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Fifteen years ago, Michael Myers brutally murdered his sister. Now, after escaping from a mental hospital, he’s back to relive his grisly crime again, and again...and again.
For more about Halloween and the Halloween Blu-ray release, see Halloween Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 17, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards (II)
Director: John Carpenter
» See full cast & crew
Halloween Blu-ray Review
It looks new, but 'Halloween' will never feel old.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 17, 2013
He is coming to Haddonfield.
Halloween only cost around $320,000 to make, but its smallish budget doesn't reflect the finished product's quality nor its legacy. Director John Carpenter's (The Thing, Escape from New York) Halloween has become not only a seminal end-of-October Scare picture and a staple of the Slasher sub-genre but also a gargantuan influence across the Horror landscape and a herculean presence on the greater world of cinema. It's also one of the handful of quintessential films that perfectly demonstrate how vision, skill, and dedication can overcome any financial hurdle or the burden of any limited resource throughout the filmmaking process. This is a film that gets everything right, and even in its small little flaws there's a charm to the basic effectiveness and fundamental workmanship of the crew's problem-solving skills. Halloween is, daresay, a near perfect film in a terribly imperfect film world, one crafted through inspiration and with purpose, both of which would shape a movie that would become the template for so many others to follow and hope to copy but also one that could never quite be replicated to the same level of simplistically effective, moody, musical, and atmospheric success.
One Halloween night, a young boy named Michael murdered his sister. He's been locked away since, but years later on Halloween night he's escaped from his confines and left a bloody trail on his way back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois where the plans to kill again. He's chased by the dedicated and frantically obsessed Dr. Samuel Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who knows Michael's thought processes and anticipates his moves. Meanwhile, in Haddonfield, the town prepares for Halloween night. Teenager Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a straight-and-narrow sort, is to babysit Tommy (Brian Andrews). Her friends, however, are a bit more boy-obsessed. Annie (Nancy Kyes) wants nothing more than to ditch her babysitting duties and spend the night with her boyfriend Paul, while Lynda (P. J. Soles) plans an intimate evening with her boyfriend Bob (John Michael Graham). Little do they know that Haddonfield's most notorious killer has other plans in mind.
At its core, Halloween is really quite the simple movie. The story of a menacing killer stalking a handful of teenagers wasn't particularly groundbreaking then and it's certainly nothing novel now. The secret to the movie's success, then, lies beyond the superficial and in both the picture's ability to so perfectly capture the true essence of terror and its creator's vision for a sum that's greater than the parts. Fundamentally, Halloween plays on basic human fears of the unknown and the fully dangerous manifested in the physical form. It takes elements from the classic "boogeyman" (which is how many of the characters describe Michael Myers throughout the film) scares, the "haunted house," and the "urban myth," all of which, here, just so happen be, for one night, anyway, the living truth in the lives of a few unfortunate souls. Carpenter expertly makes all of these pieces fundamentally frightening by combining them with a very simple but effective back story, a haunting mood, and a sense of urgency that's crafted through the frantic rants and ravings of the Dr. Loomis character. Loomis exists to give weight and purpose to the terror, which is a fundamental must that so many other imitators lack. The simple appearance of the monster isn't enough; there must be a context for the killings or else it all becomes a hack-and-slash blur. In fact, there's precious little in the way of killing and even less gore in the film, putting the entire thing's success on the broad shoulders of Carpenter's know-how and vision. Halloween works because it understands the demands of the genre and it capitalizes on each of them in a way that none of the sequels and very few other modern-era genre pictures can match.
Carpenter's vision is perhaps the most critical of the key factors that make the movie great. It's more than his vision for the story but also his vision for the way he frames it, thematically, emotionally, and visually all. Much of the film's first hour is defined by the characters going about their lives, squabbling about romance and homework and babysitting. It's a very casual atmosphere that's juxtaposed against sudden sensations of fear as seen through Laurie's eyes, glimpses of "The Shape" here and there that are more important as plants in her and the audience's subconscious and less important as physical scares in the movie. Carpenter often depicts Myers from a distance, from an over-the-shoulder perspective, or shrouded behind some obstacle that obscure's Laurie's, and the audience's, vision of him. Myers presence is felt or implied through mood and music and only occasionally seen across many of the film's backdrops. Close-ups reveal only the chest-down area or that over-the-shoulder angle. As the characters nonchalantly go about their lives, Myers often lurks, literally, right around a corner, on the other side of a door, or behind the laundry left outside to dry. Carpenter masterfully manipulates the characters and his audience with the contrast between the happy-go-lucky "everything's fine" mentality of most of his characters -- the ones who will die, primarily, for lack of vision or feeling (not to mention sexual promiscuity, but that's an entirely different discussion) -- and the constant fear of dread and death that hangs over most every moment but that doesn't factor into the characters' mindsets until it's too late. He uses foreground and background visuals to striking effectiveness, and combined with appropriate musical cues the sense of doom never relinquishes even in the film's most mundane moments. Of course, these are contrasted against Loomis' fanatic search for Myers and his equally frantic search for anyone who will believe him and, more, help him track the killer down, a part of the movie that reinforces the audience's sense of dread more so than that of any of the teenage characters' aimless motives and unaware lifestyle.
