I once had a professor in an international horror class who gave an entire lecture arguing the merits of VHS tapes over DVD or high definition quality playback. I’m sure this was largely in part of his age; having experienced each of these modern classics through grainy film images, this was what he felt nostalgia for. In some respects, I could understand where he was coming from. We are spoiled these days, consumers of cutting edge technology which puts even more pressure on modern filmmakers. Seeing older films in pristine condition is a wholly new concept for cinephiles.
Before VHS there were few options for seeing an older film, regardless of quality. The best chances were theaters which had an old print to play, often scratched and worn from many trips through various projectors across the country. Every time I viewed Halloween prior to this 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release, it was difficult to see what was happening in some of the darker sequences of the film. Say what you will about the nostalgia of scratched and blurry film, but this version of Halloween allows us to see the immaculate photography by Dean Cundey and each of Michael’s background appearances in the first hour of the film.
From that astonishingly long and uninterrupted first shot that puts the audience in the point-of-view of Michael Myers, John Carpenter changed the face of horror movies for decades to come. Credit is often given to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for being the first slasher film, but it is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom which shares much more of the credit, especially this opening shot of Halloween. There is a sequence in Peeping Tom in which the killer uses the sharp edge of a camera tripod to kill a victim, as the camera is still rolling. The implication is that the camera itself is a killer, implicating all viewers as accomplices to the enjoyment of the murder. This would continue into the 1980s, becoming a staple of the slasher genre along with the gruesome deaths of the least moral characters and survival of a single pure heroine.
Jamie Lee Curtis was the first “final girl” in her debut role as Laurie, the babysitter who survived the attacks of the boogeyman, Michael Myers. Curtis and Carpenter came together to record an all-new commentary track for this release, which also includes an all-new remastered HD transfer of the film. It was supervised by Cundey, and also has a new Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which definitely puts the various speakers in your system to work in order to give an immersive viewing experience.
Additional special features include a new featurette with more nostalgia from Curtis about this career-defining role, and an older featurette from ten years ago with a look at the original set locations. Also included is the TV version footage, trailers, TV and radio spots, and a collector’s book packaging. The case opens as a book with production photos and information, and the disc tucked away on the back page. The cover art is fantastic, simple and elegant as we can now see this film to be in all its clear HD glory. My former professor can take the VHS copy; I would much rather have this 35th Anniversary Blu-ray.
Entertainment Value: 10/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 10/10
Historical Significance: 10/10
Disc Features: 10/10