Blu-Ray Review: Halloween 35th Anniversary Edition

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In a Slasher Studios first, reviewer Joshua Dean reviews the brand new Blu-Ray of Halloween in its 35th Anniversary Edition. Thanks Joshua Dean for the review!

It’s 2013… a year ending in “3,” so, like years ending in “8,” it’s time for yet another edition of John Carpenter’s classic suspense thriller, “Halloween.” Ever since Anchor Bay came along, Halloween has been released no less than 13 times (more if you count alternate covers, seasonal slipcovers, etc) between VHS, DVD, UMD, and Blu-ray. Three of these releases have been anniversary editions. First, the widescreen 20th Anniversary Edition VHS. Second, the 25th Anniversary Edition DVD (which featured a host of great extras, but badly compromised presentation of the film itself)… and third… the pointless (though admittedly attractive) 30th Anniversary Commemorative Set, which was nothing more than a compilation of the three (at the time) best releases of the film, paired with a few already-available bonus discs. Bear in mind, this is not including the countless VHS/Beta releases by Media, a VHS release by Blockbuster, and a Criterion Laserdisc, before Anchor Bay existed. Now, the time has come again for an anniversary release. The difference here, though, is that this time, they got it right. For the most part, that is.

For this 35th Anniversary release (exclusive to Blu-ray), Anchor Bay has hit a home run. They’ve packaged the disc in an absolutely gorgeous digibook package with newly commissioned artwork (and yes, actual artwork, not photo-manipulation studio crap) and included a few new extras focusing primarily on the one person who has generally eluded the bonuses over the years: the film’s star, Jamie Lee Curtis. But we’ll get to that later… right now, let’s focus on what matters: The guts of the Blu-ray, so to speak.

THE PICTURE: Anchor Bay’s original 2007 Blu-ray release of “Halloween” was generally considered a good release, but was never considered to be without faults. Some of those faults were attributed to the low-budget nature of the film itself, such as somewhat soft, waxy shots scattered throughout the film. Also, the master used was never meant to be seen in HD, as it was created for the 2003 DVD of the film (which had stripped the strong, spooky blue hues from the final act of the film). The 2007 disc did feature a tweaked version of said master, with several notable improvements… however, the colors were oversaturated for most of the film… and ironically, scenes that were meant to be heavily saturated… looked nearly colorless. Anchor Bay has set out to rectify this issue with this new edition of the film. Bringing in original cinematographer Dean Cundey to personally supervise and approve the new transfer (from the original film materials), and getting Carpenter’s approval for the new master, they’ve created a presentation of the film truly worthy of its deluxe packaging and label. To put it bluntly, this release makes the 2007 edition look flat-out BAD. The film no longer looks waxy and oversaturated, but wonderfully filmic and beautiful. The image is crisp and clear, featuring a natural-but-unintrusive film grain, and the daylight scenes feature a more subdued, gloomy and overcast look that, while not quite *looking* like Fall in the midwest, manages to feel *exactly* like Fall in Illinois. And for all those who missed the creepy blue in the film’s final act, take pleasure in knowing it has been restored, and looks better than ever. In a word, the film looks perfect. I truly cannot imagine “Halloween” looking better than it does here.

THE SOUND: Now… here’s where things get a little messy. The disc features a new 7.1 Dolby TrueHD sound mix. Personally, I think the mix sounds amazing. Every note of music, every line of dialogue (including background lines that were previously crushed and rendered unintelligible by music and sound effects), and every sound is crisp, clear, and immersive. The thunder in the film’s second scene literally made me jump. This is a very well-constructed soundtrack that complements the gorgeous transfer nicely. Now… purists beware, the packaging lists an “original mono” track, and while the disc does include a mono track (but does not make any “original” claim on the menu itself), it is *not* the original theatrical track. Instead, it’s a downmix from either the 7.1 track or the previous 5.1 track from the 1999 and up DVDs and the 2007 Blu-ray (all of which included the original track, adding insult to injury). While this is definitely a good track, it is not what the packaging claims it to be. Why include a mono mix if it is not to preserve the original sound, and what’s more… why claim it is the original track when it is plainly not?

