Halloween (1978 film)

Halloween (1978 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Debra Hill
John Carpenter
Kool Lusby
Irwin Yablans
Moustapha Akkad
Written by John Carpenter
Debra Hill
Starring Donald Pleasence
Jamie Lee Curtis
P.J. Soles
Nancy Loomis
Music by John Carpenter
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Editing by Charles Bornstein
Tommy Lee Wallace
Distributed by Compass International Pictures
Release date(s) October 25, 1978 (1978-10-25)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $325,000[1]
Box office $60,000,000 (worldwide)

Halloween is a 1978 American independent horror film directed, produced, and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut and the first installment in the Halloween franchise. The film is set in the fictional midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. On Halloween 1963, six year old Michael Myers murders his older sister by stabbing her with a kitchen knife. Fifteen years later, he escapes from a psychiatric hospital, returns home, and stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends. Michael's psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis suspects Michael's intentions, and follows him to Haddonfield to try to prevent him from killing.

Halloween was produced on a budget of $325,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States,[1] and $60 million worldwide,[2] equivalent to over $203 million as of 2010, becoming one of the most profitable independent films.[1] Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). Halloween had many imitators and originated several clichés found in low-budget horror films of the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike many of its imitators, Halloween contains little graphic violence and gore.[3][4] In 2006, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[5]

Some critics have suggested that Halloween may encourage sadism and misogyny by identifying audiences with its villain.[6] Other critics have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in 1970s America, with many of Myers's victims being sexually promiscuous substance abusers,[7] while the lone heroine is depicted as chaste and innocent hence her survival (the lone survivor is seen smoking marijuana in one scene). Carpenter dismisses such analyses.[8][9] Several of Halloween's techniques and plot elements, although not founded in this film, have nonetheless become a standard slasher movie trope.



On October 31, 1963, 6-year old Michael Myers (Will Sandin) inexplicably kills his fifteen-year old sister Judith (Sandy Johnson) in their home in Haddonfield, Illinois. Following the murder, Michael is sent to Smith's Grove Sanitarium where he is placed under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Michael enters a state of catatonia and remains that way until October 30, 1978, when Loomis arrives to take him to a court hearing, and Michael proceeds to steal his car and drive back to Haddonfield. Loomis follows him there, attempting to prevent Michael from murdering again.

The following day, on Halloween, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) continually sees Michael, now dressed in a blue jump suit (which he stole from a mechanic he kills along the way) and a mask (stolen along with a butcher knife from a local store, explained by Sheriff Brackett) standing outside various locations, following and watching her. First at her school, then on the street, the unsettling natures of these sights and the seeming harmlessness of it has her classmates Annie Brackett (Nancy Kyes) and Linda Van Der Klok (P.J. Soles) thinking she is seeing things. Laurie agrees and continues about her day despite bizarre circumstances surrounding the man in the mask.

That night, Laurie goes to babysit Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews) while Annie goes to babysit Lindsay (Kyle Richards) across the street from the Doyle house. Michael methodically stalks Annie, killing Lindsay's dog. When Annie gets a call from her boyfriend Paul to pick him up, she takes Lindsay to the Doyle house. After Annie drops Lindsay off at the Doyle house she gets in her car to pick up Paul but she is strangled and has her throat slit in the car by Michael. Tommy sees Michael carrying Annie's body back into the house, but his claims of a "Boogie-man" are dismissed by Laurie and Lindsay as attempts to scare them. Later Linda and her boyfriend Bob enter the house unaware that Michael is inside. Michael impales Bob with a kitchen knife, then strangles Linda who is on the phone with Laurie with the telephone cord. The disturbing disruption to the phone call concerns Laurie even further.

Feeling unsettled, Laurie enters the Wallace house and encounters Annie's body in front of Judith Myers' stolen gravestone. Laurie also finds Lynda and Bob's bodies, before being attacked by Michael. She narrowly escapes the house, limping back across the street to the Doyle House. Michael gains entry to the house, and Laurie stabs Michael in the neck with a crochet needle. She retreats upstairs with Michael still in pursuit. After Michael finds her hidden in a closet, Laurie temporarily blinds Michael, seizing his knife and stabbing him. Loomis, seeing the screaming children fleeing the Wallace House, enters the house. He finds and shoots Michael off of the second-story balcony. When Loomis looks over the balcony, however, Michael's body is nowhere to be found.


