SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's that time of the year again.
The rustling leaves, the slowly-setting sun, the chilly and blistering cold, college football; the season of Fall is here.
Okay, technically it isn't Fall just yet, but It feels like it where I live. And since I've been itching to dig into the horror genre some more, I decided to kick off horror-film season early. Every year, I watch horror films throughout September and October. I don't do a marathon or anything, but I enjoy watching them throughout the days leading up to Halloween. I always start this time by watching John Carpenter's Halloween, a film that is as influential to the genre of horror as it is to my personal film-watching experience. And at the end of this season, I close off the constant horror film with Halloween once again, late at night with the wind bellowing outside.
Halloween is absolutely perfect, there's no getting around that. I've been intimidated by this film, mostly because I know that a review by me would never do it justice. The film is historic, scary, stunning, powerful, startling, and impeccably executed. I adore every second, from the opening Jack 'o' Lantern credits to the echo-layered silence of the final montage. Truly, this is one of those films that I wouldn't change a thing. Yes, even the many goofs throughout; it adds a charm to this little masterpiece.
The atmosphere, the direction, the editing, the musical score, and the cinematography make up one of the finest horror films technical-wise. In regards to the look, the film oozes an apocalyptic and bone-chilling feel, aiding the slow tension and build-up that is painstakingly crafted throughout. The direction by the genius John Carpenter is beautiful. Classy, seductive, and peering; his eye stares straight into the shadows, and waits for Evil himself to stare back. It's a brave and unflinching directorial debut; capturing shadows, silence, light, and sound to form an experience that is simply marvelous. The editing is wonderful, bringing a quiet and subtle flow that is essential in this type of story. Yet, when everything explodes and bursts onto the screen; the film remains tight and powerfully edited. John Carpenter's musical score might be the most iconic aspect of the entire film, aside from our villain. Effortlessly sublime and organic, the sounds highlight the primal and distinct imagery laden in Carpenter's film. And finally, the cinematography by Dean Cundey adds a magnificent and glorious visual sense to the film. The shadows, the pitch-black darkness, the empty crevices of a quiet suburban household; Cundey's work is a match made in heaven with Carpenter's direction.
The cast is fantastic, with Jamie Lee Curtis bringing her A-game as one of the finest scream queens of any generation. The writing is naturalistic and badass, with the latter applying to Donald Pleasence's chilling and eerie speech. The locations are spot on, even with the extra challenge of making California look like Illinois. Basically, everything in this film is fantastic.
Yet, I haven't mentioned one aspect yet.....
The Shape. Evil Personified. Michael Myers. Michael. The Boogeyman. Evil himself. Darkness personified.
Whatever you want to call him, he's the star of this show and he's terrifying as hell. No Halloween film comes in the same realm as this one, and Nick Castle's portrayal of The Shape is the main reason why. His walk, his mannerisms, his slow-pace, the way he cocks his head; It all works in a way that can only be described as INCREDIBLE! The Shape, quite simply, is the finest horror icon ever. Sorry Freddy, sorry Jason, sorry Chucky; The Shape rules horror, and its mostly because of his aura that he gives off.
In Halloween, the sense of repressed sexuality, discomforted suburbia, emotional and family tension, and faded memories all are themes that are ever-present in Carpenter's cinematic masterpiece. The visual storytelling is off the charts, with the final 20 minutes being so perfect that It's hard to describe how immaculate that climax actually is. The way Carpenter shoots every frame like The Shape is lurking somewhere in that frame is genius. The way Carpenter makes every corner look like the gateway to the emptiest dead-end in your soul is genius. The way Carpenter uses lighting to frame an entire situation in a few seconds is genius. The way Carpenter uses tension to scare the hell out of us is genius.
This film is genius, genius, genius.
Basically, the entire film builds and builds and builds and builds and then climaxes in the finest 20 minute stretch of film-making that I have ever seen. The kills, the shots, the camera-moves, the editing choices, the music, the suspense; I can't explain the utter beauty and terror found in that 20 minute stretch. Really, the film is vibrantly screaming at you by that point in time; sending every primal and emotional shriek at the viewer in a jumbled daze of potent imagery and fantastical storytelling.
I also love the way Carpenter uses geography. The sense of space, place, and the way characters transverse these repressed and violated landscapes is something to behold. Particularly, both the film and its environment becomes more claustrophobic throughout, ratcheting up both the tension and the emotional state of the characters.
Overall, can I say more without rambling? Halloween is easily one of the finest horror films of all time, and It'll always have a special place in my heart. John Carpenter's lullaby fable of good vs. evil hasn't aged a bit, and it's just as pristine as ever.