This article is about the original film. For other meanings, see Halloween.
|Directed by||John Carpenter|
|Produced by||Debra Hill|
|Music by||John Carpenter|
|Editing by||Charles Bornstein|
|Distributed by||Compass International Pictures|
|Release||October 25, 1978|
|Running time||91 minutes|
|Gross revenue||$70 million|
|Followed by||Halloween II (1981, both 4-6 and H20 Timelines)|
Halloween (2018, 2018 Timeline)
Halloween is a 1978 American slasher film. The original draft of the screenplay was titled The Babysitter Murders and The Night He Came Home. John Carpenter directed the film, which stars Donald Pleasence as Dr. Samuel Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, and Nick Castle, Tony Moran, Debra Hill, and Tommy Lee Wallace sharing the role of Michael Myers (listed in the credits as "The Shape").
Set in the fictional suburban midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois, on Halloween, the central theme of the film is Myers' escape from a psychiatric hospital and his subsequent murder of a number of teenagers, whilst Dr. Loomis attempts to track and stop him. Halloween is widely regarded as a classic among horror films, and as one of the most influential horror films of its era.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release and distribution
- 5 Reception
- 6 Influence
- 7 Home video
- 8 Alternate versions
- 9 Adaptations
- 10 Sequels
- 11 Deaths in Halloween
- 12 External links
Halloween night, 1963
Judith Myers is at home on Halloween night spending an evening with her boyfriend. Judith and her boyfriend eventually leave the living room and go upstairs. Michael then enters the house wearing a clown costume. He goes into the kitchen and gets a butcher knife out of a drawer then hides in the living room until he sees the boyfriend leave.
After the boyfriend leaves, Michael walks upstairs where he finds his discarded clown mask on the floor. He picks it up and places it over his head. He walks into Judith's bedroom where she is seen sitting in front of her vanity and brushing her hair. Michael begins stabbing her repeatedly. Eventually, she falls out of her chair and onto her bedroom floor where she dies.
Michael then walks out of the room, down the stairs and out of the house, where a shocked Mister and Mrs. Myers arrive home, finding their son holding a bloody butcher knife in his hand. Mr. Myers pulls the mask off of Michael's head which reveals his blank and expressionless face.
Fifteen years later
It is a rainy night as Doctor Samuel Loomis and nurse Marion Chambers drive to Smith's Grove Sanitarium. They are charged with transferring their patient, twenty-one-year-old Michael Myers from the hospital to the Hardin County courthouse so he can stand trial for his crimes. Loomis warns Marion about how dangerous Michael is. Although the patient hasn't spoken a word in over fifteen years, Loomis fervently believes that he is a psychopath. He never wants him to leave the sanitarium. As they approach the main gate, they notice several of the patients outside wandering about in the rain. Loomis gets out of the car to check the gate, leaving Marion by herself. Michael Myers appears and leaps atop Marion's car. He reaches inside to grab her, and Marion guns the vehicle. She brings it to a quick stop however and exits the car. Michael jumps inside and drives off.
In the town of Haddonfield, Illinois, high school student Laurie Strode leaves her house and begins walking to school. Her father, a realtor, asks her to drop a key off at the Myers house. Along the way, she comes upon young Tommy Doyle, whom Laurie frequently babysits. She has plans to look after him on Halloween night.
As Tommy launches a barrage of questions at Laurie, she turns to drop the key off at the Myers house. Tommy warns her that it is a "spook house". She slips the key through the mail slot, but there is someone inside the house staring through the window at her. Laurie doesn't notice the strange "shape" peering back at her, but it keeps a close eye on her as she continues walking to school. At Smith's Grove, Loomis argues with hospital administrator Terence Wynn. He blames him for allowing someone like Michael to escape. Wynn doesn't understand how he could have orchestrated such a break out, citing that he doesn't even know how to drive a car. Loomis retorts with, "He was doing very well last night!" Loomis knows exactly where Michael is going – Haddonfield.
At Haddonfield Elementary School, a group of bullies antagonize the smaller Tommy Doyle. They circle around the boy (who is carrying a pumpkin) and begin chanting "The Boogeyman is going to get you." Tommy, scared, turns to run, but falls and smashes his pumpkin. The kids take off running, one of whom has a chance encounter with the Shape. The Shape, in reality Michael Myers, gets into the car he had stolen from the hospital and shadows Tommy Doyle.
