Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween: 35TH Anniversary Blu-ray Edition Review

In film school one of the cinema studies classes I took was Film Genres: Horror Films, which began with The Cabinet of Doctor Caligary and ended with the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. We had a choice between the original Friday The Thirteenth and A Nightmare On Elm Street and it was 1991 so classic Freddy was still cool and I guess that motivated us, but up until that final class the Professor, Foster Hirsch, had chosen all the other film prints exhibited and the second to last film was John Carpenter's classic Halloween. The 1970s in general was a great time for film. So many great young filmmaker's that would be worshipped by film geeks for generations to come broke out during that decade and I think in some ways a lot of genre films have been dumbed down in the decades since. Not all. Just some. Carpenter's Halloween is a classic that may seem rather tame by modern standards, but a good horror film should scare you. Whether it does it with a bare minimum of violence, gore and disturbing images or with lots of all of the above plus some is really a matter of how the filmmaker's use the tools they have. Even Tobe Hopper's original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with it's scenes of sadism is really not a gory film. It actually uses an economy of shots that suggest more than it shows so much so that people who have seen it decades later often react as though a scene was cut, but it was the mind that filled in the image that viewers thought they saw.

John Carpenter's Halloween though stylistically different from Hooper's film never the less uses shadow to hide much of the actual knife stabbing and where it really grabs the viewer is in the build up of psychological tension combined with Carpenter's widescreen compositions and actor placement. What is more horrible in Halloween is seeing the expressions on the victim's faces as Michael Myers AKA The Shape strangles the life out of the characters while finishing them off with a slash or stab. The blood is minimal. Some action occurs off screen and early on the audience only witnesses the aftermath of the carnage whether it is a silent pan to a dead mechanic who Myers obtains his signature clothes from, seeing the police outside a shop where a mask and knife were robbed and the dog's body slowly going limp in Myers' grip. The viewer only sees the bottom half of the canine. In fact most of the scenes in the film up until the very last half hour only show you glimpses of Myers and often his head is just out of frame to make him seem like an even more imposing force of malevolence.

There have been many home video releases of Halloween over the years. My personal favorites are the Criterion Collection Laserdisc from the mid 1990s and the THX certified two-disc limited edition DVD release from Anchor Bay Entertainment that included a 16 by 9 enhanced version of the film with the footage John Carpenter directed for the broadcast television version during the making of Halloween II, edited into the theatrical cut to create a kind of extended version. That two-disc release must be a hot collector's item now.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has a great history of bringing classic and cult genre films to home video and in particular, Halloween, Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers have all received stellar DVD and now Blu-ray Disc releases from Anchor Bay. The fourth and fifth parts in the original franchise were released on Blu-ray Disc last year while the original Halloween was among Anchor Bay's first releases on Blu-ray Disc.

The recently released 35TH Anniversary Blu-ray Disc of John Carpenter's Halloween is a must own for any fan of the original film because it features the best presentation of Halloween ever released to date on any domestic home video release. Supervised by Academy Award nominated Cinematographer Dean Cundey, Halloween just looks amazing. There is hardly any evidence of any shimmering, artifacts or noise to be seen. Halloween does not look like a film made today, but it shouldn't. The clarity and somewhat muted tone of the colors is practically flawless, but it retains the feel of the film as if one were seeing it on the big screen back in 1978 and perhaps even better than what was exhibited then. 

The 35TH Anniversary Blu-ray Disc release of a John Carpenter's Halloween is presented in an AVC encoded anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) aspect ratio presentation with a full 1080p/24fps high definition resolution. A new Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround Soundtrack has also been created for this release and it retains a very nice atmospheric range while never sounding hollow. An English Two-Channel Mono Soundtrack is also provided along with English Subtitles for the Dead and Hearing Impaired and Spanish Language Subtitles encoded as options. A brand new feature length audio commentary with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis is included and it differs significantly from the original Criterion Laserdisc audio commentary from the 1990s mostly because in the twenty years or so since that commentary was recorded both the director and actress have not only continued to work on many projects, but they have a kind of wisdom and appreciation that can be sensed from their comments that I guess only comes with age.

Bonus features include a new documentary featuring Jaime Lee Curtis entitled The Night She Came Home (59:43) that depicts a very down to Earth Curtis as she greets fans before and during a charity event for admirers of her and the Halloween franchise. Ms. Curtis still looks great too. Filmmaker Sean Clark is also a big part of this documentary as you see him and his associates, who also truly have a passion for the genre, supervise and conduct the event to great success.

The On Location 25 years later featurette (10:25) is also included along with the original theatrical trailer (2:42) and three TV spots that run at about 32 to 12 seconds for the third one. Three Radio Spots that run approximately 28 seconds each are also included along with the scenes Carpenter directed for the television version presented in their entirety in anamorphic widescreen (10:45). A trailer for Rob Zombie's The Lords Of Salem (2:12) proceeds the classy interactive menu system set up for navigation of the Blu-ray Disc.

A twenty page booklet within the packaging features black and white behind-the-scenes photographs and an essay by Halloween Historian Stefan Hutchinson.

Halloween 35TH Anniversary Blu-ray Disc is available now at retailers on and offline courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

(C) Copyright 2013 By Mark Rivera
All Rights Reserved.