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Old 06-13-2004, 03:57 AM
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Default Halloween: 25th Anniversary




Reviewer: Dave
Review Date: August 1, 2003

Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 8/5/2003
MSRP: $29.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes



In 1997 Anchor Bay Entertainment released what many horror fans consider to be one of the worst DVD releases of all time - a bare bones release of Halloween that was plagued with compression artifacts. The source material was fine - it came from the same master used on the Criterion laserdisc, which does indeed boast a fine image. The problem was, at the time, Anchor Bay had major problems with MPEG-2 authoring.

In 1999 Anchor Bay Entertainment redeemed itself by releasing what many horror fans consider to be one of the best DVD releases of all time - a 2-disc "Limited Edition" of Halloween containing a brand new transfer with a solid authoring job and a good amount of extras. Fans were happy.

Here we are in 2003. Anchor Bay has decided to release YET ANOTHER release of Halloween. Many may be thinking, what's the point? Well, as it turns out, not all fans - myself included - were happy with Anchor Bay's 1999 LE DVD. There are certainly no complaints on the transfer side, but what good is a special edition Halloween DVD without a John Carpenter commentary? The reason given at the time was that John Carpenter had already recorded one for the Criterion laserdisc and had no interest in doing another. Unfortunately, Criterion hasn't exactly opened the flood gates in regards to licensing out their laserdisc commentary tracks. Now, nearly 4 years later, for some unknown reason, Anchor Bay has managed to acquire rights to the Criterion commentary. Some fans will cry foul and shout claims of double dipping. Maybe so, but a new release of Halloween is here nonetheless. In addition to the commentary track, there are even more new extras and a new Divimax (marketing at its finest) transfer. So buckle yourselves in, folks. Break out the pumpkins, the carving knife, and the your finest monster mask. It's time to take a look at Halloween: 25th Anniversary DVD.

The Story

inline Image It's Halloween night, 1963, in the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. A young boy named Michael Myers (Will Sandin) brutally stabs his sister to death. Fast forward to 15 years later. Michael (Nick Castle) is now a young man that has been locked up in a mental institute since that bloody night so many years ago. The institute plans to transfer Michael to minimum security location, much to the rebuke of his doctor, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence). As Dr. Loomis is driving up to the institute on a rainy night, Michael escapes, leaving Dr. Loomis shouting, "The evil is gone!"

Dr. Loomis knows that Michael is pure evil, and immediately heads to Haddonfield, where he believes Michael is sure to return. Indeed Michael has returned, dressed in a mechanic's jump suit and wearing a white Halloween mask. He is armed with a trusty kitchen knife, ready to resume the killing that began 15 years earlier.

inline Image In Haddonfield a group of friends - Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Lynda (P.J. Soles) and Annie (Nancy Loomis) - are getting ready for Halloween night. Lynda and Annie have nights with their boyfriends planned, while the shy and quiet Laurie will be stuck babysitting. Throughout the day Laurie sees a man in a white Halloween mask staring at her. At second glance the man is gone. As night draws near, the killing begins, and Laurie ends up in Michael's killing path. Her one hope is Dr. Loomis, who is determined to stop Michael at all costs now that he has finally returned home.

inline Image Halloween is a pure classic in every sense of the word. For horror fans, it's our Gone With The Wind, our Casablanca, our *insert classic of your choice here* . It brings respect to a genre that is all too often disrespected. Halloween has suffered the same criticism as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with many claiming it is far too graphic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Inspired in part by Hitchcock's Psycho (amongst many others), John Carpenter's Halloween has, at least for a horror film, light violence and little gore. As Carpenter and many other great horror directors have noted: "Sometimes what you don't see can scare you even more than what you do see!"

inline Image One has to wonder why Halloween is praised almost universally by horror fans of all ages. I always tell people I have a 'Top 10' list of horror movies that is constantly changing, depending on my horror mood when I create the list. Halloween is one of those movies that is always in the number one or number two spot. That never changes. There are many aspects to Halloween that justify, at least for me, the high praise. I will try to cover all of them in this review.

inline Image Lets start with the man himself, Mr. Michael Myers. He is the epitome of pure evil. A cold, quiet, dark, and faceless killer. There are no one-liners to give him a comedic side. There is no mother whose wrongful death he must avenge. Michael has only one, unexplainable quest: to kill. The Shape come across as almost a machine, seemingly lifeless and emotionless, with a set of instructions to perform. Nick Castle's portrayal of The Shape is absolutely perfect. The slow, methodic way he walks; the way he kills; and the way he gives that slight tilt of the head - as if trying to comprehend what the person is feeling or thinking in their final moments of life after he has plunged a knife into their chest - a brilliant performance.

