Most movie buffs trace the origins of the slasher film to Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Christmas. However, it was Halloween that perfected the formula. All the well-known tropes are presented: the unstoppable killer, the oversexed teens being led to the slaughterhouse, and a virtuous girl that serves as the lone survivor.
John Carpenter had already started making waves in the world of low-budget cinema with Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13. The latter picture brought him to the attention of producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad, who tapped Carpenter to director a horror movie about a killer targeting babysitters. That project morphed into what we now know as Halloween. Budgeted at a mere $325,000, Halloween went on to become one of the most successful independent films in history, spawned a highly lucrative franchise, and became a merchandising cash cow. Meanwhile, Carpenter went on to write and direct a string of 80’s cult classics, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and They Live. We’ll just ignore some of his later output, such as Ghosts of Mars and The Ward.
Carpenter wasn’t the only Halloween alumnus to move on to bigger things. Its starlet was an unknown actress by the name of Jamie Lee Curtis. He originally wanted Anne Lockhart, the daughter of famed TV mother June Lockhart. He had to settle for another second-generation actress in Curtis, the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, who was famously hacked to bits by Norman Bates in Psycho.
In the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, a 6-year-old boy named Michael Myers stabbed his older sister to death on Halloween night. He is sent to a psychiatric facility, only to escape fifteen years later and return to his childhood home. The adult Michael Myers (Nick Castle) dons blue coveralls and a white mask, which famously began life as a William Shatner mask purchased for $1.98. He stalks pretty Laurie Strode (Curtis) until nightfall when he begins killing her friends one by one.
While Halloween is widely considered one of the best horror films ever produced, it is surprisingly tame. In fact, it’s downright G-rated compared to torture porn works of Eli Roth. Myers himself racks up a far more impressive body count in later installments. Halloween remains effective decades after its initial release because of its no-frills simplicity, rather than gore or music video techniques. That’s something today’s directors would do well to learn. Also, Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill don’t bog the screenplay down with endless exposition or a convoluted backstory. That would come later. In addition to writing the script, Carpenter composed the score built around an instantly recognizable hook and complimented by synthesizer. The opening credits will send a chill down your spine thanks to the combination of the jack-o-lantern and the eerie piano theme.
Even with all these elements coming together, there’s one thing Halloween has that other horror films wish they had, Donald Pleasance. Studios could flush millions of dollars down the toilet for special effects and they could never recapture the magic of Donald Pleasance’s loopy performance as Dr. Samuel Loomis, the psychiatrist obsessed with Michael Myers.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 35th anniversary Blu-ray features a brand new transfer supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey, who would go on to shoot Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Enthusiasts have complained about color timing issues on previous releases, but Anchor Bay’s latest version corrects most of those mistakes. The color palette isn’t as warm though hardcore videophiles may still take issue. Overall, the image quality is sharp and clean.
The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Although, the Blu-ray sports some fancy audio specs, the 7.1 is slightly overkill for Halloween. The sound experience isn’t particularly immersive, but it is crisp and evenly distributed.
Just like Michael Myers, Halloween has returned to home video numerous times. Keeping track of all the permutations and bonus features is a bit daunting. Not everything has been ported over to the 35th Anniversary Edition so completists will want to hang onto their other discs.
First up is a newly recorded commentary track with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis and not the previous track recycled again and again since the laserdisc. Carpenter is a little subdued, but both participants have fun reminiscing about making the movie.
The Night She Came Home (59:43) is a documentary following Jamie Lee Curtis as she attends her first and only convention in Indianapolis.
On Location: 25 Years Later (10:25) sees the cast and crew look back on the production and revisit the South Pasadena neighborhood that served as Haddonfield. We even return to the Myers house, restored and now a chiropractor’s office.
TV Version Footage (10:46) is a collection of additional scenes included in the television cut. Nothing that is sorely missed in the theatrical version though we get more Donald Pleasance, always a good thing.
Rounding out the extras are TV and radio spots as well as the theatrical trailer.
The 35th Anniversary Edition comes in Digibook packaging with a booklet and photos.