Blu-ray Review: Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition

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25thEditionCover

 Distributor: Starz / Anchor Bay

Release Date: 24/Sept/2013

Region: A

Length: 91 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG4 AVC, 36.20 Mbps)

Main Audio:

English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD

English 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono (192kbps)

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Ratio: 2.35.1

Notes: Halloween has had many DVD releases and two Blu-ray releases (counting this one). Special features are never consistent and these releases contain several different transfers. This review focuses on the 35th Anniversary Blu-ray release of the film.

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“I guess the original slasher film was Psycho. That was the film that all of these things are kind of based on… Psycho was the big daddy of them all. And it had a literal slashing scene in it! The famous shower scene…” –John Carpenter

It is evident from watching Halloween that John Carpenter had learned a few lessons from the master of suspense. Roger Ebert’s 1979 review of Halloween began with a quote from Alfred Hitchcock. He then compares the film to Psycho:

“I enjoy playing the audience like a piano.” –Alfred Hitchcock

So does John Carpenter. “Halloween” is an absolutely merciless thriller, a movie so violent and scary that, yes, I would compare it to ‘Psycho’ (1960). It’s a terrifying and creepy film about what one of the characters calls Evil Personified.”

The Psycho comparison is debatable (even if Dr. Sam Loomis was named after one of the film’s characters), but it is evident that Carpenter had studied the basic rules of suspense that Hitchcock was fond of articulating in interviews. In Halloween, Carpenter makes the audience wait for the violence. He shows the audience that something terrible is about to happen and then slowly builds the viewer’s anticipation until the suspense is nearly intolerable. The actual deaths contain little violence and relatively little blood. It isn’t needed. Fear has nothing to do with gore.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Screams

The 35th Anniversary Edition features a Digibook case with some wonderful artwork by Jay Shaw and 11 pages of fantastic ‘behind the scenes’ photography and an essay by Stef Hutchinson. It is a truly beautiful package. Some people might have a slight problem with cases that hold discs in a folder-like style (as is the case here). Discs are much more likely to become scratched and it isn’t uncommon for glue to get on the disc. These people would likely prefer to a standard case for protection. However, few will find fault with the beautiful packaging.

35th Menu

The menu is static and contains the same artwork used for the Digibook case. The iconic Halloween theme by John Carpenter is heard over the image.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Screams

The 35th Anniversary Edition offers consumers a different transfer than the film’s previous Blu-ray release that was supervised by the film’s cinematographer, Dean Cundey.

A lot of the previous editions had just been made from a print or a previous digital version or whatever. I was very impressed by the fact that they wanted to make this sort of the definitive copy. Obviously, Blu-ray is, at the moment, state-of-the-art, and the fact that they went back to original materials, the camera negative and IP, and brought John and myself in to sort of approve the work and make sure it looked like our original intention, was highly commendable, I think. Yes, they did take advantage of all the latest technology, with scratch and dirt removal, things like that, so it is a very pristine example of the movie we made.” –Dean Cundey 

Obviously, this transfer is superior to the previous Blu-ray release on a number of levels. This transfer feels a bit more moody and cinematic. The differences range from subtle to extremely noticeable. The early exterior scenes are vastly improved and exhibit less vibrant colors and more natural skin tones. While the previous transfer tended to be overly warm, this transfer is cooler. The image is crisp and with slightly sharper (and more impressive) detail. Some scenes appear a bit on the soft side, but this is inherent in the source. Edges are also slightly less defined as a result of the production methods that Carpenter employed. Shadow detail is wonderfully rendered with nice solid blacks where appropriate. The overall clarity is amazing as well. While there is the occasional speckle, these are never distracting. This is certainly closer to Carpenter’s vision than previously seen on home video. The transfer retains the texture of the film print and offers a cinematic presentation that should please even the most discriminating Halloween fans.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Screams

The disc employs a TrueHD 7.1 lossless mix that is an obvious upgrade from the previous disc. The film’s iconic score has never sounded more dynamic and the dialogue is noticeably clearer than in the previous Blu-ray edition. This is especially clear in an early car scene where Dr. Loomis and Marion Chambers are driving in the storm. In the previous release, the dialogue seemed to be swallowed by the sounds of the storm. Here it seems to be balanced at a more acceptable level. The track has decent range and clarity making for a solid listening experience. It would be unreasonable to believe that a 7.1 mix on an older low budget film could sound any better than it does on this disc. For purists, a 2.0 Dolby Digital Mono mix is included. I am assuming that this is the original mix, but it could very well be a mono version of the 7.1 mix.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Screams

The supplemental material included on the disc is a slight letdown. The only features that were ported over for this release are the trailer, television spots, and radio spots. Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest (which was included on the previous Blu-ray) was quite comprehensive and wonderful. It is a shame that this wasn’t ported over.

Fans are given a few all-new goodies.

Commentary Track with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis

People will likely feel that this new commentary is superior in some ways to the track on the previous Blu-ray edition of the film (which included John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Debra Hill). The difference is that this commentary has both participants in the same room with one another and is therefore more conversational.

Additional TV Version Scenes – (10:46) – (HD)

This collection of scenes is actually my favorite supplement on the disc. They were shot in order to extend the film’s length for its original television broadcast. John Carpenter feels that he sold out when he agreed to shoot the scenes and doesn’t particularly care for them.

On Location: 25 Years Later – (10:25) – (SD)

This feature is ported over from one of the film’s many DVD editions and is a look at the various South Pasadena locations as they appeared on the film’s 25th anniversary.

The Night She Came Home (59:43) – (HD)

This featurette gives fans a glimpse of Jamie Lee Curtis as she attends a horror convention in order to monetize her horror celebrity for charity. She is shown signing autographs, talking to her fans, taking photos, and even hanging out with other Halloween alumni. Fans should find it extremely interesting.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:42)

TV Spots

This is a collection of three television ads for the film.

Radio Spots

This is a collection of three radio ads for the film (which play over a graphic of the infamous poster logo for the film).

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Final Words:

The new 35th Anniversary transfer of the film is exceptional and certainly a significant improvement on the previous Blu-ray release of the film. Fans will likely want to upgrade and hold on to their old disc for its wonderful documentary. Those who haven’t seen this classic horror gem should also pick up this edition. There is no better way to see it on home video.

 Review by: Devon Powell