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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 15.64%
Average: 6.17%
Pretty Bad: 3.29%
Total Crap: 5.35%

9 reviews, 189 user ratings

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Halloween (1978)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"More Bark Than Bite"
3 stars

A low-budget effort that wound up a major box-office smash, and Siskel & Ebert raving about it certainly spread some good word-of-mouth. I can't share in the enthusiasm, though.

Halloween, co-written and directed by John Carpenter, who wrote and directed the effective urban action picture Assault on Precinct 13 two years prior, has atmosphere and some scares, but not much else, though they're enough to warrant a slight recommendation. If I can't work up as much enthusiasm for it like the majority of critics, it's that the screenplay is extremely lackluster, and except for a superb Donald Pleasance the actors are left with very little to work with -- they're mostly there on the screen to be stalked and butchered, and to partake in one illogical action after another just so the paltry plot can progress. Things begin promisingly, though, in 1963, in the small Illinois town of Haddonfield, where a pretty high-school senior (who's just had sex with the school stud who's made a hasty departure) is stabbed to death on Halloween night in her bedroom by an unseen masked assailant (though we see the killer's movements from his point-of-view); we're brought up short when the parents arrive home and take the mask off the person standing out on the sidewalk, revealing a costumed six-year-old boy, Michael Myers, their son and the victim's brother, staring off into space and not saying a word. We then forward fifteen years to the present day, where Dr. Sam Loomis (Pleasance) is on his way with a nurse to a psychiatric institute to take Michael to a required court hearing; he refers to his devoid-of-conscience patient as "it," and as "evil," and has made it his dedicated mission to keep Myers locked up forever. But by freak chance Myers manages to escape -- even though he's been locked up all this time, he's able to drive away in the car Loomis and the nurse were in. We're then back in Haddonfield and introduced to the heroine, Laurie Smith, along with her two friends, the wisecracking Annie and promiscuous Linda; it's Halloween Day, with Laurie and Annie babysitting in nearby homes and Linda planning to bring her boyfriend to one of the houses to have sexual relations with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Loomis, infuriated over the escape ("The Evil is gone!"), travels to Haddonfield and tries convincing local law enforcement Myers will return to his childhood place. Suffice to say, the malevolent Myers starts creating merciless havoc in this tranquil town, with a Magnum-armed Loomis on the lookout.

Like a born director, Carpenter knows what to look at, how to look at it, and how long to look at it. Working in widescreen Panavision he keeps things visually fluid from start to finish, and his ability to conjure up expressive mood and sustain it is remarkable; with the dandy cinematographer Dean Cundey, Carpenter gives each and every frame a tactile eeriness that clings -- you can't look away from the movie, even when the irksome creaky plot mechanics keep you groaning. It's quite clear Carpenter is a far better director than writer, because the execution of the material far exceeds the quality of it, which makes you question why Carpenter is bothering with something so trite -- it's almost as if he were making the movie on a dare, to see if he could pull off something strictly through visual rather than contextual means. He succeeds, mind you, because Halloween is gripping, even if it isn't exactly enjoyable; you stick with it because the excellence of the directing keeps promising something genuinely surprising to emerge. As a cinematic exercise designed to envelop the viewer, it's commendable, with the first half more preferable to the follow-through because Carpenter's set-up is classy -- he doesn't uncouthly pump things up just to grab your attention: he has confidence in the possibilities of film language, and he's willing to take his time in introducing the characters, etching some nice small-town dailiness into Haddonfield where violence eventually punctures its Norman Rockwell-ian surface, and making clear the spatial logistics of the two homes the babysitting teenagers are at. His limited but effective music score keeps us on edge and nerve-jangled. And the veteran actor Pleasance is a big plus: Loomis's dialogue may be mediocre, but the actor's delivery of it is spectacularly assured. Unfortunately, the writing is quite poor. It's never clear why Myers centers his attention on Laurie upon arriving in town, why he doesn't just do her in when he has plenty of opportunities before she goes off to babysit, and how he's able to drive through Haddonfield in a clearly marked county vehicle without being spotted by the police.