inline Image What would Halloween be without the late, great Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis. He brought a touch of class to this little, low budget horror movie, as well as some great acting. Dr. Loomis is the only one who realizes just how evil Michael is. When Michael escapes, we see Dr. Loomis' obsession with stopping Michael develops to a boiling point. In a way, Dr. Loomis is a lot like Michael Myers. Michael is obsessed with killing, whereas Dr. Loomis is obsessed with stopping Michael from killing. They both have their quests and nothing else really matters to them. Many fans know that Christopher Lee past on the part of Dr. Loomis. While I'm a big fan of Lee, I'm sure most fans agree that Donald Pleasence was perfect in the role. May he rest in peace.

inline ImageJamie-Lee Curtis also gives the performance of a lifetime as Laurie, the babysitter in peril. Laurie is not a "Come and get me, motherfucker!" type of victim, nor is she the kind that miraculously turns into a martial artist and kicks the shit out of her attacker. She will not trip over a twig when fleeing from her attacker. She is a normal, everyday human being like you and I. When attacked, Laurie reacts like we would all react. She is scared out of her wits and is extremely vulnerable, but has that instinct and desire to live. This adds more realism to Halloween and ultimately helps to make it a more effective horror movie.

inline ImageWhat is the recipe for the perfect horror movie? Add in one perfect killer, mix together some wonderful actors, and add in a touch of the perfect musical score. Without the score, Halloween wouldn't be the classic it is. Many have noted that if you try watching Halloween without the score, it's a completely difference experience. Truer words were never spoken. Without the score, the mood and environment disappear. The marvelous score created by John Carpenter creates tension, fear, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I'm not normally a big score person. What I mean is, I usually don't care about the score one way or the other. That isn't the case with Halloween. It is absolutely brilliant and I believe it to be the best musical score ever created.

I nearly forgot the secret ingredient! Add in one John Carpenter as writer and director. Success! The perfect horror movie has been created. Seriously though, Halloween is the classic it is because of John Carpenter. He took an idea, made is into a realistic and effective thriller, picked the right cast, created the best musical score, and gave us one of the all-time greatest horror movies for $320,000. His direction is perfect. There are so many wonderfully filmed scenes. One of my favorite is Michael Myers fading in from the background as Laurie stands in shock after discovering her friends' bodies. Classic! Little would one know that Halloween is a low budget movie, as there's no signs indicating such. This is Carpenter's masterpiece. There is no topping it. Thank you, Mr. Carpenter. Thank you for Halloween.

Image Quality

Halloween is presented in an anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Better yet, it's been created with Divimax, a silly name for a process that is done for nearly every DVD out there. A high definition transfer is created and then downconverted to standard NTSC. Think Superbit, think nearly every new DVD out there. It's a marketing gimmick, but one that can be ignored fairly easily.

The image on this disc is extremely sharp, even more so than Anchor 1999 DVD. There are also less print blemishes this time around. Let me preface my next comments by stating that I have spent the last 24 hours analyzing the transfers on the Anchor Bay's 1999 DVD, this 2003 25th Anniversary DVD - also from Anchor Bay, and the Criterion CAV LD. The colors on the 1999 DVD are just beautiful - very solid and vibrant. The colors on the 2003 DVD are a mixed bag, and the entire image is too bright. In a few scenes colors appear more vibrant than the 1999 DVD, but in most scenes they appear faded and washed out. In a few scenes the blue hues are completely missing, but in most they are simply faded and washed out. This is disappointing.

Make no mistake, this still is a good transfer overall. There are problems, but you can't just dismiss how sharp, clean, and crystal clear the image is. I'm rating it with a B-, whereas I'd rate the 1999 DVD with a B+.

Sound

The Dolby 5.1 track appears to be identical to the track on the 1999 DVD. There is very little activity from rears. In some scenes the LFE kicks in, such as when Michael escapes from the hospital, but overall LFE activity is small. Not the best track in the world, but certainly acceptable for this type of movie where there really aren't a lot of special sound effects.

Supplemental Material

This is a fully loaded special edition so lets jump right in. First up is the commentary track with director John Carpenter, producer Debra Hill, and star Jamie-Lee Curtis. This track is FANTASTIC. Keep in mind this track was first recorded in 1994, LONG before DVD even existed. This track first appeared on a Criterion laserdisc that was released in the mid-1990's and cost roughly $100. Keep that in mind next time you're complaining about DVD pricing! Out of all the Carpenter tracks I've heard, and I've heard most of them, this is one of the best. There is so much information given here I don't know where to begin. There is lots on the whole filmmaking process - the challenges of low budget, tricks they used, mistakes made, and so on. Carpenter mentions how he first became interested in filmmaking. Debra Hill mentions how Christopher Lee turned the part and later told her what a mistake that had been. Jamie-Lee Curtis doesn't comment as often as John or Debra, but she still provides some interesting information. And believe me, I've only scratched the surface. To me this commentary is something special. It was done when commentaries were something special, whereas now so many of them are just boring space filler for DVDs. I have absolutely no doubt Halloween fans will love it. It won't have you laughing on the floor like the Evil Dead 2 commentary, but you'll definitely learn a lot more about one of the all-time classic horror movies.

