Friday, April 27, 2012

Halloween (1978) - Review

The original Halloween is one of those untouchable "classics".  It did a lot to popularize the slasher genre and reshaped horror in general during the late 70s, leading to the slasher craze in the 80s with cheap knock-off movies like Friday the 13th (and believe it or not, trashier films that that).  Director John Carpenter and actress Jamie Lee Curtis have since become legendary in the genre and it's easy to understand why the film is so respected.  But is it a good movie?

Well, not really.  For as many things as the movie gets right, it also does a lot of things wrong.  Most of these things are forgivable, acceptable in a "good-for-its-time" kind of way, but the movie itself doesn't hold up very well, over thirty years after its release.  The sad fact is that this very idea has been repeated to death, and along the way, it's been done better.

Most of the problem really lies in the acting, which for the most part, is pretty excruciating.  It was a low budget film and they obviously couldn't afford many well-known actors, but the amateur performances from almost all of the side characters is really grating.  Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis and Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode both do good jobs with what they have, but most of the actors are duds.  That's not too surprising though when you look at the stilted and corny writing, particularly in the scenes with Laurie and her friends.  It'd be difficult for really great actors to pull off the cheesy dialogue, which uses the word "totally" FAR more than any screenplay should.

However, directionally, the film stands up pretty well.  The lack of budget actually works in the movie's favor, mostly, as it slowly builds up to the climax.  The movie is dripping with atmosphere and tons of those "I think I saw someone...maybe not" scenes that are completely played out by now.  Somehow, the tension mostly works, and it's a testament to Carpenter's directing that there are some really great shots and the second half of the movie stays pretty suspenseful.  But this no masterpiece; it's relevant for the way it commercialized its brand of horror, but age has not been kind to it.

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