After viewing Carpenter's film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) at the Milan Film Festival, independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad sought out Carpenter to direct a film for them about a psychotic killer that stalked babysitters.[10] In an interview with Fangoria magazine, Yablans stated, "I was thinking what would make sense in the horror genre, and what I wanted to do was make a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist."[11] Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a story originally titled The Babysitter Murders, but, as Carpenter told Entertainment Weekly, Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night and naming it Halloween instead.[12]

Akkad fronted the $320,000 for the film's budget, considered low at the time (Carpenter's previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, had an estimated budget of $100,000).[10][13] Akkad worried over the tight, four-week schedule, low budget, and Carpenter's limited experience as a filmmaker, but told Fangoria, "Two things made me decide. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn't want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project". Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing, and composing the music, retaining rights to 10 percent of the film's profits.[14]

Because of the low budget, wardrobe and props were often crafted from items on hand or that could be purchased inexpensively. Carpenter hired Tommy Lee Wallace as production designer, art director, location scout and co-editor. Wallace created the trademark mask worn by Michael Myers throughout the film from a Captain Kirk mask purchased for $1.98.[10] Carpenter recalled how Wallace "widened the eye holes and spray-painted the flesh a bluish white. In the script it said Michael Myers's mask had 'the pale features of a human face' and it truly was spooky looking. It didn't look anything like William Shatner after Tommy got through with it."[12] Hill adds that the "idea was to make him almost humorless, faceless — this sort of pale visage that could resemble a human or not."[15] Many of the actors wore their own clothes, and Curtis' wardrobe was purchased at J. C. Penney for around a hundred dollars.[10]

The limited budget also dictated the filming location and time schedule. Halloween was filmed in 21 days in the spring of 1978 in South Pasadena, California and Sierra Madre, California (cemetery). An abandoned house owned by a church stood in as the Myers house. Two homes on Orange Grove Avenue (near Sunset Boulevard) in Hollywood were used for the film's climax.[16] The crew had difficulty finding pumpkins in the spring, and artificial fall leaves had to be reused for multiple scenes. Local families dressed their children in Halloween costumes for trick-or-treat scenes.[10]

In August 2006, Fangoria reported that Synapse Films had discovered boxes of negatives containing footage cut from the film. One was labeled "1981" suggesting that it was additional footage for the television version of the film. Synapse owner Don May, Jr. said, "What we've got is pretty much all the unused original camera negative from Carpenter's original Halloween. Luckily, Billy [Kirkus] was able to find this material before it was destroyed. The story on how we got the negative is a long one, but we'll save it for when we're able to showcase the materials in some way. Kirkus should be commended for pretty much saving the Holy Grail of horror films."[17] It was later reported, "We just learned from Sean Clark, long time Halloween genius, that the footage found is just that: footage. There is no sound in any of the reels so far, since none of it was used in the final edit."[18]


Yablans and Akkad ceded most of the creative control to writers Carpenter and Hill (whom Carpenter wanted as producer), but Yablans did offer several suggestions. According to a Fangoria interview with Hill, "Yablans wanted the script written like a radio show, with 'boos' every 10 minutes."[15] Hill explained that the script took three weeks to write and much of the inspiration behind the plot came from Celtic traditions of Halloween such as the festival of Samhain. Although Samhain is not mentioned in the plot of the first film, Hill asserts that:

...the idea was that you couldn't kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that's what made Halloween work.[15]

Hill wrote most of the female characters' dialogue,[8] while Carpenter drafted Loomis' speeches on the evilness of Michael Myers. Many script details were drawn from Carpenter's and Hill's adolescence and early careers. The fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois was derived from Haddonfield, New Jersey, where Hill grew up, and most of the street names were taken from Carpenter's hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Laurie Strode was the name of one of Carpenter's old girlfriends and Michael Myers was the name of an English producer who had previously entered, with Yablans, Assault on Precinct 13 in various European film festivals.[10] In Halloween, Carpenter pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock with two characters' names; Tommy Doyle is named after Lt. Det. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) of Rear Window (1954), and Dr. Loomis' name was taken from Sam Loomis (John Gavin) of Psycho, the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, who is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis). Sheriff Leigh Brackett shared the name of a film screenwriter.


