Name Occurs Before Title
Print Viewed By AFI
The Babysitter Murders
Los Angeles opening: 25 Oct 1978
Duration (in mins):
Print this page
Display Movie Summary
([Dr. Sam] Loomis)
Jamie Lee Curtis
P J Soles
John Michael Graham
Brent Le Page
(Michael age 23)
(Michael age 6)
On Halloween night, 1963, in Haddonfield, Illinois, six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his teen sister, Judith, to death with an over-sized butcher's knife just after she has sex with her boyfriend. On 30 October 1978, in Smith's Grove, Illinois, Michael's long-time psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, and an accompanying nurse drive to the maximum-security sanitarium where Michael, now twenty-three years old, is committed. Although they must, in accordance with the law, take Michael to court for a judge to evaluate his mental state, Loomis believes Michael is pure evil and admits he hopes "it" never gets out. As the car approaches the sanitarium grounds, Loomis and the nurse realize something is wrong: the patients are loose. When Loomis gets out of the car to open the front gate, Michael shatters the car window and takes off in the vehicle. On Halloween day, Haddonfield teen Laurie Strode heads off to school. She drops off a key at the vacant Myers house at the request of her realtor father and in spite of warnings from Tommy Doyle, the young boy Laurie frequently babysits, that the house is haunted. Laurie is unaware that Michael is inside, watching her. Later, in class, she spots Michael watching her from the street outside. This continues throughout the day, as he trails her and her friends around town, always vanishing quickly after he is spotted. When the elementary school lets out, three boys taunt little Tommy, teasing him that the Boogeyman is coming for him that night. As the boys chant this, an unnoticed Michael lingers in the distance, watching Tommy as he leaves for home. Back in Smith's Grove, Loomis, unconvinced that the sanitarium officials understand the threat Michael poses, sets out to recapture him personally. Guessing that Michael will go to Haddonfield, Loomis phones the Haddonfield police to warn of Michael's homecoming. On his way to Haddonfield, Loomis discovers an abandoned pickup truck containing Michael's discarded patient's robes and the "Rabbit in Red" matchbook the nurse was using the night before. He does not, however, notice the stripped body of the driver discarded in the brush. Later that afternoon, Laurie and her friend, Annie Brackett, carpool to their babysitting jobs. Laurie is watching Tommy for the night, while Annie is babysitting his neighbor Lindsey Wallace. En route, the two smoke a joint and chat casually about boys, unaware that Michael is trailing them in the stolen station wagon. They run into Annie's father, Sheriff Brackett, who is responding to a robbery at a hardware store. He tells the girls that children were responsible for the break-in, because only a Halloween mask, rope, and knives were stolen. Loomis, having just discovered that Judith Myers's tombstone is missing, arrives at the scene to ask the sheriff for his assistance in apprehending Michael. As the girls drive off, Loomis does not notice his stolen car pulling away in pursuit. It is night by the time Laurie and Annie arrive at their destinations. The trailing Michael parks and watches each girl but ultimately follows Annie. Loomis and Brackett visit the Myers house in search of clues. Inside it they find the fresh carcass of a slaughtered dog, proof for Loomis that Michael is near. Upstairs, in Judith's former bedroom Loomis recounts her murder. However, he is interrupted when a rain gutter crashes through a nearby window. Startled, Loomis draws a concealed pistol. He admits to Brackett that he is scared, and recalls his first meeting with Michael fifteen years before, describing the boy as empty, devoid of reason, conscience, or understanding, a six-year-old with "the blackest eyes, the devil's eyes." Truly, he believes Michael is evil. Across the street from one another Laurie and Annie talk on the phone, while Michael, donning a ghostly white mask, creeps outside the Wallace house. Though Lester, the Wallace's family dog, senses Michael's presence, Annie, annoyed at the dog's barking, fails to heed his warning. Eventually Michael crushes the dog, permanently silencing the pet. From his house, Tommy spots Michael and runs to tell Laurie that the Boogeyman is outside, but Michael has vanished by the time she looks. When Tommy again mentions his concern about the Boogeyman, Laurie consoles the child, by promising that she will protect him. At Lindsey's house, Michael watches as Annie spills butter on herself and goes to the outside laundry room to wash