Review by Michael Jacobson
Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles, Nancy Loomis
Director: John Carpenter
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: August 14, 2007
has come to your little town, Sheriff…”
is a true
classic. Not only did it establish
the vocabulary and pattern by which many less successful “slasher” flicks
that followed would use, not only did it give us one of the most eerie and
easily recognizable music scores in horror history, it was also the film that
brought a young actress named Jamie Lee Curtis to the big screen, and she’s
never been off of it since. Ironically,
though her career has been long lasting and successful, I would wager this, her
first movie, is still the one she’s most remembered for.
John Carpenter created a memorable and suspenseful film on a budget of only
$300,000…$20,000 of which went to his one established star, Donald Pleasence.
But he proved then what we see over and over again today, in the age of
the independent film…you don’t need a lot of money if you have talent,
faith, and a clear vision. His film
has become as much a staple of the holiday it’s named after as costumes and
film opens on Halloween night with a terrific POV shot, where the villain creeps
around and into a house, stopping to pick up a knife and a clown mask (where the
shot switches to show an eye hole view). The villain then proceeds upstairs to brutally murder his
sister, who cries out his name, Michael. Then
back down the stairs he goes, and out of the house, where the arriving parents
pull off the mask, revealing the killer. He
is a little boy.
forward fifteen years, and Michael Myers has escaped from the hospital that has
been holding him all the while. Though
no one else is so sure, his doctor, Loomis (Pleasence) is convinced that Michael
is returning home. He has lain
silent and still all those years, he explains, as though waiting for some alarm
clock to tell him it was time. Now,
Laurie (Curtis) and some of her high school friends are in for a Halloween night
they’ll never forget.
There are a few factors that make the movie work as well as it does. One is the constant exposition by the doctor. You never hear a psychologist admit that there are things he can’t explain. Even Father Karras from The Exorcist is convinced the explanation for the possession is scientific, and not supernatural, despite some overwhelming evidence.
We don’t get that here.
Loomis explains that there is no mental condition at work here…he
believes that Myers is simply and truly evil personified.
He spent eight years trying to reach him, and then seven more trying to
insure he would never be set free. This
also gives us a character in Michael Myers that is decidedly wicked.
There is no explanation a la Norman Bates as to why he kills.
There are no reasons.
second is the way Carpenter films and photographs Michael.
For the most part, we get only glimpses of him, usually in the background
where his ghostly white mask illuminates from the blackness around him, then as
quickly as he appears, he vanishes. Carpenter
also wisely chooses to wait until a good length into his picture to show us the
adult Myers in the act of murder. During
the build up time, he continues to make his character a looming, distant,
voyeuristic presence. It is
lastly, though it may be overshadowed by some of the gorier sequels, Halloween
was relatively tame in terms of showing blood and graphic violence on
screen. Like Psycho and Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, it seems to have garnered a reputation for being bloodier
than it actually is. Carpenter
achieves his sense of horror through suspense.
by using Halloween night as his setting, he creates situations where the victims
believably go outside their homes to
investigate strange noises. After
all, it’s a night when they’re expecting their friends to play tricks on
them. It services the suspense
well, by allowing the characters to approach dangerous situations in an offhand
and unprepared way, unlike the ridiculous way they tend to behave in most
slasher movies: “The killer is
picking us off one by one…let’s split up and search for him!”
Those are the kind of horror movies where you don’t necessarily hope to
of Carpenter’s instincts were right on the money. Halloween became the most profitable independent film
of all time (a record that lasted until The Blair Witch Project), and
years later, it’s still a fan favorite and a holiday ritual.
There have been sequels and imitators, but even in the new millennium,
there’s only one Halloween.
is an amazing looking anamorphic transfer, particularly considering that one,
the film is now 29 years old, and two, most of the settings are at night.
I remember my old VHS copy, how poorly defined the night scenes
were…muddy, bad coloring, and soft. There
are no problems like that here. Certain
night scenes are deliberately indistinct, and Carpenter uses selected bits of
lighting to make certain images and objects appear through the darkness.
In these scenes, there is no grain, no compression, no loss of clarity,
and even well defined colors. Check
the scene were Jamie Lee Curtis goes to the neighboring house to investigate.
She’s wearing a blue blouse, blue jeans, and the house is filmed with a
cool blue nighttime tint to it. All
three shades of blue are distinct. The
daytime scenes are even more impressive, with striking clarity and color
composition, and hardly any nicks or scars visible on the print.
Anchor Bay has always been known for delivering high quality DVDs of
classic and cult horror films, but with this title, they’ve outdone
The 5.1 remix is quite remarkable. The
best aspect is John Carpenter’s legendary score, which sounds better than ever
thanks to the crispness of digital and the extra boom of the subwoofer.
Dialogue is clean and clear, and windy or breathy sounds open up across
the front and rear stages for extra dimension.
main feature on the disc is the documentary Halloween Unmasked 2000.
Apart from that, there is the original trailer, two TV spots, two radio
spots, talent files, and a poster and stills gallery.