Carving a path to cult status

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It was the film that launched a thousand teen slasher flicks, but 35 years on ‘Halloween’ is still one of the best of the genre.

An independent production by John Carpenter, the 1978 movie was the start of a new wave of “teenagers in peril” films that gathered momentum through the 1980s and is still used as a blueprint for horror movies today.

It’s also notable as the big screen debut of Jamie Lee Curtis, as protagonist and heroine Laurie Strode and, given the film’s box office and subsequent cult success, she could have done worse.

It’s a simple enough premise - six-year-old Michael Myers stabs to death his teenage sister Judith after catching her having sex with her boyfriend and is committed to an institution. He escapes 15 years later on the way to a court hearing at which he is to be committed for the rest of his life and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield.

Having adopted his trademark blue overalls and white mask, and with psychiatrist Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) in pursuit, Michael sets about stalking the town’s teenagers who are dispatched in various gruesome ways. And it seems only Laurie can save the day.

Although technically a slasher, the film relies more on suspense and shock value than gore which, backed with a moody score produced by Carpenter himself, form a potent formula to reduce the viewer to a nervous wreck. Unfortunately, a series of sequels proved the law of diminishing returns and this, along with its direct sequel, are the best of the bunch - an ideal double feature for Hallowe’en night.