Granted, one doesn't necessarily crave both clarity and plausibility in a genre exercise like Halloween, but Carpenter's directorial talent has an unintended consequence: we expect more from the movie than just another series of scenes of a malevolent killer appearing out of nowhere and doing his murderous deeds with either sharp instruments or his superhuman-strength bare hands. The two houses where the second half's action largely takes place don't offer the variety of, say, the isolated summer camp's various areas in Sean S. Cunningham's Friday the 13th, and the characters act a whole lot dumber than in Cunningham's picture -- after discovering bodies in one house with the slow-as-molasses-walking Myers in pursuit, Laurie foolishly puts herself and the two kids she's babysitting in jeopardy by forever knocking on the other house to be let in; and when Myers is supposedly dead after having already proved himself resilient to Laurie's defenses, she still opts to stay in the house after sending the kids out of it to contact the police. (And, conveniently, Myers fouls up doing in Laurie in close proximity and with the element of surprise. A mere slash to the shoulder? Come, come!) It would've probably worked better had Carpenter picked up the pacing once the first of the three girls had been done in, because after that the movie is too methodically drawn-out. There's a lot more tension when we're left to our own devices to imagine the violence Myers is set to wreak; when his rampage starts, however, you can time a dozen eggs in between the killings, which aren't imaginatively enough staged to make up for all this padding. There are some small macabre delights: Myers teasing Linda with a bed sheet over his head along with the eyeglasses of her boyfriend he's just slain; and when he lifts someone off his feet and impales him to a door, Myers can't help but stand back and proudly admire his gruesome handiwork. Halloween has its moments, and it's got slightly more strengths than weaknesses, but it's not really a classic. It works, but it doesn't work on you as pleasurably as you'd like. Sure it's well-made, but so is Shake 'N Bake if you do it right.

The beginning of a mostly forgettable film series.

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originally posted: 02/27/13 08:37:07
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User Comments

