Movie Review: Halloween (1978, the original)

We’ll start our original-sequel-remake series with Halloween. This week, the first Halloween (next, the Rob Zombie re-make, followed by the new installment the week of Halloween). The description, per Amazon:

On Halloween night of 1963, 6-year old Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death. After sitting in a mental hospital for 15 years, Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield to kill.

This is the slasher grand-daddy movie: this one kicked off the genre in a big way, coming a few years before Friday the 13th with Jason, and Nightmare on Elm Street with Freddy, and so it is an essential classic if you like these sorts of movies. I’ve seen as many of these slasher movies as I’ve had time to watch, some more than once, and the three primary series are all unique and do things differently.

There’s nothing inherently super-natural about Michael Myers: he’s just an insanely fast, quite quiet, super-strong lunatic. Yet somehow he survives everything being thrown at him: he gets stabbed, shot, set on fire… so on and so forth. This movie, being the first, is the least over the top of the series.

We get a very brief background on who Michael Myers is before joining up with then-present day teenagers ripe for the slaughtering. They’re going to do all the things slasher movie villains kill you for: drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll. There’s something kind-of amusing about the way these movies always kill the “bad” kids, even though the “good” kids are often just as lame-brained as the rest. Despite being an original in its own right, this one isn’t free of that: there are several moments where even the smartest of the characters are outwitted by Michael Myers because they do stupid things like turn their back on him.

This isn’t unique to this movie, but in almost every movie it seems like the cast is carrying a stupid stick or two that enables the villain to survive and/or kill more of them than is necessary. Perhaps the cautionary tale is not to avoid sex, but to kill your attacker for sure before relaxing.

That slight criticism aside, this is a great movie: a classic, a film that spawned a series and a genre. It has great music, and being a movie from the 1970s, it doesn’t feel overly “done” — there’s not a bunch of effects, the actors are all fairly normal looking (not the current movie stars who nearly all look alike) — that makes the movie feel more real.

It’s also got a good balance of light-hearted funny moments and teenage bullshit moments that the characters, despite their myriad flaws, actually seem like real teenagers. I like that, and I like it when a movie doesn’t feel like it’s been brushed to death with the perfect brush.

The movie is good. But the question is: will it stand up as the best of the three we’ll look at? Time will tell. It’s not a B-movie, so we need a new metric. This one gets an H+. H for Halloween, in the spirit of the holiday.

Running Time: An hour and a half.
Acting: It varies, but mostly everyone is above average.
Effects: They didn’t rely on much more than fake blood, so this doesn’t really apply.
Violence: Absolutely.
Gun Use:: There’s one primary gun scene and it was acceptable for use… but the damage done was crazy unrealistic.
Gore: Not really.
Creepy? Not so much.
Monster Type? A fast, quiet evil Hercules type guy.
Funny? Yes, especially when characters are trolling each other (Loomis has a great example of this)
Nudity: Yes. Brief female toplessness.
Pacing: A great build to the finale.