Re-watching Halloween for the 35th Anniversary release was a strange experience for me, because I’d only seen it for the first time a few years ago, before my whole horror obsession really began. There I was, just a little cinematic newbie, watching one of the most iconic classic horror movies of all time, and not really caring in the least. On my first go around, before developing a true appreciation for the genre, the movie seemed rather cheap, dull, and a tad bit silly. Calm your tempers, just hear me out before you crucify me, because as I said, those thoughts came from a time where horror was very new to me.
Fast-Forward a few years, a couple hundred movies, countless reviews, and numerous genre studies later, and watching Halloween was an entirely different experience. The things John Carpenter was able to achieve through this independent squealer set in motion a genre movement that’s still called upon for inspiration, and the moments Carpenter created on such a shoe-string budget are beautiful. Halloween may be a campy, sometimes restrained, relatively gore-less slasher film, but Michael Myers is a legend for a reason, and Carpenter’s original franchise starter is where it all began.
Starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis as your stereotypical genre babysitter Laurie Strode, Michael Myers is introduced as a child who murders his sister, immediately leading to him being taken to a mental institution. Years later, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) goes to see Michael at the institution, but instead watches him escape. Knowing he’s returning home Haddonfield, Dr. Loomis tries to warn the townsfolk that Michael Myers is on the loose, but unfortunately for Laurie and her friends, it may be too late.
Essentially, Halloween speaks volumes in its simplicity, as Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill don’t really deal too specifically with any backstory, pushing us from Michael as a child to his return to Haddonfield as quickly as possible. His murder motives aren’t really explained that well either in the beginning, as he watches Laurie hide a key so his childhood home can be sold, and then immediately starts stalking her.
This is where Halloween shines brightest, as the cat and mouse game between Myers and Loomis begins, and Michael starts appearing in random background locations. Again, he’s not doing anything terribly menacing, mostly just standing and breathing heavily – but this becomes unsettling rather quick. It’s midday, the sun is shining, people are walking about the streets, yet here’s Laurie looking directly at a brooding masked man staring her down like a statue. No flinching, no moving – this is where Michael strikes the most fear. Carpenter draws so much from these moments with the help of cinematographer Dean Cundey, be it Michael appearing from the shadows while chasing Laurie during the final scenes, or his long-distance appearances from behind bushes or cars, but Carpenter begins to invade our psyche with every shot, drilling home the notion that Myers is always watching, always waiting, and is always there. You want your horror? There you go.
Jumping to the Blu-Ray aspects, an all new high definition transfer was supervised and approved by cinematographer Dean Cundey himself, and it offers a rather crisp experience given the fact that Halloween was filmed in 1978. Don’t think you’ll be getting a crystal clear picture because of this, but there’s definitely an upgrade from other versions. As for the sound mixing, I did hope for a little bit better of a product, as some of the dialogue was unbalanced compared to Halloween‘s score. Not important stuff, but I noticed in the beginning scenes especially, looking through Michael’s eyes, it was hard to make out what Judith and her boyfriend were bantering about. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but for a 35th Anniversary Blu-Ray update, the sound quality could have used a little more work.
In terms of special goodies, here’s what we’ve got:
- New Audio Commentary With John Carpenter And Jaime Lee Curtis
- The Night She Came Home Featurette
- On Location: 25 Years Later Featurette
- TV & Radio Spots
- Additional Scenes From TV Version
For die-hard commentary fans, but especially Halloween nuts, both John Carpenter and Jaime Lee Curtis provided some new audio commentary for this special release. It’s never before heard stuff, which is pretty cool on its own, but then there’s also the fact that both of these stars have had years and years to reflect on their work, and watch the cult following build, so both talents are commentating with a completely new perspective.
Our first featurette, The Night She Came Home, is a documentary that details a recent Horror Hound convention Jamie Lee Curtis participated in, giving Halloween fans a once in a lifetime experience to meet Laurie Strode herself, get some autographs, and nerd out on an unholy level. The aspect that makes Curtis’ participation so unique is that she’s avoided these particular events for a long while as that part of her career is behind her, yet seeing the insane fandom some posses for Halloween, she recognized the convention would be a great way to raise money for charity, and also appease her most patient fans.
The second featurette, On Location, is a shorter ordeal, but revisits the original locations and production memories. This is a “for fans only” kind of feature I’d say, really only interesting to those who love the mythology and real facts behind the magic of movie making, but as I said, it’s not terribly long, and interestingly informative at points, so I say it’s worth the quick watch.
After numerous Halloween re-issues and releases, one has to ask, what does this newest edition bring to the table? With a bolstered high definition quality approved by Dean Cundey, there’s a certain amount of draw right there, but for those already owning an older version, I wouldn’t say sell what you’ve got for the 35th Anniversary release. There are some cool tidbits for hardcore fans, but not enough to justify owning a third copy of Carpenter’s film.
With that said, if Halloween hasn’t been added to your Blu-Ray collection yet, this 35th Anniversary Special Edition release holds the best bang for your buck. Sporting a sleek, cool, minimalistic case and beefed up visuals, it’s a quality watch for such an influential horror showstopper. I may not have been able to appreciate what Carpenter accomplished in my earlier years, but luckily this special edition granted me a chance to re-evaluate my opinion for the better.
John Carpenter achieves horror through simplicity in his indie-slasher smash hit Halloween, scaring audiences with technical prowess and proper filmmaking, building Myers' legend through camera angles and tension.