3/30/17 Blake Patterson A thrilling masterpiece from beginning to the shocking conclusion. 5 stars
10/02/16 morris campbell my favorite horror film of all time forget the haters 5 stars
4/26/14 Peep Boring and unscary 2 stars
10/25/12 austin very scary 5 stars
4/06/12 SEAN DUTRA scary for its time. now tame. good but overrated and dated 4 stars
10/31/11 Jeff Wilder Effective as hell. Better than most of the crap that came after. 5 stars
10/06/11 David Hollingsworth A superior slasher thriller that the changed the face horror 5 stars
6/17/11 art halloween and friday are Overrated!,My bloody valentine and April fools day deseve Praise! 1 stars
5/22/11 austin one of the scariest movies ever 5 stars
9/06/10 art OVERRATED! 1 stars
8/24/10 Joseph This is without a shadow of a doubt the greatest horror film of all time 5 stars
7/03/10 art i never saw the first halloween,just the rob zombie verison AND SARAH YOU're THE FAG! 1 stars
6/21/10 Sarah Art is a fag. All the films you mention would not exist without Halloween. 5 stars
4/06/10 art HALLOWEEn schmaloween!,FRIDAY THE 13TH RULE"S THE ROOST! 1 stars
3/03/10 BigfootNZ Actually scares, with so little in the way of actual violence... which true horror is about 5 stars
1/11/10 art halloween is overrated!,FRIDAY THE 13TH IS THE ONLY TRUE SLASHER MOVIE! 1 stars
12/29/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Film making style over substance. Hitchcock lite. 2 stars
12/27/09 art I SAID IT BFORE and i'll say it oncemore,halloween doesn't hold A CANDLE to FRIDAY THE 13TH 1 stars
10/21/09 art HALLOWEEN SUCK"S!,LONG LIVE FRIDAY THE 13TH!. 1 stars
10/18/09 Chad Dillon Cooper This movie plays the audience better than Van Halen plays his guitar. 3 stars
8/29/09 Julian Superb - makes Friday 13th seem very amaturish 5 stars
8/19/09 Jon B Predictable and overrated slasher flick with a very bad ending. 2 stars
6/02/09 Barden Excuse me. It's the opinion of some that crops could be grown on the moon. Which raises the 4 stars
3/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess i could actually feel Myers' breath on my neck! 5 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
11/10/08 Otis Scared the daylights out of its audiences! 5 stars
9/22/08 don Masterpiece 5 stars
5/21/08 lisa still makes you jump everytime you watch it 5 stars
3/10/08 Jayme Isaacs A True Masterpiece 5 stars
9/03/07 Melissa one of the best horror movies ever! 5 stars
7/23/07 Nick this is the best of the old slasher movies, or the new sucky ones for that matter 5 stars
6/26/07 little cody a very scary slasher film with a good story. 4 stars
5/04/07 john I never liked this movie. I think that Black Christmas deserves all the credit. 2 stars
2/17/07 David Pollastrini still the best 5 stars
1/27/07 action movie fan subtle scary thriller as usual ingrid cold does not know what she is talking about 5 stars
1/11/07 Glenn still scary after all these years, a true masterpiece 5 stars
12/13/06 mig Greatest horror film ever! 5 stars
11/21/06 Michele classic good music 5 stars
11/11/06 Kristina Cooney This is a classic, such a simple face but you'll remember it 5 stars
10/25/06 Fran Brilliant Every Halloween Film Is As Good As The Last 5 stars
10/24/06 Nathan Briggs My fav horror movie of all time. John is a GENIUS! 5 stars
10/15/06 Ron Newbold Still the best 5 stars
10/14/06 michael classic horror flix 5 stars
10/13/06 sara a classic, must see horror movie 5 stars
10/12/06 Bob Greatest Horror Movie ever 5 stars
10/11/06 David Pollastrini brilliant, frightening 5 stars
10/03/06 Jeremy Davies Good, but a little too simple 4 stars
7/15/06 David Cohen The only slasher film anyone need see (except maybe Hitchcock's "Psycho") 5 stars
6/27/06 Lisa Beuk The best movie ever 5 stars
5/16/06 blarginbadigalnohif VERY SUPENSEFUL AND SCARY! A MUST SEE 5 stars
3/24/06 Dethbyhashi One of the greatest slasher films ever 5 stars
1/04/06 kr it's an o.k horror film but it has that cheesy 70's thing going on though 3 stars
11/24/05 cr a great horror movie and jamie lee curits is great. a classic 5 stars
10/17/05 Indrid Cold The emperor has no clothes: this is not scary at all and a glacial pace only makes it worse 3 stars
10/16/05 Darren O What more can you say. The first HALLOWEEN is slash with class all the way. A classic. 5 stars
10/11/05 K. Sear Why watch this film when you can watch "Black Christmas" instead? 3 stars
9/13/05 Total Crap Not Scary, but great performances by actors. Seriously, it's not that scary. 4 stars
8/25/05 Eden Slightly dated but it a very suspenseful horror film. The 'hedge bit' sticks in memory 5 stars
8/04/05 ^podo great movie! one of the beat horror movie ever! 5 stars
7/19/05 akeem totally scary 5 stars
7/14/05 Brandy Harrington Great. 5 stars
6/06/05 Dave Great film and one of John Carpenter's best films. 5 stars
5/17/05 what? awesome film 5 stars
3/09/05 Uncle Phucker Very simple and somehow great. Grandfather of The Terminator. Debra Hill R.I.P. 5 stars
1/17/05 Jeff Anderson True horror at it's best. JAMIE LEE CURTIS ROCKS! Avoid the awful sequels like the plague. 5 stars
12/21/04 Lucas Stensland brilliant 5 stars
