October 28, 1978 [Halloween]

How much simpler can Halloween get? A masked murderer--straight out of Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage or Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace--indestructible, impossible to understand, with foolhardy teenagers at the ready.

The director, John Carpenter, shows surprising restraint, considering the treatment such a plot (the term more or less a convenience) has received internationally, drenched in blood, bright and garish, Clockwork Oranges without intellectual distancing. And at the center is one Jamie Lee Curtis, the good suburban girl pursued, her pretty eyes stretched wide open in last-gasp terror, her long frame spilling around the house like the high school athlete her character must certainly be, basketball or track, anything that demands quickness--until the monster, Michael Myers (his name so nicely bland), corners her in the bedroom closet, flimsy slats bursting, hangers rattling, the camera flying around in there--and we all get to run from him, a basic impulse that Carpenter works like a surgeon, anesthesia forgotten but the skills sharp.

And of course the monster, tumbling into the back yard, just goes away--no comforting “The End” for us; it’s too late for that, here at a point in American life when nothing seems to matter as much as the assertion of the self--and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie is forced to become Tom Wolfe’s Me Generation make-it-happen babe rolling around on the carpet at the est seminar primal-screaming about her hemorrhoids. In his essay, Wolfe writes about “encounter sessions”: “often wild events. Such aggression! such sobs! tears! moans, hysteria, vile recriminations, shocking revelations, such explosions of hostility between husbands and wives, such mud balls of profanity from previously mousy mommies and workadaddies, such red-mad attacks!” He adds, “only physical assault was prohibited.” John Carpenter simply removes that last safety measure, and we get the perfect horror film for our times.


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