Halloween

Halloween
 
(John Carpenter, 1978)
 
☆☆☆☆☆
 
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster 
 
Summary: A horror masterpiece, John Carpenter’s Halloween still cuts deep four decades and countless imitators later. 
 
There’s not all that many genuinely great horror films out there. It’s a genre that turns a quick buck, inspires little originality and is pumped out by everyone from student filmmakers to massive studios (and infrequently auteurs like Stanley Kubrick) to wildly differing levels of quality and resonance. Halloween, John Carpenter’s break-out indie slasher flick from ’78, deserves a podium position for sure. 
 
40 years since it terrified millions in the cinema and etched John Carpenter’s name well and truly into cinema’s history books as the guy to go to for atmospheric thrills, Halloween remains a genuinely impressive piece of work. The plot is simple - a kid murders a family member, gets locked up for decades and then busts out on Halloween night to wreak havoc on his old stomping ground once again. Back then, the stalk and slash subgenre wasn’t fully formed. Halloween laid the foundations and then some. 
 
 
Carpenter, who directs, writes and also provides the iconic piano and synth-laden score, rinses each dollar of his shoestring budget to maximum effect. His secret is not to make his villain Michael Myers a scary monster or a super creep but rather to make him evil incarnate. The police don’t believe he exists, his victims rarely see him coming, even his doctor fears him. He is a legend. He is, as the film teases us, “the boogeyman” roaming your neighbourhood. 
 
Perhaps Carpenter’s most genius masterstroke is to make Myers a voiceless, faceless entity. In doing so, you project your own fears onto the blank canvas. You believe that his evil is possible because it’s rooted in your imagination. Carpenter, like Hitchcock with his voyeuristic cameras before him, invites the audience to participate and shock themselves into submission.   
 
Outside of Myers’ mythical presence, Carpenter has a few nice bits of casting to grant his indie horror some tasty chops - he casts newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis in the lead as a seemingly defenceless babysitter. A fine actress in her own terms, the casting was especially notable given that she was the daughter of one of cinema’s most revered original scream queens (Psycho’s shower victim Janet Leigh). Then throw in the ever underrated Donald Pleasance as the doctor determined to put a stop to evil itself. Like Alec Guinness in Star Wars, Pleasance adds gravitas and star wattage that elevates a youthful filmmaker’s fantasy into something tangible and respectable. 
 
 
Yes, some of Halloween may appear a little unpolished or a touch dated (the odd blasts of synth threaten to derail an otherwise revelatory score) but its heart is pure, its filmmaking solid and its atmosphere as heady as the ghoulish holiday itself. Four decades on, Halloween remains the definitive horror of the season. 
 
Lionsgate’s 4K UHD Blu-ray looks fantastic. I never expected the film to brush up this well. When you recall Halloween, you think of it as having that grainy Texas Chainsaw Massacre 16mm feel about it but seeing it again (and on such a great transfer) only reminds you just how handsomely composed a film it is. Super widescreen shots and an eerily roaming camera help make Halloween a class act and this new home entertainment treatment is the perfect way to experience it afresh. 
 
Extra features include: 
 
  • Commentary track with writer/director John Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis
  • 'The Night She Came Home' featurette with Jamie Lee Curtis (HD)
  • On Location
  • Trailers
  • TV and Radio Spots
  • Additional Scenes from TV Version 

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