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 Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho, 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 me 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 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



Running time: 93 minutes.

Directed by John Carpenter

Screenplay: John Carpenter and Debra Hill (who also produced)

Released: October 25, 1978.

DVD: October 27, 1997