Seventy-three miles outside of Haddonfield, Loomis pulls his BMW off to the side and makes a telephone call from a pay phone to Sheriff Leigh Brackett in Haddonfield. He warns him about Michael Myers and tells him that he is coming to Haddonfield. Loomis hangs up and inspects a nearby empty truck bearing the logo for Phelps Garage. He finds a set of discarded hospital robes in the bushes next to the truck. What he doesn't see is the body of a dead mechanic lying in the underbrush only a few feet away.
Later in the afternoon, school lets out and Laurie meets up with her friends Lynda Van der Klok and Annie Brackett. Lynda complains about all of the new cheers she has to learn, while Annie huffs about how her boyfriend Paul dragged her into the boys' locker room. As they walk home, Laurie stops as she realizes that she forgot her chemistry book. A car slowly drives by and Annie shouts at the motorist. The car screeches to a halt then starts up again. The three girls resume their conversation and go over their plans for Halloween night.
Laurie is babysitting Tommy, while Annie will be babysitting a girl named Lindsey Wallace three doors down. Lynda has a date with her boyfriend, Bob. They continue walking and Laurie suddenly sees the Shape standing just beyond a hedge. She is disturbed by the strange mask that he is wearing. Just as quickly as he appeared, he disappears again. Annie, who did not see the man, inspects the hedge and turns up nothing. She teases Laurie, telling her that she scared away yet another potential boyfriend. The girls split up and each of them return to their respective homes.
Laurie is still on edge about the image she saw. She goes to her house and walks upstairs to her bedroom. She looks out the window and believes that she sees the Shape standing in the backyard amongst the clotheslines. In the blink of an eye, he is gone again. The telephone in Laurie's room suddenly rings and Laurie answers it. All she hears is strange noises coming over the line. Startled, she quickly hangs up. The phone rings again and it is Annie Brackett. Annie wants to know why Laurie hung up on her. Apparently she had been chewing food the first time she called. She tells Laurie that she will pick her up at 6:00. In a few hours, Annie picks up Laurie and they drive off.
Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis arrives in Haddonfield. He goes to the cemetery and the graveyard keeper leads him to the grave of Judith Myers. When they get there however, they discover that the gravestone is missing. Loomis solemnly declares, "He's come home".
Annie and Laurie keep driving. Laurie has a pumpkin with her that she says she's giving to Tommy Doyle. She believes that carving Jack-o-Lanterns will keep him occupied. Annie intends on subjecting little Lindsey Wallace to six straight hours of horror films. Turning the corner, they pull up to Nichol's Hardware Store where they find Annie's father, Sheriff Leigh Brackett, standing outside. An alarm is ringing and several other police officers are walking about the scene. Apparently, someone broke inside and stole some Halloween costumes. Annie and Laurie drive off and minutes later, Dr. Loomis arrives. He introduces himself to Sheriff Brackett.
While Annie and Laurie are driving, they begin discussing their boyfriend troubles. Laurie is an introvert and is too shy to ever ask a boy out on a date. She expresses an interest in a student named Bennett Tramer. Little do the girls realize, but the Shape is following them around town in his stolen car.
- "Death has come to your little town, Sheriff."
- ―Samuel Loomis
Evening falls and the Shape continues to follow Annie and Laurie. He pauses while Annie drops Laurie off at the Doyle house. Annie then pulls into the Wallace driveway directly across the street. The Shape gets out of the car and watches as Annie talks with Mr. and Mrs. Wallace. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis meets back up with Sheriff Brackett. They go to the old, closed down Myers house. Wandering through the first floor, they find the partially eaten remains of a dog. Brackett cannot believe that a man would do this, but Loomis reminds him, "This isn't a man". The two men go upstairs and Brackett shows him Judith Myers' bedroom. Loomis tells Brackett about his history with Michael Myers. He details how he spent fifteen years studying Michael only to determine that there was nothing inside this child's mind but pure evil.
At the Doyle house, Laurie reads Tommy a King Arthur story, but Tommy would rather have her read comic books. Annie calls the house to see how Laurie is doing. She tells her that she has set her up on a date with Ben Tramer. Laurie cannot believe that Annie would do something like and is completely embarrassed. She wants Annie to call him back to cancel the date, but she refuses. While in the midst of the telephone call, Tommy looks outside and catches a glimpse of the Shape across the street at the Wallace house. He runs back to tell Laurie that he has just seen the "Boogeyman", but Laurie naturally does not believe him.
