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Halloween: Restored Limited Edition

Anchor Bay Home Video

Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence

Written and directed by John Carpenter

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You've heard it all before: a mute, faceless maniac stalking sexy teenage girls. The reason you've heard it all before is John Carpenter's Halloween, the 1978 slasher flick that launched a new sub-genre of horror — one that quickly grew to define it.

Most of Halloween's progeny — the Friday the 13th series leading the queue — stick rigidly to Carpenter's template. A young boy undergoes trauma and 15 (or so) years later hacks at frolicking nymphos. No doubt, this quickly grew stale, and fans of the genre became interested simply in quantity of gore and creative maiming.

Unlike its imitators, however, Halloween still feels surprisingly fresh and suspenseful, thanks to Carpenter's cinematic panache. Carpenter lingers where most slasher autuers hurry to the next massacre. In fact, Halloween goes nearly an hour before heroine Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) or any of her friends are in danger.

Carpenter — whose flair for gruesome terror must disturb his loved ones — allows his maniac time and space, attributing odd intent to his otherwise random violence. Escaped mental patient Michael Myers, although masked and silent, stalks his prey deliberately and with restraint, as if the carnage must be just so. This gives Curtis time to build a strong character. Laurie is a shy, intelligent teen and chronic babysitter whose libidinous friends magnify her social dislocation.

Carpenter chooses his shots carefully and transforms otherwise prosaic scenes into something lyrical. The way Laurie's hair blows as she walks down empty autumn streets, or the way Michael steps back to study a freshly made corpse - just the idea that this ordinary slasher fare is worth mentioning in detail is rare indeed, and a testament to the very quiet, unassuming talent of John Carpenter. After all, he only wants to scare the pants off you.

Also starring the ever-spritely P.J. Soles, and creepy Donald Pleasence as the psychiatrist most familiar with Myers' particular expression of evil, this limited edition two-disc set (only 30,000 numbered copies are in print) is terrific, starting with the incredible 2.35:1 widescreen transfer (pan-and-scan is also available). For a movie that was murky and dull on cable and video, this bright, crisp, beautiful transfer is a revelation. Audio is available in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix or the original 1.0 mono, but the most consistent mix is the 2.0 Dolby Surround. One disc features the original theatrical release and several extras, including publicity stills, theatrical, TV, and radio spots, and a half-hour retrospective about the Halloween phenomenon. The other disc contains a second version of the film, including 12 minutes of additional footage shot for television.

— Gregory P. Dorr

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