Halloween

Halloween ★★★★½

81/100

Second viewing, last seen Halloween 2004. (I've only ever seen this film on 31 October, so far; will endeavor to keep it that way.) Carpenter's formal control here is downright uncanny, elevating what would otherwise be...well, just look at any of the gazillion knockoffs it inspired, all of which copied/pasted the wrong elements. I devoted a Scenic Routes column to Laurie and her friends walking through their neighborhood after school, trailed by the Shape in Loomis' station wagon; rereading the piece now, it seems overly influenced by It Follows (which I'd just seen at Cannes a few months earlier), but still does a reasonable job of laying out the various ways that Carpenter modulates tension via purely spatial means. (Well, almost purely. Score's obviously an all-timer.) Prologue excepted, nobody dies or is overtly attacked onscreen for the first 54 minutes—an insanely long time to sustain what's basically a single note of dread. And when the carnage finally begins, weirdly placid jump scares alternate with moments of eerie beauty, e.g. Michael cocking his head slightly at the boyfriend's corpse, impaled high on the kitchen wall, as if he were a newly discovered Matisse. So long as you can roll with some clunky B-movie dialogue (credit to Pleasance for selling many of the worst offenders with sheer conviction) and overlook the genre's usual punitive sexual politics, it's nonstop exquisite anxiety all the way to the final exchange between Laurie and Loomis, which might as well be horror's very motto.

"It was the bogeyman."

"As a matter of fact, it was."