At the house, Annie spills popcorn oil on herself and has to change her clothes. While she fumbles about for a robe and some detergent, Michael Myers spies on her from outside. The Wallaces' dog, Lester, catches his scent and begins barking. Michael waits for the dog to come outside then kills it. Annie brings her soiled clothes to an exterior laundry shed in the backyard. She hears the door suddenly creak open and thinks that it might be her boyfriend, Paul. She goes and closes the door, but when she tries to open it again a moment later, she finds that it is locked. She begins calling out to little Lindsey Wallace, but Lindsey is in the main house engrossed in a scary movie and doesn't hear her. Paul calls the house and asks Lindsey to get Annie for her. Lindsey hangs up on Paul, but does indeed go out back to find her babysitter. She frees Annie from the locked room and tells her that Paul called.
Annie takes Lindsey across the street to the Doyle house and drops her off with Laurie and Tommy. Laurie doesn't like the idea of Annie unloading Lindsey on her just so she can go on a date with Paul, but Annie promises that if she does this favor for her, she might consider calling Ben Tramer and cancelling the pre-arranged date, thus saving Laurie a lot of embarrassment. Laurie finally relents and Lindsey goes into the living room to watch television with Tommy.
Annie goes back to the Wallace house to get her car keys. She enters the garage and gets into her car and notices that all of the windows in the vehicle are completely fogged over. Michael Myers rises from the back seat and begins strangling Annie with his right hand. He then pulls out his knife and slashes her across the throat.
At the Doyle house, Tommy Doyle decides to play a trick on Lindsey Wallace and begins hiding behind a curtain. While doing so, he happens to look out the window and sees Michael carrying Annie's body back into the Wallace house. He begins shrieking and shouts to Laurie that he has seen the Boogey Man. Laurie comes in from the other room to calm Tommy down and insists that there is no such thing as the Boogeyman. By now she is getting exasperated with Tommy and threatens to send him to bed.
Meanwhile, Doctor Loomis keeps a steady vigil over the empty Myers house. He sees a group of kids approaching, each one daring the other to go inside the supposedly haunted house. From behind the bushes, Loomis scares them off by throatily whispering, "Lonnie, get your ass out of here!". The kids run at the sound of his voice and Loomis leans back, a satisfied smile growing across his face. Sheriff Brackett appears and tells Loomis that he is losing faith in the doctor's assertion over the pending threat of Michael Myers. Loomis tells him about the stolen headstone, but Brackett dismisses it as nothing more than a Halloween prank.
The killing continues
Lynda Van der Klok and her boyfriend Bob Simms pull up the Wallace house in Bob's van. They are both somewhat inebriated and there are empty beer cans strewn about the inside of the van. They want to spend some time with Annie, but are also hoping to find a place where they can be intimate with one another. They quickly discover that Annie is not around. Lynda calls Laurie to see if she knows where Annie is. Laurie tells her that she is off on a date with her boyfriend and now she is stuck watching Lindsey Wallace. Lynda tells Bob the news and they both smile knowing that they now have the house completely to themselves.
They go upstairs into the master bedroom and have sex. Afterward, Lynda asks Bob to go get her a beer from the van. He does so, but when he comes back inside, Michael Myers is waiting for him. He shoves Bob against the wall and stabs him with his knife, pinning him to the wall. Michael takes a moment to admire his handiwork as Bob's body hangs bleeding from the wall.
He then takes a bed sheet and drapes it over his body. He places Bob's eyeglasses over top the sheet to fool Lynda into thinking that this is actually her boyfriend. He enters the upstairs bedroom wearing the sheet and Lynda chuckles. She attempts to entice Bob by baring her breasts, but when the Shape betrays no reaction, she grows frustrated. She then demands the beer that Bob was meant to retrieve for her, but still, the Shape does nothing. Angrily, Lynda gets up and decides to call Laurie again. As she waits for Laurie to pick up the phone, the Shape discards the bed sheet and glasses and begins strangling Lynda with the telephone cord. On the other end of the phone, Laurie (believing the caller to be Annie) warns her against playing any more phone pranks. Lynda falls to the floor dead.
The final confrontation
- "Was it the Bogeyman?"
- ―Laurie Strode to Samuel Loomis
As the evening wears on, Laurie Strode puts Tommy and Lindsey to bed. She decides to take a walk and strolls over to the Wallace house. She sees that none of the lights are on and wonders if Annie is still around. She goes inside and walks upstairs into the bedroom. She finds Annie's body sprawled out across the bed. The stolen headstone of Judith Myers rests at the head of the bed. Laurie begins to scream, and as she turns around, finds Lynda and Bob's bodies in two separate closets. Laurie runs into the hall.