her clothes. While in the laundry room, Annie is accidentally locked in, and, though danger looms just outside, she is unaware and more concerned with an expected phone call from her boyfriend, Paul. When Paul finally calls, Annie is stuck in the laundry room's obstructed window, after she unsuccessfully attempts to squeeze through it. With Lindsey's help, Annie eventually works her way free and arranges a night of sexual escapades with Paul. Annie then convinces Laurie to watch Lindsey, so she can pick up Paul. However, Michael chokes Annie and eventually slits her throat in her car before she can leave. Tommy sees Michael once again, this time carrying Annie's corpse into Lindsey's house. Again, he screams out to Laurie that the Boogeyman is outside, but, as before, she does not believe him. Laurie's friend, Lynda, and her boyfriend, Bob, arrive drunk at the Wallace house intent on using it as a love nest. Finding no one home, the two make out on the couch while an unseen Michael watches from the hallway. Upon learning from Laurie that Lindsey is out for the night, Lynda and Bob move their escapades upstairs. After they have sex, Bob leaves Lynda to retrieve beers from the downstairs fridge. Michael kills Bob in the kitchen, pinning him to the wall with a knife. Then Michael dons a sheet and Bob's glasses and returns to Lynda. When Lynda quickly becomes annoyed at "Bob's" silence, she calls Laurie. However, before she can speak, Michael strangles Lynda with the telephone cord. Laurie hears only "squealing" on the end of the line and assumes Annie is playing a prank, though she becomes increasingly concerned. Noticing lights on at Lindsey's house, Laurie heads over to see if Annie is okay. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis, having spent the night casing the Myers house, discovers his stolen car down the street. Lindsey's house is dark when Laurie arrives, except for the upstairs bedroom that is illuminated by a jack-o-lantern. When Laurie opens the bedroom door, she discovers Lynda's corpse arranged on the bed, below Judith Myers's stolen tombstone. Terrified, Laurie cowers back, into the closet, where Bob's corpse swings down onto her. She screams and retreats to another part of the room where she discovers Annie bloodied and dead. Laurie stumbles out of the room and into the hallway where a waiting Michael slashes her in the arm with a knife. The shock sends Laurie over the banister and onto the stairs below. Injured, but mobile, she escapes out the back door, screaming out for help. She retreats to Tommy's house pursued by Michael. Once inside, she locks the door and tells Tommy to lock Lindsey and himself upstairs. In the house, Laurie finds the phone line dead and a window ajar. She cowers by the couch clutching a large knitting needle for protection. With knife in hand, Michael rears from behind the couch, but the desperate Laurie stabs him in the neck with the needle. Michael lays limp on the floor as Laurie grips his dropped knife. Outside, Loomis, having informed Brackett about the finding of his car, scours the neighborhood for any sign of Michael. Convinced that she has disabled Michael, Laurie retrieves Tommy and Lindsey, but before they can leave the house Michael rises. Spotting Michael ascending the stairs, Laurie locks the children in an upstairs bathroom while she escapes into a bedroom closet. Inside the closet, she rigs its doors shut, forcing Michael to break through it. As he smashes his way into to the closet, Laurie fashions a clothes hanger into a weapon and jabs Michael through the eye. Injured, Michael again drops the knife, which Laurie uses to stab him. Once more Michael crumbles to the floor motionless. Laurie leaves the closet, drops the knife, and gathers the children, whom she sends across the street for help. A wounded Laurie shrinks to the floor with her back to Michael. Silently, Michael sits up, and, as Laurie stands to leave, he again lunges at her. The two struggle briefly in the hallway before Loomis rushes up the stairs and shoots Michael. The force of the bullets sends Michael crashing through the upstairs window, falling to the lawn below where he lays lifeless. A tearful Laurie declares that Michael is the Boogeyman, and Loomis agrees. Still wary, Loomis surveys the lawn for Michael's body, but it is gone.
Falcon International Productions
A Debra Hill Production
Compass International Pictures
Jack De Wolf
(2d asst dir)
(Dir of photog)
(2d asst cam)
(Asst art dir)
(Set dec/prop master)
(Mus rec and mixer)
The Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra
(Mus performed by)
(Supv sd ed)
Samuel Goldwyn Studios
"Don't Fear the Reaper" by Donald Roeser, performed by Blue Oyster Cult, courtesy C.B.S. Records.
