On October 25, 1978, an independent horror film, made for just $325,000, opened in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Initially dismissed by many critics, few would have predicted that Halloween would go on to tally $70 million worldwide—equivalent to nearly $240 million as of 2012—and change the face of the horror genre forever. Given its success, Halloween spawned various imitators, but few were able to create the level of excitement contained in this John Carpenter classic. Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 2006.
Re-released on Blu-ray in a 35th Anniversary Edition just before the eponymous holiday, now is the perfect time to revisit Halloween, a film that spawned several sequels. Director John Carpenter co-wrote the screenplay with producing partner Debra Hill. The setup seems almost too simple for a horror film, but the success lies in the slow build up to an utterly primal fear that there is something horrific and unstoppable lurking in the shadows.
Halloween night 1963; a young Michael Myers watches as his teenage sister, Judith, sneaks upstairs for a quickie with a guy from school. After the guy leaves, Michael takes a knife out of the kitchen drawer, goes upstairs, and stabs Judith to death. Only after the heinous act is done, do we learn that Michael is only six years old.
Fifteen years later, Michael (Nick Castle), now 23, confined to an asylum for the criminally insane for more than a decade, escapes on the night before Halloween. His doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), fully convinced that Michael is pure evil, tracks the young man back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. Now, it’s a race against time, as Loomis attempts to get to Michael before he can pick up where he left off fifteen years before.
Michael zeroes in on three teenage friends: the virginal and studious Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), cheerleader Linda (P.J. Soles) and boy crazy Annie (Nancy Loomis) who plan to spend their Halloween babysitting at different houses. Throughout the film, Michael is shown gradually closing in on the girls, until, in the final act; Laurie is involved in a face-to-face fight for her life. Through the years, much has been made of the role virginity plays in the story. The three girls who have sex with their boyfriends (Judith Myers, Annie, and Lynda) are killed by Michael, while Laurie, still a virgin, survives her encounter with him. Both Carpenter and the late Debra Hill have said numerous times that this wasn’t a conscious theme, but since then, numerous slasher films have equated death with promiscuity.
Nick Castle plays Michael Myers as an inhuman, nearly mechanized terror. The fact that he wears a white mask makes him more frightening. He kills methodically and in complete silence. Carpenter is careful to use camera angles that keep Michael cloaked in shadows, shown at a distance. This makes for a more ominous villain and a very creepy atmosphere. Another reason for the film’s success is Carpenter’s decision to make the female characters relatable. The dialogue between them is realistic and the situations they’re in are believable.
Despite the lack of gore and the low body count, the terror level is high. Halloween is the kind of film that gets under your skin, staying with the viewer long after the credits have rolled. It’s not the perfect horror film, but the original Halloween comes very close.
Supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey, Halloween has never looked better on Blu-ray. Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, colors are appropriately muted, but never dull or too dark. There’s a slight cold, gray look to even the brightest seasonal outdoor shots. Blacks are accurate and a light grain accentuates nearly every scene. Details are incredible and true ro the film. If there are any complaints to had, it’s the presence of a hair at the edge of a single bedroom shot. Since it’s likely that the hair could have been easily removed, one has to wonder if it wasn’t kept in deliberately to be true to the filming.
Audio is offered via both a brand new Dolby TrueHD 7.1 remix and a Dolby 2.0 monaural mix remaining true to the original design. The 7.1 remix features some new sounding effects. The quieter dialogue occasionally gets lost in the heavy score. The channel separation is impressive. The mono mix sounds solid. It’s wonderful to have a choice.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
Halloween‘s 35th Anniversary Blu-ray release arrives in an attractive, DigiBook package. The cover is lightly textured and, inside, contains, well-written text on the film. Various black-and-white photographs are interspersed throughout. The disc is housed inside the back cover in a cardboard sleeve that lists the included special features.
- Audio Commentary: Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actress Jamie Lee Curtis sit down for a track newly recorded for this release. They offer lots of anecdotal observations and provide insight into the technical aspects of the shoot. Topics include wardrobe and hair, thoughts on modern Horror and what sets Halloween apart, Carpenter’s directorial style, casting, life after the film, and more.
- The Night She Came Home!! (HD, 59:43) Jamie Lee Curtis discusses the “monetization” of Halloween for charity. This film follows Curtis in November 2012 as she meets fans, chats with franchise cast and crew, signs memorabilia, snaps photos with attendees, and addresses the audience. Well worth seeing.
- On Location: 25 Years Later (SD, 10:25) A visit to the South Pasadena neighborhood years after the shoot, including a look at the restored Myers house. The piece also features discussions of the requirements of the film’s shooting locales, the actors’ presences on set, Carpenter’s filmmaking style, etc.
- TV Version Footage (HD, 10:46) A collection of scenes used in the film’s television cut.
- Trailer (HD, 2:42).
- TV Spots (SD, 1:12): Three television advertisements for the film.
- Radio Spots (HD, 1:56): Three spots play over a Halloween graphic.