Michael Myers appears and slashes Laurie across her right arm from behind. The impact pushes Laurie forward, and she falls over the banister and down the steps, cracking her ankle in the process. She runs to the back door, but the handle is blocked with a garden rake on the opposite side, so Laurie has to smash the glass to release the handle. She manages to run outside and begins screaming for somebody to help her. She goes to the neighbors' house and begins pounding on the door, but they refuse to let her in. She then hobbles back to the Doyle house as Michael methodically stalks after her.
The door is locked and Laurie cannot find her keys. She bangs on the door repeatedly, shouting for Tommy to let her in. She throws a potted plant towards Tommy's window to wake him up. Tommy awakens, but not sensing the urgency in Laurie's voice, takes his time getting downstairs. He finally lets her in and Laurie tells him to lock Lindsey and himself in the upstairs bedroom and finds the phone is dead. After Tommy leaves, Michael appears in the living room. Laurie stabs him in the neck with a knitting needle.
Laurie hobbles and pushes the kids back into their room then runs into an adjacent bedroom where she hides in a closet. Michael comes after her and begins tearing through the panels of the closet. Cowering in terror, Laurie takes a coat hanger and hits Michael with it, forcing him to drop his knife. She then picks it up and runs it through his stomach. Michael collapses onto the floor.
Laurie goes to the bedroom and tells the kids to go down the street to the McKenzie house. They both run out of the house screaming in fright. Loomis sees them flee and begins trotting towards the Doyle house.
Laurie takes a moment to collect herself. She stands up, but as she does so, Michael Myers rises as well. He comes up behind her and begins strangling her. Suddenly, Laurie rips Michael's mask off, causing him to let her go, and giving her a chance to see his face, before putting his mask back on. Loomis shoots Michael six times, before Michael falls over the house's second-story balcony ledge. Laurie realizes, "It was the Bogeyman", to which Loomis replies, "As a matter of fact, it was." Loomis looks down over the balcony to see that Michael is gone. Unsurprised, Loomis stares off into the night, while Laurie begins sobbing in terror. Places, where Michael had previously been are shown as his breathing, is heard, indicating he could be anywhere, and the last view is of the Myers house.
Donald Pleasence as Doctor Samuel Loomis
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Nancy Loomis as Annie Brackett
P. J. Soles as Lynda Van der Klok
Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle
John Michael Graham as Robert Simms
Nancy Stephens as Nurse Marion Chambers
Arthur Malet as Angus Taylor
Mickey Yablans as Richie Castle
Brent Le Page as Lonnie Elam
Adam Hollander as Keith
Robert Phalen as Doctor Terence Wynn
Tony Moran as Michael Myers (age 21)
Will Sandin as Michael Myers (age 6, unmasked)
Sandy Johnson as Judith Myers
David Kyle as Daniel Hodges
Peter Griffith as Morgan Strode
Nick Castle as The Shape
Barry Bernardi as Mechanic
John Carpenter as Paul Freedman and The Shape
George O'Hanlon Jr. as Peter Myers
Gwen Van Dam as Nurse Ethel Strickland
Debra Hill as Michael Myers (age 6, masked) and The Shape
Tommy Lee Wallace as The Shape
Jim Windburn as The Shape (stunt double)
Adam Gunn as Michael Myers (age 6, Extended Edition scenes)
- Bennett Tramer (mentioned)
- Bernardi (mentioned)
- Betty Bowles (mentioned)
- Charlie Bowles (mentioned)
- Christina Bowles (mentioned)
- Devon Graham (mentioned)
- Dick Baxter (mentioned)
- Female dog in Myers House (Deceased)
- Foster (mentioned)
- Haddonfield High School literature teacher
- Joanne Brackett (mentioned)
- Joe Mackenzie (mentioned)
- Lester (Dog)
- Lynda Van der Klok's brother (mentioned)
- Mary Mackenzie (mentioned)
- Mike Godfried (mentioned)
- Mr. Wallace
- Mrs. Doyle (mentioned)
- Mrs. Wallace
- Mr. Riddle (mentioned)
- Steve Todd's brother (mentioned)
- Steve Todd (mentioned)
- Tiffany Bowles (mentioned)
- Walter Ward (mentioned)
After viewing Carpenter's film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) at the Milan Film Festival, independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad sought out Carpenter to direct a film for them about a psychotic killer that stalked babysitters. In an interview with Fangoria magazine, Yablans stated, "I was thinking what would make sense in the horror genre, and what I wanted to do was make a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist." Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a story originally titled The Babysitter Murders, but Carpenter told Entertainment Weekly that Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night and naming it Halloween instead.
