A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Halloween is the 1978 classic John Carpenter horror movie that introduced the world to the homicidal maniac Michael Myers. While not as gory and overtly violent as other horror movies, it still has plenty of violent moments. Characters are stabbed and strangled. One character is discovered dead and pinned to the wall with the knife still stabbed through him in the chest. Myers chokes a family dog to death. Teens are shown having sex under the covers in bed (brief topless nudity). Another scene shows bare breasts. Teens drink beer and smoke cigarettes. In one scene, two teens (including the "good girl" character) smoke a joint while riding around in a car; when they see the sheriff father of one of the girls, they do their best to get rid of the marijuana smell and try to act like they're not high while they talk to the father. Some bullying: A little boy is tripped while carrying a jack-o'-lantern and smashes the jack-o'-lantern in his fall. Profanity includes "s--t," "goddamn," and "ass."
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What's the story?
On HALLOWEEN in 1963, Michael Myers stalks and kills his own sister after she has sex with her boyfriend. Some 15 years later, Michael escapes from an asylum on the anniversary of the murder. He soon becomes fixated on three high school girls who are looking forward to hot dates and a horror-movie marathon on trick-or-treat night -- all except for bookish Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), who has to babysit. While Michael's psychiatrist leads a skeptical sheriff around town in search of Michael, the killer gets to the schoolmates, one by one, until he's left with just Laurie, who's terrified but resourceful enough to fight back. (Of course, she's not caught unawares in bed with a boyfriend, either.)
Is it any good?
Despite some unnecessary R-rated elements, this movie still provides frightening moments with more taste and subtlety (you rarely ever see any blood -- you just think you do) than its imitators. Like Hitchcock, Carpenter has an innate sense of exactly where to put the camera, how to light a scene, and what to have going on in the frame to make you shudder and jump. His use of careful silences and the sudden bursts of his now-famous pulsating electronic musical score are especially unnerving and effective.
If critics could send a Terminator robot back in time to destroy a movie at the film-processing lab, all because of the countless trashy rip-offs and imitations it would inspire, Halloween would probably be the main target. But many critics hail the original Halloween as a masterpiece, and it earned then largely unknown director John Carpenter a reputation as the new Alfred Hitchcock (although maybe Orson Welles is more accurate, since Carpenter has never been quite able to make as big a hit again).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Halloween so scary, especially since it doesn't fall back on using gore-makeup effects or fancy, swooping digital camera angles. Parents might point out that director Carpenter pays tribute to the science fiction classic The Thing (1951), which took a similar straightforward approach to a homicidal space monster (somehow avoiding sex-minded teenagers and curse words in the process).
How did John Carpenter use point of view and music to create suspense, as opposed to overtly violent and bloody scenes?
How does the movie depict teen life in the 1970s? How is it similar to and different from teen life today?
- In theaters: October 25, 1978
- On DVD or streaming: September 28, 1999
- Cast: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Kyes
- Director: John Carpenter
- Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sex, profanity.
- Last updated: January 30, 2020
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