Halloween ★★★★★

“He came home...”

Carpenter’s sense of alienation from “the group” externalitied with cynicism and paranoia before his VFX opus The Thing; that is to say that John Carpenter’s distrust of systems, of status quo, of a comfortable complacent ignorance is brought to smoldering life. The playfulness of Halloween becomes the device selected to point out real, deeply American anxieties; that despite our best efforts and want of trying, we have monsters amongst us, and no thanks in part to the chaos of counterculture, the anxieties of the Vietnam War and Watergate, Haddonfield, an otherwise Norman Rockwell slice of American pie, becomes Hell with the lid off. Dean Cundey’s photography and Carpenter’s score work in tandem to provide the film with haunted attraction-like chills. The viewer can be alarmed by, and feel dread from, every corner of a room, or the outside of a window. The script and Carpenter’s direction seem to skewer in favor of performances that deliberately feel, in diction especially, like those out of low budget drive-in types of flicks. On the surface, Donald Pleasance as Doctor Loomis seems in the late 60s performances of some of Universal’s greats like John Carradine, but that is precisely what gives his performance resonance, and allows for the film’s characters to subvert expectations and mode. Debra Hill no doubt made major contribution to the (often blunt) naturalism of the dialogue between our leading ladies: all delivered with camp and blistering humanity. It’s of no surprise why Jamie Lee Curtis became a star. She is the human spirit of an otherwise (characteristically Carpenter) emotionally ambivalent and amoral experience. What Halloween lacks in exploitation, it makes up for in invasiveness— the screentime of The Shape feels violating, on a level with the perversion of Christopher Lee’s Dracula. And while the low budget sometimes doesn’t do the film any favors, Halloween remains amongst the very best genre films of its kind, a cry for help in its American madness.

Tim Tolbert liked this review