Akkad fronted the $300,000 for the film's budget, considered low at the time (even though Carpenter's previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, had an estimated budget of $100,000). Akkad worried over the tight, four-week schedule, low budget, and Carpenter's limited experience as a filmmaker, but told Fangoria, "Two things made me decide. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn't want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project". Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing, and composing the music, retaining rights to 10 percent of the film's profits.
Because of the low budget, wardrobe and props were often crafted from items on hand or that could be purchased inexpensively. Carpenter hired Tommy Lee Wallace as production designer, art director, location scout, and co-editor. Wallace created the trademark mask worn by Michael Myers throughout the film from a Captain Kirk mask purchased for $1.98. Carpenter recalled how Wallace "widened the eye holes and spray-painted the flesh a bluish white.
In the script it said Michael Myers' mask had 'the pale features of a human face' and it truly was spooky looking. It didn't look anything like William Shatner after Tommy got through with it." Hill adds that the "idea was to make him almost humorless, faceless — this sort of pale visage that could resemble a human or not." Many of the actors wore their own clothes, and Curtis' wardrobe was purchased at J.C. Penney for around a hundred dollars.
The limited budget also dictated the filming location and time schedule. Halloween was filmed in 20 days in the spring of 1978 in South Pasadena, California and the Sierra Madre, California (cemetery). An abandoned house owned by a church stood in as the Myers house. Two homes on Orange Grove Avenue (near Sunset Boulevard) in Hollywood were used for the film's climax. The crew had difficulty finding pumpkins in the spring, and artificial fall leaves had to be reused for multiple scenes. Local families dressed their children in Halloween costumes for trick-or-treating scenes.
In August 2006, Fangoria reported that Synapse Films had discovered boxes of negatives containing footage cut from the film. One was labeled "1981" suggesting that it was additional footage for the television version of the film. Synapse owner Don May, Jr. said, "What we've got is pretty much all the unused original camera negative from Carpenter's original Halloween. Luckily, Billy Kirkus was able to find this material before it was destroyed. The story on how we got the negative is a long one, but we'll save it for when we're able to showcase the materials in some way. Kirkus should be commended for pretty much saving the Holy Grail of horror films." It was later reported, "We just learned from Sean Clark, long time Halloween genius, that the footage found is just that: footage. There is no sound in any of the reels sofa since none of it was used in the final edit.
Yablans and Akkad ceded most of the creative control to writers Carpenter and Hill (whom Carpenter wanted as producer), but Yablans did offer several suggestions. According to a Fangoria interview with Hill, "Yablans wanted the script written like a radio show, with 'boos' every 10 minutes." Hill explained that the script took three weeks to write and much of the inspiration behind the plot came from Celtic traditions of Halloween such as the festival of Samhain. Although Samhain is not mentioned in the plot of the first film, Hill asserts that:
"the idea was that you couldn't kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the evilest kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that's what made Halloween work."
Hill wrote most of the female characters' dialogue, while Carpenter drafted Loomis' speeches on the evilness of Michael Myers. Many script details were drawn from Carpenter's and Hill's adolescence and early careers. The fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois was derived from Haddonfield, New Jersey, where Hill grew up, and most of the street names were taken from Carpenter's hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Laurie Strode was the name of one of Carpenter's old girlfriends and Michael Myers was the name of an English producer who had previously entered, with Yablans, Assault on Precinct 13 in various European film festivals. In Halloween, Carpenter pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock with two characters' names; Tommy Doyle is named after Lt. Det. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) of Rear Window (1954), and Dr. Loomis' name was taken from Sam Loomis (John Gavin) of Psycho, the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). Sheriff Leigh Brackett shared the name of a film screenwriter.
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 promiscuous 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 promiscuous friend of Laurie's, best remembered in the film for dialogue peppered with the word "totally." The sole 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).
Historian Nicholas Rogers notes that film critics contend that Carpenter's direction and camera work made Halloween a "resounding success". Roger Ebert remarks, "It's easy to create violence on the screen, but it's hard to do it well. Carpenter is uncannily skilled, for example, at the use of foregrounds in his compositions, and everyone who likes thrillers knows that foregrounds are crucial ...."
The opening title, featuring a jack-o'-lantern placed against a black backdrop, sets the mood for the entire movie. The camera slowly moves toward the jack-o'-lantern's left eye as the main title theme plays eerily. After the camera fully closes in, the jack-o'-lantern's light dims and goes out. Film historian J.P. Telotte says that this scene "clearly announces that [the film's] primary concern will be with the way in which we see ourselves and others and the consequences that often attend our usual manner of perception". During the conception of the plot, Yablans instructed "that the audience shouldn't see anything. It should be what they thought they saw that frightens them".
