Before John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978, there were were plenty movies we would now recognise as slashers, from voyeuristic giallos like Twitch Of The Death Nerve and early thrillers like Psycho, to red-raw proto-slashers like Silent Night, Bloody Night, The Last House On The Left and the incredible Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
But after Halloween there were only slasher films. Great films, even good films can influence or inspire, but only the truly remarkable can codify an entire genre.
Masterful in his use of sound and suspense, John Carpenter’s genius was always in his use of the empty space, the wide shots of hedge rows where the only psychopath lurks in the viewer’s imagination. It’s a trick that he toys with for the violence too, with deep shadows masking the suffering and wonderfully precise movements from Nick Castle’s Michael Myers allowing darker scenes to play out in the mind’s eye.
So potent is this direction, that deconstructed mechanically very little actual slashing and sadism goes down in Halloween, certainly compared to later films in the series cobbled together by enthusiastic journeymen. Instead, Halloween draws you into the world of responsible teen Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and sells you on her growing terror as a spot of autumnal babysitting turns into a claret-caked massacre.
Strode survives less because she’s the virginal Final Girl – that’s a trope which would lurch after her, propagated by imitators – but simply because she’s the audience’s eyes and ears, distinct enough to care about but just vanilla enough to imprint onto. In that respect Halloween is nothing more than a gristly fairy tale and there’s a Big Bad Wolf tearing into the unprepared.
This new HD transfer is far more faithful to the original release than the 2007 Blu-ray, supervised by original cinematographer Dean Cundey it restores the muted tones of the original, making up for the lackluster new features.
The comprehensive retrospective on the previous release has been removed, replaced by some charming but meaningless guff about Jamie Lee Curtis at a convention – which shouldn’t be the flagship bonus on an anniversary title at all – but the engaging new commentary with Curtis and Carpenter is something of a late goal as far as the extras go, making this a worthy legacy release for a horror landmark after all.