Film Highlight: Halloween

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Halloween
Theatres at Mall of America, Friday and Saturday at midnight

Pity the teenage movie fan who thinks Scream is the Rosetta stone of horror. If only he or she could've seen John Carpenter's peerless proto-slasher film in 1978—without advance word or warning, before decades of imitators turned its poppin'-fresh scares into formula. A suburban variation on The Thing (years before Carpenter directly remade it), the plot is simplicity itself: After escaping from an asylum and the care of obsessed Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence), madman Michael Myers (Tony Moran in a William Shatner mask) spends Halloween night in the tranquil town of Haddonfield, Illinois, systematically slaughtering teenage girls. The killer picks off half-dressed Nancy Loomis and slutty P.J. Soles—plot points that inadvertently codified the slasher genre's hard-on for sexually active women—while Carpenter's sympathy lies with Jamie Lee Curtis's beleaguered babysitter, not because she's a virgin, but because she's tough, capable, and working. What countless rip-offs (and sequels) have never been able to duplicate is Carpenter's masterful, devious use of the wide screen, starting with that still-jarring POV shot through the eyeholes in a killer's clown mask. Tossing off nods to Suspiria, Mario Bava, and even the Halloween sequence from Vincente Minnelli's Meet Me in St. Louis, the director spring-loads every corner of the 'Scope frame with nasty surprises, using his implacable five-note piano theme to set the mood of pounding menace.

 
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