Halloween (1978): Carpenter’s Seminal Horror-Thriller, Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance in their Most Iconic and Best Known Roles

It was “The Night HE Came Home,” warned, or rather promised, the posters for Halloween, John Carpenter’s stunning horror thriller, launching a brilliant directorial career (for a while, at least) and reinventing the entire genre.

Historically, the success of this low-budget thriller, one of the most imitated features of the 1970s and beyond–led to numerous sequels and reboots as well as clones and pale imitations.

Next to Psycho, Hitchcock’s 1960 horror thriller, Halloween may be the most influential horror picture ever made, whose impact went beyond the filmic arena to leave a long-lasting mark on American pop culture at large.

In a lengthy interview that Janet Leigh gave in N.Y. (while appearing on Broadway), she told me how proud she was of the appearance of her daughter (with Tony Curtis) in Halloween, made 18 years after Leigh scored an enormous success in Psycho, for which she had received her first and only Oscar nomination (in the Best Supporting Actress category).

It begins with a shocking scene: In the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, on Halloween night circa 1963, six-year-old Michael Myers kills his teenage sister.

His psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence, cast against type at the time), can’t understand Michael’s psyche after years of being institutionalized.  However, he knows that, when Myers escapes before Halloween in 1978, there is going to be hell to pay in Haddonfield.

While Loomis heads to Haddonfield to alert police, Myers spots the shy teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and follows her.  He begins stalking Laurie and her friends, Lynda (P.J. Soles) and Annie (Nancy Loomis), as they make their Halloween plans.

By nightfall, the responsible Laurie is doing her babysitting jobs, while Annie and Lynda frolic in the parent-free house across the street.

When Annie and Lynda are not answering the phone, Lauries begins to suspect that “something is wrong,” and she decides to head across the street to the darkened house to find out what is going on.

Critical Status:

In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Recycling: Sequels, Remakes, Reboots

Halloween spawned a film franchise comprising 11 films, some of which constructed a backstory for its antagonist Michael Myers, sometimes narratively diverging entirely from previous installments.

A remake was released in 2007, which was followed by a sequel in 2009.

An 11th installment, which serves as a direct sequel to the original film that retcons all previous sequels, was released in 2018.

Two sequels to that installment, titled Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends, are scheduled for release on October 15, 2021 and October 14, 2022, respectively.

A novelization, a video game and comic book series have been based on the film.

 

Cast

Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Nick Castle as Michael Myers / The Shape
Tony Moran as Michael Myers (unmasked)
Will Sandin as Michael Myers (age 6)
P.J. Soles as Lynda Van Der Klok
Nancy Kyes as Annie Brackett
Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
Brian Andrews as Tommy Doyle
John Michael Graham as Bob Simms
Nancy Stephens as Marion Chambers
Arthur Malet as Angus Taylor
Mickey Yablans as Richie Castle
Brent Le Page as Lonnie Elam
Adam Hollander as Keith
Sandy Johnson as Judith Margaret Myers
David Kyle as Danny Hodges
Peter Griffith as Morgan Strode
Robert Phalen as Dr. Terence Wynn

Credits:

Directed by John Carpenter
Screenplay by Carpenter, Debra Hill

Produced by Debra Hill
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by Tommy Wallace, Charles Bornstein

Music by John Carpenter

Production companies: Compass International Pictures; Falcon International Productions

Distributed by Compass International Picturesl Aquarius Releasing

Release date: October 25, 1978

Running time: 91 minutes

Budget $300,000–325,000
Box office $60–70 million

DVD: October 27, 1997