Halloween

Halloween ★★★★

[71]

Interrupting my recommendation commitment for this HALLOWEEN binge with my wife. It occurred to me at some point that I’d never seen any film other than the original, and so off we went, plunging through the collection headfirst. (She’d seen all of ‘em previously.) To appropriately attenuate my senses to the Halloween-o-verse, I had to revisit this before undertaking the rest. Not sure how many times I’ve seen this; best guess would be five or six. First time since approximately 2013 (previous LB log date is an inaccurate transfer from my old IMDb files). Previous placeholder score was 63.

As a “horror” movie? Not that great. As an exposé about how to move a fucking camera and where to position the bodies and figures within its frame? Superb. The first hour of this movie is the same exact triptych over and over: Normal suburban activity, followed by a either a foreground or distanced presence of The Shape and sinister music, capped off with a quick parry of diffusive reassurance—“Oh, it was nothing,” or “It’s just some neighborhood creep,” etc. As incredibly boring as that sounds, Carpenter’s mastery behind the lens makes each repetition more razor sharp than the last, his accrual of latent tension so great that you never really want the mayhem to begin. (When you think about it, the most breathtaking part of riding a rollercoaster is the slow crank up that first hill, innit?) The delicate touches are everything here, all punctuated by Carpetner’s nerve-shredding score e.g. in the very opening scene, there’s a shrill shriek that accompanies the upstairs window light turning on as viewed from the third-person, off-centered line of sight from Michael outside. That type of delicate, geometrical and aural synthesis simply does not exist in most horror films nowadays. (Or back then, for that matter.) I don’t even mind the cheesy dialogue, honestly, because Pleasence carries the legitimate baggage of calcified terror behind his eyes in a way that not many others could, so when he says, ”I spent eight years trying to reach him and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil,” it sounds genuine, and not like the trashy bargain bin horror novella excerpt it might read as in one’s head. For its first hour, this is an edging session that anxiously ratchets toward then briefly reins back from its inevitable climax, and it is great. When things are finally forced to comply with typical genre standards, it gets…well, typical: Shit starts getting real and suddenly Michael goes from an unstoppable semblance of relentless evil to a clumsy buffoon with a chef’s knife, flailing his limbs as if he were blind and exhibiting the gross motor skills of a two-year-old. On top of that, you’ve got a young Jamie Lee Curtis who does a fine job of warding off the monstrous man only to stun him and not once but twice turn her back on him and drop the weapon in a place that’s both out of her peripheral version and closer to Michael than her. I don’t care how young and inexperienced and scared a teenager you are, no one - literally no one - is that stupid, and basic logical fallacy of this magnitude is hard to overlook, no matter how miraculous everything else is. But some redemption is amassed in that final shot: Loomis looking out the window a second time to an empty yard, pierced magnificently by the reprise of the classic HALLOWEEN theme (and, subsequently, Loomis’s stupefied face), made me physically shiver. This is more an exercise in sustained stress and pictorial orientation than one of vulgar satiation or close-encounter dynamics…if it had remained that way for ninety minutes instead of merely sixty, it might be one of my favorite “horror” films.

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