Halloween 35th Anniversary Edition

Widely credited as the first “slasher” movie, 1978’s Halloween is a horror trailblazer and a modern classic. It was a highly successful independent film prior to people knowing the term; and before Jason and Freddy could turn horror schlock into movie franchises (or vice versa), the genre’s way was paved by writer/director John Carpenter’s boogeyman, Michael Myers. The story is deceptively simple with fictional Haddonfield, Illinois, terrorized on two Halloween nights 15 years apart. More complex is how Halloween earns its scares with layers of cinematic atmosphere and flair, not gore. Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey employed dramatic widescreen compositions and bold expressionistic lighting to terrifyingly great artistic effect. Ironically short on blood compared with its countless imitators, Halloween works by creating excruciating, palpable suspense. The purported small-town Midwestern setting is perfect because it could be anywhere in America, and Carpenter establishes the teenagers as believable people rather than just introducing victims. And of course Michael Myers is relentless evil personified. While a relationship is concocted later in the series to explain Michael’s fixation on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), it’s scariest how it is here. Laurie’s father asks her to drop off a key at the “old Myers place.” Michael, having returned home, sees her and stalks her. It’s far more chilling that being targeted by a maniac could be as simple as that. The less we know about Michael, the more fearsome “The Shape” becomes.

214hallow.box.jpgHalloween’s picture is kinda controversial, apparently due to a 1999 THX DVD release held as sacred by some for foliage colors tweaked to look more like Illinois in the fall (the movie was filmed around the Los Angeles area in springtime). While both the 1999 DVD and this Blu-ray were respectively “approved” and “supervised” by cinematographer Cundey, the color is very different between the two. However, only those who can’t see the forest for the color of the leaves in the trees would prefer any previous version to this 35th Anniversary release. All colors (especially skintones) are more pleasingly neutral, and while the trees and bushes aren’t colored autumnal, their greens are natural. Most important, the nighttime scenes now show strong contrast, inky blacks, and excellent shadow detail. What you can’t see in the shadows is at least as important as what you can see, and the balance here is superb. Detail overall is shockingly strong for a film of this age and limited budget, even

if the grain structure (which I like more than others do) comes and goes a bit. Nevertheless, it looks “better-than-ever” great overall. The sound has been remastered to 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD, which seems questionable but in practice is respectfully executed. The music and sound-effect cues have better resolution and jump, but the dialogue level is often too low. Sadly, the original mono soundtrack was not restored and is presented only in lossy, low-bitrate Dolby Digital.

The extras include 10 minutes of additional footage shot a few years later for the TV version (separate, not edited into the film), the trailer and teasers, a new hour-long feature on Curtis’ return to horror conventions, and a new commentary with Carpenter and Curtis that’s simply wonderful. For picture and sound, this is the current definitive Halloween, worth upgrading to from any previous release.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Anchor Bay, 1978
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio Format: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Length: 91 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, P.J. Soles