THE PACKAGING: Now, here’s the fun stuff. Anchor Bay has created an absolutely stunning package. A digibook with gorgeous artwork by Jay Shaw (www.kingdomofnonsense.com) finished with orange foil text and embossing, several rare production photographs by Kim Gottlieb-Walker (www.lenswoman.com) featuring stars Curtis, Donald Pleasence, and P.J. Soles as well as director Carpenter and producer Debra Hill, an intriguing essay on the film’s history and power by Stef Hutchinson, and as a nice little treat, a title page that appears to be practically made for autographs. The packaging alone is enough of an extra for me.

THE EXTRAS: Concerning he supplements on the disc however, it should be noted that over the years (and countless releases of the film), everything that is to be said about Halloween… has been said. Several documentaries and a Criterion commentary by Carpenter, Hill, and Curtis have accompanied the various DVDs and previous Blu-ray… this edition of the film is more a “celebratory” edition rather than an “informative” edition. If you are looking at this disc for information on the making of the film, forget it. The extras that are offered, however, are great fun, and are meant to entertain rather than inform.

– Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis
This new commentary track reunites the two most prominent and famous figures behind the legendary film. While there are a few interesting bits of information about the production, this track is purely for the fun entertainment value. Hearing Carpenter and Curtis reminesce, compliment each other, and more often than not, bicker over Curtis’ strong reverence for the film and her and Carpenter’s memories not quite agreeing with each other, is fascinating. Curtis is apparently still frightened by several scenes of the film, and Carpenter cannot help but laugh at her (as well as call her out on being a minor control freak, which she fully owns up to on another included supplement). The sibling-like love between them is strong, and makes the listening experience an enjoyable one.

– The Night She Came Home!!
This hour-long documentary by Kelly Curtis and her husband John Marsh, follows Jamie Lee Curtis and Sean Clark for the 2012 Jamie Lee Curtis HorrorHound Weekend charity event in Indianapolis, IN. Narrated by a very candid, but loving Curtis, the film features various staff and volunteers from the event, as well as attendees who went to meet Curtis, as well as Halloween legends Tom Atkins, Tommy Lee Wallace, Nick Castle, Nancy Stephens, and more. It’s a fun look at Ms. Curtis first (and only) appearance at a fan convention and her dedication to making as many fans happy as she can.

As for *new* extras, that is all. However, also included is a short “On Location” featurette featuring co-star P.J. Soles and writer/producer Debra Hill, the film’s original theatrical trailer, several TV and radio ads, and the NBC network scenes shot for the film’s TV debut in 1980. Now, while these additional scenes are encoded in HD, they are simply a rip from the 1999 DVD and are in standard definition quality.

Overall, this is an absolutely stellar release of the classic film, and fans of the film will love the stunning, reference quality presentation of the film. Despite not including the more informative extras from prior releases, I am proud to say Anchor Bay has finally delivered a true deluxe collector’s edition of the night HE came home!

Video – 4/4
Audio – 3.5/4 (would be 5 had they included the original mono track)
Extras – 3/4
Overall – 4/4

To order your Blu-Ray: Halloween (35th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

Horror Movie Masterpiece: “Halloween” (1978) Review

If you are a horror film fan, or just a film of fan period you know what John Carpenter’s halloween is, and even if you haven’t seen it then you have heard of it. It’s one of the best films period, and my favorite horror film of all time. No horror film or any other John Carpenter film tops this film.

15 years ago, a six year-old boy named Michael Myers killed his older sister, Judith Myers, on Halloween, and 15 years later people of Haddonfield, IL still remember what happened, remember the house, and the name Michael Myers. In 1978, Michael Myers escaped from a mental hospital, and targets three teenage girls, Laurie, Lynda, and Annie. Can his doctor, Dr. Loomis, get to Michael before Myers gets his three targets on what is consider to be one of the darkness nights of the year…….Halloween.

