Countdown to Halloween review #1: Halloween (1978)

One from the re watch pile… And day one of our ’13 Days of Halloween’ celebration…
Halloween (1978)

Film: One thing every serious horror fan must agree on is that Halloween is our Christmas. The further away it goes from what it actually stands for, the more it becomes the day that all horror fans come together as one and raise our machetes/ finger-knife gloves/ kitchen knives to the heavens and hail a holler to horror.

Now if the holiday Halloween is ‘ours’, surely the film Halloween by director John Carpenter must be ubiquitous in all our collections. It must be the beginning and end of every collection, whether it is a favourite or not.

As if I need to remind anyone, I’ll quickly run through the synopsis of Halloween.

The film opens with a young Haddonfield, Illinois resident, Michael Myers (Will Sandin), in a POV shot that in the 80s became synonymous with horror, wander through his house on Halloween, until he finds his sister, post coitus, and stabs her to death.
He is committed to a mental institution where his doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) claims that he is the very epitome of evil and should never be released. 

Unfortunately, 15 years later, a now adult Michael (Nick Castle) manages to escape with the intent of returning to Haddonfield and seeking out his younger sister Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), and he has no remorse as to who gets in his way, including a bunch of her school friends… But will he catch her? Will he be able to complete whatever his mission seems to be?

Well, horror fans should know by now.

With this film, John Carpenter completely nailed down the formula of what became the slasher film. Borrowing liberally from the film Black Christmas, and with elements of Italian giallo films thrown in for good measure. I can clearly remember as a youngster my step-father telling me when he and my mother went and saw this at the local drive-in theatre that it was the scariest film he’d ever seen.

Whilst I think that may be not completely true now, it certainly took the horror world by storm. The story is fairly generic slasher by today’s standards but at the time it would have been pretty scary.

The fear level came from a couple of things. The first was the fact that the villain was a driving force that was seemingly unstoppable, almost super-human, and his tenacity for destruction is truly a trait inspired to cause shudders. The second was that the hero, in Dr Loomis, seems even MORE deranged in his unwavering need to stop Myers. His madness seems to increase and his sanity collapse over the course of the sequels, but the seeds of that future insanity are firmly planted in the soil of his mind in this film. Thirdly, John Carpenter’s score for the film is this slow building, tension drenched piece that is just so awesome… Well, it’s my ringtone on my iPhone…

Well, for everyone except my wife who has her own ringtone: the Imperial March from Star Wars. 

Don’t tell her.

This and Friday the 13th are the Beatles and the Rolling Stones of horror. You can like both, but you’ll only truly love one of them. For me, it’s Friday the 13th that’s my love, but Halloween is right up there… Riiiiiiiight up there. It’s an example, like Psycho and Alien, of a horror film that gets every beat perfect. If you don’t have it, get on to eBay, Amazon or your local DVD/ Bluray retailer and get it. NOW!

Score: ****

Format: The review copy of Halloween was the Australian Beyond Home Entertainment bluray, 30th Anniversary release. This region B disc runs for 93 min and is presented with a decent and fairly clean 16×9 widescreen with a great Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: ****


A Cut Above The Rest explores the creation of the film and the influence it’s had since with interviews with Executive Producer Irwin Yablans, writer/ director John Carpenter, co-writer/ producer Debra Hill, actors Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles and others involved.

Halloween 2000…. Though the title card of the documentary calls it Halloween Unmasked… Is more of the same as above, retelling the same stories.

Then there are several trailers, including the original trailer, the rerelease trailer, and some TV and Radio adverts.

There is also a still gallery. I hate stills galleries.

This disc also has an audio commentary with John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis, which is interesting, but does tell a few of the same stories as the two documentaries. 

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s Halloween: at the very least you should be watching it once a year, you know, at Halloween!

Countdown to Halloween Review #2: Halloween II (1981)

One from the re watch pile…
Halloween 2 (1981)

Film: I have a special love for Halloween 2. My days of being a voracious film collector started with two films that I grabbed in the days of VHS: Halloween 2 and Dawn of the Dead, so excuse me whilst I zip up my 80s pants, so you can’t see the size of my nostalgia.

