Halloween (1978) - Rotten Tomatoes

Halloween (1978)



Critic Consensus: Scary, suspenseful, and viscerally thrilling, Halloween set the standard for modern horror films.

Movie Info

A young boy kills his sister on Halloween of 1963, and is sent to a mental hospital. 15 years later he escapes and returns to his home town in order to wreak havoc.more
Rating: R
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Horror
Directed By:
Written By: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 27, 1997
Compass International Pictures

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Donald Pleasence
as Dr. Loomis
Jamie Lee Curtis
as Laurie Strode
Arthur Malet
as Graveyard Keeper
Robert Phalen
as Dr. Wynn
Tony Moran
as Michael at 21
Will Sandin
as Michael at 6
David Kyle
as Boyfriend
Peter Griffith
as Laurie's Father
Nick Castle Jr.
as The Shape
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Halloween

Critic Reviews for Halloween

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (7)

Carpenter obviously knows the genre well and he builds a properly terrifying atmosphere through his well-paced direction. It's an effective entry for its intended market.

Full Review… | November 2, 2014
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

After a promising opening, Halloween becomes just another maniac-on-the-loose suspenser.

Full Review… | August 27, 2007
Top Critic

John Carpenter's 1978 tour de force, perhaps the most widely imitated film of the 70s.

Full Review… | August 27, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Perhaps not quite so resonant as Psycho to which it pays due homage, but it breathes the same air.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Sets the standard for slasher films and horror in general...

Full Review… | October 1, 2013
Cinema Crazed

Halloween still remains the greatest horror film of all time.

Full Review… | September 23, 2013

Audience Reviews for Halloween


Like the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre that came out some years before it, this terrifying, ruthless classic of the 1970s became a major influence on the modern horror genre, building a constant sense of menace and tension to a nerve-wracking degree.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer


The "slasher film" is now a commonly known sub-genre among horror films and has developed a devoted fan base. Many would say that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960 was one of the most influential and successful of such a film. Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974 also cited as a major player. However, there was once a "Golden Age of Slasher film" which ran from 1978 to 1984 and incorporated such iconic horror characters as A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger, Friday the 13th's Jason Vorhees and, of course, Halloween's Michael Myers. It's this John Carpenter film that was the kickstarter for the Golden Age and credited with being the film that defined the genre.

On Halloween night, 1963, a teenager is brutally murdered by her six-year old brother, Michael Myers. After 15 years in psychiatric incarceration, Michael escapes and, with murderous intent, returns to stalk the Midwestern, Illinois suburb where he first struck.

After opening on the face of a carved, candlelit pumpkin and Carpenter's now iconic synthesiser score playing overhead, we are introduced to a young, murderous Michael Myers. It's worth noting that this entire sequence is shot in 1st person shaky-cam to depict the perspective of Myers. Now somewhat of a cliche in horror movies, Carpenter's skilful inclusion of it not only makes us a voyeur but also makes us complicit in the murder. It's the only time we ever get to see things from Myers' point of view as we then spend the rest of the film trying to evade the unrelenting nature of him.

Carpenter has a knack for delivering genuine chills but his real skill is in making the ordinary, "safer" moments just as scary. Most horror directors rely heavily on darkness descending before revealing the murderer/stalker/monster but Halloween's creepiest moments actually come during the daytime - Myers is seen stalking his prey while driving around schools, lurking by a hedge on a packed suburban neighbourhood or, most eerily, looking on from laundry hanging in the backyard. These are the moments where Carpenter shows his mastery of mood and composition.

Without making too many ridiculous comparisons with the aforementioned Psycho, Carpenter does make tribute to the 1960's classic. Like that film, it creates suspense with minimal blood and gore and the hiring of Jamie Lee Curtis shadows that of Hitchcock's casting of her mother, Janet Leigh, while Carpenter's main theme tune has become as synonymous with horror music as Bernard Herrmann's iconic work. Both scores have been endlessly imitated and work so effectively in their repetitious simplicity.

As much as these trademark approaches command respect, however, there is still something clear from the offset; the acting and the dialogue are plain woeful at times. There's no denying Carpenter's impressive ability to capture a shot or form atmosphere but, overall, it doesn't quite hold the impact it once had. This is a common problem when it comes to Carpenter's work; he was so ahead of his time and constantly trying to realise his visions on a shoestring budget that they don't often age well and a contemporary audience may well frown upon his films.

Speaking of budgets, Carpenter managed to string this thing together for approx $300,000 (with the experienced Donald Pleasance receiving $20,000 of that for 18 minutes onscreen work) and shot in 20 days. With no money for a costume department, the entire cast wore their own clothes and the actual mask that Myers wore was a William Shatner Star Trek mask - spray painted white and the eyes reshaped. It was bought for $1.98 from a local hardware store. This aside, the film went on to gross $70million worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent films ever made.

Halloween happens to be one of his Carpenter's most lauded and iconic films but I don't actually think it's in the same league as The Thing in terms of it's unflinching paranoia and sheer terror and I don't even think it's as good as Prince of Darkness in terms of it's concept. That said, Halloween certainly has it's place among the genre and is quite possibly the most influential of all horror movies. It has spawned countless clones, sequels and remakes and is, understandably, still revered by many.

For all it's flaws, there's no denying that this was a game-changer. Even though the impact has lessened and some flaws are now glaring, there are many times where Carpenter shows that he was once a true master of his craft.

Mark Walker

Mark Walker

Super Reviewer

A maniac stalks and kills young women.
The first hour of this film is spent "building suspense." With long pans, stalking shots, heavy breathing, and an effective but redundantly used score, the film thinks that we're waiting in anticipation, bundling our nerves, but I was just bored. At about the forty-five-minute mark, I couldn't wait to watch a blonde fuck and die. Even the kill scenes didn't serve up any suspense especially since i predicted who was going to die first about five minutes into the film.
Overall, while it's possible that time has turned all that was original about Halloween into a cliche, there is something to be said for films that withstand time's test, and whatever that is can't be said about this film.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Halloween Quotes

– Submitted by John B (22 months ago)
– Submitted by Aaron B (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Nick S (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Judson P (2 years ago)

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