Jamie Lee Curtis, in her feature film debut, plays Laurie Strode, the heroine of the film.

The cast of Halloween included veteran actor Donald Pleasence and then-unknown actress Jamie Lee Curtis. The low budget limited the number of big names that Carpenter could attract, and most of the actors received very little compensation for their roles. Pleasence was paid the highest amount at $20,000, Curtis received $8,000, and Nick Castle earned $25 a day.[10] The role of Dr. Sam Loomis was offered to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee; both declined the part due to the low pay (though Lee would later tell Carpenter that declining the role was his biggest career mistake).[8] English actor Pleasence — Carpenter's third choice — agreed to star. Pleasence has been called "John Carpenter's big landing." Americans were already acquainted with Pleasence as the villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).[19]

In an interview, Carpenter admits that "Jamie Lee wasn't the first choice for Laurie. I had no idea who she was. She was 19 and in a TV show at the time, but I didn't watch TV." He originally wanted to cast Anne Lockhart, the daughter of June Lockhart from Lassie, as Laurie Strode. However, Lockhart had commitments to several other film and television projects.[12] Hill says of learning that Jamie Lee was the daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh, "I knew casting Jamie Lee would be great publicity for the film because her mother was in Psycho."[15] Halloween was Curtis' feature film debut and launched her career as a "scream queen" horror star. Another relatively unknown actress, Nancy Kyes (credited in the film as Nancy Loomis) was cast as Laurie's friend Annie Brackett, daughter of Haddonfield sheriff Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers). Kyes had previously starred in Assault on Precinct 13 (as had Cyphers) and happened to be dating Halloween's art director Tommy Lee Wallace when filming began.[20] Carpenter chose P. J. Soles to play Lynda Van Der Klok, another friend of Laurie's, best remembered in the film for dialogue peppered with the word "totally." Soles was an actress known for her supporting role in Carrie (1976) and her minor part in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976). According to one source, "Carpenter realized she had captured the aura of a happy go lucky teenage girl in the 70s."[21]

The role of "The Shape" — as the masked Michael Myers character was billed in the end credits — was played by Nick Castle, who befriended Carpenter while they attended the University of Southern California. After Halloween, Castle became a director, taking the helm of films such as The Last Starfighter (1984), The Boy Who Could Fly (1986), Dennis the Menace (1993) and Major Payne (1995).[22]


Historian Nicholas Rogers notes that film critics contend that Carpenter's direction and camera work made Halloween a "resounding success".[23] Roger Ebert remarks, "It's easy to create violence on the screen, but it's hard to do it well. Carpenter is uncannily skilled, for example, at the use of foregrounds in his compositions, and everyone who likes thrillers knows that foregrounds are crucial ...."[24]

Opening title of Halloween

The opening title, featuring a jack-o'-lantern placed against a black backdrop, sets the mood for the entire movie. The camera slowly moves toward the jack-o'-lantern's left eye as the main title theme plays. After the camera fully closes in, the jack-o'-lantern's light dims and goes out. Film historian J.P. Telotte says that this scene "clearly announces that [the film's] primary concern will be with the way in which we see ourselves and others and the consequences that often attend our usual manner of perception".[25] During the conception of the plot, Yablans instructed "that the audience shouldn't see anything. It should be what they thought they saw that frightens them".[15] Carpenter seemingly took Yablans' advice literally, filming many of the scenes from Michael Myers's point-of-view that allowed audience participation. Carpenter is not the first director to employ this method or use of a steadicam; for instance, the first scene of Psycho offers a voyeuristic look at lovers in a seedy hotel. Telotte argues, "As a result of this shift in perspective from a disembodied, narrative camera to an actual character's eye ... we are forced into a deeper sense of participation in the ensuing action".[26] Along with the 1974 Canadian horror film Black Christmas, Halloween made use of seeing events through the killer's eyes.

