- Halloween remains an iconic horror film 45 years after its initial release.
- Halloween changed the slasher genre by bringing horror to the suburbs.
- Halloween was one of the first films to establish the recurring, iconic horror villain trend.
Halloween made a bloody splash in the horror world back in 1978. The story of an escaped murderer stalking babysitters and killing them in cold blood, one by one with a butcher knife on Halloween night, became an instant classic. The film remained practically synonymous with October as the decades passed. Twelve more sequels, reboots, and other films set in the world of Michael Myers and Laurie Strode were made since, but none have come close to the magic and strength of the film that started it all.
This didn’t come from out of nowhere; Halloween brought some unique aspects to the horror genre. From an entirely new suburban setting to one of the best and most iconic villains and final girls of the horror genre, Halloween slashed its way into horror history 45 years ago. It held onto that classic status for decades, all the way to the present day, and it was all thanks to its setting and characters and the scares they brought with them.
Halloween Brought Horror to a Whole New Place
Before Halloween, horror films hadn’t crept into suburban American settings quite yet and quite so frequently. Big cities like New York in Rosemary’s Baby and the countryside, as seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, were common backdrops for horror films throughout the decades. Even 1974’s Black Christmas, set at a sorority house in a college town, felt far away and like a place most audiences wouldn’t have to worry about finding themselves in. Surely, in the peaceful confines of Midwest suburbia, nobody would be lurking in the bushes or running around wielding a knife and wearing a scary mask.
Halloween also used its suburban setting as a way to critique these very neighborhoods. During the film’s final act, Laurie screams for help after running out of the house where she found three of her friends dead. She pounded on a neighbor’s door and cried out for any kind of assistance, but she was only met with silence and lights getting turned off. While that scene might seem insignificant and only there to add to the tension, it served as a pointed critique of the lack of community suburbia bred. While viewers like to think that if a neighbor was in trouble, they’d come to their aid, that scene reflected a harsher reality and truth; suburbia often creates individualistic streets where some folks don’t know anything about their neighbor other than their names, if that.
The horror of Halloween wasn’t just about Michael Myers. It was that any neighborhood, on any Halloween night, could become a place of immense tragedy and terror. Michael Myers could be in one’s own backyard or even right behind one’s closet door, and one would be none the wiser. Michael was more than just a movie character. He was the embodiment of the boogeyman, a culmination of terror and paranoia that audiences feared they might come face-to-face with one day, much like final girl Laurie Strode did on that fateful Halloween night back in 1978.
Halloween Gave Horror Two of Its Most Iconic Characters
While Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Norman Bates from Psycho, and Universal’s classic monsters existed long before Michael Myers, there was something about him that terrified and stuck with audiences. His white mask, slow, ominous walk, and threatening, silent aura all combined to create the perfect, horrifying boogeyman both audiences and the people of Haddonfield would come to fear for decades. Seeing the film start off with a kindergartner Myers murdering his sister in cold blood was chilling and effective at establishing the evil inside this character. Not giving Micheal any other backstory, just leaving his existence and past as a total mystery to the audience, added to the uncertainty and fear he stoked for both the characters and the viewers.
Every iconic horror movie villain needs an equally iconic final girl, and Halloween delivered on both of these character archetypes. Laurie Strode became synonymous with the final girl trope from the instant the credits started rolling. While in her feature film debut, she wasn’t as survival-savvy as she became in the 2018 reboot, she still proved to be strong, smart, and a survivor of the boogeyman. Whether she was getting the kids she was babysitting out of the house safely and telling them to get help or stabbing Michael with a knitting needle, Laurie proved to be a resilient force and much more than just the girl next door.
Surprisingly, viewers didn’t want to see Laurie and Michael cross paths. Every time Laurie looked out a window to see Michael staring at her, dread and fear seeped through the screen. The tension was so thick viewers could’ve cut it with Michael’s knife. Laurie spent the film showing that she was a kind, caring person and a great babysitter. Viewers didn’t want to see her die, much less at the hands of someone as terrifying and menacing as Michael. Laurie proved that she was strong and willing to fight until the end, cementing her as one of the most iconic and beloved final girls of all time.
A Mixed Bags of Sequels Couldn’t Tarnish Halloween’s Legacy
Unlike Scream, the Halloween franchise was divisive and a mixed bag in terms of quality. Halloween Ends still had fans fighting on social media a year after its release. Fans either adore or loathe Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. For every die-hard fan of Halloween: H20, there’s another who likes Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers more. Consistency in terms of quality and reception of these films was non-existent, and yet the fans kept coming back to the theater.
The original Halloween created something beautiful and beloved. Every October, horror fans revisit it. It is tied up with fall and with anyone looking to dip their toes into the horror genre. It was one of those movies that took the box office and the pop culture lexicon by storm. Horror fan or not, everyone recognized the opening notes of the piano and synth-laden score that thrums throughout the film. Everyone knows what Michael Myers looks like. Halloween still remains a horror classic 45 years later, and that won’t change anytime soon. It will forever remain a staple of the horror genre and mandatory spooky season viewing. Michael and Laurie’s chapters may have ended in the franchise for now, but they’ll always live on in the 1978 film and in horror fans’ hearts.
Halloween is an American slasher franchise that centers on the serial killer Michael Myers and the terror he inflicts on the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois.
- Created by
- John Carpenter, Debra Hill
- First Film
- Halloween (1978)
- Latest Film
- Halloween Ends
- Jamie Lee Curtis, George P. Wilbur, Andi Matichak, Donald Pleasence
- Michael Myers
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