Review Date: October 8, 1999
Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 9/14/99
MSRP: $44.98 (Out of Print)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes | P&S: Yes
In 1978 Director John Carpenter and Producer Debra Hill collaborated on a film for the second time. The film originally titled "The Baby-sitter Murders" would later be known to countless fans as "Halloween
". Written by both John Carpenter and Debra Hill and directed by John Carpenter, Halloween
became a trend setting horror film that is still being copied to this day. Although not the first of it's kind, Halloween definitely set a standard for the slasher sub genre and opened the door for a slew of wannabes most of which were shameless rip-offs.
Anchor Bay has now released a "Limited Edition" version of Halloween
, and finally DVD fans have a version they can be proud of. Most horror fans are probably familiar with Anchor Bay's original release of Halloween
, which was poorly done to say the least. Make no mistake however, Anchor Bay has come a long way since the original DVD release and this new version is amazing.
On Halloween night 1963 in the quiet town of Haddonfield, Illinois a young boy - Michael Myers - brutally murdered his sister Judith Myers. Michael is then placed in a minimum security mental institute against his psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis's (Donald Pleasence
) wishes that better precautions be taken. Dr. Loomis believes Michael is pure evil and on a stormy Halloween eve 15 years later his worst fear comes true. Dr. Loomis and Nurse Marion Chambers, while driving up to the Sanitarium, discover the patients walking around outside in the storm and that Michael Myers has escaped from the institute. Proclaiming that "the evil is gone from here!", Dr. Loomis knowing the true nature of Michael Myers anticipates he will return "home" to Haddonfield to continue his murderous rampage.
No one believes Dr. Loomis's story that Michael would be able to return home, so Loomis heads to Haddonfield by himself to try and stop him. Meanwhile, Michael back in Haddonfield is one step ahead of Dr. Loomis and has already begun stalking a group of friends - Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis
), Lynda (P.J. Soles
) and Annie (Nancy Loomis
). Laurie, who is very quiet and observant, knows that something is terribly wrong and that a masked man is stalking her. Lynda and Annie, on the other hand, shrug off Laurie's suspicions and don't realize that they are in serious danger. When night falls Laurie's suspicion's come true as the Shape (Nick Castle
) comes out of hiding and systematically murders her friends, leaving her alone to fend for herself and the children she's baby-sitting.
John Carpenter is my favorite director and Halloween
ranks as my second favorite of his works, behind The Thing
is arguably the best slasher film ever made and is a beloved favorite by horror and John Carpenter fans. The film pretty much wrote the book on slashers. The tormented heroin, her friend's would-be murders all are the blue prints by which many films of this kind imitate. However, where others failed John Carpenter succeeded in creating an excellent horror film with interesting characters, great suspense, a fantastic score and brilliant cinematography by Dean Cundey. An excellent point for the film is the characters. Their not the two dimensional cardboard characters that you find in many other slasher films, but rather interesting well acted ones you care about.
Too many slashers don't have any kind of character development and when they are killed in the film you really don't care. This is also a failing in that it hampers what would be suspenseful moments, its much more scary to watch characters you actually care about getting stalked and killed rather than characters you despise because they irritate you beyond belief. Another strong focus point for the characters is their behavior. Laurie is an observer; she sees things that others don't in much the same way Dr. Loomis sees Michael's true nature while others can't accept it. Laurie's friends Lynda and Annie are too focused in their own lives and are oblivious to the things that happen around them. This is an excellent character study and it's an extra layer to the film worth contemplating and exploring.
Speaking of actors, Halloween
, for an independent film, has some fine acting. Halloween
was the movie debut of Jamie Lee Curtis, after which she would go on to star in several other horror films and attain the title "Scream Queen". The film also features one of my favorite actors - Donald Pleasance. Pleasance plays the role perfectly and authentically. The scenes where he explains Michael's evil nature to Sheriff Bracket (the one in the Myer's House in particular) are mesmerizing and convincing. Donald Pleasance gives Dr. Loomis a genuine fear of the prospect of what Michael Myers really is. That scene is an excellent dialogue scene and another aspect of Halloween
that sets it apart from many other films of this kind. How many slashers can you name that have had dialogue scenes of the same caliber as the one mentioned?
As I've already mentioned, the cinematography by Dean Cundey is excellent with some great-composed shots. Take for instance the scene after Laurie discovers her friends murdered and runs into the hallway. After which Michael's mask emerges from the shadows behind Laurie and attacks her; that's a beautiful shot and one of the best moments of the film. Don't even bother watching this film pan & scan. As always, the process of cropping a film to fill the TV screen destroys a film's cinematography, and in the case of Halloween virtually half of the picture information is cut off at the sides. The scene I'm talking about is completely ruined, as the focus is on Laurie and Michael's face emerging from the shadows is completely out of the frame!