This scene features Michael (right), who pins Bob (left) to the door and observes his dying motions. Remaining relatively un-graphic, this scene displays the use of lighting to create its atmosphere rather than graphic blood and violence.

The first scene of the young Michael's voyeurism is followed by the murder of Judith Myers seen through the eye holes of Michael's clown costume mask. According to one commentator, Carpenter's "frequent use of the unmounted first-person camera to represent the killer's point of view ... invited [viewers] to adopt the murderer's assaultive gaze and to hear his heavy breathing and plodding footsteps as he stalked his prey".[27] Another technique that Carpenter adapted from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) was suspense with minimal blood and gore. Hill comments, "We didn't want it to be gory. We wanted it to be like a jack-in-the box."[15] Film analysts refer to this as the "false startle" or "the old tap-on-the-shoulder routine" in which the stalkers, murderers, or monsters "lunge into our field of vision or creep up on a person."[28] Carpenter worked with the cast to create the desired effect of terror and suspense. According to Curtis, Carpenter created a "fear meter" because the film was shot out-of-sequence and she was not sure what her character's level of terror should be in certain scenes. "Here's about a 7, here's about a 6, and the scene we're going to shoot tonight is about a 9½", remembered Curtis. She had different facial expressions and scream volumes for each level on the meter.[29]

Carpenter's direction for Nick Castle in his role as Myers was minimal. For example, when Castle asked what Myers' motivation was for a particular scene, Carpenter replied that his motivation was to walk from one set marker to another.[8] The documentary titled Halloween Un-masked, featured in the 22nd anniversary DVD of Halloween, John Carpenter states he also instructed Castle to tilt his head a couple of times as if he was observing the corpse, particularly in the scene when Myers impaled one of his victims against a wall.[8] It was also said that the lighting of that scene (as well as all the scenes shot inside a house) was all inspired from the lighting from the movie Chinatown (1974).


Another major reason for the success of Halloween is the moody musical score, particularly the main theme. Lacking a symphonic soundtrack, the film's score consists of a piano melody played in a 10/8 or "complex 5/4" meter composed by director John Carpenter. Critic James Berardinelli calls the score "relatively simple and unsophisticated", but admits that "Halloween's music is one of its strongest assets".[3] Carpenter stated in an interview, "I can play just about any keyboard, but I can't read or write a note."[12] In the end credits, Carpenter bills himself as the "Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra" for performing the film's score, but he did receive assistance from composer Dan Wyman, a music professor at San José State University.[10][30]

Some songs can be heard in the film, one being an untitled song performed by Carpenter and a group of his friends who formed a band called The Coupe DeVilles. The song is heard as Laurie steps into Annie's car on her way to babysit Tommy Doyle.[10] Another song, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, appears in the film.[31]

The soundtrack was first released in the United States in October 1983, by Varese Sarabande. It was subsequently released on compact disc in 1985, re-released in 1990, and again in 2000.


Ad, The Village Voice, Nov. 6, 1978: only known, published window for date of film's New York City premiere ("Held over...2nd week")[32]

Theatrical run

Halloween premiered on October 25, 1978 in Kansas City, Missouri (at the AMC Midland/Empire) and sometime afterward in Chicago, Illinois, and in New York City.[32][33] It opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1978.[34]

The film grossed $47.3 million in the United States[1] and an additional $13 million internationally, making the theatrical total around $60 million. While most of the film's success came from American movie-goers, Halloween premiered in several international locations after 1979 with moderate results. The film was shown mostly in the European countries of France, the United Kingdom, West Germany, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Yugoslavia, and Iceland. Admissions in West Germany totaled around 750,000 and 118,606 in Sweden, earning SEK 2,298,579 there. The film was also shown at theaters in Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Peru, the Philippines, Argentina and Chile. Halloween grossed A$900,000 in Australia, which was a large and impressive amount of money for a film to gross at the box office in Australia at the time, and HKD 450,139 in Hong Kong.[13]