In my opinion, no horror film tops John Carpenter’s Halloween. I love a lot of horror films, and everybody has their opinion on their favorite horror films. But John Carpenter’s Halloween is the best when it comes to horror films. First, I love the atmosphere in the film with the mix of that creepy and simple music score from John Carpenter. That score has become so well known that when people hear it they know where that music has come from. Second, I love the point of view shots in this film especially in the beginning of the film and the point of view shots from Michael Myers. I think that creates something creepy and effective in the film. Third, I love that John Carpenter and co-writer/producer, Debra Hill, went for an unknown cast in this film and of course I am glad they went for Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode) who went on to have a great career and she is the daughter of Janet Leigh, who was in another classic horror film, Psycho, from 1960.

I also thought they really picked three great women who played likable teenage girls. Of course, you can’t forget Donald Pleasance who played Dr. Samuel Loomis. Great acting and role for Pleasance. Fourth, I love that they put the film on Halloween, which some people might consider to be a evil day where ghouls, and spirits come out to play. I think it creates something creepy having the film take place on Halloween. Fifth, Michael Myers himself. You have that creepy movement that Myer’s has in the film, and of course the mask which is a very simple white mask. But still there is something creepy about that mask that you never forget. Carpenter is able to make that mask creepy with some classic scenes like all of a sudden seeing the mask appearing from a dark room. It’s affective, and works well. After Halloween, many sequels came out and Rob Zombie has made his version of what Halloween is with Part 1 and 2. But none of those Halloweens films and no other horror film top Halloween.

—Justin Rhine

Horror Movies We Love: “Halloween” (1978) Review

It’s Halloween, and your (less-than-stellar) plans are laid out for the day. You’ll be babysitting, making popcorn, and watching campy horror flicks. But something feels off… somebody’s watching you. Or are they? John Carpenter’s classic thriller “Halloween” is widely regarded as one of the best horror films ever made, and is one of the few horror classics to transcend its genre (much like “Psycho,” “The Exorcist,” and “Jaws”) and become known as not a horror classic, but a true classic of cinema. With its simple-but-terrifying story of three babysitters who are stalked by a psychotic killer, it garnered rave reviews from critics, including notorious anti-slashers Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

Fifteen years ago, six-year-old Michael (who interestingly, is never referred to by name after the opening scene) crept into his sister’s bedroom on Halloween night and brutally slaughtered her. To the teenagers of Haddonfield, this is little more than the story behind the token “haunted house.” Unfortunately for three teenage girls, that little boy is now grown up… and after escaping from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium… he’s coming home.

Shy bookworm Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis, in her star-making film debut) has a boring night ahead of her- or so she thinks. As the day progresses, she finds herself increasingly paranoid that she is being followed. Her friends Annie (Nancy Loomis) and Lynda (a *totally* wacky P.J. Soles) pay her suspicions no mind, as they prepare for a night of drinking and sex… but they too are being watched. As the night continues, Laurie and her young charges Tommy (Brian Andrews) and Lindsey (Kyle Richards) watch horror movies, carve jack-o-lanterns, and make popcorn… and Laurie has all-but-forgotten her suspicions… but her stalker has not forgotten about her. Soon, a suspicious phone call prompts her to check on Annie and Lynda… and the real terror begins. While Laurie and her friends face the murderous stalker, Michael’s psychiatrist (Donald Pleasence) tries to convince skeptical police that the town is in mortal danger.

This seemingly-vague description actually gives more or less the entire plot, but no matter. Halloween is a style-driven movie. It has about enough plot to fill a thimble, but it doesn’t need any more than it has. Director John Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey compensate for this with a very polished, but moody, style. Long, wide tracking shots and eerie blue lighting fill the film. The score is as simple as the script, but simplicity seems to be this film’s strong suit, and the score is no exception. It’s minimal and repetitive, but is amazingly effective. What’s interesting with Halloween is that, for the most part, it is rooted in reality. This is a story of real girls being stalked by a real killer. Only in the film’s final moments does it suggest the possibility of the supernatural. Everything happens as it would in a real-life scenario. The killer does not know his victims, and they do not know him. He happens to fixate on the first girl he sees, the unfortunate Laurie, who inadvertently introduces him to more prey. It’s obvious, though, that Laurie is the one he wants. Despite some extensive toying with Annie, and a fair bit with Lynda, the cat-and-mouse game between Laurie and Michael is apparent from the first act of the film. He fixates on her from the very beginning, and saves his most horrifying tricks for her.