I am not even quite sure if I had even seen the first Halloween when I first saw this, and realistically, I am not sure it mattered. All I do remember is being stunned by how awesome horror movies didn’t have to have either Godzilla or Abbott and Costello in them, which is what I had mostly been exposed to before that, either on a Saturday afternoon when they played those sorts of things on Channel 7, or something like Octaman on a late night creature feature.

I mean I knew other horrors existed as I had been getting Famous Monsters of Filmland for several years, but this was something else!

From what my young mind could tell, obviously something bad had happened before, then a whole pile of more bad stuff happened, then boobs… Pause…. Then more bad stuff happens and then the bad guy gets his come uppence.

… or to put it in a slightly different way…

Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) Halloween night has so far been pretty terrible, as all her high school friends have been slaughtered by a madman named Michael Myers, who then pursued her, but she fought him off, and he was shot 6 times by Professor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) before falling out of a second story window… And disappearing!

Our story takes us to Laurie’s journey to the hospital, and how her night of being terrorised by Myers is not over. Her recovery is not without event, as Myers survived the fall, and has tracked her to the hospital, carving a bloody path all the way there, and through the hospital staff… But why is he so intent on Laurie’s death? The revelation that she is the younger sister of Myers, adopted by the Strode family, would perhaps suggest that he has a job to finish…

As I previously suggested, I believe this may have been the first slasher that I ever saw, and I’ve loved them, and by extension, giallo films as well. I’ve definitely rewatched this more than any other slasher, even my beloved Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (!), and I still enjoy it today… Even though it contains the two most ridiculously luckiest shots from a handgun by an amateur in the history of cinema!

Basically I just love this film, and I am well aware it’s not the greatest film in the world, but I love the cast, the look of the film, the soundtrack and it’s higher body count, and even though the revelation if Laurie’s relationship seems to come from left field, it does create the basis for the franchise that the film’s became… Whether that’s a good thing or not is a different story. Is it nostalgia that makes me so fond of this film? Maybe, but that’s not SO bad, is it?

Score: ****1/2

Format: The review copy was the Australian region B bluray, which goes for 93 minutes and is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 image no a Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 both of which look just fine.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a few extras on this disc. The first is a series of deleted scenes which show more of the personalities of the hospital staff, and throw a few unnecessary story elements in. There is also an alternate ending which shows the survival of a character previously assumed to be dead. There is also a theatrical trailer.

Score: ***

WISIA: This is one of my favourite movies for story, body count, boobs and nostalgia, so it is a regular respinner at the To Watch Pile Cinema.

Happy Halloween Week!!!

For those of us who love horror movies, Halloween isn’t one night. For some of us, it’s the whole month, for others: the entire year! I love it when Halloween decorations hit the store as it means I can decorate my house in the fashion that I wish it were decorated for the entire year: zombie decals in the window, grave stones in the front yard, a ‘Caution: Zombies’ sign on the gate and a carved pumpkin grinning it’s candle-illuminated grin on the front step.

It’s truly a wonderful time.

Usually in October, I would watch a horror movie a day and they would always be favourites and the closer to Halloween it got, the more ‘Halloween-y’ the viewing became. 

Almost always the franchises would get a look in, be it the Friday the 13ths, or the Nightmare on Elm Streets, the Saws; one of them would at the very least get a full series view, but always, without fail, I’d endeavour to make my way through all the Halloween movies… I mean the Michael Myers ones, obviously, though Halloween III: The Season of the Witch would make an out-of-order appearance!

This year though I didn’t get to do this as, quite simply, not only have I been working on content for this site, but my alter ego started a new job, which means my life has been in a strange, constantly fluctuating place, so instead, I have managed to make my way through 7 reviews, all which have a Halloween slant in it… or at the very least a suggestion that the film takes place around this wonderful time.

So I hope you all enjoy my week of Halloween tricks and treats, and come back every day for the next 7 days to see what movie is going to pop up next!