A spectacular opening: a circuitous single-take which travels, a little unsteadily, up the walkway of a modest Middle American home, all the way around the side of the building, through the kitchen door, briefly into the cutlery drawer where a hand reaches in from offscreen to select a fearsome butcher knife, up the staircase, into the bedroom of a teenage girl who is swiftly slashed to death at her vanity, back down the stairs and out the front door. Partway through this shot, just prior to the stabbing, the same hand that earlier selected the sturdy murder weapon reaches in to pick up a Halloween mask from the floor and fit it over the subjective eye of the camera, and then the shot continues with the entire screen blocked out except for an aperture in the center which is cut in the shape of the mask's eyeholes. (As this device of blocking out part of a movie image is technically called a "mask," the use of it here is quite a witty visual pun.) After the virtuoso opening, though, the movie drops to a lower level. For a story set on Halloween night in a Midwestern smalltown, there's a conspicuous thinness of atmosphere, Americana, sociology, or however you care to classify the peculiarly profane trappings of this religious holiday. Where are all the trick-or-treaters, the costumes, the candies, the pumpkins? Starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis; directed by John Carpenter. 1978. (1978) — Duncan Shepherd
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