Reely Bernie Horror Fest: Halloween (1978)

Before Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th series and Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street entries, Halloween’s Michael Myers epitomized the American slasher film and haunted the autumn leaf-covered suburbs with that silly but terrifying Captain Kirk mask.

“Slasher” might be an impertinent descriptor, however.

Yes, there is a lot of slashing and a madman who is doing the slashing, but Halloween is more a rustic, handcrafted, analog horror film than the exploitative, misogynistic ditties that came after it.

In a word, Halloween is a miracle:

On a shoestring budget, Director John Carpenter was able to cast a shadow over what was soon to become the Spielbergian neighborhood for E.T. and “Goonies” to thrive in. Through POV shots on a Steadicam, he placed us in the mind of a killer on a rampage.

He empowered a female protagonist bravely played by the iconic Jamie Lee Curtis:

He composed a score in an unconventional 5/4 time signature, defying viewer anticipation and any sense of relief:

And, finally, Mr. Carpenter won the creepiest mask competition vs. Jason and Freddy when he painted a rubber Captain Kirk face completely white and only let us see the darkness through the eyeholes.

They say “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Not in Michael Myers’ case.

Myers’ backstory is humdrum mental disorder backlash, but the ambiguity adds to the fright factor. The real chills are found in Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitter scenario. I didn’t even see Halloween before I babysat my younger brothers in the late 80s, but I knew that fear of the outdoor prowler who might be peering into the dark front yard window (or, could very well already be nestled inside the house).

Like Spielberg in Jaws, Carpenter didn’t need to show his viewers much of the monster—the intensifying setups that tapped into our imaginations were all the more upsetting.

Also, even though I was a youngster who grew up with and cherished the Friday the 13th series, I can now see with more mature eyes the line that was crossed after Halloween was released: The slasher film simply used women as fodder and sexual objects for torture. Not much imagination was included in their victim story, and even the jump scene cleavings grew redundant over time. Jamie Lee Curtis not only plays the victim in Halloween, she ascends to the level of outsmarting victor and hero. In the sequel and the remake (if you count that), she does it again! (I’m actually not sure how many times her character, Laurie Strode, went face-to-face with Michael.)

Watching Halloween (1978) again in 2020 reminded me of cheap, bulky, plastic VHS tapes winding through the cogwheels of the cheap VCR player attached to the 50-pound television we used to watch in the basement when I was a kid. There’s a grittiness to it. Netflix, the flatscreens, and CGI will never, ever be able to replace it.

I’m blessed to have such a good memory.

Halloween is one of those memories, and seeing it again for the first time is why I watch the movies in the first place.   

The Shot that Won’t Let Go:

This pretty much sums it all up.

Final Score: 5 malicious, skull-carved jack-o’-lanterns out of 5

A classic. A groundbreaker.

What was your experience watching Halloween for the first time? Or, second? Third…?

Thanks for reading,

Reely Bernie

23 thoughts on “Reely Bernie Horror Fest: Halloween (1978)

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  1. Thanks for dropping by Reely B. I might as well drop a comment on this one. Seen it when it was released. I used to be a big horror guy (Still am in a way. Hammer freak). Reason I went is I dug Pleasance. Great actor who made these films better. Might watch it tonight just because I should. Thanks for the nudge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cincinnatibabyhead! Max at “badfinger” recommended you to me, and I look forward to reading more soon! You’ve got great taste! Yes, Pleasance adds some notoriety to the low budget flick, kind of like George Sanders DIDN’T in Psychomania, haha… Yes, you can’t go wrong with Halloween on Halloween 🙂 I look forward to reading more from you and thanks for dropping a note 🙂

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  2. I first saw this on tv in the early 80’s, and for me, it was a bit overhyped! I’m a fan of Carpenter for sure, but I think VHS was probably the way to go; slight cuts for the tv audience, plus commercial breaks lessen the impact. I can see why it was a game-changer, but I guess the reputation is a little sullied for me by what came afterwards, both in this franchise and in slasher movies generally…

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    1. Wow, yes, I think a tv version first impression would be a bit disappointing. I think of Halloween (1978) as an entity in of itself. Most of the sequels and remakes are close to rubbish, don’t connect to the narrative satisfactorily, and, yes, they exploit “slasher” in general. I’m not a huge fan of the genre either, but I was surprised during this viewing at how it felt more like a genuine horror than a slasher, and I think it deserves the upper pedestal when compared to Jason, Freddy, and other “gotcha” flicks…

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    1. No worries, “EML.” Most of my friends and family cannot stand them. It is in my nostalgic gratitude that my dad let me watch scary movies when I was young (and Mom was out of town or out of the house). Although a therapist might jump on this as bad parenting, I couldn’t be any more happy because of it. Later in life, I experienced anxieties and obstacles that were far worse than the monsters on the screen, and, today, I find comfort in visiting these horrific gems and my memories of watching them for the first time. Lastly, my wife and I are excited to expect our first baby in December. I really wanted to purge these horror films beforehand because I don’t think there will be many chances to do this again (and, I’m just fine with that). These kind of movies are a chapter in my life. It was nice revising old ones and discovering new ones. Sorry this is so long. Thank you for reading 🙂

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      1. Sadly, my parents took me along with them to see such films as “Psycho” and “The House of Usher” with Vincent Price when I was only six years old, and I had nightmares for weeks afterward. And congratulations on the new baby!


  3. You can’t beat this one…i never get tired of it and the music is great. I first saw it on some midnight showing in the early eighties…loved it on the big screen.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Before Covid hit we had more theaters playing older movies…I love it…I would rather go see older ones…gives a new perspective on the them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, for me, the draw to theatres is the vulnerability, the lack of the comfort of your home, and the lack of control (no hitting pause!). Of course, the big screen and quality sound help, but movies – especially horrors – crawl under your skin more when you’ve got no place to hide!

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          1. You are correct…on a small screen it doesn’t have the same punch. I saw the Excorist on a re-release as a double feature with the Blair With Project 2…ok the later wasn’t much good but I loved the Exorcist.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Nice! I saw the Exorcist re-release as well (2000), which included some never before seen footage. So good! The theatre was packed and so freaked out. That freaking staircase crawl scene! Bleh!

              Liked by 1 person

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