I've said before that, when I was younger, I didn't consider myself a horror fan. Part of it had to do with the Satanic Panic, which seemed to crop up even among more level-headed sorts. But the key reason was that, in the 1980s, the word "horror" was synonymous with "slasher." You couldn't argue this point with anybody. Distinctions like folk horror, horror comedies, even (ugh) elevated horror simply didn't exist. It was all Freddie, Jason, and Michael, all the time.
Which brings us to John Carpenter's classic Halloween.
When I was a senior in high school, our English teacher brought her VCR to class so we could watch a presentation of William Shakespeare's play Macbeth (which I also should feature in this series). She got a television from the AV room and we hooked up the VCR and, seeing there was a tape inside, pressed Play. The first beats of Carpenter's iconic score came through the television's speaker, and the students in the classroom begged our teacher to let them at least watch the first kill. To my complete surprise, she acquiesced, and said, "As movies like this go, this is the best." After watching it, I had an electric buzz running through my body, as if I'd touched a live wire, and after school went to our closest video rental store to pick up a copy.
Like Hitchcock's Psycho, Halloween is a movie that changed the face of horror. It is certainly the greatest slasher movie ever made, and by far one of the most (if not the most) influential. Without Halloween, you have no Friday the 13th. You have no The Burning. Or Pieces. Or Night School. Or Slumber Party Massacre. Or literally a hundred others.
There are sequels. There are remakes. There are at least two soft reboots. All have their moments, even though some elaborate on an unnecessary mythology. The current series is enjoyable. I like both Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills, and I'm hoping for good things with Halloween Ends. Still, none of these really stand with Carpenter's original. It remains one of the best of all time.
What is your favorite slasher movie? If you love the franchise, what is your favorite Halloween movie? Let me know in the comments.
Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. His work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Rayguns Over Texas!, Horror U.S.A.: Texas, Campfire Macabre, The Dread Machine, and Generation X-ed.
He lives in Central Texas.