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Halloween (1978) 4K
With the recent Halloween Kills, Michael Myers and his whiteface Captain Kirk mask is still going strong as an enduring slasher franchise after four decades. Ironically, John Carpenter's 1978 horror masterpiece, perhaps the finest distillation of the genre's id, was the one story that derived its strength from never continuing on from its haunting and perfect ending.
Carpenter's Michael Myers is pure, unmotivated, non-sensical, unstoppable evil. The reason for what was first conceived as a low-budget exploitation flick called The Babysitter Murders lingering as the pure distillation of terror to this day lies in Carpenter stripping as much reason and humanity from his iconic killer as possible, making him represent the random and sudden specter of death when we least expect it, and when we're at our most comfortable and sheltered.
The universality of this fear that's so viscerally captured in the first and the only worthy Halloween (The 2018 installment comes to closest to being at least halfway decent) is what makes it unique, still to this day. Giving Michael Myers (yes, his full name should be written every time he's referenced) supernatural abilities and a specific backstory dilutes the core of this fear.
Halloween, often cited as the first true slasher film, shows great restraint building up its exceedingly simple structure. After Carpenter wisely gets the prerequisite T&A and gore out of the way with the legendary single take (There's a hidden cut there, but whatever) opening hook, the second act patiently dwells on the doom that's coming for girl-next-door teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her pals.
Carpenter's pacing is so deliberately meticulous, that Rob Zombie's 2007 remake and crime against humanity was able to cram its entire plot into the second half of his movie. But it's this sense of dread that prepares us for what's about to come with surgical efficiency. When the killings begin, Carpenter doesn't use and blood, and leaves the grisly details of Michael Myers' bloody conquests to the audience's mind, which can conjure up its own personal horrors.
Halloween thrives on its sharp contrast between the light and the dark within the same frame. The 4K presentation does a great job of capturing this contrast with terrific clarity. For an example of this, look at the shot where Michael Myers' face gradually appears in the pitch black behind Laurie after their big fight sequence. The curious thing about the included blu-ray discs is that not only do we get a solid blu-ray of this new 4K scan, but we also get an "original color timing" blu-ray, which is essentially the 2018 remastered disc. This color timing shows warmer colors than the new transfer, but I prefer the more muted and colder look that fits the grim tone of the film.
The 7.1 Dolby True HD track truly shines whenever Carpenter's minimalistic and genius score begins to thump into our already elevated heartbeat with its hypnotic rhythmic structure. The track showcases a nice and vibrant balance between the dialogue and the sound effects.
Commentaries: We get a series of previously available commentaries from Carpenter, Curtis, DP Dean Cundey, editor Tommy Lee Wallace, and Nick Castle (The Shape, AKA Michael Myers). if you've never listened to them, they are a treasure trove of information about the production in a way that makes you time travel back to the set in 1978.
The Night She Came Home: A short featurette that shows Jamie Lee Curtis interacting with the fans of the franchise.
TV Version Footage: Selections from the film's TV cut, which included some additional material.
We also get a Trailer, TV Spots, and Radio Spots.
Halloween is at its most impactful if taken as a solitary experience about the unpredictability and randomness of evil. This new 4K disc brings this classic a brand new definition on home video. Highly recommended.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com