HOLLYWOOD—There are some horror movies that are good, some that are great, some that are one-of-a-kind, and some that are just iconic. It has been 45 years to date that director John Carpenter manifested something iconic, spine-tingling and clever with the 1978 classic “John Carpenter’s Halloween.” I have seen this flick so many times, I cannot tell you. Every time I watch the movie I spot something new, when asked in any of my cinematic courses (undergraduate, graduate and doctoral) I have been asked my all-time classic, and it always goes back to this one.

What is it about “Halloween” that makes it the perfect horror film? There is a simple answer, suspense and camera technique. Carpenter knows how to use the camera in a way that I haven’t seen another director of the genre wield with such precision and care that it brings you immediately into the movie and it can cause you to flinch with the slightest diversion. That opening sequence easily has to be the best 6 minutes of a horror film.

It is Halloween night, 1963 and Judith Myers and her boy toy are frolicking on the couch. They soon go upstairs, and from a camera point of view, we discover someone is watching them from outside, we are made to believe it is Judith’s brother Michael Myers. The light upstairs goes out and that creepy music unleashes, which we witness this figure enter the home, go into the kitchen, grab a large butcher knife and then after that teenage boy leaves the house after sex, the mysterious figure heads upstairs.

They grab a clown mask off the floor before the mysterious figure strikes. Judith screams, “Michael” as he relentlessly stabs her multiple times with the knife before fleeing the home, however, he is stopped in his tracks as a car pulls up to the house, and a man calls out, “Michael?” before pulling off the mask. The audience is stunned as we stare at this little kid, dazed, confused and nearly frozen in a trance.

Flash-forward 15 years later, were we meet Dr. Samuel Loomis portrayed with vigor by the late great Donald Pleasance in an epic performance that is underrated to be honest. He is ensuring his patient is NEVER released from the sanitarium because of the danger. There is just one problem, Michael Myers has been waiting for this night and he escapes.

Like that the audience is hooked only 10-15 minutes into the movie, and then the suspense factors builds even more. Carpenter does an exceptional job of establishing our villain earlier on who hides beyond the creepiest mask, which happens to be a William Shatner mask spray-painted white. We get glimpses in the first act of the movie; we really don’t see that face until the second act in its eerie glory. We meet our protagonist, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) who immediately knows something is off with the strange appearances of this character that seems to be stalking her, but she thinks it might all be in her mind. It is not, so while a typical slasher sees people die 1-by-1, “Halloween” doesn’t play that game. The tension really builds, and your first kill doesn’t transpire until nearly 40 to 45 minutes after Judith meets her maker in the opening act.

I tell people the scariest thing in life to me is someone watching you and you have NO IDEA you’re being watched. It sends a level of fear and chills down the spine that I cannot explain with words that I wish I could. It is almost like you feel your demise happening without knowing it is happening, which this movie sets up beautifully.

I loved the dialogue, especially that scene with Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Bracket at the Myers house as he explains his obsession with Michael Myers and the fear of this evil being at large in Haddonfield. We have sympathetic characters in the children in Tommy Doyle, who knows the Boogeyman is real and at large, but no one believes him, Lindsay Wallace his neighbor across the street, who becomes entangled in the plight as we enter the third act of the film, and the terror ramps up.

There is NO MOTIVE for Michael Myers and his madness and that is what makes it so scary. Sometimes a non-motive is scarier than an actual motive, which I think was Carpenter’s point all along. He never intended for the audience to KNOW why this villain was doing what he was doing. That isn’t the only selling point it is the fact the audience sees a lot of the mayhem from the point of view of our villain, not to mention this slow moving camera shots that pulls back and reveals things we least expect or should expect.

One of the best shots in the film is in the third act, in that scene where Laurie discovers her friend is dead upstairs at the Wallace house and she is an emotional mess, from a distance, Carpenter slowly flashes the light to reveal Michael Myers standing in that dark doorway ready to strike at Laurie, which he ultimately does. The shot is perfection, and plenty have tried to recapture that, but it doesn’t work. Sorry, Rick Rosenthal, your camera work in “Halloween II (1981)” doesn’t come close to Carpenter’s as he builds that suspense in iconic precision.

The film has great jump scares, and the ending, oh, it was the first ending of a horror film I recall where the villain actually escapes and leaves the surviving characters and audience at a loss for words. Shot six times, falls off a balcony and gets up and disappears without a trace. Oh, that is scary, not to mention before that he was stabbed with a knitting needle, poked in the eye with a wire hanger and then stabbed in the chest with a butcher knife. Is he a man, is he a ghost, is he superhuman? The audience has no clue, but we know he scares us.

If the narrative, acting, camera shots and suspense weren’t enough, who can forget Carpenter’s score because it is the most iconic music in a horror movie ever crafted. When you hear that score, you know its “Halloween” and it will send some chills down the spine. If there is one movie I watch every Halloween without any trepidation no matter how scared I might be, it is “John Carpenter’s Halloween.”

As a student of horror, there are so many lessons to be learned, but at the same time it is such a fun and visceral ride that never gets stale. Perhaps because it’s proof, you don’t need excessive blood, violence and gore to scare the audience. Carpenter does simplicity at its best and as he noted, simple is perhaps the most difficult thing to do at times, but he does it with unspeakable precision with this classic.