John Carpenter October film..?

hall2Halloween (1978) – Blu-ray.

Well, October’s a fairly topical month to be watching horror films, and if you are going to watch a John Carpenter film in October, then odds are it’s going to be Halloween. Fortunately I had a copy of the blu-ray 35th anniversary steelbook sitting on my shelf in the unwatched pile, so not only did it tick off another October horror movie but it also got that infamous pile down by one.

There’s not much to be said about Halloween, its surely all been said already. Separated from its iconic status over the years and its franchise of endless sequels and reboots (which beyond Halloween 3 I have never watched), the 1978 film remains a great little horror movie. Its a small, lovingly-crafted, nicely acted, wonderfully scored horror film. Like Alien and Jaws, it’s a great film that begat many (often inferior) sequels but remains perfect all in itself. Its a lesson in tension and the implied threat of violence- indeed, in gore/violence terms it’s a very restrained film, and its also a masterclass in using the widescreen frame in its shots. Carpenters films -particularly his early ones- are beautifully composed, he really knew how to use the widescreen frame.

hall1Donald Pleasence- isn’t he wonderful in this? He was always a great talent that graced genre films like THX 1138 and Escape From New York, and channeled all sorts of Peter Cushing vibes in this, perhaps his most famous role as Dr Sam Loomis. He was the kind of actor we seldom see these days, but his twitchy, nervous bald Everyman convinced he’s hunting the Devil Incarnate (and who’s to say he isn’t?) is a joy here as he is in most everything, really. I miss him, and as with Peter Cushing, with his passing we as film-fans suffered a major loss that grows more pressing as the years pass.

One thing I will note regards this 35th Anniversary disc -and I don’t know if this appears on the films many other home editions- is a great little documentary, The Night She Came Home, which features Jamie Lee Curtis attending a Halloween/horror convention and spending a weekend meeting and greeting fans, the proceeds going to a hospital charity.  Apparently she distanced herself from horror fans and the Halloween fanbase for some years so her attendance here is a rare event and warranted this video record. Its a nice doc. I quite like this kind of thing, related to the film on the disc but not restricted to being a making-of talking heads piece, rather it’s a fly-on-the-wall look at the event, the actress, the fans who share their stories regards love of the film etc, and we see other actors and behind the camera staff from the film series. Its not often I really bother with extra features on discs these days (much to my shame) but this was a nice one that sucked me in immediately after watching the film.




5 thoughts on “John Carpenter October film..?

  1. I watched this when I was a teen and didn’t quite gel with its slow-burn style, though I was more scared of my empty house afterwards than during it so it kinda worked! I suspect I’d be more open to its qualities now, but I’ve never quite got round to picking up any of the numerous special / limited / box set / etc editions they’ve done, so it hasn’t leapt up my “to revisit” list. But it should.

    1. Yeah, its a funny thing- first time I watched this was on a tv airing and I rather had a sort-of “what was all the fuss about?” kind of thinking, but as time has gone by and I have returned to it over the years on DVD and now Blu-ray, it has worked better and better (or maybe it’s because so many more recent films have been increasingly worse). Certainly it shines on disc in widescreen- that first tv airing was no doubt pan and scan and it horrifies me now what that would have done to the framing of so much of the film I was watching back then. Carpenter’s films in particular have benefited from DVD and widescreen formats and televisions.

      1. I can’t even remember what it was, but I was watching something just the other day (and it was something made fairly recently, so surely shot to be “TV safe”) and happened to think how baffling it was that we accepted pan & scan for so long. I guess there were good tech reasons for it (size of screen, etc), but still, it seems like madness now.

    2. Matthew McKinnon

      Exactly the same here.
      I have loved all Carpenter’s films from this period, but despite the immaculate craft, I never really liked Halloween. Maybe because I’m more scared of the supernatural than men in masks. But I’ll have to give it another try soon.

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