claire 👁️ diane’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the primary pieces of my horror languageworld. The Shape as the proto-"thing" for all slasher phantoms. The indistinct shadow and/or animus projection of adolescent sexual awakening. Simultaneously the fear of it (what is this thing happening to me, what are these feelings I have) -- and the secret embrace of it. The feeling that it must be repressed. And the phantom at that point intersects for me with strictures of patriarchal culture. It should be repressed and hidden, she/we're told. And then it is also the violence directed against people who are sexual beings. The violence both external and internalized. The Shape is an inside thing and an outside thing. Projection from inside, but that projection is also partially an internalization of corrosive patriarchal values, and it's also partially an intrusion from outside. All at once for me.
It's all wrapped up in the film's best moments. When Laurie walks away to school quietly singing "Just the two of us..." And The Shape slides into frame. The way they orbit each other throughout the film. And that's why I tend to read certain scenes as oneiric and dreamlike -- as the line between worlds being blurred -- despite the film's taut and minimalistic hardness. The final scenes make sense to me this way. The Shape appears and Laurie incapacitates him, but she can't kill him, because it is her and she is it. The knife disappears, reappears in Laurie's hand. The Shape awakens again and again. The ease and familiarity with which she relaxes after temporarily killing him. There's that production still that has stuck in my mind forever. I can't find a good picture of it, but it's here. Of Laurie and The Shape embracing as if they're lovers. Sex and death overlapping in a nightmare miasma of fear and awakening.
It feels easy to forget what it's like to occupy that awakening space, where you're terrified of your body, of what it wants. How familiar The Shape feels. I don't know, since I never really saw Halloween as a teenager, but I imagine teenagers recognized him. The specter of repressive/oppressive culture. Normally so invisible. So invisible it doesn't feel real. You feel ridiculous being afraid. Who's actually saying to you -- it's wrong what you are, who you are? And that's the most isolating thing -- feeling it all around but never seeing it. Like seeing the boogeyman and no one believes you. And there's no one you can tell. But you know him well. Because The Shape lives inside you. As Jamie Lee says on the new commentary track, "That's America, John."
I've started to realize how peculiarly I read slashers, how important they've become to me personally. For being, to me, a queered, queering space. For providing a language of gender fluidity and transgression in the Final Girl. In characters like Laurie Strode. I associate horror movies with my femininity. And Halloween is where it all starts for me. And it represents the best way that horror films can work on the most visceral levels. Cundey's camerawork is absolutely beautiful. I love how the film lingers and waits. The slow tracks and all the incredible long shots that open the film. With nothing quite as sublimely horrible as seeing that figure lurking in the distance, like your reflection looking back at you. But as it moves forward, it becomes an emotional-political thesis, taking on all the resonances of subconscious feminist struggle and resistance and the subterranean inklings of ruptured gender. And it launched the 80s slasher cycle that would articulate and explore everything bubbling in the subconscious psycho-sexual cauldron in hundreds of variations. In a (film) world that is often sexist, the gender queering rumbles deep below, in Halloween, have been an in, however unconventional, to new ways of understanding. It has, at least, been deeply intelligible to me. And the words of it have been worn down as my thoughts flow over them like water, that I am daunted by the thought of trying to even start articulating it. So this may be just another small piece, another little trying.
Halloween is important to me for all these reasons. I love it, too, for many other reasons. Lindsay who loves horror movies, a kid after any horror-cinephile's heart. How I want to spend my Halloween watching b&w flicks on TV. I love Pleasance and that scene when the car stops in the rain, with the patients wandering in the rain. I love how quiet the movie is. How, as one of my friends said in a movie night watch, "so little happens." But I love that. Part of why all of the stuff I mentioned above works for me is precisely because the movie soaks in atmosphere. That's the feel I love -- of just being. Films that are slow and long. The long shots piling up. The Shape just hovering in frame. All the implications of evil romance. But those other reasons, they're the hardest to explain and the most deeply in me. It's a fantasy of struggle and the site of struggle and the implication of subversion and revolution and gender's switching and a metaphor for internalized oppression and it gave me pieces of who I am. And every silly word word I write about slashers is to try and tell the way it resonates in me and all it's meant.
Halloween, this year, and I imagine Laurie Strode outside her nightmare zone, happy with the kids. And now that I've gone through all these movies and drove the 150 miles back to Haddonfield in my mind. And as I lived the something wild terror of it, now I see the things beyond and all the things that could be, where The Shape is not that evil hovering on the edge. Inviting him in.
Romancing The Shape and a dream for the future. Implicit in the terror. I've looked in the shadow, the obvious dark of the film for so long. I'm just coming awake to the implicit hope and light of it. But it has to reflect back on me. Invisible for so long. I see it now, feel it. I wanna be there on the couch catching horror flicks. Laurie Strode with a clenched fist patch on her jacket, arm around The Shape, with no mask on.
No more fear, Laurie Strode punk.