In 1978, legendary NEW YORKER film critic Pauline Kael reviewed John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. She had this to say:
“HALLOWEEN has a pitiful, amateurish script (by Carpenter and his producer, Debra Hill). An escaped lunatic wielding a kitchen knife stalks people in a small Midwestern town (Haddonfield, Illinois), and that’s about it. Maybe when a horror film is stripped of everything but dumb scariness — when it isn’t ashamed to revive the stalest device of the genre (the escaped lunatic) — it satisfies part of the audience in a more basic, childish way than sophisticated horror pictures do.”
Kael was right. But the elements that she hated over thirty years ago are the very same elements that we love today.
HALLOWEEN might be dumb, but it’s an idiot-proof prototype for an entire genre. To this day, nothing encapsulates the special feeling of darkness, mood, and total terror quite like the ominous mask of Michael Myers. From Dean Cundey’s flowing, blue-hued photography to Carpenter’s minimalist score, nothing in this movie is misplaced. It’s simple, focused, and always one step ahead of the audience.
There’s no shame in admitting that it’s fun to wallow in fun. Just as Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL changed the landscape of comedy and DIE HARD changed the landscape of action, HALLOWEEN changed the landscape of horror. When you watch this movie, everything is right in the world. Especially in October.
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