Halloween ★★★★½

When exposed, he only pauses.

It's nothing new to note that the horror in many slashers--especially this one--are women's horrors. Stalking, sexual violence, threats to children, threatening phone calls, these are products of patriarchy that women--whether we like it or not--are saddled with facing. In better societies, reproductive labor is shared, but here, under capitalist patriarchy, women (or even just those classified as women) are coerced into these roles. And so we are subject to men's obsessions, men's brutality, men's lust, men's need to control. Again, whether men like it or not, whether men concede to the coercion or not, capitalist patriarchy coerces them into those roles. They aren't "natural." They aren't innate. They aren't unavoidable. But they are there, in our media, in our culture, in our schools, in our attitudes, in our laws.

And so we see the Shape staring into windows. We see the Shape looming over a naked woman in her bed, seeming to be her lover, implying sexual violence without enacting it. We see the Shape come so close to the kids. We see the Shape break every barrier down. We see the Shape rise behind her. We see the Shape as a faceless man, a threatening phantom, a boogie man who does not stop. The police can't stop him. His doctor can't stop him. Guns don't stop him. Knives don't stop him. The only moment he even pauses is when he is, briefly, temporarily, exposed.

But not even that stops him.

And if what we have seen lately as rapists take high offices, as (bourgeois, white) men get away with staining the insides of women, as men get away with laws against women's bodies, as men strive to define who is and isn't a woman, if what we have seen lately is any indication, not much can stop him. Nothing portrayed here has that might. They're too scattered, too isolated, too alone.

The ending of this film is chilling. If you refuse to see this in the context of what comes next, of the endless sequels, of the remakes, of the revisionings, if you see this as the encapsulated piece that the filmmakers first intended, then that ending suffuses this with the creepiness so many other slashers lack. This uses violence as a punctuation, but it uses its soundtrack and the menace of the Shape's form and the atmosphere of autumnal possibility to convey the real horror here. There is more horror going on in the mundane moments before the violence than in some of the sequels all together, because just a glimpse of the Shape echoes throughout the awkward phone calls and childish pranks.

From the opening giallo-inspired perspective killings to the shadowed evening imagery of suburban hallways and wide-open streets, every scene is structured to build up not to a victory, not to a climax of violence, but to a deeply unsettling moment of failure. Had no sequel ever been made, all we would have been left with is that certainty that there is no escape, that there is no safety, that the Shape is still out there, inexplicably unkillable. I prefer to remember it that way. I prefer to think of him as the unknown, the Shape, the pure evil, silent child that moves through the United States in the form of every stalker, every sexual predator, every serial killer. And he'll keep getting away with it in a world like this one.

After all, when exposed, he only pauses.

Happy Halloween, Letterboxd.

October count: 31/31

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