Halloween ★★★★★

In terms of horror, it’s true that Halloween spawned endless imitators but virtually none of them seem to have actually learned from Carpenter’s example; because the brilliance of Halloween is a series of things which are all too rare in horror films: the setting of a consistent/believable atmosphere, the building of suspense in anticipation of action, rhythm and pace, etc (in fact, I think these things are infinitely more important than ‘being scary’ or shocking). I think Carpenter plays the audience very much like a musician in some ways in how he shocks us first and then spends a long period of time building up the anticipation of the horror to come - and witness how he uses the various themes on the soundtrack in pacing and rhythm.

And as an audience of horror films, that’s what you go to them for. It’s not - as many horror film-makers seem to believe - about SCARES VIOLENCE SCREAMING RUNNING LOUD SHOUTING HORROR for 90 minutes, an assault on the senses.

Halloween has that melancholy I mentioned, especially in the early scenes with the empty autumnal streets of Haddonfield (the calm before the storm), shot so beautifully by Carpenter’s greatest DP Dean Cundey. His lighting later on is equally brilliant, especially in the use of large sections of pitch black as a compositional device where Michael Myers’ face could loom out at any moment and also in the way he shoots the house across the street, like an eerie Magritte painting.

To me, it’s the most perfect horror film, stripped back to its bare essentials and written, shot and edited in such a way as to not only scare the life out of you, but to stay with you, with the simplicity of all great horror stories.

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