Why Halloween (1978) Still Holds Up

Micheal Meyers and a jack-o-lantern sharing the screen
An alternate poster for Halloween. Media by Thomas Broomfield

October is a time where many people like to sit down, bundle up, and gorge on candy while watching horror movies. Each person’s particular genre of horror movies may be different, but I always find myself going back to one movie in particular that popularized the slasher genre–John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, Halloween. 

If you look at the knuckles, you can see a screaming face. From State Theater.com

For those who haven’t had the privilege of seeing Halloween, it is the first installment of a very long-running slasher franchise staring the disturbingly silent Michael Meyers, who goes around in every movie slaughtering people in more and more violent ways. While taking a break after 2002’s Ressurection, and being rebooted by Rob Zombie in 2007, the classic Micheal returned just last year with Halloween (2018). The film was a massive success and has kickstarted the production of two more sequels slated for 2020 and 2021.

But with so many people chattering about 2018’s Halloween arguably being the best one, I’m here to say that, while it is good, 1978’s classic is still Micheal’s best outing. 

Our heroine and our villian going against each other, but not for the last time. Taken from The New York Times.

In Halloween (1978), Michael Meyers (played by Nick Castle) escapes prison after many years of incarceration and goes on a rampage in the small town of Haddonfield. Our heroine, Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her first-ever film role), must survive Micheal’s onslaught, while Dr. Loomis, Micheal’s therapist (played by Donald Pleasance) must race to the town and destroy Micheal once and for all. 

On the surface, it seems like a fairly standard scary story, and it ultimately is. But where this movie excels is in the tone, tension, and atmosphere. The movie is practically exuding tension at every turn. Even near the beginning of the movie, when Micheal is following Laurie comes home from school, you feel like something is off. You notice figures moving in the background, or something staring at the characters in the distance. It keeps you on edge in ways other horror movies could only dream of. 

Micheal stalking his prey. Taken from Hollywood Reporter.com

Being the first of its kind, the film shows a remarkable amount of restraint for a slasher. There’s little in the way of blood, unlike other movies in the same category, but that doesn’t make the movie any less impactful. In fact, combined with the low music for most of the movie, the lack of copious amounts of gore makes the movie arguably even more disturbing. While there are moments that can be classified as jump scares (a sudden jolt to the audience) they’re done very tastefully. 

Compare this movie to, say, Friday the Thirteenth or Nightmare on Elm Street, which came out two and three years later, respectively. These two movies have gore at every turn, spurting blood everywhere when a teenager gets stabbed, with gruesome details around every corner. But for me, this sort of makes it feel more over the top and it becomes a lot less haunting and scary. It makes me feel less like I’m watching a horror movie and more of an exploitative mess. In Halloween (1978), the lack of excessive gore makes everything feel darker, like this could’ve been something that actually happened. Very rarely does a movie make me feel like that, but eerily this movie does. 

Laurie preparing to fight back. Taken from The Irish Times.com

The reality of this film seems to be part of the public consensus as well. Deb Cunningham, a horror movie enthusiast and fellow writer for the Papyrus, has watched the movie and loved it ever since the sixth grade. “It’s just always been one of my favorites,” Cunningham says. “The darkness of it. Michael as a character is really cool and I think Laurie is a good protagonist. The movie in general is just really good.” 

Halloween is and always will be one of the movies that I look for when needing a scary time. It may be slow and methodical but it has quite enough to keep you interested. The likable protagonist alongside its dark and scary setting provide plenty of entertainment to keep people on board. Halloween is one movie you can always go to for a frighteningly good time. 

You can buy Halloween (1978) as a standalone or as part of a combination pack with the other movies in the series from Amazon. 


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