Another interesting thing… Michael is much more interested with toying with his victims than he is actually killing them. He plays games with Annie, trapping her in a small laundry house, locking her car door, making noises outside… he teases Lynda, masquerading as her boyfriend covered by a sheet. He actually allows Laurie to see him, though. Little glimpses throughout the day… and by the film’s second act, she’s constantly seeing him… and I am convinced that at least two of these instances are in her head, from her increasing paranoia. Why is he after her? No reason. She’s just *there*. The sequels will offer another (contrived, lousy) explanation, but that was never the case in this film. She just happened to walk up to the Myers house and catch his eye.

Now, despite the all-around excellent filmmaking and scoring, the two lead performances (by Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence) easily put the rest to shame. Curtis is believable and sympathetic as the innocent, naïve teenager, and her calm, stunned final line (“It WAS the boogeyman.”) still gives me goosebumps. Pleasence is slightly campy, but just enough to sell the character’s obsession with his murderous patient. Nancy Loomis and P.J. Soles are adequate as Annie and Lynda, but they lack the honesty and emotion that Curtis and Pleasence bring to the film. As the silent, slow-but-steady Michael (known in the script as “The Shape”), Nick Castle is calm, eerie, and moves with a fluidity that none of the sequels have ever managed to capture.

While Black Christmas may have done the “young people stalked by a killer” concept first, Halloween takes it into a different direction. It’s not really a slasher film. It’s very much a one-on-one stalker movie until the final third of the film. These girls just happened to catch the psychotic killer’s eye… and now he is fixed on them. And while directly inspired by Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho,” Halloween inspired scores of slasher films itself, starting with the more straight-forward “Friday the 13th” (a legend in its own right).

All-in-all, this is a simplistic, but very effective, psychological thriller. It’s not a true slasher film, which is why I think it stands out. I must agree with Ebert, though. It is my favorite film of all time, and is one of the best films ever made.

–Joshua Dean

The Best of the Best Slashers: “Halloween” (1978) Review

The film starts out on Halloween 1963 when an unseen person sneaks into the home of a young teenage girl. The stranger puts on a clown mask and proceeds to the teen’s room and stabs her to death. When the stranger leaves the house, we see a car pull up and a man pulls the mask off revealing 6-year-old Michael Myers, who has just brutally murdered his sister. 15 years later Michael escapes Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and returns to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois. It is here where we meet Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and her friends Annie (Nancy Loomis), and Lynda (PJ Soles). Throughout the day we see Michael stalking Laurie and her friends, even to the home where Laurie is babysitting. During this time, Michael’s doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), is hot on the trail, along with Annie’s dad Leigh Brackett (Charles Cyphers), to stop Michael once and for all before the three girls discover the real trick this Halloween will be to stay alive.

Right from the opening credits of the movie, it gives a clear sign this movie will be suspenseful. To this today, the famous score for Halloween still gives me the chills. In my eyes, Halloween is the perfect horror film. We are given characters that we get to know pretty well before they bite it. It’s also a movie where it relies completely on suspense rather than blood, gore, and an over abundance of jump scares. It gives us a fear of the unknown and tops it off with an actually creepy score. In horror films today, that is either rare to non-existent to find. Hands down the creepiest scene in the movie and maybe even of all horror movies is when Laurie has just discovered 3 dead bodies and is crying in front of a dark doorway. Suddenly the figure of Michael slowly emerges from the darkness with the eerie score playing the background.

I could go on and on about this amazing film, but that would take quite a bit of space. As far as it’s sequels, I, for the most part enjoyed them. However, I thought Part 6 sucked, and I have no interest in seeing the third. Rob Zombie’s versions, I also find very good and well-done, but does not compare to the original and it’s greatness.

–Cody Landman