Halloween ★★★★½

Sometimes simplicity rules all. On a minimal budget, with minimal resources, John Carpenter crafted one of the most iconic and more accomplished horror films ever made. Even by today’s standards, Carpenter’s film does not feel dated because it is a period piece and it is still able to generate a sense of dread to keep you on edge. So few modern horror films can achieve that same sense of terror which is why ‘Halloween’ still represents the pinnacle of a now maligned sub-genre of horror. It spawned what feels like an endless stream of sequels and copycats over the 35+ years since its release and some would argue that it has yet to be surpassed.

Carpenter’s direction is near flawless and his keen eye is what elevates this film to greatness. The majority of the frills and chills arise purely through simple camera work and framing. Seeing the silent Michael stalk Laurie from afar is far more chilling than having him chase her from set piece to set piece. Michael appears in the background for the majority of the first half of the film but he feels like a lurking and ominous presence throughout. One scene involving him entering the frame and breathing heavily as Laurie walks away from him is deeply unsettling. It is such a simple way to generate tension but it ingeniously works.

Sure the acting is wonky, the characters are walking stereotypes and the villain is a near indestructible walking mute who is never fully explored. Generally however it is clear to see that this is a well executed example of one of the most recycled and stale formulas for the genre. All of the clichés and genre tropes are present but they do not weigh the film down or hold it back. The haunting soundtrack kicks in during all of the right moments to crank up the atmosphere and raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Carpenter grabs you with his startling opening sequence and keeps you on the edge of your seat as he continually builds towards the adrenaline fuelled and ultimately spine-chilling finale.

Is this the perfect example of how to make a ‘slasher’ horror film? It is pretty darn close.

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