Best Movie Ever?: “Halloween”

Unless I’m dressed as wisecracking dognapper Debi Mazar in Beethoven’s 2nd, I find Halloween kind of a drag. It requires too much forethought and CVS shopping, and I’m at the age when I’ve probably had too many fun-size Snickers and popcorn orbs for a lifetime. But one spooky tradition of mine will never die, just like Michael Myers himself: I always watch Halloween on October 31, and not just because it’s one of the three scariest movies I’ve seen (including Scream and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but because it actually captures the essence of the holiday itself: a drab, suburban, hokey affair with some seriously scary undertones. The day is stupid and cheesy, but it also feels like the wrong night to babysit. Particularly if you’re a naughty babysitter who seems like an awful friend.

As a thriller, Halloween is slower than what we’re used to now, but that just cements its towering legacy further. There will never be another movie like this, and that’s why it qualifies for Best Movie Ever. Here are my other favorite reasons why.

1. There is only one Jamie Lee Curtis.

Try comparing Jamie Lee Curtis to anyone. Are you coming up with anything? Because it doesn’t even seem right to compare her to her own mother, Janet Leigh. I hereby coin the term “ruggedly unassuming” to describe Curtis, who plays Halloween‘s central teen, the big-eyed, lank-haired Laurie Strode. Though the movie begins by showing us — through the eyes of his clown mask — young Michael Myers’ murder of his sister Judith on Halloween 1963, the action of the story zaps us to Halloween 1978, when Laurie is supposed to babysit by the same Haddonfield, IL house where the infamous killing took place.

Her bratty friends (P.J. Soles and Nancy Loomis) are babysitting nearby, and none of them knows that a terrified psychiatrist named Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is roaming the area searching for his patient Michael, who escaped from the funny farm and might be destined to kill again. Do you need more plot? Because the rest of what’s in store is just unadulterated terror and Jamie Lee’s shruggy gauntness. She’s like a young Charlotte Gainsbourg who lives in a cul de sac and wears only faint green and beige. 

And make no mistake: This is both an iconic role and a great performance. Curtis’ level of terror rises to unexpected levels, and she is commanding and convincing whether she’s yelling “Do as I say!” at the clueless kids she’s babysitting or limping away from the Boogey Man himself. She embodies the virginal qualities of horror movie heroines we’d see time and again in years to come, but I think it’s easy to believe her humanity here. The last person you’ll think of when watching Jamie Lee Curtis is Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Know What You Did Last Summer, if that’s any help.

2. Dr. Loomis: stalwart, serious, and seeeeeexy.

You have to love a man in control — particularly one who seeks justice, operates based on instinct alone, and shoots a gun sometimes. Dr. Loomis, the bald, trench-coated pillar of goodness that he is, happens to be way sexier than any of us give him credit for. Donald Pleasance‘s long stares and Ustinov-ian facial hair are classically debonair, and I like to think of him as the original Keith Mars, a.k.a. Enrico Colantoni, the sexy patriarch on Veronica Mars.

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