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Soundtrack review: Halloween (20th anniversary edition) (John Carpenter – 1978,1998)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Halloween (20th anniversary edition) (John Carpenter – 1978,1998)

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“Halloween” is a 1978 American slasher film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. The film tells the story of serial killer Michael Myers as he stalks and kills teenage babysitters on Halloween night. The film predominately focuses on Michael who was committed to a sanitarium as a child for the murder of his older sister Judith Myers. Fifteen years later, he escapes to stalk and kill the people of the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois while being chased by his former psychiatrist, Samuel Loomis. Michael stalks Laurie Strode and her friends as they babysit. I am reviewing the 20th anniversary edition.

The simple and haunting “Halloween” theme is still appealing and not just because I am such a huge synth music fan; that addictive piano motif doubled by the synth undertone is a precursor to the legendary atmosphere of movies like “The terminator”. I don’t enjoy the voiceovers at the end, the children chanting as they ruin a but the standalone enjoyment of the theme. This would be my major complaint about this release and even if I know they marketed the concept as a “Story CD” in an attempt to allow the listeners to experience the entire atmosphere of the movie, I feel like the voiceovers from the movie break the mood instead of enhancing it. I only enjoy voiceovers for a very very select list of movies, my favourite ones where these additions enhance the emotional impact. But a cue like “The evil is gone”, it feels like I am watching the movie, and if I want to watch the movie, I will watch it. I wanted to just listen to the isolated score.

Setting all that aside, the music is nothing short of great. I know “great” is a strange adjective to use for a minimalistic and dark keyboard and synth score that has no grandeur but the music deserves it; this is a composition that’s still influential to this day and it comes from a film and music genius. Few synth wizards can write music as well as John Carpenter and listening to his themes is still a joy. As far as releases go though, for me the original one works better than this enhanced movie experience. I guess it’s because I want to get into the atmosphere of the music, not the movie and this is not the case with everyone.

There aren’t many variations in the original “Halloween” score; there is no narrative thread as the music is only meant as a texture that evokes the dark and creepy atmosphere of the movies. The themes are repetitive, almost hypnotic and you can start listening to this score at any point and still get the same experience. Also listening to the obsessive piano motifs in this score I can hear where Charlie Clouser got some of his inspiration for his “Saw” soundscape. For me “Halloween” was not scary but simply an enjoyable dark synth album that takes me to a desolate, empty musical place that\s familiar and dear to me.

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Highlights:
Halloween Theme
Halloween 1978
The Shape
The Hedge
Empty Street
He’s Here?
Light’s Out
Unlock The Door
Last Assault
End Credits : Halloween Theme – Reprise

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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