Television rights

In 1980, the television rights to Halloween were sold to NBC for $4 million. After a debate among Carpenter, Hill and NBC's Standards & Practices over censoring of certain scenes, Halloween appeared on television for the first time in October 1981.[15] To fill the two-hour time slot, Carpenter filmed twelve minutes of additional material during the production of Halloween II. The newly filmed scenes include Dr. Loomis at a hospital board review of Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis talking to a then 6-year-old Michael at Smith's Grove, telling him, "You've fooled them, haven't you Michael? But not me." Another extra scene features Dr. Loomis at Smith's Grove examining Michael's abandoned cell after his escape and seeing the word "Sister" scratched into the door. Finally, a scene was added in which Linda comes over to Laurie's house to borrow a silk blouse before Laurie leaves to babysit, just as Annie telephones asking to borrow the same blouse. The new scene had Laurie's hair hidden by a towel, since Curtis was by then wearing a much shorter hairstyle than she had worn in 1978.

Home video release

Since Halloween's premiere, it has been released on VHS, laserdisc, DVD, UMD and Blu-ray HD format. In its first year of release on VHS, the film earned $18.5 million in the United States from rentals.[13] Early VHS versions were released by Media Home Entertainment and Blockbuster Video issued a commemorative edition in 1995. Anchor Bay Entertainment has released several restored editions of Halloween on VHS and DVD, with the most recent being the 2007 single-disc restored version, with improved picture and sound quality.[35]

In 2007, the movie was released on Blu-ray as well, marking the film's first ever Blu-ray release. The Blu-ray features a commentary track by Carpenter, Hill and Curtis and the documentary Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest.[33]


Critical reception

Critical response to the film was mostly positive. Although Halloween performed well with little advertising — relying mostly on word-of-mouth — many critics seemed uninterested or dismissive of the film. Pauline Kael wrote a scathing review in The New Yorker suggesting that "Carpenter doesn't seem to have had any life outside the movies: one can trace almost every idea on the screen to directors such as Hitchcock and Brian De Palma and to the Val Lewton productions" and claiming that "Maybe when a horror film is stripped of everything but dumb scariness — when it isn't ashamed to revive the stalest device of the genre (the escaped lunatic) — it satisfies part of the audience in a more basic, childish way than sophisticated horror pictures do."[36] The first glowing review by a prominent film critic came from Tom Allen of The Village Voice in November 1978, Allen noted that the film was sociologically irrelevant but applauded Carpenter's camera work as "duplicitous hype" and "the most honest way to make a good schlock film". Allen pointed out the stylistic similarities to Psycho and George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968).[32][37] The following month, Voice lead critic Andrew Sarris wrote a follow-up feature on cult films, citing Allen's appraisal of Halloween and saying in the lead sentence that the film "bids fair to become the cult discovery of 1978. Audiences have been heard screaming at its horrifying climaxes".[38] Renowned American critic Roger Ebert gave the film similar praise in his 1979 review in the Chicago Sun-Times, and selected it as one of his top ten films of 1978.[39] Once-dismissive critics were impressed by Carpenter's choice of camera angles and simple music, and surprised by the lack of blood, gore, and graphic violence.[3] Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reports 93% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based on 42 reviews, with a rating of 8.4 out of 10.[40]

Many compared the film with the work of Alfred Hitchcock, although TV Guide calls comparisons made to Psycho "silly and groundless"[41] and critics in the late 1980s and early 1990s blame the film for spawning the slasher sub genre, which they felt had rapidly descended into sadism and misogyny.[42] Almost a decade after its premiere, Mick Martin and Marsha Porter critiqued the first-person camera shots that earlier film reviewers had praised and later slasher-film directors utilized for their own films (for example, Friday the 13th (1980)). Claiming it encouraged audience identification with the killer, Martin and Porter pointed to the way "the camera moves in on the screaming, pleading, victim, 'looks down' at the knife, and then plunges it into chest, ear, or eyeball. Now that's sick."[6]