Falcon International Productions
Babysitters and babysitting
Brothers and sisters
Fathers and daughters
High school students
Small town life
The Thing (Motion Picture)
The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michael Thielvoldt, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Tom Schatz as academic advisor.
Executive producer Irwin Yablans conceived of the basic story for the film, which he originally titled
The Babysitter Murders
. When he changed the setting of the story to Halloween night, Yablans presented eventual director and co-writer John Carpenter with the final concept and title. Carpenter and Debra Hill, who would also act as the film's producer, co-wrote the screenplay in 1977. According to Carpenter and Hill, the writing collaboration was an even split, with Hill writing the babysitter characters and Carpenter writing "Loomis" and "Michael." With the screenplay in place, Carpenter brought the idea to financier Moustapha Akkad, who advanced $300,000 for production.
The title of the film, as listed in the opening credits, is
John Carpenter's Halloween
. Part of Carpenter's contract stipulated that his name appear over the title. Jamie Lee Curtis ("Laurie"), who made her feature film debut in
, was "introduced" in the opening credits; however, she had previously appeared in various television programs, among them, brief appearances on two television series,
, and a recurring role in the television comedy,
. The character Annie is credited to Nancy Loomis, a pseudonym used by Nancy Kyes. The actress is credited as Nancy Loomis in three other Carpenter projects (
Assault on Precinct 13
), as well as the 1978 Stewart Raffill-directed picture
The Sea Gypsies
. In 1982, Kyes discarded the pseudonym for her real name, starting with
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
, and has maintained the credit "Nancy Kyes" ever since.
Mickey Yablans, who portrays the character "Richie," is the son of Irwin Yablans. Carpenter's long-time friend and former classmate Nick Castle is credited with playing "The Shape" (i.e., the masked Michael Myers and the name given the character in the original screenplay). However, cast members revealed that numerous cast and crew wore the mask during filming, including producer Hill, who also provided the hands for six-year-old Michael in the opening point-of-view shot. Additionally, actor Tony Moran played Michael for the brief moment he is unmasked during a struggle with Laurie. He is credited as "Michael age 23" in the closing credits, but in the film, the timeline provided by character, Dr. Sam Loomis, states that Michael was six years old in 1963 and he escaped from the sanitarium fifteen years later, putting his age at twenty-one.
Although the performance credit for the film's music is attributed to "The Bowling Green Philharmonic," this is a name fabricated by Carpenter specifically for this film. Actually, the music was performed by Carpenter and various musician friends. The only other musical credit listed is "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, which plays on a car radio.
, character "Tommy Doyle" watches an excerpt from the 1951 sci-fi thriller,
The Thing from Another World
(also known as
), which was produced by Howard Hawks. Carpenter identifies Hawks as one of his idols, and, in 1982, he remade the picture (see entry).
In an interview with writer Gilles Boulenger in the book,
John Carpenter The Prince of Darkness
, Carpenter acknowledged that Hill originally suggested Curtis for the role of Laurie, and she was cast based on a reading and in part because she is the daughter of Janet Leigh, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's
(see entry). Jamie Lee Curtis reprised the role in
(2002). At Curtis's insistence, her mother appeared in a brief cameo in
. In the DVD commentary for
, Curtis revealed she was hounded by women's groups that called her an "exploitation queen" for her nearly exclusive work in horror movies for five years, starting in the late 1970s. Curtis resented what she saw as unfair treatment, arguing: "I never took my clothes off, never swore, never smoked dope. But I had every women's group in the country after me. Then I do two movies in which I take my clothes off, and now I'm considered legitimate. You tell me where the morality is."
