Saturday 27 May 2017

1,001 Films: "Halloween" (1978)

Easy to forget - now they've entered regular TV rotation, and their director has seemingly given into terminal hackdom - just how taut and accomplished John Carpenter's early films were. Take the exemplary slasher pic Halloween: anybody now attempting to make a horror movie 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 (his bird-like way of observing victims by tilting his head) 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 screen space of 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". Four decades of sequels and remakes may have taken some of the lustre off the blade, but Halloween is still as sharp as ever.

Halloween is available on DVD through Anchor Bay, and Blu-Ray through Platform Entertainment.

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