More than 30 years after its debut, Halloween enjoys a reputation as a classic[40] and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1978.[39][43][44][45][46][47]

Themes and analysis

Many criticisms of Halloween and other slasher films come from postmodern academia. Some feminist critics, according to historian Nicholas Rogers, "have seen the slasher movies since Halloween as debasing women in as decisive a manner as hard-core pornography."[42] Critics such as John Kenneth Muir point out that female characters such as Laurie Strode survive not because of "any good planning" or their own resourcefulness, but sheer luck. Although she manages to repel the killer several times, in the end, Strode is rescued in Halloween and Halloween II only when Dr. Loomis arrives to shoot Myers.[48]

On the other hand, other feminist scholars such as Carol J. Clover argue that despite the violence against women, slasher films turned women into heroines. In many pre-Halloween horror films, women are depicted as helpless victims and are not safe until they are rescued by a strong masculine hero. Despite the fact that Loomis saves Strode, Clover asserts that Halloween initiates the role of the "final girl" who ultimately triumphs in the end. Strode herself fought back against Myers and severely wounds him. Had Myers been a normal man, Strode's attacks would have killed him; even Loomis, the male hero of the story, who shoots Michael repeatedly at near point blank range with a large caliber handgun, cannot kill him.[49]

Other critics have seen a deeper social critique present in Halloween and subsequent slasher films. According to Vera Dika, the films of the 1980s spoke to the conservative family values advocates of Reagan America.[50] Tony Williams says Myers and other slashers were "patriarchal avengers" who "slaughtered the youthful children of the 1960s generation, especially when they engaged in illicit activities involving sex and drugs."[7] Other critics[who?] tend to downplay this interpretation, arguing that the portrayal of Myers as a demonic, superhuman monster inhibited his influence among conservatives.[citation needed] Still others have read deeper into the social significance of this and other slasher films as critiquing the supposed safety recently found by middle class individuals in the 1950s suburb.[51]

Carpenter himself dismisses the notion that Halloween is a morality play, regarding it as merely a horror movie. According to Carpenter, critics "completely missed the point there." He explains, "The one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing this guy with a long knife. She's the most sexually frustrated. She's the one that's killed him. Not because she's a virgin but because all that sexually repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy."[8][9]

The usage of Michael Myers' white mask also poses analytical thought on several levels. For one, the mask (actually a debased William Shatner mask) is used as a concealing agent for Michael that helps keep his identity and mystery alive and fearful to others. Furthermore, the white blank austerity of the mask helps personify Michael as an emotionless, sociopathic killer who is incapable of feeling remorse for his actions, and therefore, does not exhibit such on his face. In a way, the lifelessness of the mask (it being a mere object that is devoid of human qualities) mirrors Michael's personality, in that, he too is blank, emotionless and ultimately cold to life or death. Also, the white mask characterizes Michael as a universal character, with anyone's face being transplantable onto it. The mask is merely an open canvas that Carpenter uses to invite viewers to paint their own killer on to make Michael's character more personal, and scarier, to each viewer.


Halloween was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1979, but lost to The Wicker Man (1973).[52] In 2001, Halloween ranked #68 on the American Film Institute TV program 100 Years...100 Thrills.[53] The film was #14 on Bravo's The 100 Scariest Movie Moments (2004).[54] Similarly, the Chicago Film Critics Association named it the 3rd scariest film ever made.[55] In 2006, Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[56] In 2007, the AOL 31 Days of Horror countdown named Halloween the greatest horror movie.[57] In 2008, the film was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[58] In 2010, Total Film selected the film as one of The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.[59]

American Film Institute Lists

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – #68
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
    • Michael Myers – Nominated Villain
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated


Halloween has influenced countless horror films, particularly during the early to mid 1980s. While Canadian horror film Black Christmas (1974), directed by Bob Clark, preceded the stylistic techniques and several plot elements that were made famous in Halloween, the latter is generally credited by film historians, genre fans and critics for initiating the slasher film craze of the 1980s. Halloween made significant use of first-person camera perspectives, unexceptional settings, and female heroines, all of which now define the slasher film genre.[60] These heroines were almost always depicted as being the only chaste, innocent and virginal character in the films onslaught of victims, while the others are depicted as being sexually promiscuous substance abusers.[citation needed]

Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is sometimes given the distinction of also starting the slasher craze and preceding Halloween in originating the stylistic techniques as well as the usual plot devices. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, released five years prior to Halloween, has several things in common with the film: a group of free-spirited teenagers falling into the clutches of a sadistic, weapon-wielding masked villain (Leatherface) with a lone heroine. The film has also gone onto significantly influence the horror genre,[61][62] much like Halloween.