Next is the 87-minute documentary titled Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest. It contains interviews with the various cast and crew members of Halloween. They cover many aspects - how Halloween came to be, financing the movie, finding the stars, challenges they ran into, dealing with the success, and lots more. It's interesting overall, but it's not something I'd watch more than once. For one thing, a good chunk of the information is already discussed in the commentary track. Another problem I had was the length of the documentary - it's too long. I don't mind long documentaries as long as they're not boring. A Cut Above The Rest just has too many movies clips from Halloween playing. I can understand that certain scenes being discussed have to be shown, but this was ridiculous! I bet they could shave 30 minutes off this documentary and still give us all the information in there now. There are a few noteworthy scenes with Carpenter that fans are sure to enjoy. One in particular is when he states that he "whored" himself out to NBC in regards to creating those additional scenes for the television broadcast of Halloween. I also got a laugh when he mentions turning down the offer to do Halloween H20; he seemed almost disgusted by the very thought of doing another sequel.




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On Location: 25 Years Later and it's only several minutes in length. This is hosted by Halloween producer Debra Hill and star P.J. Soles. Debra talks about picking the shooting location for Halloween and why they wanted it to be a small, mid-western town. Due to budget restrictions, they couldn't shoot on location and ultimately had to shoot it in Los Angeles. The two visit various locations where the film was shot. This didn't interest me much, but I suppose some fans will enjoy it.

Wrapping up the supplements are a theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots, a poster & still gallery, talent bios, and DVD-ROM features including the Halloween screenplay and Halloween screensavers. There are some great supplements overall; certainly more than on the 1999 Halloween DVD from Anchor Bay. I was happy to see the Criterion commentary, but it's worth nothing there are still extras missing from that Criterion laserdisc. Most notably is the Siskel & Ebert review of Halloween.

Final Thoughts

Halloween is a classic horror movie. That's a given and I shouldn't even have to say as much. Everyone reading this review should already know that!

As for this DVD, it is a mixed bag. I prefer the transfer on the 1999 DVD from Anchor Bay, which wasn't just a limited edition. Both discs on that 2-disc 1999 Limited Edition DVD are still available for purchase separately. The colors on this 2003 DVD are weaker and I found the image overall to be too bright. The supplements are certainly enjoyable and I welcome the addition of the Criterion commentary track. One last complaint: the artwork on this new DVD is horrible. At the very least they should have ditched the 'H25' at the top. That is bound to confuse people considering there is an H20 out there.

If you're a big fan of Halloween and enjoy supplements, this DVD is a must buy for the extras alone. On the other hand, if you're only a casual Halloween fan or aren't all that into supplements, your best sticking with the 1999 DVD for the superior transfer.

Rating

Movie - A+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - A-
Supplements - A-

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running Time - 1 hour 32 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 2 Discs
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English Mono
Supplements
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Carpenter, Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, and Producer Debra Hill
  • Making-Of Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Talent Bios
  • Poster And Still Gallery
  • Halloween - A Cut Above The Rest: An all-new 87 minute documentary featuring interviews with Writer/Director
  • John Carpenter, Actors Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, Nick Castle, Charles Cyphers, Producer Debra Hill,
  • Director of Photography Dean Cundey, Editor & Production Designer Tommy Lee Wallace, Executive Producers
  • Irwin Yablans, Moustapha Akkad and others!
  • On Location - 25 Years Later: An all-new 10 minute featurette with Actress P.J. Soles and Producer Debra
  • Hill revisiting the original Michael Myers house
  • DVD-ROM: Original Screenplay
  • DVD-ROM: Screen Savers

 

 

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Old 06-27-2004, 06:11 AM
I'm pretty sure it was not the DVD. But on my copy of the 25th anniversary edition, the brightness was flickering during the darker scenes. I suppose this was due either to the print used for the transfer or happened in the process of transferring. but I didn't see it mentioned in the review. I was wondering if anyone else had the same thing and if it WAS due to the original print. Just curious.
 
 
Old 07-16-2008, 11:51 AM
HackMaster
Any chance you can put up the 'different versions' comparison? The link is broken.
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