John Carpenter’s 1978 horror flick Halloween has often been called the first slasher flick. There is hardly any blood in Halloween. The movie is made in a technically brilliant fashion and is a rare intelligent slasher movie. This is in direct contrast to the vast majority of slasher flicks which are, as a whole, shallow and stupid wastes of celluloid.
In late 1978, Halloween opened in Bowling Green, Kentucky before moving on to larger cities. Initially, it was ignored by most movie critics who looked down on it as just another low budget picture. However, the movie was saved from oblivion by word of mouth that resulted in, as they say in Hollywood, boffo box office. Eventually, movie reviewers came to realize that there was something very special about this particular flick.
We meet a sympathetic, likable and intelligent teenager named Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) and the children that Laurie is babysitting. We also meet Laurie’s less intelligent girlfriends, Annie and Lynda. In contrast to most post-Halloween horror/slasher movies, we identify with and feel terror for these folks as they are targeted for death by a knife wielding psychopath.
In the making of Halloween, John Carpenter demonstrated that, at least back then, he understood that the best element of fear is not what actually happens, but what is about to happen. For instance, what was that shadow? It is when evil is lurking, somewhere, you just don’t know where, that you can really get scared.
When Laurie and her friends are walking home from school and they are being stalked by the killer who pops in and out of view. It is quite rare that a film can provide scenes that are at least semi-chilling during scenes that are in daylight.
Unlike most female characters in slasher flicks, Laurie is intelligent and thinks that she’s "too smart" to attract boys. Laurie pays attention at school, worries about her homework, and is both trustworthy and reliable as a babysitter. She is a responsible person. This is a trait that few movie teenagers, especially female teenagers, exhibit. This quality of hers is not presented as evidence that she is a "nerd" or "antisocial" or "stuck up."
One of the principal reasons for the enduring popularity of Halloween is that the teenage audience identifies very strongly with Laurie. While teenage characters like Laurie are rare in the movies, in real life there are many such teenagers. Over the years a lot of teenagers have seen a lot of of themselves reflected in Laurie.
Contrary to repeated assertions made by critics and others since Halloween’s release in 1978, the salient aspect of Laurie’s character is not her virginity, but her responsibility. Laurie’s sense of being responsible is what results in her survival. Likewise, her girlfriend’s irresponsibility is what results in their getting killed.
Laurie is the kind of person who is rarely seen in slasher flicks: a genuinely nice person. Laurie clearly takes babysitting jobs not only for the money, but because she enjoys the company of children and really likes making them happy. Laurie’s niceness and sense of responsibility comes together in one of the key aspects in which Halloween differs from most slasher flicks. This is the fact that when evil comes to the house, Laurie focuses on defending the kids and telling them to run for a neighbors house as opposed to being preoccupied with her own self-preservation.
Halloween is not only a masterpiece of slasher flicks, its an excellent movie period.