Halloween – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by:
John Carpenter

Jamie Lee Curtis… Laurie Strode
Donald Pleasence… Dr. Sam Loomis
Nancy Kyes… Annie Brackett
P.J. Soles… Lynda van der Klok

Release Date: August 14, 2007
Running Time: 92 minutes

The Film:

Until watching this DVD, I had not seen the original Halloween in nearly a decade. I remembered it being an excellent movie which played a major part in bringing about the slasher genre. After watching it again, its influence on the slasher genre is still evident, but it’s far from an excellent movie.

On the extremely off-chance you’ve never heard anything about Halloween, the movie is about a rather deranged human being. As a small child he murders his sister and ends up in an asylum. Years later he breaks out of the asylum, steals a William Shatner mask and goes back home to kill some more people. Not the most epic of premises, but it serves its purpose.

While Halloween may not be a classic, there are some real highlights that make the movie memorable. The score, despite its simplicity, really heightens the tension. The score plays such a major part in carrying Halloween that, if the film had a less memorable score, it probably would have languished in obscurity back when it was first released. And even if the movie had succeeded without the score, it certainly wouldn’t have been able to sustain its popularity for three decades.

The other big plus comes in the form of Michael Myers. Michael’s got a great presence in the movie; everything from his POV shots to his walk really helps to convey a sense of malice. Michael Myers is one freaky guy.

Unfortunately, while the score and the villain are great, in every other way Halloween comes across as the rather generic, low-budget horror film that it was. The characters are, for the most part, awful. Halloween has the standard slasher film fodder characters, the ones clearly marked for death from the moment they are introduced, but keeps them alive for far too long without ever giving us a reason to like or care about the fodder. I won’t spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it by naming the fodder, but suffice to say the fodder is just as uninteresting when we first meet them as when they finally are disposed of. It doesn’t help matters that our hero, Laurie Strode, is pretty generic herself. Really, apart from Michael the only somewhat interesting character in the entire film is Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis.

Quite possibly related to the uninteresting and unlikeable nature of the characters in Halloween is the acting. This was a low-budget horror movie, but even for low-budget horror, the acting is bad. Once again, the only person who comes off well here is Donald Pleasence (and maybe, to a far lesser extent, P.J. Soles). Acting definitely wasn’t Halloween‘s strong point.

Going back to Michael for a second, there is a bit of an issue with him. He’s a great killer and really imposing, but the movie seems like it can’t decide if he’s just an insane/evil mortal or some sort of supernatural boogeyman. On one hand, Michael is definitely human, had to rely on a bit of luck and planning to break out of the asylum, he requires sustenance and can be flummoxed by a simple door. On the other hand, he seems to be able to sense when people are watching him and teleport off-screen when they look away for a second and he’s able to absorb a great deal of damage without suffering any apparent long term effects. I’m quite willing to accept a supernatural killer in a slasher movie, but keeping it ambiguous just seems sloppy in this instance.

There are also a lot of instance of poor/slasher movie logic to be found in Halloween. I won’t list everything but here are a couple of my favourites:

It seems quite odd that on Halloween night, teenagers are focused on babysitting, the kids in need of babysitting stopped trick-or-treating awfully early and the parents have gone out somewhere. You’d think teenagers would be interested in celebrating Halloween in some way (even if only doing one of those lame mask gag scares), but that doesn’t seem to to be the case here.

We’ve also got the standard assume the killer is dead cliche on display here, but with an added twist of stupidity. Not only does Laurie twice assume that Michael is dead after she wounds him, but she also proceeds to drop a knife near his body in both instances. I could see her making that mistake once, but by the second time you think she’d either A) stab him a few times with the knife to ensure he was really dead or B) at least take the knife with her instead of dropping it by the ‘body.’

Basically, Halloween is your standard low-budget horror movie but with a really memorable score and a somewhat more menacing than average killer. It’s worth checking out but far from a classic even within the genre.

The Audio and The Video:

The audio is one of the improvements to this version of Halloween as it now includes Dolby Surround 5.1. There’s also a mono track available though, if you want to go retro with your audio experience. The video has choice as well as you can watch in widescreen (2.35:1) or full (1.33:1); in either case the video quality is fine.

The Extras

Halloween: Unmasked – A 27 minute featurette on Halloween featuring interviews with cast and crew. While it is an informative piece, it’s also almost a decade old and was already included on an earlier DVD release.

Trailers – The original trailer and the re-release trailer. The re-release trailer is virtually identical to the original, but with a small bit added to the start. There are also short TV trailers and even some radio trailers to check out.

Talent Bios – Fairly lengthy text (with the occasional photo) bios for various cast and crew members.

Photo Galleries – A couple of galleries here. One features publicity shots and posters and the other is comprised of behind-the-scenes pictures.

Trivia – Several pages of trivia notes on Halloween. There’s some interesting information here that’s precisely the sort of thing you would expect to learn about if you were watching a Halloween DVD commentary.

The Inside Pulse

While Halloween had a huge impact on the slasher genre, it doesn’t hold up that well on its own merit. The score is still one of the greatest in horror history, and Michael’s a good villain, but there’s not much else here that’s truly stand-out. This particular DVD release doesn’t really offer much new in the way of extra content either. Still, if you don’t already have one of the earlier releases, you may want to check it out for historic value, if nothing else.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Halloween
(OUT OF 10)