John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN is not only one of my favorite horror films of all time but one of my favorite movies of all time. In 1995 at the tender age of 15, I bought a Pioneer laserdisc player simply so that I could purchase the over $100 special edition of Carpenter’s classic so that I could hear his commentary and view the scenes shot for the television version. Funny that just last year, I purchased the 35th Anniversary Blu-Ray at Target for considerably less with many more extras. I was anxious to lay eyes on the new transfer supervised by cinematographer Dean Cundey. From the opening frames I sensed something was off, particularly whenever the camera glided giving the disc the “Soap Opera Effect.” The “Soap Opera Effect” is a problem that plagues many viewers in the HD age that gives the visual a hyper-real effect resembling that of a cheap soap, hence the name. I immediately searched the Internet and found a quick way to turn it off via my television settings; problem solved and I sunk into my favorite movies of all time.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of viewing the new HALLOWEEN DCP at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. I’d heard varying opinions on the new transfer, some people loving it with the film returned to it’s original “blue hue,” some finding it disappointing and missing the more autumnal “orange hue.” The Music Box is known for their dedication to the art of film so in the absence of a 35mm print, I was intrigued to check out this new transfer, particularly 36 years to the day since the film opened. Previously this year I was treated to the new 4k transfer of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE at the drive-in no less and that film looked better than I’d ever seen it, especially comparing it to my Pioneer DVD laserdisc dupe.
Much to my chagrin, I noticed the “Soap Opera Effect” on the single take of Michael creeping around his house. What a disappointment, I thought. “Should I ask to see a manager?” “Should I complain?” “Should I walk out?” I almost walked out on a showing a few years back at a Marcus Cinemas when I discovered that they were simply playing a DVD, one I have at home which looks infinitely better on my television. However, something happened to me at the Marcus showing that happened again at the Music Box showing. I was sucked into the world of Haddonfield, Illinois, Michael Myers, Annie, Lynda and Laurie. That is a testament to what a work of art John Carpenter’s film is; it grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go for ninety-one minutes. Let’s briefly dissect this classic as to why it works.
The movie starts out with a bang, giving the audience one good kill to chew on and Michael’s great escape to create the element of dread before the movie slows down. The movie slows down quite a bit as we’re introduced to the girls but the suspense builds. This is a point in the film where an audience may get antsy and bored but it’s John Carpenter’s score that keeps the viewer aurally engaged as his long tracking shots and wide-angle lens holds down the visual side of things. Loomis gives the audience just enough exposition (let’s note that it was never intended that Michael and Laurie were related — in a post EMPIRE STRIKES BACK world, that was all the rage) The movie is in first gear and once Annie is dispatched, the movie gets into second gear.
With the offing of Lynda and Bob, the movie hits third and then as Laurie walks over to the house, HALLOWEEN kicks into fourth gear and doesn’t let up, even after you walk out of the theatre. The final twenty minutes aren’t jump scare after jump scare, it’s this overwhelming feeling of terror as you the viewer put yourself in Jamie Lee Curtis’ shoes, running from a killer who is not seeking revenge as much as he his a force of nature; a force of nature that cannot be stopped. It is a perfectly paced horror movie with just enough character development and just enough scares. It is a movie that is “just right.”
Overall it was an enjoyable night at the movies — however, while most of the time the audience sat in silence (no doubt watching a film they’ve seen umpteen times), my eyes focused on a kid right in front of me who was literally on the edge of his seat for the last twenty minutes of the movie, practically pulling his hair out. I had to ask him after the credits rolled “Was this your first time seeing this?” He mentioned that he was 18 and had only seen it recently for the first time but immediately became a fan of the series because it scared the hell out of him. It was great to see a 36-year-old film still have that effect on someone. Bottom line, while the transfer is not as impressive as say the new TEXAS CHAIN SAW, this is probably the best presentation of the film we’re going to get in theatres this side of a 35mm print. If you have a chance, check it out this weekend with a crowd.