Blu-ray Disc REVIEW
Release Date: October 03, 2007
It was only a month and a half ago that I was sitting at my desk writing about my second review of Halloween on Home Theater Forum. I wrote a rather gloomy review of a DVD that was created from an old transfer and wasn’t as polished looking as the 25th Anniversary Edition released by Anchor Bay 2003. It gave fans another chance to experience Halloween on DVD “as intended” with correct colour timing (I won’t get into the differences between old releases in this review) although the source was less refined and lacking the polished look of the 2003 release. Given this, I was a bit frightened that the Blu-ray disc would suffer a problem of some sort. Would it be a high definition release of this old source with correct colour or would it be from the virtually artefact-free release of 2003? If you want to skip right to the answer, scroll to the video quality segment of the review.
Halloween was different from other horror films of the day because it brought something fresh to the horror genre that wasn’t there before. Several other films in the 1970s shared a similar response because they brought surprises and advancements to cinema. Star Wars amazed people with its good pacing and special effects that were unlike any other Sci-Fi film. The film Alien used a small cast whose scares relied on the premise that seeing ‘less is more’ claustrophobia, hopelessness and horror to the big screen. It was unlike any creature film at the time that had a simple story and equalled big fear. Halloween was developed in the same manner only a year before and with just a fraction of the budget. Using his knowledge of what made a great horror film, writer/director John Carpenter’s Halloween is the film that spawned many sequels and rip-offs and revitalized the genre of horror films.
Michael Myers, the ultimate evil behind the mask, escapes from a mental institution fifteen years after he committed the murder of his sister at the ripe young age of six years old. Sporting a clown suit and a Halloween clown mask, Carpenter’s use of the then-new Panavision steady cam lets us look through Michael’s eyes as he puts in that sharp steely knife on Halloween, 1963. Because of this night, this little town of Haddonfield, Illinois will always have a story and an empty haunted house of where the murder took place.
The film jumps to 1978 and its Halloween night again. The town now has an unexpected visitor and a few local teenage girls have a new admirer. One of the girls, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) sees this ‘shape’ appearing and disappearing before her eyes, but ignores it and insists that this boogieman isn’t real. Dr. Loomis, the doctor on pursuit, knows Michael very well. He is the only one who knows the horror behind his black eyes.
For Laurie, the plan for the night is to do some babysitting while her friends do some loving. Myers on the other hand has another plan in mind to let us experience his terror once again - on Halloween night. This is a true horror classic without the blood, guts, and ultra-violence.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4/5
My dreams have come true. This is the BEST I’ve ever seen Halloween in my home. What I see here is the clean and pristine image quality of the 25th Anniversary Edition with the colour timing very close to the previous DVDs. The result is nothing short of spectacular. You will be amazed at the opening titles – the black level is deep and noise free, titles are defined sharply against the background without any artificial enhancement. As the film progresses to the steady cam view of Michael’s murder of his sister, you will notice ample depth to the image with outside views of the house, and details in the interiors through the window. It’s quite amazing.
Forwarding through the movie (and comparing it to the DVDs), when viewing Laurie and Annie walking home from school, you’ll notice the image is a bit brighter, colour resolution is more pronounced, and image contrast is better. The sense of 3-D is rather good for this film considering all of the horrific releases we’ve seen of this title in the past. Later in the film, when Laurie is babysitting and sitting on the sofa with Tommy, there are so many shots that literally made me feel like I was sitting right there with them. It gave me a whole new perspective of the living room and the scenes when watching this Blu-ray high def release. For the first time watching an HD title (possibly because of the less glitzy and steady cinematography), it felt more intimate with the characters.
Any drawbacks? Nothing I can claim as being true. There was a moment when I saw some stair stepping along the diagonal trim of Laurie’s father’s car just before her walk to drop off a key at the Myer’s house, but that was probably due to my current equipment set up rather than source related. I didn’t notice anything else of the same sort that was obvious. Conclusion: a home run!
AUDIO QUALITY: 3.5/5
This Blu-ray disc has the same wonderful 5.1 remix as previous editions. Available in its full uncompressed PCM 5.1 glory, Halloween has never sounded better! (a lossy Dolby Digital encode is here too, but who wants to listen to that?). The PCM option clearly delivers more ambiance around each tap of the piano key making John Carpenter’s score that much more chilling. The sense of space with the music is stunning with great soundstage depth.
Dialogue and sounds are steered with direction on screen moving from right channel to center when there is movement on screen. The soundstage and music is primarily up front but there is a nice bit of ambience in the background, usually crawling with night insects, and again, it sounds more coherent and prominent in PCM. Bass is limited in the LFE, but there is nothing really in this soundtrack to give it much to work with. Bass is prominent in the main channels with the music and is blended nicely. The mono soundtrack is included for nostalgic purposes, but after you listen to the 5.1 remaster, it’s hard to go back to the dirty mono track.
TACTILE FUN!! /
TACTILE TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: OFF
Even though LFE isn’t that prominent in this film, I still think bass shakers are fun to use for horror films.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 2/5
This BD-50 release dumped the 30-minute featurette, Halloween: Unmasked 2000, that was featured on past DVD releases. While it talked about the success of the film on the horror movie industry, it’s overshadowed and made redundant by the hour and a half feature Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest. This feature digs extensively into the making of the film and is the preferred feature on this Blu-ray release.
Exclusive to this Blu-ray release are Fast Film Facts. They are pop-up subtitles seen on other Blu-ray releases and I enjoy reading them on movies I’ve seen many times.
The remaining of the features we’ve seen and heard over the past ten years on other releases: an audio commentary by writer/director John Carpenter, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, and Producer Debra Hill. You’ll also find trailers and TV Spots as well as radio spots - although the talent bios and photo galleries are gone. All special features are 4:3 and 480i.
IN THE END...
If there was one title that will convert people to Blu-ray this year, I believe Halloween is the one. With Starz Entertainment delivering sought after Anchor Bay releases on Blu-ray, I believe these titles are “sleeping giants” for the format. It’s a strong October release for this company with such classics as Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and the Masters of Horror: Season 1 titles, high def fans are rejoicing with these titles. Michael Myers fans can now be laid to rest as this Blu-ray disc IS the definitive release of Halloween.
September 23, 2007.