Halloween (1978) | 31 Days of Horror: Oct 31

by Jovial Jay

Trick or treat! Welcome to Halloween!

The original Halloween was groundbreaking and genre defining. It also created a franchise that has endured for the last 44 years and looks to still be going strong. This, is Halloween.

Before Viewing

This classic trailer depicts a young boy killing someone on Halloween night. Fifteen years later, “he comes home” and begins attacking some teenagers in the neighborhood. The 2021 season of 31 Days of Horror closes out with one of the most iconic horror films of all time, Halloween.

Presented below is the trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

Halloween (1978)

Halloween (1978) title card.

After Viewing

On Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois, 6 year old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) watches his sister Judith make out with her boyfriend and then grabs a knife and kills her before being discovered by his parents. Fifteen years later, Michael’s doctor, Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is on his way to the Smith Grove facility where he is being held. When he and his nurse arrive there are patients wandering the ground in the rain. Michael steals their car.

The next morning, Halloween day, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) drops the key for the Myers house under the mat for her father (a realtor), and walks to school with young Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews). She is observed by a dark shape which follows her through the rest of the day. Loomis stops to call the Haddonfield sheriff and warn him about Michael Myers coming home. He finds a pickup truck near the phone booth, but doesn’t see the corpse of the man nearby.

After school, Laurie, Lynda (PJ Soles) and Annie (Nancy Loomis) walk home. Laurie thinks she sees someone following them but her friends think she’s paranoid. Loomis discovers that Judith Myers’ headstone has been stolen from her grave and begs the sheriff to help him while he stakes out the old Myers house, knowing Michael will return. Michael continues to follow Laurie who is babysitting Tommy that night, while Annie babysits Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards) across the street.

Halloween (1978)

Dr. Loomis confers with Sheriff Leigh Brackett, who is named after a Hollywood screen writer, about the vil that is Michael Myers.

Michael locks Annie in the laundry room, but she manages to get out. She then decides to go pick up her boyfriend Paul, leaving Lindsey with Laurie, but when Annie gets in the car, Michael strangles her. Tommy sees “the boogeyman” moving Annie from his window, but when Laurie looks nothing is there. Lynda and her boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham) arrive at the Wallace house, sneaking upstairs to have sex. When Bob goes to the kitchen to get a beer, Michael stabs him, impaling him onto the wall.

Michael then disguises himself with a sheet and goes upstairs, strangling Lynda with the phone cord while she’s talking to Laurie. Feeling something is up, Laurie walks across the street to investigate and finds all three friends dead in the master bedroom, along with Judith’s headstone. She is cut by Michael, but makes it back to the Doyle house. She has Tommy lock him and Lindsey in the bathroom while she hides in a closet.

Michael comes for her but she pokes his eye with a hanger and then grabs his knife stabbing him. Flustered, she tells the kids to run out of the house and call the police from the neighbor’s house. Loomis, who has been wandering the streets after finding his stolen car, sees the kids and heads into the house in time to shoot Michael six times as he comes for Laurie again. The killer falls out the second floor window, but when Loomis checks, no body is found. Laurie says that she saw the boogeyman, and Loomis agrees with her.

You’ve got to believe me, Officer, he is coming to Haddonfield… Because I know him! I’m his doctor! You must be ready for him… If you don’t, it’s your funeral.” – Loomis

Halloween (1978)

No fancy weapons for this killer. Any old knife from the counter will do. That’s a great way to get infections.

John Carpenter’s Halloween was not the first film about a mysterious killer, but it was the film that revitalized the genre. Carpenter was inspired by previous horror films including Hitchcock’s Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Black Christmas, from which he borrowed elements, but also managed to create a bunch of new themes that would be utilized by future filmmakers. The film is decidedly low-budget and exploitative, as many horror films were at the time, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a gigantic success which continues even today.

The 1978 version of Halloween is often cited as the film that revitalized the failing horror community. The 70s had some minor hits with Texas Chain Saw and Carrie but Halloween showed producers and filmmakers where the real gold lay. The film inspired others to create iconic serial killer villains, like Jason and Freddy Krueger, as well as continuing the reign of the murderous Michael Myers as well. Carpenter’s style, plot and aesthetic decisions also influenced future filmmakers, though many of his elements were borrowed from those that came before him.

The film opens with an extended shot all from the point of view (POV) of young Michael. This includes the killing of his sister. POV shots were nothing new to film, but their use in horror films, putting the audience in the position of the killer as a voyeur to the bloodshed, without being able to stop it, was something that was used in 1974s Black Christmas. After Halloween, films like Friday the 13th and The Funhouse (who’s opening moments echo young Michael’s actions here almost exactly) began using this technique often. Black Christmas may have also played a part in the action being set in a house during a holiday, rather than some of the more remote locations from other films. Carpenter also took great inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the director in general. He chose to cast Jamie Lee Curtis in her first role as an homage to her mother, Janet Leigh, being in Psycho. Curtis soon became known as a scream queen as her first five roles were all horror related: Halloween and Halloween II, plus Carpenter’s The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. He also took the name of Donald Pleasence’s character, Sam Loomis, from Marion Crane’s boyfriend in Psycho. Additionally Tommy Doyle was named after a detective character in Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The film also borrowed something from Spielberg’s Jaws as well. Every time the killer shows up, a musical motif begins to play, even when he is unseen. It’s very much like the music used to indicate the presence of the shark.

Halloween (1978)

For some reason the silent treatment given by “Bob” here is probably one of the more chilling moments, due to the audience understanding that it’s really Michael under that sheet.

Halloween also created a number of tropes that would be reused, copied and satirized for decades to come. The first was the introduction of the final female. This was the last character to be left alive in horror films. Sometimes it was the protagonist, but in other larger ensemble films it was a random girl. Many horror films copied this trope, sometimes choosing to modify it to change things. The film also creates a seemingly unkillable villain. He is stabbed in the neck, eye and stomach with various instruments, shot six times, and falls from a second story window. None of these methods keep him down for too long. In future chapters he would be literally dismembered only to come back again. Carpenter also equated killings with the characters having sex. All the people murdered in the film, save Mr. Phelps, the first victim with the pickup truck, were engaged in sexual activities or about to be. Judith, Annie, Lynda and Bob die because Michael potentially has some moral guidelines about who to kill. Just kidding. He’s a psycho path. But the trope did seem to occur in many other slasher films, with other centers for moral authority using it as a talking point.

After 44 years, Halloween still stands as a great thriller that sets up the premise, executes it with much tension, and finishes up before anyone gets bored. In 2018, another film also titled Halloween forgot the nine sequels that had been made, and revisited the events of the first film 40 years later with Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode. The sequel to that film, Halloween Kills was recently released and a third follow-up, Halloween Ends is due next year in 2022. For better or worse, the franchise derived from this first film has entertained fans for a long time and inspired countless others. Not only does it have visuals that startle, but the soundtrack (also by Carpenter) can compete with some of the best scary soundtracks out there. Thanks for taking the time to visit 31 (more) Days of Horror with me this year. Continue to enjoy weekly posts on iconic, fun, and genre-defining science-fiction films from 1950 to the present with Sci-Fi Saturdays, and until next October, pleasant…screams.

Halloween (1978)

You would think Michael would be tired after humping that gravestone around with him all day.

Assorted Musings

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Privacy Policy