12/06/04 K. Sear Highly over-rated. Why watch this when you can watch "Black Christmas" instead? 2 stars
11/06/04 TCIC maybe it was scary then but its hilarious now for all the wrong reasons 1 stars
7/31/04 jmsynth The film that took what "Psycho" started, and took it further 5 stars
7/24/04 Phoenix II My favorite horror movie of all time. 5 stars
7/19/04 Benjamin Petrofsky Not as good as "Friday the 13th," but it still is a pretty good movie. The Music rocks! 4 stars
7/14/04 DM So horror films don't really need blood and guts to be scary 5 stars
7/04/04 Samuel Better than part 5?? This is one of the greatest horror films of all time. 5 stars
6/07/04 Ryan Clark Original for its time and that still shines through despite the clones it inspired. 5 stars
4/11/04 mitt i thought it was a great film very original 5 stars
4/11/04 valerie hart it was fantastic all the haloweens are the best horro movies ever made coz ther so original 4 stars
3/30/04 American Slasher Goddess Scary to the T,a modern horror classic. 5 stars
3/25/04 J The Baddest Horror Killer of ALL TIME!!!!! 5 stars
3/17/04 PAYNE_KillerZ Don't know what the BIG fuss was about... But this is better then part 5!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/04/04 Chad Foster Love It 5 stars
1/02/04 HELLOWEEN The Night HE Came Home!! The best movie ever! Myers rules 5 stars
12/30/03 Samuel The sequels are entertaining, but this one..its scary!!! 5 stars
12/10/03 Tommy a very frightening horror flick! 5 stars
12/03/03 re it was okay 3 stars
11/29/03 john a modern day classic - works like clockwork and the music is genius 5 stars
11/25/03 Thiago Great movie. Jamie Lee is great, so is Mr. Myers. John Carpenter's best. 5 stars
11/01/03 American Slasher Goddess Scary, frighting masterpiece. 5 stars
10/31/03 R.W. Welch Effective, tho obviously manipulative, mad slasher opus. Rather dense victims. 4 stars
9/17/03 Samuel Justus I understand why it isnt scary, because it sucked ha ha! 3 stars
7/24/03 Max The beginning sequence is one of the great unbroken shots of all time. 5 stars
7/22/03 Double G It was a bad start for the Halloween movies, but it is still the best Halloween yet. 4 stars
6/14/03 Alice This is a classic, watch it !!! 5 stars
6/10/03 Vicious The whole style to this film seems to just be keeping everything really fucking dark. 1 stars
5/22/03 mr. Pink Carpenter's best film. A landmark in horror! Great! 5 stars
5/21/03 Matt Glassing The greatest horror of all time! 5 stars
4/17/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik The scariest film ever made 5 stars
2/28/03 Jake This movie still interests me today, never gets old. It's a real classic. 5 stars
1/25/03 M.C. As a DIE HARD halloween fan I must say this is an outstanding start to a superior series 5 stars
1/02/03 Chowie this is sweet.... 5 stars
1/01/03 Michael Myers This is a classic but I still say Halloween Resurrection is the best. 5 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Overpraised but decent-enough. 3 stars
12/19/02 Film Dude How can anyone dislike this.... 5 stars
11/05/02 Kyle Simply the best horror film of all time! 5 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum The best horror film ever 5 stars
10/10/02 chris Best horror movie ever... so far 5 stars
10/05/02 ian ottinger This is a great and scary movie! 5 stars
8/17/02 Scott The Shape rules all. As does this movie. F'ing great. 5 stars
8/16/02 Shaun one of the best movies ever 5 stars
8/05/02 Jake Original is better than any sequel baby! --------------------------------------------> 5 stars
7/12/02 KMG Jamie Lee!!!! kickin' ass! 4 stars
7/08/02 JAMES WRIGHT brilliant film brilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll 5 stars
6/01/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi fucking awesome classic! 5 stars
5/23/02 Kelly Just about as perfect as you can get. Carpenter tells the tale of a madman perfectly! 5 stars
5/10/02 Jake This movie still holds up today. So does the neat soundtrack. Halloween 4 ever. 5 stars
4/04/02 cat This movie still scares me poopless...and that music! The best horror series ever! 5 stars
3/31/02 Film Guy Halloween Scared the shit out of me when I waslittle , and it still does 5 stars
3/31/02 Bartzy This movie is an all time slasher classic. It gave a new "face" and name to fear 5 stars
3/06/02 NWO4LIFE Good, but not as good as it used to be. The score is great, but a bit overused. 4 stars
2/28/02 Chowie scary motherfucker 5 stars
2/03/02 Stuart Richards Pure class!Scary, suspenceful, sexy(Jamie Lee, not Myers), fucking AWESOME!!! 5 stars
1/24/02 adele evans a great film for its time but today's audience would find it laughable. 2 stars
1/18/02 David A. A lot of pumpkins and weird music, but no plot. Friday the 13th is the definitive slasher. 2 stars
1/04/02 Jake As close to perfect as you can get in ah horror film. Awesome 5 stars
12/14/01 beth crokowski A classic that hasn't dated one bit. 5 stars
12/13/01 ben wasden Halloween is a real treat 5 stars
12/01/01 Scottish Kilt Original, quite scary JLC is hot. 4 stars