Halloween Blu-ray, Video Quality
Halloween's original Blu-ray release has been subjected to a rather large amount of controversy and criticism for its color timing, turning off some would-be buyers, angering purists, and leaving diehard Halloween fans to settle for an inferior product, albeit a product that was otherwise well-received. But there's good news. Anchor Bay has revisited the title almost six years later and produced what most will agree to be the definitive home video version of the film yet. Better, the transfer has been overseen and approved by none other the picture's Director of Photography, Dean Cundey. It's a compelling selling point, and Anchor Bay definitely wants the film's legions of fans to know that this is a safe version to buy. After all, it's stated no less than three times on the packaging, twice on the back label and once on the inside. So this is the film as Cundey wants viewers to see it, much the same way The French Connection was re-issued with a cinematographer-approved transfer a few years after the original pressing also ran into controversy. With that out of the way, how does Cundey's transfer stack up against the old title and, more importantly, on its own merits?
In short, this is Halloween like it's never been seen before on home video. First, colors appear significantly less warm and bright. There's a slight cold, gray feel to even the film's brightest seasonal outdoor shots. Skin tones have been reduced from "hot" to "neutral." There's less an explosion of brightness and more a balance of natural, if not slightly reserved, coloring. Green vegetation and bright clothes aren't blinding but rather balanced. Oranges enjoy stable, accurate pop, particularly the opening titles and the accompanying pumpkin. Dark scenes are rich and firm, with deep, accurate blacks and no unwarranted or excess brightness. What's even more impressive is the transfer's pure film-like texture. Light grain accentuates nearly every scene and helps define a beautiful cinematic flair. Details are incredibly crisp and film-true, right down to strands of hair and light fuzzes and frays on clothes. Sidewalks, housing façades, tree trunks, and leaves are as well defined as the source and the format allows. This is a naturally sharp, very pleasing image. However, it's not without a few hiccups. Very light, barely noticeable speckling does appear throughout, though to no unwelcoming level. A stray hair is visible at the bottom of the frame for a few seconds around 26:30 mark in a scene inside Laurie's bedroom. It also appears in the previous Blu-ray release. A few shots go smeary around the edges, though that appears inherent to the source and not an issue with the Blu-ray presentation. Overall, this is a significant upgrade from the previous release. Not only do the colors enjoy a cooler, more natural tone, but the image is significantly more crisp and well defined. Fans should be ecstatic with this presentation.
NOTE: Screenshots 1-30 have been sourced from this new "35th Anniversary" Blu-ray disc. Screenshots 31-40 are comparative screenshots sourced from the Oct 02, 2007 Anchor Bay Halloween release referenced above.
Halloween Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Halloween returns to Blu-ray with an all-new Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless soundtrack, alongside the original soundtrack. The result of the 7.1 track is a revealing, usually engaging listen. The film begins with the picture's legendary score drifting into the stage, first, with well-defined sharp piano notes that offer natural clarity and fine front spacing. A deep, foreboding, and familiar low end follows with a rise in surround support to bring a remarkable definition and presence to the acclaimed score. This is more than likely the best presentation most audiences will have heard of that classic refrain to date. The action transitions to the exterior of the Myers home and provides light and mood-critical background ambience to start. The track doesn't always require environmental elements thereafter, but the occasional chilly late October breeze, driving rain, and booming thunder -- the latter of which grows in intensity the closer Loomis comes to the asylum -- are all perfectly implemented and create several unforgettable sonic moments. It seems this track is capable of better defining some of the film's smaller sound pieces, too. There's greater definition to even the most subtle sound effect or the most aggressive kick of music. Blue Oyster Cult's (Don't Fear) The Reaper comes through a little more evenly when it's heard playing lightly in the background around the 31-minute mark. Nevertheless, some of the older effects that never enjoyed much definition before still come up short. The splattering of Tommy's pumpkin early in the film plays with a sloppy, undefined thud. Some of the heaviest, most piercing screams heard late in the film come through as a little overly sharp and unnatural. Dialogue plays firmly and evenly, save for an exchange between Laurie and her father when they're first introduced; it's significantly more shallow than any other exchange in the film. Otherwise, the track is really quite amazing. Music benefits the most, and considering just how important it is in the film, the uptick in clarity and stage presence is most welcome.
Halloween Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Halloween's 35th Anniversarry Blu-ray release arrives in a thin, but attractive, DigiBook package. The cover is lightly textured and, inside, the book contains a detailed, well-written and insightful text on the picture. Various black-and-white photographs are interspersed throughout. The disc is housed inside the back cover in a cardboard sleeve that lists the included special features.
Halloween Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Halloween has been picked apart and studied and watched more than most. Fans know it by heart, not just dialogue or how scenes play but the importance of a glance, a musical cue, or a camera pan. It's a picture that effectively embodies everything thats right about the low budget filmmaking process and the Horror genre. It demonstrates the staying power of a good movie, not represented by the number of sequels but rather the raw perfection of every piece. Halloween is a quintessential, timeless film that would rightly be selected by many as the one picture that best epitomizes its genre. Anchor Bay's 35th Anniversary Blu-ray release of Halloween features high quality, cinematographer-approved video; a fantastic 7.1 lossless soundtrack; and a good amount of extra content. It's not the perfect package most fans probably wanted -- there are too few supplements for that and plenty that haven't carried over from previous home video releases -- but it's certainly worth adding to the collections of both the Halloween die-hards and casuals fans who wish to populate their libraries with the best of the best films. More, the picture quality is significantly improved. Very highly recommended.
Halloween: Other Editions
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Halloween Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: September 24-October 1 - September 21, 2013
For the week of September 24th, Disney and Marvel Studios are bringing their blockbuster Iron Man 3 to Blu-ray. Other titles include the first season of NBC's Hannibal, a restored Halloween Blu-ray, Scream Factory's Psycho II, South Park: The Complete Sixteenth ...
• Halloween 35th Anniversary Blu-ray - July 23, 2013
Anchor Bay Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release of director John Carpenter's Halloween, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance, P.J. Soles, Kyle Richards, Nancy Loomis, Charles Cyphers and Brian Andrews. ...
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