Several subsequent films with similar stylistic elements and themes became popular with audiences, including Friday the 13th, beginning in 1980, and later, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984-onwards). Countless other slasher films owe some of their success and inspiration to Halloween.[63][64] The survival of the chaste and temperate character became a common device in subsequent slasher films. The 1981 horror movie spoof Student Bodies parodied this plot device; characters are slain when about to engage in sex. Director Wes Craven's Scream (1996) details the "rules" for surviving a horror movie, even using Halloween as the primary example: no sex, no alcohol or illicit drugs, and never say "I'll be right back".


A mass market paperback novelization by Curtis Richards, titled Halloween, was published by Bantam Books in 1979. It was reissued in 1982; it later went out of print. The novel elaborates on aspects not featured in the film such as the origins of the curse of Samhain and Michael Myers's life in Smith's Grove Sanitarium. For example, the opening reads:

The horror started on the eve of Samhain, in a foggy vale in northern Ireland, at the dawn of the Celtic race. And once started, it trod the earth forevermore, wreaking its savagery suddenly, swiftly, and with incredible ferocity.[65]

In 1983, Halloween was adapted as a video game for the Atari 2600 by Wizard Video. None of the main characters in the game were named. Players take on the role of a teenage babysitter who tries to save as many children from an unnamed, knife-wielding killer as possible. The game was not popular with parents or players and the graphics were simple, as was typical in Atari 2600 games. In another effort to save money, most versions of the game did not even have a label on the cartridge. It was simply a piece of tape with "Halloween" written in marker. The game contained more gore than the film, however. When the babysitter is killed, her head disappears and is replaced by blood pulsating from the neck. The game's primary similarity to the film is the theme music that plays when the killer appears onscreen.[66][67]

Sequels and remake

Halloween spawned seven sequels, a 2007 remake of the same name and directed by Rob Zombie — and a 2009 sequel to the remake, Halloween II, which is unrelated to the sequel of the original.[68] Of these films, only Halloween II (1981) was written by Carpenter and Hill. Halloween II begins exactly where Halloween ends and was intended to finish the story of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Halloween II was hugely successful, becoming the highest grossing horror film of 1981. Carpenter did not direct any of the subsequent films in the Halloween series, although he did produce Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), the plot of which is unrelated to the other films in the series.[69] He also composed the music for the second and third films, along with Alan Howarth.

The sequels feature more explicit violence and gore, and are generally dismissed by mainstream film critics. They were filmed on larger budgets than the original: In contrast to Halloween's modest budget of $320,000, Halloween II's budget was around $2.5 million,[70] while the final sequel to the original, Halloween: Resurrection (2002), boasted a budget of $15 million.[71] Financier Moustapha Akkad continued to work closely with the Halloween franchise, acting as executive producer of every sequel until his death in the 2005 Amman bombings.[72]

With the exception of Halloween III, the sequels further develop the character of Michael Myers and the Samhain theme. Even without considering the third film, the Halloween series contains continuity issues, which some sources attribute to the different writers and directors involved in each film.[73] The 10 Halloween films, including the 2007 remake and its sequel, have had eight directors. Only Rick Rosenthal and Rob Zombie directed more than one Halloween film: Rosenthal directed Halloween II and Halloween: Resurrection, while Zombie directed the remake and its sequel.



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  9. ^ a b Carpenter, quoted in Alan Jones, The Rough Guide to Horror Movies (New York: Rough Guides, 2005), p. 102, ISBN 1-84353-521-1.
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