Rob’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Note: added half a star on rewatch)
My SO made us one hell of a pumpkin seed salsa for dinner on Wednesday, with chives and habaneros and garlic. It was glorious, and we each probably had a cup of it. Which sounds healthy until you realize more than an ounce of pumpkin seeds will turn your intestinal tract into Mr. Turd's Wild Ride. Anyway, this movie is about Halloween.
I don't think I ever realized before this that Carpenter opened this movie by really just reversing his shock shot from Assault on Precinct 13: what's more shocking than killing a kid? Why, making a kid the killer! The coincidence that the kid is dressed like a clown just weeks before the capture John Wayne Gacy is just a nice piece of happenstance.
By following that sequence immediately with Dr. Loomis, a man of science, swearing that the child is simply evil without the possibility of cure, works by, again, reversing something that has worked before: The Exorcist. Audiences had been trained that children are helpless victims of evil, and that the experts can purge it. Carpenter flips that completely around, on both sides, which must have unmoored 70s suburban crowds still learning about horror that didn't involve bug-eyed Martians. Hell, the main theme even apes the Exorcist theme.
Jesus, even Michael Myers is just a superhero turned inside out. He's got a secret identity - The Shape, or maybe just The Boogeyman. He wears a mask. He's indestructible. He has seemingly superhuman strength. He drives a distinctive car. He is driven by childhood trauma. He has an arch-nemesis. Only here, he shows up when you need him the least. Carpenter even has Tommy show Laurie his comic books to make sure we have the idea of superheroes on the brain. Then he gives you one that will stab you in the brain instead.
This is a simple movie that takes familiar ideas, and things you expect, and flips them around. It's easy, but it's an effective way to make people uneasy and off-balance.
What helps this flick is that Laurie's friends are fuck-crazy douchebags who are terrible to Laurie and I am okay with what happens to them. But even that feels like it's on purpose! The point isn't any victim other than Laurie Strode; the other victims, including the dog, are only there to show us how dangerous Michael is, and how he really is as evil as Loomis says. It's like when The Terminator kills Rick Rossovich; people see that and it reinforces for them that Sarah Connor is fucked. No one whimpers, "Poor Hollywood from Top Gun! I WILL AVENGE YOU!" Not even Rossovich's mom. But I'm meandering again.
P. J. Soles's "Illinois" fuck van has California plates. They thought we wouldn't notice. But we did.
Man, even with the shorthand Carpenter used to put the audience of balance, the man knew how to slowly crank up the tension, huh? Laurie going outside... and across the street... and into the house... and up the stairs to finding the tableau dead teenagers of damn near a master class in it. And Dean Cundey's cinematography, with the Steadicam work, and use not only of shadows, but of depth of focus - putting The Shape just out of it, and then having him move, makes it completely unexpected. If it's out of focus, you shouldn't have to care about it, Goddammit!
This is even better than I remember. It's a reminder that there are good things about Halloween. Just not pumpkins. As a man of science, Loomis should really shoot the damn pumpkin seeds next.