Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
Jahnke - Main Page
1978 (2007) - Anchor Bay/Starz
Oh, come on. What did you think I was going to talk about
today? A Christmas Story?
As a franchise, I've never had all that much interest in the
saga of Michael Myers. Of the big three, Michael, Jason and
Freddy, Myers is my least favorite. The Friday
the 13th series started as junk and remained junk,
albeit entertaining junk for those of us who enjoy watching
teens get sliced and diced by a machete-wielding,
hockey-mask-wearing maniac. As for Freddy Krueger, A
Nightmare on Elm Street was a great, scary movie that
quickly devolved into nonsense. But Freddy had personality and,
as the saying goes, personality goes a long way.
Michael Myers has no personality. That's the whole point of
Halloween and it's why I
checked out of the series after part four. He's the boogeyman.
The Shape. The thing that just keeps coming for you no matter
what you throw at him.
Rob Zombie didn't get that in his recent remake. He tied himself in
knots trying to give him a back story and a reason for going after
super-babysitter Laurie Strode. He didn't understand what Carpenter
did. It's scarier when there's just some THING coming for you... and
you don't know why.
All these years later, the original Halloween
remains something of an anomaly. By most any definition, it's a
slasher movie. Escaped lunatic hunts down and kills randy teens. End
of story. But it may be the only time that a filmmaker of talent and
imagination took seriously the idea that yes, a masked, unstoppable
guy with a knife coming after a group of teenagers would actually be
frightening. At his best, there is no one better at executing simple
but good ideas on film than John Carpenter. He realizes something
that most directors don't. If you're a character in the movie then
sure, being attacked would be terrifying. But the audience isn't a
character in the movie. For us, the scariest part of the movie is
knowing something the characters don't. It's the anticipation of
what could happen. After the remarkable opening sequence (wherein
young Michael Myers kills his sister in one continuous POV shot),
there isn't another death in Halloween
for almost an hour. But The Shape is always there. Watching. Lurking
around corners and just out of sight. That kind of restraint is
almost unimaginable today.
Carpenter is one of those rare filmmakers who understands that the
scariest part of the roller coaster ride isn't the hairpin turns and
insane loops. It's that long, slow climb up that first impossibly
high hill. Halloween has one
of the best long, slow climbs of any horror movie ever made.
Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey find every possible way of
revealing The Shape... emerging from the shadows, glimpsed in the
distance, seen from behind. Their skill combined with that iconic
mask and blank slate costume create a threatening symbol of death
that retains its power to this day. I'd seen Halloween
a few times before but prior to writing this review, I hadn't seen
it in years. I'd always liked it but this may have been the first
time that I truly appreciated the skill behind the camera. This is
great filmmaking at work.
As you may or may not have noticed or cared, this is also the first
time I've attempted to review a high-def title so bear with me. Yes,
I've made the leap into HD technology. Lucky me. Halloween
was released as part of Anchor Bay's initial foray into Blu-Ray and
the results, to my as yet unjaded eyes and ears, are very
impressive. Halloween has
enjoyed about a kajillion different releases on DVD. The one I own
was Anchor Bay's first attempt and quite frankly, it sucked. Later
releases probably improved on it but the Blu-Ray version handily
trumps the one I had to compare it to. I didn't really expect much,
considering that the movie is almost thirty years old and was made
for very little cash, but even so, I was impressed by the picture
quality. Shadows and black patches are of paramount importance to
this film and for the first time, I was genuinely surprised and
chilled by the appearances of The Shape. The sound wasn't quite as
breathtaking. It's offered in Dolby 5.1, PCM Uncompressed 5.1
(whatever that means) and the original mono. I played around with
all three and was most satisfied with the original mono track. Not
that the others are bad. The mono version just struck me as the most
natural and fulfilling. Your mileage may vary.
I have no idea how many different extra features have been offered
for this film. I'm assuming quite a few. So this edition may not be
the definitive Halloween in
terms of cramming every single available thing onto a single disc.
I'm just going to treat it like this is the only version of the
movie that has ever been offered and judge the content on that
basis. In that light, it turns out quite well. You get an audio
commentary by John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and the late Debra
Hill, originally recorded for the Criterion laserdisc way back when.
It's still a great track and well worth preserving. There's a
lengthy documentary called Halloween: A
Cut Above the Rest, that goes into detail on the making
of the film and includes some terrific behind-the-scenes footage.
You get the original trailer, a handful of TV and radio spots, and
Fast Film Facts, a Blu-Ray exclusive feature that gives you factoids
and trivia pop-up video style throughout the film. Is there more
Halloween bonus material out
there? Probably but oh well. What you get here is more than enough.
Oh, the bonus material is presented in standard-definition instead
of HD if that matters to you. Personally, I don't care either way
but you might feel differently.
And with that, we draw the curtain on the
Plaza Oktoberfest. I hope you've enjoyed this month-long
excursion into the macabre.
Electric Theatre will be returning soon and I'm quite sure
that the next
Shelf column will have absolutely nothing to do with
horror movies, so if you hate them, I thank you for your patience.
Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 16
Audio (DD & PCM - 1-20): 12
Jahnke - Main Page