'Halloween': Read THR's Original 1978 Review

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The night he came home

The horror formula doesn’t get much simpler than a masked killer stalking teenagers, but that is all writer-director John Carpenter needed to create a masterpiece with the original Halloween. The film defined many of the tropes we now take for granted, and not even decades of mediocre sequels (or Rob Zombie remakes) can dull its terrifyingly sharp edge. On Oct. 27, 1978, The Hollywood Reporter praised Carpenter’s direction and the film’s cast — and one of the most profitable independent films of all time took off from there.

Teenage girls in jeopardy is usually a good ingredient for horror, and director John Carpenter makes the most of the situation in Halloween, a tense and frightening film that is being released by Compass International Pictures. Carpenter obviously knows the genre well and he builds a properly terrifying atmosphere through his well-paced direction. It’s an effective entry for its intended market.

The screenplay by Carpenter and producer Debra Hill concerns a boy who kills his babysitter on Halloween night and who, 15 years later, escapes from a mental institution to return to the scene of the crime to seek additional victims. The script offers little in terms of motivation or development, but it works strictly in terms of horror as several teenage babysitters are stalked by the masked psychomaniac.

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Carpenter creates excellent tension throughout and he avoids excessive blood and gore in the murder sequences. The violent actions are mostly implied more than graphically depicted, which serves to heighten the effect.

Donald Pleasance stars as the doctor who has tried to keep the maniac locked up and who attempts to warn the town when he escapes. He creates a strong presence, but it’s basically a one-dimensional role, designed to provide necessary plot information. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent as the girl around whom the action revolves and she creates a natural, sympathetic character. Good support is provided by Nancy Loomis and P.J. Soles as her two friends and by Charles Cyphers as the town’s sheriff.

The technical credits are all professional and add to the overall effect. Carpenter is also responsible for the mood-setting musical score. —Ron Pennington

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