11/30/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Double M is the first slasher killer. You've heard this b4, but, it's a classic. 4 stars
11/28/01 Chris K. Not scary at all. Italian horror director Mario Bava can do better than John Carpenter! 2 stars
11/23/01 Shane Robert Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't know why its rated R but, it wasnt scary! oh well Michael Myers rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
10/28/01 Connoisseur the music saves this boring film 3 stars
10/01/01 Phoenix The best horror film ever. 5 stars
9/23/01 Keith My favorite movie and the best horror film of all time! 5 stars
8/29/01 Brad the best horror movie ever plus a great score 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk if only they were made like this...Carpenter's best to date, not to mention his score. 5 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg A classic 5 stars
7/16/01 Matthew Bartley The only scary slasher flick 5 stars
5/24/01 Erik North No blood, no gore, no guts--No problem! This is a masterpiece! 5 stars
5/18/01 W. Tai Saw this film for my class: LIT80 @ UCSC Spring 2001. 8/10 - score and point of view camera 5 stars
5/09/01 Jake You can't overrate this movie! It's an all out original story with A+directing and thrills. 5 stars
5/08/01 guyguy don't need to say much besides the rating 5 stars
4/26/01 Johnny C. Great suspense + tight direction + one freaky killer = One bad ass movie. 5 stars
4/13/01 LiL This was a fucking masterpiece, what an original idea! Excellent! 5 stars
3/22/01 Sthenno A smooth masterpiece, featuring a day in the life of a slasher who's come home. Perfection. 5 stars
2/10/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi It terrified me...and it's virtually impossible to scare me with slasher flicks. 5 stars
1/02/01 Patient X i liked it!Reminded me of a german expressionistic paiting for some reason 5 stars
11/25/00 Andrew Absolute horror perfection. John Carpenter is my second fav. director after Stanley Kubrick 5 stars
11/17/00 adam colon the most spectacular horror film of all times 5 stars
9/03/00 TIGGER Best out of the 7. Masterpiece of the horror genre 5 stars
8/31/00 jonnyA freaky deaky 5 stars
8/27/00 minimasterab a classic masterpiece 5 stars
7/29/00 Bender Very scary. One of the scariest of its kind. 4 stars
7/29/00 Jinx Other horror movies are pale imitations. Carpenter's a genius. Newer doesn't mean better. 4 stars
7/19/00 Terrie Smith Not a bad film; at least it's better than the ones that followed. 4 stars
4/30/00 Non baaaaaaaaaaaaaad sttttttttttuuuuuuuuuffffff! 1 stars
4/19/00 malcolm saw it the first time at 12 y/o. didn't sleep well for weeks. 5 stars
4/12/00 Moskkina All hail the great and honorable P.J. Soles 5 stars
3/15/00 Chloe Sesta Jacobs BLOODY GOOD! 5 stars
3/10/00 David Rogers Freddy's a jabbermouth, Jason is confusing, and Chucky's a wimp. Best horror film. 5 stars
3/02/00 Kyle Broflovski Dated as a motherfucker, but still one helluva horror flick!! 4 stars
2/19/00 Nicholas excellent and very scary 5 stars
1/25/00 Chris Whitney THE best horror/suspense film ever. Period. 5 stars
1/25/00 kinggage it started it all 5 stars
12/01/99 Gary Durso the standard all horror films should be judged by. 5 stars
11/04/99 Mickey "Father Death" MacJohnstmyster Good , plenty of suspence YES , scary NOT REALLY. If it came out today it would BOMB ! 4 stars
10/31/99 Nicholas Scary,suspenseful and the best horror movie of all time! Instant Classic. 5 stars
8/15/99 Rodney Duke absolutely the best horror film ever 5 stars
7/08/99 Scott The modern horror flick by which all should be measured. 5 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: *** (out of ****) Category: "Very Good" 5 stars
6/30/99 P.S.O.K Even all those stupid-ass sequels couldn't fuckup this movie 5 stars
5/04/99 Lucas Jackson This is one fucking great flick,check this shit out 5 stars
3/03/99 Rachel One of my all time faves 5 stars
12/20/98 mike this is the best horror movie ever made....even better than psycho 5 stars
12/15/98 Binky Superb movie. Carpenter was a champion once. 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Simplistic, but highly effective. 4 stars
11/02/98 MR HOLLYWOOD !! THE horor movie !!, creepy directing...should be restored and shown on cinemas again !! 5 stars
10/29/98 Silent Rob A defining moment in horrordom. It's been done to death, now, but then...WHOA!!!! 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo The best horror film ever. Superbly done. 5 stars
10/17/98 Mr Showbiz I'd lay odds that Tom hasn't seen it. He's just a Damon freak trying to mess up the ratings 5 stars
10/17/98 Johny Hate to tell you, but this predates THE SHINING (another brilliant horror film IMHO) 5 stars
10/15/98 {{{OZ}}} There's nothing wrong with this flick at all. Some spooky moments. Puts H20 to shame. 5 stars
10/15/98 Bluntman My favorite horror movie. Brilliant filmmaking 5 stars
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  17-Oct-1978 (R)
  DVD: 14-Oct-2008

  N/A (18)

  01-Jun-1979 (R)

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