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A Girl, A Guy, & A Knife: The 30th Anniversary of 'Halloween'

Donna Terrell Donna Terrell
October 25th, 2008 9:52am EDT
HalloweenIt was October 25, 1978. Laverne and Shirley, Charlie's Angels and MASH were in the top ten TV shows. Movie theater prices were about $2.50. John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were star-crossed lovers in Grease, and John Belushi was acting a fool at school in Animal House.

Then He Came Home.

Halloween, one of the best and scariest movies of all time - if not the scariest - premiered in selected cities across the country. This independent film had one basic premise: a maniacal killer stalks teenagers on Halloween night. It is said to be one of the most effective horror movies ever made.

Roger Ebert wrote in 1978, "We see movies for a lot of reasons. Sometimes we want to be amused. Sometimes we want to escape. Sometimes we want to laugh, or cry, or see sunsets. And sometimes we want to be scared. I'd like to be clear about this. If you don't want to have a really terrifying experience, don't see "Halloween.""

Watch the original "Halloween" trailer here:



Why is this movie so great? Because it is believable and truly scary. There was no well-dressed, tuxedo-clad vampire. There was no creature busting out of a person's chest. There were no excessive blood and guts-that's not scary; that's gross. There were no boring long and drawn out special effects-okay, we get it, you're turning into a werewolf. We don't need to see every hair follicle pop out. The movie Halloween is scary because of masterful suspense. It's believable because someone with a knife very well could be hunting you down.

What made Halloween so scary?

The Killer (Michael Myers)

The character was simple in appearance, just a coverall suit and a mask. He was calm and focused. He never ran. He never spoke, unlike Freddy Kruger who would always laugh and joke with his victims before he killed. Michael Myers wasn't trying to personally connect on any level. There are those who argued that the ending wasn't believable because when Dr. Loomis shot Michael Myers several times at the end of the movie, we expected to see Michael Myers lying dead. Yet, he was gone.

John Carpenter, the movie's writer and director gives Donald Pleasance (Dr. Loomis) credit for that scene. Carpenter told A & E's "Backstory" that Pleasance said he could play that scene one of two ways - "Oh my God!" or "I knew this would happen." Carpenter explained, "We shot it both ways, and we used 'I knew this would happen.' That was the one that was chilling."

Yes, we were shocked, but Dr. Loomis wasn't. That reaction in itself was alarming because apparently only Dr. Loomis knew what they were dealing with. In the movie, Dr. Loomis calls him "The Evil." "The Evil has escaped! He is coming to Haddonfield!" Michael Myers represented the force of evil. Michael Myers was always present, and you never knew where he would appear or how he got there.

HalloweenThe Setting

It was small-town America with its tree-lined streets and frame houses. The old Myers house, where the first grisly murder took place, is now broken down and dilapidated. It's the quintessential haunted house that all kids would be scared of. Haddonfield made a generation of people wary of small towns.

The Element of Surprise

Just when you think something is going to happen, it doesn't. Just as you relax, something happens.

Creepy music

From the opening shot to the very last, the music is very powerful and adds to the fear factor. Director John Carpenter scored the music himself. "I was the quickest and cheapest I could get," he said of composing his chilling soundtrack. Even the small sound effects added to the tension, like when the little boy runs right into Michael Myers on the school playground or when Annie's father startles Laurie on the street. When these types of things happened, they were always accompanied by a loud (and usually unidentifiable) sound effect.

Use of Lighting

Lighting in this movie was very effective in scaring the audience. One example is when Laurie is in the upstairs hallway. She doesn't know the slasher is there. The lighting on Myers slowly comes up as if Laurie's eyes are getting adjusted to the dark. The viewers' eyes are getting adjusted with hers. We see him standing behind her with the knife. Of course everybody starts to yell at the screen, "Run! He's right behind you!"

Those who were there in 1978 when this movie was on the big screen will not watch "Halloween" at night to this day. It still has that effect on people. Is it the scary mask that one can't shake the image of? Or the idea that someone could be lurking around your house? All Hallows Eve is when the dead are supposed to walk the earth. We must remember that the dead can't hurt us; it's the ones who are living, or the undead-those without a conscious or soul- which we have to watch out for.

"Halloween" Fun Facts

-"Halloween" was made with only $320,000.
-"Halloween" was Jamie Lee Curtis' first movie role.
-The success of "Halloween" spawned the "Slasher/Let's Kill a Teenager" genre - most of which were terrible.
-The mask that Michael Myers wore was really a Star Trek Captain Kirk mask that the eyes were made larger and was spray-painted white.
-PJ Soles says the word "totally" a total of 11 times.
-In the original "Halloween", there is no connection mentioned between Laurie and Michael Myers. All the history and backstories were contrived for the awful sequels that followed.
-"Halloween" is referenced several times in the movie "Scream."
-The word "Halloween" had never been used as a movie title prior to this movie.

Hmmmm...

-At the beginning of the movie, why were 6-year old Michael's parents just standing there looking at him after they took the clown mask off his face?
-Why did Lynda and her boyfriend have no discretion or shame about having sex in somebody else's house?
-Why didn't Laurie run out the house after she "killed" Michael Myers?
-How did Michael Myers learn to drive?

Donna Terrell
Story by Donna Terrell

Starpulse contributing writer



Halloween: Falcon Internaional/Kobal Collection