Last but not the least of Halloween
's bright spots is John Carpenter's musical score. John Carpenter composed the entire score in three days. It's rather simplistic, but extremely effective, the rhythm and pacing is excellent and really adds to the suspense of the film particularly the scenes where Michael is chasing Laurie in the house and then outside across the street. Indeed the score to Halloween
is one of the most memorable and intricate parts of the film and it would not be as effective a film without it.
Anchor Bay presents Halloween
: Limited Edition in a 16:9 enhanced THX mastered widescreen transfer. A Pan & Scan version is also available on the disc. However, I have no plans of watching Halloween
P&S and neither should you. Overall Halloween
looks fantastic; the transfer is extremely clean with hardly a hint of grain. The detail garnered from this 16:9 transfer is excellent - everything is sharp and well defined with hardly any soft looking shots. The color and flesh tones are also excellent; one scene in particular always impresses me. It's the scene where Laurie, Annie and Lynda are walking home from school and Laurie exclaims, "shit, I forgot my chemistry book" - the close up dialogue scenes between the three friends really shows off the warm colors and wonderful flesh tones of the transfer.
About half the film takes place in the day and the outdoor scenes are all great. The green of the grass and trees really looks great, and helps build the serenity and false sense of security that pervades the early parts of the film. The nighttime scenes and interiors hold up just as well. Contrast is dead on and blacks are solid. This new transfer of Halloween
also restores the films intended blue back lit color scheme for the nighttime scenes and it really adds an erie quality to the film; it was a wise artistic decision by John Carpenter and Dean Cundey.
The Television version is of the same high quality. The added scenes are not as sharp as the rest of the film, but considering the source materials it looks very good. Don't even bother looking for compression or motion artifacts that plagued AB's original release of Halloween
. The authoring by Crest National is flawless, creating a very solid presentation. I hope Anchor Bay will continue to use Crest National to author ALL their DVDs.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is pretty good; it's about as good as your going to get for a film originally recorded in mono. The disc also contains the film's original mono score for purists who want to hear it the way it was in theaters.
Although not exactly bursting at the seams, the Halloween
Limited Edition has some nice supplements. The DVD has some nice animated menus. Like many new DVDs, Halloween features a short animation that plays when you first access the disc's menus. It's pretty good and consists of a pumpkin floating towards the screen, which suddenly explodes and reveals Michael's mask and the main menu. The menu animation's and transitions are excellent and not overly complex navigating through them is quick and easy.
Probably the best supplement on the disc is the "Halloween Unmasked 2000" documentary. The documentary features interviews with Director John Carpenter, Producer Debra Hill, Moustapha Akkad, Dean Cundey, Tommy Lee Wallace and actors Jamie Lee Curtis, Brian Andrews (Tommy Doyle), P.J. Soles and Nick Castle. Some of the interviews appeared on Anchor Bay's previous VHS Limited Edition, but several new interviews were done and edited together for Unmasked 2000. The documentary is very thorough and goes through the backstory of the making of Halloween
as well as the concept behind many of the scenes. It's fun to hear the actor's recollections about the making of the film.
John Carpenter also explains his inspiration for the musical score as well as his vision of what Michael Myers is. There's also on location footage of the locations used to film Halloween
. The documentary caps off by talking about the success of the film and the audience reactions, some of which is quite funny. I really like this documentary and I've watched it several times, and if there's one failing it's the fact it's a bit short.
The second major supplement, which is exclusive to the 2-disc Limited Edition, is the Television version of Halloween
uncut, THX mastered and in widescreen for the first time ever. The TV version features 12 minutes of new scenes added into Halloween
to fill the time slot for the film's syndication on TV. I much prefer the theatrical version, as it's the way the film was meant to be seen, but the addition of the TV version is a nice novelty.
There's also 2 trailers, 3 TV spots, 3 Radio Spots, an extensive still gallery of publicity and behind the scenes photos, a trivia section and talent bios for John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Irwin Yablins, Moustapha Akkad, Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis and P.J. Soles.
Anchor Bay did a terrific job with this addition of Halloween
and it seems they have exorcised many of their past demons and are continuing to move toward high quality releases. Though the DVD may lack the excellent commentary that can be found on the Criterion laserdisc, I think the high quality presentation and excellent documentary more than make up for it. This is Anchor Bay's best release to date and a DVD that should be in every fans collection and as this is a limited pressing make sure you pick yours up before they disappear.
Image Quality - A
Sound - B
Supplements - B+
- Running Time - 1 hour 32 minutes (Theatrical Version) / 1 hour 44 minutes (TV version)
- Rated R
- 2 Discs
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Mono
- Original Theatrical Trailers
- Television Spots
- Radio Spots
- Talent Bios
- Still and poster gallery
- Halloween Unmasked 2000 Documentary