In various interviews, producer Yablans revealed that Carpenter originally offered Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing the role of Michael's psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, despite protests by Yablans, who was wary of the actors' association with the British horror films of Hammer Studios. However, both actors rejected the offers. Donald Pleasence, also British, finally agreed to play the part because his daughter suggested that he work with the director after seeing Carpenter's
Assault on Precinct 13
According to a 23 Apr 1979
was an independently-produced, non-union picture shot in four weeks on a budget of $320,000. An unsourced news item found in AMPAS Library's file for the film stated that principal photography began 24 Apr 1978. Portions of the film were shot in various Los Angeles area locations, including South Pasadena. According to a 27 May 1978
article, parts were shot in a nearly 100-year-old abandoned house located on Meridian Ave in South Pasadena. The house was partially remodeled in preparation for shooting. Today the "Myers House" is a tourist attraction visited almost daily by fans of the "Halloween"series. Because the film was shot in the spring, rather than the fall, the crew had to devise paper leaves, painting them autumn colors, to coincide with the narrative timeline. The leaves were scattered before every scene and collected afterwards for reuse. The same article reported that Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey had to frame shots to avoid southern Californian palm trees, in order to maintain the look of a mid-western town.
The film's crew was unusually young. A 27 May 1978
article puts the average age at twenty-six. David Ansen of
reports in a 4 Dec 1978 article that Carpenter was thirty years old when he directed the film. Carpenter's first film was the science fiction, black comedy
(see entry), which he directed at the age of twenty-two, as a recent graduate of the USC film school.
According to added content in the DVD release of the film, Pleasence was paid $20,000 for his five days of shooting. A 22 Aug 1979
article claims producer/co-screenwriter Hill received no salary and worked only for a percentage of the film's net profits, which, after the immense success of the film, turned out to be a lucrative arrangement.
The ghostly, white mask worn by the older Michael has become a staple Halloween mask at costume stores across America. Production designer/art director Tommy Lee Wallace created the original mask by modifying a William Shatner/"Captain Kirk" mask, widening the eye holes, altering the hair, and painting it pale blue so as to reduce the identifiable features, in accordance with the description of the mask in the screenplay. According to the documentary
, Wallace also proposed an alternate mask patterned after the droopy-faced hobo clown, Emmett Kelly.
A 27 May 1978
article recognized that Carpenter borrowed the character name, Sam Loomis, from a character of the same name played by John Gavin in
. Carpenter took the name "Michael Myers" from the British distributor of the same name who distributed the director's earlier work,
Assault on Precinct 13
, getting it into the London Film Festival where it received great praise and attention from press and audiences alike. Carpenter credits Myers with getting his career off the ground.
An 11 Dec 1978
news item reported Yablans priced
's television rights at $3 million. NBC picked up the television rights, though it is unclear how much the network actually paid. In Boulenger's book, Carpenter explains that he shot additional scenes with Pleasence, who was in town filming
, in order to extend the film to a running time appropriate for broadcast. Although the twist of Laurie being Michael's sister was not conceived for the first film and not revealed until
, the additional scenes Carpenter shot with Pleasence for the television cut included a moment when Dr. Loomis discovers the word "sister" written on one of the walls of Michael's room in the sanitarium. Pleasence reprised his role as Dr. Loomis in five sequels.
was the first film released by Compass International Pictures. A 23 Apr 1979
article reported that the major Hollywood studios initially turned down
, forcing executive producer, and then-head of Compass International Pictures, Yablans, to "bring the picture in through the back door," via fringe theaters. However, a 10 Nov 1978
article noted that Warner Bros. acquired the distribution rights for Italy, Germany, and France following the picture's early successes in the US.
The film received an extremely limited initial release, opening in four theaters in Kansas City. Yablans recalled the opening Friday night gross was an underwhelming $200 per theater, but positive reception brought daily grosses to between $1600-2000 per theater within a week. According to a 27 Oct 1978
news item, the film also played on Halloween 1978 at the San Diego Film Festival. Producer Hill and lead actress Curtis attended the screening at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Arts.
A 23 Apr 1979
article claims the film was rushed into New York and Los Angeles for Halloween 1978 after its early success. A 10 Nov 1978
article puts the film's first two weeks' earnings at more than $2 million, with an additional $1 million in advance from foreign markets after a single screening at MIFED (Mercato Internazionale del Film del TV Film del Documentario), the international cinema and television market held in Milan. Some time later the film opened in six perimeter theaters in Boston to an impressive $200,000 first week gross. Because of its success and setting, the picture lent itself to annual Halloween reissues for a number of years.
