A Nightmare from Friday to Halloween - Halloween (1978)
The three most prominent American horror franchises (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street) have influenced American cinema even beyond the horror genre. As of 2021, there are exactly 31 movies across all three franchises, and I am going to attempt to watch all of them, for this Halloween, one per day.
Halloween is not groundbreaking because of its originality. Black Christmas, which had come out four years earlier, would be an acknowledged influence on this film. Halloween gets credit for breaking the illusion of the safety of suburbia, but Alice, Sweet Alice beat Halloween by a year. What really distinguishes Halloween is how it takes all those influences, from earlier proto-slasher movies to giallos, and puts it into a well-crafted and chillingly effective piece of art. Shots like the early POV from young Michael’s point of view are so part of our film grammar that Halloween can seem derivative to viewers who may be coming to it after being exposed to modern horror movies.
It also sometimes get blamed for perpetrating some of the tropes that made horror increasingly stale and problematic, such as the puritanical attitude towards sex and the inherent misogyny and sexism of many slashers. Yet one of the great behind-the-scenes collaborators of Carpenter was producer Debra Hill, who actually worked with the young actresses to develop their characters and make themselves more believable, especially Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). This collaboration is also why Laurie Strode is still one of the most famous “final girls.” No one really remembers the final girls from the numerous sequels to the other two franchises I will be watching, but Curtis is still getting invited back to continue the Halloween franchise. It is her bravery and her willingness to protect others that makes her stand out and her performance complemented by the artistry that Carpenter and his team brought to the film cement this in cinema history.
P.S. This was filmed in my hometown. My high school was often called the Halloween school, and I think it was mostly because our colors were orange and black (our mascot was a tiger), but my high school is literally featured in Halloween, and I have walked by the Halloween house near Mission many times without knowing what had happened there, which feels strangely appropriate, since what is Michael Myers but the bogeyman and an urban legend?