Directed by: John Carpenter
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis
Some smaller distributors have staple films that they can regularly reissue that are guaranteed money makers. One of Anchor Bay’s most prize possessions has to be the original Halloween. Aquick simple search of Amazon reveals 5 versions of the film released on DVD, Divimax DVD, and blu-ray. One standout edition is the 25th Anniversary edition. This version really pounds home just how many years the company has been issuing and re-issuing the film. Now right away this seems like a simple money grab, and in part it totally is just that; but also Halloween is a true classic and to have a distributor constantly digging for more bonus features, more fantastic nuggets of gold for the hardcore fan, the real fan of the film.
It’s a simple plot really; a young boy has a psychotic break and kills his sister. The boy is more than just a crazy kid though; he’s possessed by an evil that can’t be stopped and a deep hatred of his own family. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), Michael Myer’s doctor was the only person to truly understand the monster that this boy had grown up to become until it was too late. Myers broke free from his institutional prison on Halloween and headed home to kill the remaining living members of his family and anyone else that stepped in his way.
This film was a break out role for Jamie Lee Curtis. She was in many ways the first real scream queen in the form that we understand this kind of actor. She was the killer’s focus but she was strong and ready to fight back. The story was simple but the look of the character, the soundtrack, and the shooting style made it all feel iconic. Everyone who’s anyone knows that Myers’ mask was crafted from a William Shatner Star Trek mask. The hollow pale look of the mask after it was treated makes it still one of the scariest images ever put on film. Along with Curtis, P.J. Soles became a very well-known scream queen that parlayed her role in this movie into many other films through the 80’s. Donald Pleasence was a popular actor for Carpenter. Pleasence also made an iconic appearance in Escape from New York, another of Carpenter’s best films. Peasence in particular managed to bring a level of unmatched melodrama and frantic-ness to the movie that made it all feel more perilous.
Films that came after Halloween built upon the formula crafted by that movie but none matched Halloween’s iconic status. The next closest franchise is obviously Friday the 13th. Halloween was terrifying and it made the viewer feel that they were seeing more blood and more graphic murders than were actually happening on screen, which in itself makes the movie a true success. Halloween has been called a “film school in a box” for good reason. Halloween was crafted on a micro budget and watching it as a filmmaker makes the film a how to blueprint. In fact Carpenter’s original DVD commentary is often watched along with the film in film schools. Few films match Halloween in innovation and influence on the horror genre. Watching it now is just as frightening as watching it when it was first released to theaters 35 years ago.
The most vital part of this blu-ray remater is that it was completely remaster by Anchor Bay and supervised by the film’s cinematographer Dean Cundey. Fans have cried loudly for another attempt at remastering the film to HD and Anchor Bay has finally done it with this new release. The original blu-ray was just a reissue of sorts of the Divimax DVD release rather than a real HD blu-ray redo. The results were less than desirable. So right away many things are improved in this release; contrast is much better than in the previous blu-ray, skin tones are more realistic, and black levels allow for more detail. Exterior colors are still not properly timed though. If you’ve seen the film the way it was meant to be you’d know that the film was more fall toned browns due to the fact that the story takes place on Halloween. Exteriors still feature the mistimed bright colors of summer. There’s also some fairly noticeable aliasing around vehicles. If you can put your hands on the THX certified DVD you’ll see the colors timed properly.
Overall the video presentation here is much improved it’s just unfortunately still not properly presented. Maybe on the inevitable 40th anniversary release….
Anchor Bay has provided us with a Dolby TrueHD version spreading the sound across a seven speaker environment. The presentation features a nice balance and good low end response. The sound mix in Carpenter’s film is sparse, purposefully so which leaves little room for bells and whistles in a 7.1 presentation. With that said there doesn’t seem to be much mew in this audio presentation than was in the previous blu-ray other than compatibility with true HD receivers, not a “true” remix. A lossless mono version would have been fantastic since that’s the way the film was originally recorded but the mono track provided seems tacked on and flat. The balance is clean and dialogue is clear throughout, and hearing Carpenter’s creepy theme music across a richer sound environment is definitely spine tingling.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single blu-ray is packaged in a digibook with embossed text on the front. Inside the book there’s also 20 pages of new pictures from the film and a new essay about the movie. The packaging is slim and definitely attractive. It won’t necessarily look good on your shelf because the spine is so thin you can barely see it. When you pluck it down from the shelf for a look though it’s a nice package. There’s a new commentary from John carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis. A new featurette following Curtis to a convention appearance, and there’s a selection of bonus features from the previous releases. The bonus features provided from previous releases were not on the last blu-ray so fans who never owned the SD DVD versions may not have seen these bonus features. They are “On Location 25 Years Later” a featurette touring the shooting locations for the film, “TV version footage”; a collection of footage added to the film for the TV version, and original trailers.
The best bonus feature is easily the Carpenter/Curtis commentary. The two old friends share stories and remembrances of the making of the film and all the work that went into it. They also discuss the movie’s lasting appeal, the genre in general and Halloween’s continued influence on it. It’s kind of amazing that after all of these years these two could still have new conversations about this movie. This commentary is a great listen for fans.
The big problem with the bonus features is that there are so many good bonus features across the various releases of the film that there are must have extras on other DVD’s. You almost have to own all of the versions of the film to get a complete collection of the extras. I keep thinking that Anchor Bay will issue a complete version of the film that features all of the bonus features they have assembled to date but that’s just not happening. Why not pull the previous versions out of print and give us a pricey complete edition with this newest transfer and all of the extras? Are they waiting for the 50th anniversary for that?? They’ll still be able to issue updated versions later with even more bonus stuff if that’s what they want to do. It honestly kind of drives me crazy to have so many versions of the same movie on my shelf, especially in DVD form.
Overall the extras here are a little lacking. The stuff that is included is good but there are just so many other great supplements that are missing that it can’t be ignored.
Halloween is one of the greatest horror films ever made and one of the most influential in the horror genre. As flawed as it is the video and audio presentation here is the best available making the blu-ray a must own. If only the bonus features were more complete!