloween series contains continuity issues, which some sources attribute to the different writers and directors involved in each film. The 10 Halloween films, including the 2007 remake and its sequel, have had eight directors. Only Rick Rosenthal and Rob Zombie directed more than one Halloween film: Rosenthal directed Halloween II and Halloween: Resurrection, while Zombie directed the remake and its sequel.