Friday 28 October 2011

From the archive: "Halloween"

Easy to forget - now they've entered regular TV rotation, and their director has seemingly given in to terminal hackdom - just how taut and accomplished John Carpenter's early films were. Take the exemplary slasher pic Halloween: anyone attempting to make a horror movie in this day and age should be required by law to sit down and study its beautifully timed and judged build-up before calling "action!" for the first time. The abandoned car; the desecrated grave; a robbery at a hardware store. Long shots - still long shots - that elicit chills from nothing more than a bloke in a boiler suit stepping out (briefly) from behind a hedge. In broad daylight, to boot.

And how about that killer - escaped mental patient Michael Myers - and his personality, split along the horizontal: funny-strange (the way he observes his victims by tilting his head to one side) and funny-ha ha (dressing up as a ghost to spook PJ Soles, arranging his corpses to be found in a funfair-like room of horrors). Everything else is either as good as you recall, or as good as you've heard: the best organised use of screen space in any non-studio horror picture (there's a reason it was shot in Panavision); Donald Pleasance, giving a masterclass in exposition with dignity; the score to end all horror scores, like cold fingers running up and down your spine; Jamie Lee Curtis, appealingly square and even weirdly sexy in the tight green sweater she wears to class; and Blue Oyster Cult singing "Don't Fear the Reaper". Three decades of sequels and remakes may have taken some of the lustre off the blade, but Halloween is still as sharp as ever.

(October 2008)

Halloween screens on BBC2 tomorrow at 12.25am.

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