“… never seems to drag its feet instead constantly building tension and suspense until the explosive climax.”
John Carpenter’s Halloween is without a doubt one of the most iconic horror movies ever released. It is not only an effective horror movie scaring audiences even to this day, but it introduced the world to Michael Myers who still exists prominently in pop-culture. There’s quite a bit to unpack with Halloween due to the fact that it set so much up for the franchise, so let’s get into it.
First of all, Halloween knows not to get too carried away with backstory. We understand who Michael Myers is, and then the movie continues on. This allows for the character to have context, but also still an air of mystery. Now one thing I will say about Halloween is it isn’t truly scary until the end. Most of the movie in the beginning is just watching Laurie Strode see someone in the distance, and then that someone disappears. It’s not even truly suspenseful anymore, considering the audience knows that Michael Myers exists. Seeing him standing behind a bush, while creepy, isn’t enough to strike fear into the hearts of many.
That being said Halloween uses various conventions that legitimately do build tension, over the course the of the entire movie but largely towards the end. One of those ways is P.O.V. shots. The way Carpenter uses these shots is brilliant because it takes control away from the audience. We know that Michael Myers is a threat, and we know that he could be anywhere, so having the camera move in ways that we don’t approve of makes us feel helpless and really helps with the connection we feel to Laurie. But he also does a really interesting shot reverse-shot wherein he shows the subject of the P.O.V. as well. This keeps the movie feeling like a movie, and breaks up what could easily been seen as monotonous.
One other factor that plays into the suspense of Halloween is the dramatic irony. Now I debated whether or not to even include this becasue it’s kind of cheating, but I feel it is important to Halloween specifically. We know two things as the audience: We know that Michael Myers is real, and we know that he kills people. This may seem obvious, but when you hear a character go “Oh, I thought I something over there” it truly builds tension inside of you. It’s almost as though nobody takes the threat seriously, but then again why would they? They are a bunch of insufferable teenage girls who are being bombarded with scares due to it being Halloween, why would they see a dude in a mask at the end of the street and assume he was going to kill them? I feel like I just generalized all horror films, but Halloween does a really good job with this feeling.
And of course I have to briefly mention the last twenty-or-so minutes as they are more than enough payoff in what could have been a very boring movie. The plot comes to an explosive end, and legitimately kept me on the edge of my seat with all of my muscles tensed for a prolonged period of time. And I can’t end this review without talking about the music in Halloween. Minimalist, effective, iconic; it’s truly amazing that even just the music has the lasting impact that it does to this day.
Overall Halloween is a classic. Though the beginning of the movie is kind of uneventful, it never seems to drag its feet instead constantly building tension and suspense until the explosive climax.
I give Halloween an A