Carpenter seemingly took Yablans' advice literally, filming many of the scenes from Michael Myers' point-of-view that allowed audience participation. Carpenter is not the first director to employ this method or use of a Steadicam; for instance, the first scene of Psycho offers a voyeuristic look at lovers in a seedy hotel. Telotte argues, "As a result of this shift in perspective from a disembodied, narrative camera to an actual character's eye ... we are forced into a deeper sense of participation in the ensuing action". Along with the 1974 Canadian horror film Black Christmas, Halloween made use of seeing events through the killer's eyes.
The first scene of the young Michael's voyeurism is followed by the murder of Judith Myers seen through the eyeholes of Michael's clown costume mask. According to one commentator, Carpenter's "frequent use of the unmounted first-person camera to represent the killer's point of view ... invited [viewers] to adopt the murderer's assaultive gaze and to hear his heavy breathing and plodding footsteps as he stalked his prey". Another technique that Carpenter adapted from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) was suspense with minimal blood and gore. Hill comments, "We didn't want it to be gory. We wanted it to be like a jack-in-the-box." Film analysts refer to this as the "false startle" or "the old tap-on-the-shoulder routine" in which the stalkers, murderers, or monsters "lunge into our field of vision or creep up on a person."
Carpenter worked with the cast to create the desired effect of terror and suspense. According to Curtis, Carpenter created a "fear meter" because the film was shot out-of-sequence and she was not sure what her character's level of terror should be in certain scenes. "Here's about a 7, here's about a 6, and the scene we're going to shoot tonight is about a 9 1/2", remembered Curtis. She had different facial expressions and scream volumes for each level on the meter.
Another major reason for the success of Halloween is the moody musical score, particularly the main theme. Lacking a symphonic soundtrack, the film's score consists of a piano melody played in a 5/4 meter composed by director John Carpenter. Critic James Berardinelli calls the score "relatively simple and unsophisticated", but admits that "Halloween's music is one of its strongest assets". Carpenter stated in an interview, "I can play just about any keyboard, but I can't read or write a note." In the end credits, Carpenter bills himself as the "Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra" for performing the film's score, but he did receive assistance from composer Dan Wyman, a music professor at San José State University.
Some songs can be heard in the film, one being an untitled song performed by Carpenter and a group of his friends who formed a band called The Coupe DeVilles. The song is heard as Laurie steps into Annie's car on her way to babysit Tommy Doyle. Another song, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, appears in the film.
The soundtrack was first released in the United States in October 1983, by Varèse Sarabande. It was subsequently released on compact disc in 1985, re-released in 1990, and again in 2000.
Release and distribution
Halloween premiered on October 25, 1978, in downtown Kansas City, Missouri at the AMC Empire theatre. Soon after it opened in Chicago, Illinois and then in New York City. It opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1978.
Although it performed well with little advertising — relying mostly on word-of-mouth — many critics seemed uninterested or dismissive of the film. 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, The Village 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".
Following Allen's laudatory essay, other critics took notice. 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 five 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.
The film grossed $47 million in the United States and an additional $23 million internationally, making the theatrical total around $70 million, equivalent to over $277 million today. While most of the film's success came from American moviegoers, Halloween premiered in several international locations after 1979 with moderate results. The film was shown mostly in the European countries of France, the United Kingdom, West Germany, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Yugoslavia, and Iceland. Admissions in West Germany totaled around 750,000 and 118,606 in Sweden, earning SEK 2,298,579 there. The film was also shown at theaters in Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Peru, the Philippines, Argentina, and Chile. Halloween grossed AU$900,000 in Australia, which was a large and impressive amount of money for a film to gross at the box office in Australia at the time, and HKD 450,139 in Hong Kong.
The film received critical acclaim at the time of its initial release, and as of 2018, Halloween now maintains a rating of 95 percent "fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes. On Metacritic, it holds a score of 81, indicating universal acclaim based on 13 critics. 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."
However, Tom Allen in the November 6, 1978 issue of the New York City weekly The Village Voice wrote that "...John Carpenter's Halloween, alone in the last decade stands with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and, before that, with Psycho..." and "... accurate parallels to Halloween would be the frisson of the final jump in Wait Until Dark, the ominous Trompe-l'oil sentinels of The Innocents, and the zany cinematic control of Mario Bava in Black Sunday. Put them all together with memories of Night of the Living Dead and Psycho and you have Halloween, the trickiest thriller of the year". The film ranks 461st on Empire magazine's list of the 500 greatest movies.
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, the victim, 'looks down' at the knife, and then plunges it into the chest, ear, or eyeball. Now that's sick."
