Movies with Isaiah: 'Halloween' is the unbeaten classic in horror


Horror in the cinema realm has played a significant role in my passion for the film medium.

I grew up watching "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Child's Play" and several other stories that frightened me during my formative childhood years. This specific review has a personal significance for me since it's at the top of my list of being my favorite film of all time.

I remember when my family and I were living in California after we moved from Germany due to a military deployment. My mother introduced me to the film "Halloween." She told me that in 1978 it was defined as being one of the scariest films for its time period, along with the personal fact that it was the first date my father took her on. Finding myself brushing aside her statements of the story being more horrifying than anything I've watched in the past, immediately I placed the cassette into the VCR that I had in my room, prepared for a story similar to a Jason Vorhees, Chucky or even Freddy Krueger.

Much to my surprise, I found out how wrong I was as far as the horror content is concerned. "Halloween" begins with the revelation of a 6-year-old child named Michael Myers, who for unknown reasons on Halloween night murdered his sister, was sent to Smith's Grove Mental Facility and escaped the night before Halloween after spending a total of 15 years in silent captivity.

He returns to his hometown of Haddonfield on Halloween, stalking a character by the name of Laurie Strode for unspecified reasons while at the same time being pursued by his passionate, desperate and cautious psychiatrist who attempted to warn medical officials of the danger his patient posed. All throughout the story, we're treated with a sense of tension, atmospheric horror, wondering exactly how, where and when he'll strike his desired target.

As an audience, we're constantly questioning what's driving him to commit these horrific, heinous acts of murderous aggression. Director John Carpenter carefully crafted a story that not only doesn't reveal any detailed reason for Michael's violent tendencies, but he brought it to life in a way that manages to surpass slapstick, gory, violent films of the past that used over-the-top effects to present their stories. Of course, it's not saying that those specific films don't have a place in cinematic horror. However, "Halloween" finds itself separated from past, present and even future horror films by being part of the rare exception of having little to no blood on screen.

Everything about this film relies more on the perspective visuals of experiencing genuine fear, tension, suspense and often seeing Michael lurking in the background. You're probably wondering what I mean by lurking. There are various moments in the film where he's seen more or less coming into the view of the camera, whether he's walking silently, standing behind a bush, driving a car or coming up the stairs. These specific details you find yourself noticing upon repeated viewings of the film.

"Halloween" introduced the world to iconic scream queen, legendary actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who portrays high school student Laurie Strode. English actor Donald Pleasance was cast as the memorable, classic Dr. Samuel Loomis, who is attempting to prevent Michael's spree. The story itself primarily focuses on the progression of Laurie and Loomis.

Curtis captures the innocent, book-smart, naïve teenager being hunted by a mysterious force of nature for reasons unknown. Her performance presents genuine, cataclysmic fear. What solidifies the story more into its legendary status is Pleasance as Dr. Loomis. Loomis, as a character, is iconic and cemented within popular culture as one of the greatest heroes in cinema and literature. Pleasance brings to life a passionate, calm, intelligent, analytical and frightened character who knows he's going against a form of evil that only he sees and understands. Michael and Loomis' cinematic relationship remains one of the greatest dichotomies ever created for the big screen.

The character of Michael in "Halloween" in my opinion is one of the most frightening representations of legendary slashers. What makes him such a defining component of horror is how real he feels. There's nothing indicating any form of supernatural abilities involving the concept of, say, being possessed by demonic entities. All you're left with as a viewer is the classic monologue brilliantly delivered by Loomis in the middle portion of the film. The monologue is memorable to the point that I've memorized it in its entirety.

Michael is a classic horror character who transcends what we know about the genre. He's a force of nature who simply exists. There's no rhyme or reason for his existence except, as I said, by all accounts he's a force that has to exist to some degree.

"Halloween" also is associated with the classic theme song that is far scarier than any other composition in the horror genre. I remember as a teenager finding myself more terrified by the music and sleeping with the lights on. After my first viewing of this film, I was so scared of Michael manifesting in some fashion that I turned on my lamp, the bathroom light that illuminated the hallway and left my bedroom door open, allowing me to see or hear anything or anyone attempting to cause me harm.

John Carpenter's legendary creation paved the way for a vast majority of horror that exists in today's realm of entertainment. None have succeeded in reaching that level of authentic fear without relying on some gimmick to sell the story. "Halloween" in 1978 doesn't have to rely on loud jump scares, slapstick gore, subpar acting or a grotesque monster constantly being shown in order to drum up the fear factor. This story became a classic horror cinematic gem from how it was able to captivate the audience with the concept that less is more. What you don't see or hear is far more frightening than the images an individual can come up with.

The imagination is a frightening tool, as we find ourselves coming up with different scenarios for Michael's evil, and we still wouldn't know the how's, when's or why's. In my opinion, leaving the viewer in the dark with ambiguous answers is more realistic and frightening than any images of an actual monster. The unknown in general is what should be respected and feared. Michael, by all accounts, represents the very definition of the unknown.

"Halloween" is one of the greatest films ever created and easily my No. 1 favorite of all time. An interesting fact that I would love to share: This film and another called "Starman" are tied for being my favorites of all time. What do they have in common? Both were directed by John Carpenter.

The "Halloween" series from its onset was followed with a slew of sequels that followed the same formula as "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Hellraiser," etc. Michael remains such an iconic figure of horror that one cannot ignore what the character brought to the genre. In 2018, it was decided to make a true sequel to the first film while reconnecting the sequels from those specific storylines. 2018 saw the return of Michael to the big screen in a modern setting as a sequel to the 1978 classic. It was followed up with "Halloween Kills" in 2021, and 2022 will see the release of "Halloween Ends" on Oct. 14.

It's a highly recommended cinematic classic that I make a goal to watch every Halloween. My father, Frank Ridley, was born on Oct. 31, 1954, and he passed away Sept. 9, 2021. We'd watch this film every single Halloween. From now on as a tribute to him, I'll make it a mission to continue the tradition. No one can venture wrongly when watching this film. It's an absolute classic from beginning to end that presents the picture of true cinematic horror.

Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To watch his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.