Halloween ★★½

Yeah, sacrilege. I know.

Here's the thing-- I don't think it's fair to judge a film based on the era it was made in. Just because something was scary at the time does not mean it has retained that quality as it has aged. As society changes, so do our tastes, and what was funny or terrifying at one point in our history might not be a few decades later. But the best films are timeless. They transcend the evolution of our culture because the issues they deal with and the themes they present are not specific to any period. They deal with human issues, which have been with us for millennia and will be with us until the end of time.

Halloween is not timeless. It is a product of the era in which it was made, and much like "watershed" films in other genres (Top Gun and Independence Day come to mind), it has not aged well. While this may not be John Carpenter's worst film, it's definitely his least imaginative-- a by-the-numbers tale of an escaped psychopath killing people. It's hard to even give this points for originality, as other films such as Psycho tackled similar stories before this (with much better results), and the slasher genre really began with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974. So what are we left with here?

The film is essentially a birthing ground for the myriad of tired cliches and tropes that make it so hard for me to enjoy the slasher genre. What's worse, the fact that the film is exploring new ground negates any need to do something innovative or interesting with this material. Whereas movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street managed to overcome genre trappings with an interesting premise, Halloween is about as dull as it gets, another generic story about a man in a mask killing promiscuous teenagers. Needless to say, it elicits no scares or adrenaline rushes. Compared to modern horror films, it's positively tame.

Despite everything I've said here, the film is perfectly competent. Competent, but nothing more. I can't fault Carpenter for his camerawork, nor can I criticize Jamie Lee Curtis for her passionate performance. Donald Pleasence, who plays the killer's psychiatrist, appears somewhat bored half the time, but he's still interesting to watch as he moves through a scene. What is lacking in Halloween is a spark of innovation. The greatest creative minds of the century could have been put to work on this film, but in the service of a story this bland, they wouldn't have been able to do much better. Halloween needed something to set itself apart from the pack of imitators it would spawn, and in that respect, it failed dramatically.

Ascended liked this review