Many criticisms of Halloween and other slasher films come from postmodern academia. Some feminist critics, according to historian Nicholas Rogers, "have seen the slasher movies since Halloween as debasing women in as decisive a manner as hard-core pornography." Critics such as John Kenneth Muir point out that female characters such as Laurie Strode survive not because of "any good planning" or their own resourcefulness, but sheer luck. Although she manages to repel the killer several times, in the end, Strode is rescued in Halloween and Halloween II only when Dr. Loomis arrives to shoot Myers.
On the other hand, other feminist scholars such as Carol J. Clover argue that despite the violence against women, slasher films turned women into heroines. In many pre-Halloween horror films, women are depicted as helpless victims and are not safe until they are rescued by a strong masculine hero. Despite the fact that Loomis saves Strode, Clover asserts that Halloween initiates the role of the "final girl" who ultimately triumphs in the end. Strode herself fought back against Myers and severely wounds him. Had Myers been a normal man, Strode's attacks would have killed him; even Loomis, the male hero of the story, who shoots Michael repeatedly at near point blank range with a large caliber handgun, cannot kill him.
Other critics have seen a deeper social critique present in Halloween and subsequent slasher films. According to Vera Dika, the films of the 1980s spoke to the conservative family values advocates of Reagan America. Tony Williams says Myers and other slashers were "patriarchal avengers" who "slaughtered the youthful children of the 1960s generation, especially when they engaged in illicit activities involving sex and drugs." Other critics tend to downplay this interpretation, arguing that the portrayal of Myers as a demonic, superhuman monster inhibited his influence among conservatives.
Carpenter himself dismisses the notion that Halloween is a morality play, regarding it as merely a horror movie. According to Carpenter, critics "completely missed the point there." He explains, "The one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing this guy with a long knife. She's the most sexually frustrated. She's the one that's killed him. Not because she's a virgin but because all that sexually repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy."
Halloween was nominated for a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Horror Film in 1979, but lost to The Wicker Man (1973). In 2001, Halloween ranked #68 on the American Film Institute TV program 100 Years...100 Thrills. The film was #14 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004). In 2006, Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2007, the AOL 31 Days of Horror countdown named Halloween the greatest horror movie.
Halloween had a huge impact on horror films to follow. Although a Canadian horror film directed by Bob Clark titled Black Christmas (1974) predates the thematic and stylistic techniques made famous in Halloween, the latter is generally credited by film historians and critics for initiating the slasher film craze of the 1980s and 1990s. (First-person camera perspectives, unexceptional settings, and female heroines define the slasher film genre). Riding the wave of success generated by Halloween, several films that were already in production when the film premiered, but with similar stylistic elements and themes, became popular with audiences. The Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street films and countless other slasher films owe some of their success (if not inspiration) to Halloween, while Halloween owes a lot of its inspiration to Black Christmas.
The unintended theme of "survival of the virgins" seen in Halloween became a trope that surfaced in other slasher films. Characters in subsequent horror films who practice illicit sex and substance abuse generally meet a gruesome end at the hands of the killer. On the other hand, characters portrayed as chaste and temperate tend to confront and defeat the killer in the end. The 1981 horror movie spoof Student Bodies was the first mainstream film to mock this plot device; the killer's victims are invariably slain when about to have sex. Director Wes Craven's Scream (1996) details the "rules" for surviving a horror movie using Halloween as the prime example: no sex, no alcohol or illicit drugs, and never say "I'll be right back". Keenen Ivory Wayans's horror movie parody Scary Movie (2000) likewise lampoons this slasher-film trope.
Since Halloween's premiere, it has been released on VHS, laserdisc, DVD, UMD, and Blu-ray HD format. In its first year of release on VHS, the film earned $18,500,000 in the United States from rentals. Early VHS versions were released by Media Home Entertainment and Blockbuster Video issued a commemorative edition in 1995. Anchor Bay Entertainment has released several restored editions of Halloween on VHS and DVD, with the most recent being the 2007 single-disc restored version, with improved picture and sound quality. In 2007, the movie was released on Blu-ray Disc as well, marking the film's first ever Blu-ray release. While this DVD version is restored and an improvement over previous DVD editions, many people prefer the 2003 two-disc Divimax 25th Anniversary edition over the 2007 restored DVD due to the fact that there are many more bonus features on that version.
