October 30, 2005

Meanwhile, Saalon is back, with a neat description of our hacker travails.

Halloween Comes Once a Year, It’s Almost Here, It’s Almost Here

After a day spent on chores and a productive Otherspace meeting that’s uninteresting to anyone outside it, I sat down tonight to re-watch John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Every time I watch this movie—as I do every October—I am more impressed than I was the last time I watched it. It’s not just scary.

See, I don’t like horror movies much. They’re usually too silly or stupid or over-the-top or pointlessly gruesome. Horror movies seem to suffer from one of two unfortunate extremes: they’re either too over-the-top and fantastic (e.g., the killer can leap two stories or fall from five stories and be fine) or they’re relentlessly true-to-life, which requires victims who can’t run faster than a trot.

Halloween falls into neither trap. The villain is just on the cusp of supernaturally evil; he’s surprisingly indestructible, yet real humans often survive the kinds of injuries that he sustains throughout the movie. A single-minded human could do all this.

And that’s what makes Halloween so dang scary. That guy could be right out on your street, and if he really wanted to he could kill you. He could break right through my sliding-glass door downstairs, detour into the kitchen, grab the butcher knife from the knife block, come upstairs, and how could I stop him? Throw books at him? Most of us couldn’t stop a determined, strong man from stabbing or throttling us.

But it’s not just the premise that works; it’s the execution. The movie presents relentlessly mundane scenes of girls chatting, trick-or-treaters wandering from house to house…and it all underscores that underlying horror that everyone is so vulnerable. A couple kids in costumes pass, and they’re isolated and alone on those big, empty streets. There are no crowds in this movie, and that helps embellish the movie’s feeling of isolation.

It’s rather remarkable that everything in this movie comes together to work so effectively. The script is quite tight, building dread and establishing characters. The music is simply perfect; minimalist but spooky. The cinematography is as effective as that in any great film. The acting is…okay, much of the acting is acceptable at best, but it’s helped by Jamie Lee Curtis’ vulnerable yet strong babysitter character.

And it all contributes to a film that manages to spook me out even hours after watching it.

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