tromber’s review published on Letterboxd:
I really respect the subtlety of the supernatural element of this film. Because it's not even entirely clear if it's there or if you're imagining it. How fast and silent he is, how hard he is to take down, his disturbing inhuman strength. All of it can almost be explained away as normal with just a hint of dangling doubt. It adds an otherness to this because it so clearly exists in our world, but there's something beyond.
On the flipside, I love the humanity of it. There are shots when he 'disappears' from view but you see the tail end of his shadow slipping around the corner. Despite his strengths and invulnerabilities, he is still a tangible human man. He is in the same reality as the other characters.
Characters though, are this film's true weakness. Mike and Laurie are great, developed characters, to easily empathize with and root for or against. They are well rounded and they make sense. There's the sense of a code to Michael, you can see that there's a design to what he's doing even if it's never explained to us, even if we have no idea and it all just looks insane and scary. There's human thought in the background.
Same with Laurie. She has feelings and thoughts and stresses. As concerned as she is by the weird guy she keeps thinking she sees, it's not as pressing as her shitty friend telling a guy at school that she likes him. Because she is a teenager and that's the life or death struggle. To us, we see Mike and know he's evil because we have context and we are safe on a couch. But to Laurie, she might be imagining this, but she definitely isn't imagining the perils of the school dance, and that's just more prevalent.
But none of the other characters have anything close to this sort of reality to them. The other high school kids are cardboard blood bags, waiting to get naked and die. They are all grating and dumb and they treat Laurie like shit. They are empty characters so you don't feel guilty for enjoying their demises.
But the other two prominent characters in the film are no better. Loomis spends the whole film repeating the same damn monologue and accomplishing nothing, and barely even registering in the movie. We only seem to cut to him to give the Laurie side some breathing room. He contributes nothing. And Brackett is just a terrible piece of acting. He over-expresses every line he's given in the film.
Well, save for one. There's a funny moment that kind of ruins the scene where Loomis is explaining who Mike is for the fiftieth goddamn time and has like a five minute monologue. Then, when it's over Brackett says, with no inflection whatsoever, but way too loud "WHAT DO WE DO?"
And it's the sort of thing where you see through the scene into the day on set. He pretty clearly zoned out while Pleasance was prattling on and almost forgot to say his line. So he blurts it out before he ruins the take, and for some reason they just used it.
There's other issues like that, amateur hour mistakes and budgetary restrictions that prevent this from being a truly great masterpiece, but the end result is still strong in many ways. It's a masterclass on how to build effective and simple tension, on a less is more approach to horror, and on carefully threading the line of building a monster with an identity.