Classic Film

Houses of Horror #4: Halloween (1978)

“Behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween: Never underestimate the utility of a hanger. (Model by Tracey Snelling)

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween: Never underestimate the utility of a hanger. (Model by Tracey Snelling)

“Behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

Halloween (1978) is the greatest straight-up horror film of all time. In our “Houses of Horror” series I’ve saved the best for last.

The Shining (1981) and Psycho (1960) would round out my top three – and truth be told, you could randomize the rankings and I’d be happy with the result. But it was John Carpenter who invented the big screen boogey man, and forever changed the traditional horror film as we knew it. If he wasn’t the first to use point of view (POV) camerawork (that goes to Black Christmas in 1974) he was the first to perfect its use in frightening the living daylights out of mainstream audiences across the country.

And as if the craziness factor wasn’t already ratcheted up, along comes the late, great Donald Pleasence.

What I like particularly like about Halloween is that it featured a young, adventurous filmmaker in John Carpenter. The first thing he did: break all the rules. California became a convenient version of Illinois. When he couldn’t come up with enough budget to source a dramatic score (like Kubrick did with Shining) then, hell to the bells, he’d just plunk down on the piano and create his own (and what a soundtrack!). With an known actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, he’d re-image the scream queen as someone intelligent, ruthless in her own right.

Michael Myers would join Freddy (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Jason (Friday the 13th Part II) as the three horseman of horror. Resurrection, it seems, was as common as a Honda.

And as if the craziness factor wasn’t already ratcheted up, along comes the late, great Donald Pleasence. As the Halloween series progressed–the first is by far the classic–his rage, as Loomis (connection, anyone?), the heat-packing doctor that attempted to treat Michael fifteen years earlier, only grows. Why on earth would no one listen to him?! I think near the end he had very well become what he pursued; who’s to say it really wasn’t him behind that mask? Now there’s a sequel/prequel-worthy story-line.

My thanks again to artist Tracey Snelling who allowed me to film these segments of her art installation “The Last House on the Left” at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. In case you missed it, all week I’ve been creating miniature minis of four classic horror films: The Birds, The Amityville Horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the interview with Tracey, and find out her inspiration for the piece, and also learn how it came together.

For now, Boo:

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Clinton Stark
Clint is based in San Francisco and has produced videos for Stark Insider since 2006. Film projects recently completed include short MORADO shot in the Baja, doc THE ART OF HALL WINES in Napa, and music video WRONG'S WHAT I DO BEST at the San Francisco Art Institute. He regularly writes about Canon DSLR and filmmaking. His Broadway features have garnered praise, including SHREK UNMASKED which is the most viewed BTS video for the musical on YouTube. In addition he's worked with DreamWorks, Disney on Ice, and Cirque du Soleil, among others. Interview highlights include James Franco, Gia Coppola, Colbie Caillat, Vincent Kartheiser, Dana Carvey, and Dany Boyle. Clint is a member of ATCA and covers the SF theater scene. He also writes about Napa and wine, and Silicon Valley news and trends. More: Clint's story...