A 5 Nov 1980 news item in
reports that a "highly unusual marketing combination" was employed for the film's Halloween 1980 re-release in New York City. Local sub-distributor Aquarius Releasing employed a 3-media day-and-date release formula, screening the film in eighty-three theaters across the city, playing on pay cable, and making it available for purchase on video cassette exclusively through Video Shack stores. The unorthodox release formula paid off, earning a reported $450,000 opening week gross with second week holdovers expected at all eighty-three locations.
Critical reception for the picture was generally positive. In a 4 Dec 1978
review, David Ansen called the film: "A superb exercise in the art of suspense," while predicting big things for the film's director and eventual cult status for the film itself. Another 25 Oct 1978
review similarly praised the director, stating Carpenter has "a good feel for timing and thrills," and "an offbeat, almost perverse sense of humor." In contrast,
The New Yorker
's Pauline Kael wrote a scathing 19 Feb 1979 review calling the film "childish" and unsophisticated. Although she acknowledged Carpenter's visual sense, she emphasized his filmmaking weaknesses, claiming Carpenter "isn't very gifted with actors" and his "amateurish" script displayed a lack of logical motivation.
was nominated for a 1979 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Award for Best Horror Film, but lost to
The Wicker Man
. In addition, the Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival in France awarded the picture the 1979 Critics Award. Although not up for award consideration,
along with Carpenter's previous feature,
Assault on Precinct 13
, screened as invited festival entries at the 1978 Chicago International Film Festival, where Carpenter received a Special Silver Plaque, according to a 4 Dec 1978 article in
. In 2006, The National Film Preservation Board selected
for preservation in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry, deeming the film "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."
Various sources put
's domestic gross at around $50 million and its world wide gross between $60-70 million, which, according to 23 Apr 1979
and 22 Aug 1979
articles, made the film the most lucrative independently-produced picture to that time.
is generally considered, along with Tobe Hooper's 1974 film,
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
(see entry), to have initiated the 1980s horror/slasher craze in the U.S.
film series consists of ten movies, which include two remakes written by Rob Zombie (
, 2007, and
, 2009, see entries). An eleventh picture is slated for a 2011 release.
A 16 Jan 2008
news item reported that Carpenter sued Yablans and Compass International Pictures in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming Yablans and CIP failed to provide him quarterly accounting and payments for the picture since 2004. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
A 10 Nov 1978
article reported that two "major publishers" were bidding for the novelization rights to
. According to the 11 Dec 1978
news item, Compass International Pictures brokered a publishing deal with Bantam Books for the film's novelization set for an Oct 1979 publication date to coincide with a re-release of the picture.
franchise also made the jump to comic books. In 2000, Chaos! Comics published a trilogy titled
Halloween II: The Blackest Eyes
Halloween III: The Devil's Eyes
. The series, written by Phil Nutman, centers on an adult Tommy Doyle who discovers the personal diary of late Dr. Loomis and must again confront Michael. Halloweencomics.com lists several additional titles written by Stefan Hutchinson, director of the 2006 documentary,
Halloween: 25 Years of Terror
. These include
One Good Scare
, which was created and sold as a collectible for the twenty-fifth anniversary convention of the film held in Oct 2003 in South Pasadena, CA, and
, which was inserted into the DVD jacket of
Halloween: 25 Years of Terror
. Hutchinson also wrote
30 Years of Terror
The First Death of Laurie Strode
, which were released by Devil's Due Publishing in 2008.
A 8 Mar 1983
article announced that Arista Films planned to unveil a video game adaptation of
for the Atari gaming system at the 1983 American Film Market. The game, created by Wizard Video and developed by VSS/MicroGraphic Image, was to be sold in foreign markets along with a similarly themed video game adaptation of the 1974 Tobe Hooper-directed
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
. According to
archival information, the
video game was released in North America on the Atari 2600 system to poor sales. Today it is an extremely rare collector's item.
4 Dec 1978.
23 Apr 1979.
21 Sep 1978.
11 Dec 1978.
8 Mar 1983.
26 Oct 1978.
27 Oct 1978
10 Nov 1978.
22 Aug 1979.
16 Jan 2008.
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1978.
Los Angeles Times
27 Oct 1978
4 Dec 1978.
11 Oct 1978.
25 Oct 1978
5 Nov 1980.
Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
© 2016 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.