• Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition



    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
    Released on: September 24th, 2013.
    Director: John Carpenter
    Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, PJ Soles
    Year: 1978
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    The Movie:

    When the first film in this iconic series begins, we see a young boy named Michael Myers murder his older sister, Judith, on Halloween night in 1963 in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Michael is sent to an institution where Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is assigned to his case. Years later, when Michael is a grown man, he escapes from the hospital and returns to Haddonfield where he wants to murder his younger sister, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and anyone else who gets in his way. Clad in dark overalls and an eerie, white faced Halloween mask, Michael begins a killing spree that will ripple through the town long after it's finished.

    An incredibly well made exercise in genuine suspense, Halloween holds up incredibly well three decades after it hit theaters in 1978. Carpenter directs the film at a perfect pace and the film's use of shadows is truly incredible. This is one of those rare slasher films that is still scary, it still has the ability to keep audiences on the edge of their seats and it still works really well no matter how many times you sit through it.

    Of course, this being the first film in what would become a lengthy series, it's the one that introduced us to the now classic characters of Michael Myers, Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode. Myers, played silently by Nick Castle, is perpetually masked and shows no emotion. He's frightening because he's remorseless and seemingly unstoppable, his sole purpose is to kill and no amount of psychological therapy can help. This is made evident by the presence of Loomis, played very effectively by an almost overzealous Donald Pleasance in the role he'll remain best known for. Loomis is a man on a mission as well, his singular focus is just as obsessive as Michael's is and he'll do whatever he has to in order to stop him from killing again. Laurie Strode is the 'good girl' in the neighborhood. While her teenage girlfriends are interested in drinking and screwing, she's babysitting and behaving herself. Jamie Lee Curtis does a great job of playing the part of the terrified damsel in distress but her character has more brains than similar scream queen types. Through in the lovely and talented PJ Soles and yeah, the cast shine here.

    Beautifully shot in California doubling for Illinois by cinematographer Dean Cundey, Halloween is also a slick and good looking movie, particularly when you consider that it wasn’t made with a massive budget. There are plenty of clever camera angles used throughout the movie that help to build suspense very effectively and great use of shadow and light used, particularly in the house during the finale, to give us only a glimpse, a tease, before the big finish. It works well, we’re baited by the film and we fall for it hook, line and sinker.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Halloween arrives on Blu-ray this second time around in a new transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. So how does it shape up compared to the last Blu-ray? Well, the colors are noticeably different, anyone familiar with that previous release will notice this immediately. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Things are a little cooler here, there’s more emphasis on browns and middle tones rather than brighter hues and given that the movie takes place in the fall, this makes sense. Black levels are pretty much perfect, they’re nice and inky and quite stable while shadow detail remains strong throughout. Detail is quite noticeably improved over previous releases, as is texture and depth. The image is clean and crisp but doesn’t show serious signs of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Given that cinematographer Dean Cundey approved the transfer it’s hard to imagine this being much truer to the source than it is. It’s really a very strong image and quite a nice upgrade over the last disc. Grain is present but never overpowering and there isn’t really any print damage to note outside of a few minor specks here and there. Skin tones look dead on and outside of a few shots that look little soft that have always looked a little soft, Halloween looks excellent on this Blu-ray release.

    The main audio track on this disc is an English language Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, though there’s also a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix included as well. English closed captioning and Spanish subtitles are also provided. The lossless mix on the disc is a good one, spreading the score around very effectively and helping to accentuate the use of music in the movie rather well. Dialogue is always crisp and if it doesn’t quite have the same sort of presence as a more modern movie would, you can’t fault it for that. Sound effects have good power behind them, the gun shots towards the end packing a good punch and hitting your subwoofer nicely. There’s good presence and depth throughout the movie, no shrillness in the higher end and no muddiness in the lower end. There are good directional effects noticeable in some of the more active scenes and this is a strong mix overall.

    The extras kick off with a brand new audio commentary with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis recorded especially for re-release. It’s a good talk, one that offers up the right mix of anecdotal trivia and serious technical information and with both of them here, it also covers the making of the movie from a director’s standpoint and an actress’ point of view. They cover everything from what went into the mask, to make up effects, to working with the late Donald Pleasance and the influence that this picture would have not only on their respective careers but also on the horror movie movement in general. Yes, it does cover some of the same ground as previous releases have, but it’s a fresh look back at the movie from two of the people who played very serious roles in bringing that movie to life. Definitely worth a listen.

    The disc also includes an hour long documentary, also exclusive to this release, called The Night She Came Home. This featurette follows Jamie Lee Curtis around as she interacts with her fans at various events in November 2012 to raise money for charity. We get some interview segments with Curtis as well as various fans and it’s actually quite a nice look at how she conducts herself and what the fans and the movie mean to her. Also found on the disc is a ten minute segment entitled On Location: 25 Years Later, in which we travel to the neighborhood where the movie was shot and look at the locations used in the film, specifically the house that stood in as the Myers house in the film Though the full TV version of the movie has not been included in this release, we do get almost eleven minutes worth of alternate material from that version of the movie included here as an extras in high definition for the first time.

    Rounding out the extras are a trailer, three television spots, a few radio spots, animated menus and chapter selection. All of this is wrapped up in a slick looking hardcover digibook package that contains some nice black and white behind the scenes photos alongside an essay documenting the history and importance of the movie. Missing from past releases is the full TV version of the movie, the Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest documentary, the Halloween Unmasked documentary and the original commentary track featuring John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Jamie Lee Curtis.

    The Final Word:

    It would have been ideal to get all of the other extras from past releases included here, but as what has been included in the supplemental section on this release is pretty much all new material, this disc can sit beside your past releases instead of replacing them. The movie itself? It’s a masterpiece, one of the finest horror movies ever made and a fantastic example of what can be accomplished on a modest budget when the right cast and crew get together. The audio and video on this disc is pretty strong, the transfer showing a cooler color scheme and much nicer detail. Is this the last word on Halloween? Not as long as it keeps selling, but as for now, it’ll do…

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jens Thomsen's Avatar
      Jens Thomsen -
      There's a rumor going around that the mono track is NOT the original mono track (used in previous releases) but rather a down-convert of the 7.1 track with the new sound FX. Can you confirm?