The 2 disc edition came with a shining foil cover and a commentary track including separately recorded contributions by Carpenter, Hill, and Curtis plus the documentary Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest. A 35th Anniversary Blu-ray edition is set to be released on September 24, 2013 featuring an all-new high definition transfer from Dean Cundey, a new 7.1 audio mix as well as the original mono audio mix, a new commentary from Carpenter and Curtis, a new featurette with Curtis titled The Night She Came Home, the On Location featurette, the trailer, the television and radio spots and the additional scenes from the extended television version.
Several versions of Halloween exist today. The original 91-minute version is the most widely known and seen. A modified television version released in 1980 that aired on NBC runs for 104 minutes and features reshoot scenes not included in the initial 1978 cut. This incarnation of the film was released in 2001 on DVD as the "Extended Edition" of Halloween. In 1998, for the 20th anniversary of the film's release, new sound effects were added to the film's audio track with Carpenter's approval. Both versions were released on VHS and DVD.
Television rights to Halloween were sold to NBC in 1980 for $4 million. After a debate among Carpenter, Hill and NBC's Standards & Practices over the censoring of certain scenes, Halloween appeared on television for the first time. To fill the two-hour time slot, Carpenter filmed twelve minutes of additional material which were three short scenes.
- Dr. Loomis argues with two other doctors about transferring Michael Myers to a minimum-security-sanatorium. Then he briefly visits Michael and tells him that he might fool them. But not him...
- Dr. Loomis at Smith's Grove examining Michael's abandoned cell and seeing the word "Sister" scratched into the door.
- Lynda comes over Laurie's house. She tells her that on her way a strange guy was following her and that she thinks it might be Steve Good. Laurie tells her that she saw the same car outside of class earlier. Lynda brushes this off and asks to borrow a blouse before Laurie leaves to babysit, just as Annie telephones asking to borrow the same blouse.
The new scene had Laurie's hair hidden by a towel since Curtis was by then wearing a much shorter hairstyle than she had worn in 1978. The new scenes were shot during production of Halloween II. An extended cut of the television version was released on DVD by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2001 as Halloween: Extended Edition, which was identical to the second disc from the 1999 limited edition DVD.
Shortly following Halloween's release in theaters, a mass market paperback novelization by Curtis Richards was published by Bantam Books in 1979 and reissued in 1982; it later went out of print. The novel elaborates on aspects not featured in the film such as the origins of the curse of Samhain and Michael Myers' life in Smith's Grove Sanitarium. For example, the opening reads:
"The horror started on the eve of Samhain, in a foggy vale in Northern Ireland, at the dawn of the Celtic race. And once started, it trod the earth forevermore, wreaking its savagery suddenly, swiftly, and with incredible ferocity."
In 1983, Halloween was adapted as a video game for the Atari 2600 by Wizard Video. None of the main characters in the game were named. Players take on the role of a teenage babysitter who tries to save as many children from an unnamed, knife-wielding killer as possible. The game was not popular with parents or players and the graphics were simple, as was typical in Atari 2600 games. In another effort to save money, most versions of the game did not even have a label on the cartridge. It was simply a piece of tape with "Halloween" written in marker. The game contained more gore than the film, however. When the babysitter is killed, her head disappears and is replaced by blood pulsating from the neck. The game's primary similarity to the film is the theme music that plays when the killer appears onscreen.
In 2014, it was revealed that the movie was going to be adapted as a haunted maze for Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights 24. Beginning September 19, 2014. the house is one of eight haunted venues which also include From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Alien Vs. Predator, Dracula Untold, and The Walking Dead.
Halloween spawned eight sequels spanning 4 different continuities, a 2007 remake — titled Halloween and 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.
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 the original's modest budget of $300,000, Halloween II had one of around $2.5 million, while the latest ones have had a budget of $15 million each beginning with Halloween: Resurrection (2002). 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 eleven Halloween films, including the 2007 remake and its sequel, have had nine directors. Only Rick Rosenthal and Rob Zombie had directed more than one: Rosenthal directed Halloween II and Halloween: Resurrection, while Zombie directed the remake and its sequel; David Gordon Green would join them with 2021's Halloween Kills.
Deaths in Halloween
|Name||Cause of Death||Killer||On-Screen||Notes|
|Judith Myers||Stabbed 9 times with Kitchen knife||Michael Myers||Yes||Years prior|
|Dog||Unknown||Unknown||To be determined||Loomis remarked it was eaten.|
|Annie Brackett||Strangled, throat slit in car||Michael Myers||Yes|
|Bob Simms||Pinned to the door with Kitchen knife through the chest||Michael Myers||Yes|
|Lynda Van der Klok||Strangled with the length of telephone cord||Michael Myers||Yes|
- See also: List of deaths
- Halloween (1978) on Wikipedia