Kevin Williamson’s horror satire about a group of high school students who fall prey to a serial killer hits all its targets. Fully aware that they are tumbling through a series of slasher clichés, the characters make constant allusions to Freddy, Michael and Jason as they head for the inevitable bloodbath at the hands of a masked killer.
Often imitated, never equalled, John Carpenter’s low budget ($325,000) masterpiece took the suspense and knife-wielding killer of Psycho and repackaged them in colour with teenage protagonists. Although credited with spawning the slash and gore pics of the 1980s, Halloween contains relatively little blood. Instead it relies on the unrelenting build up of suspense and shock/startle mechanisms. As is usual in the slasher subgenre, the premise is simple: a teenage babysitter tries to escape the attentions of a rampaging serial killer. However, Carpenter’s deft use of shadows and an atmospheric score (he composed it himself) made it horrifying and fresh. Unfortunately, subsequent over-use of key elements have turned them into clichés.
Carpenter includes many nods to Hitchcock, not least casting Jamie Lee Curtis (Janet Leigh’s daughter in her screen debut) in the main role. This iconic casting, coupled with the Herrmannesque string notes signalling the fatal blows of the killer’s hand, and the sonorous explanations of Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) (who is named after Sam Loomis, Marion Crane’s lover) mean Halloween’s debt to Psycho never quite fades from the screen.