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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
CONTINUES...

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Halloween (Blu-ray Disc)

Blu-ray Disc FormatUncompressed LPCM

Halloween
1978 (2007) - Anchor Bay/Starz

Oh, come on. What did you think I was going to talk about today? A Christmas Story?

As a franchise, I've never had all that much interest in the saga of Michael Myers. Of the big three, Michael, Jason and Freddy, Myers is my least favorite. The Friday the 13th series started as junk and remained junk, albeit entertaining junk for those of us who enjoy watching teens get sliced and diced by a machete-wielding, hockey-mask-wearing maniac. As for Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street was a great, scary movie that quickly devolved into nonsense. But Freddy had personality and, as the saying goes, personality goes a long way.

Michael Myers has no personality. That's the whole point of Halloween and it's why I checked out of the series after part four. He's the boogeyman. The Shape. The thing that just keeps coming for you no matter what you throw at him.


Unfortunately, Rob Zombie didn't get that in his recent remake. He tied himself in knots trying to give him a back story and a reason for going after super-babysitter Laurie Strode. He didn't understand what Carpenter did. It's scarier when there's just some THING coming for you... and you don't know why.

All these years later, the original Halloween remains something of an anomaly. By most any definition, it's a slasher movie. Escaped lunatic hunts down and kills randy teens. End of story. But it may be the only time that a filmmaker of talent and imagination took seriously the idea that yes, a masked, unstoppable guy with a knife coming after a group of teenagers would actually be frightening. At his best, there is no one better at executing simple but good ideas on film than John Carpenter. He realizes something that most directors don't. If you're a character in the movie then sure, being attacked would be terrifying. But the audience isn't a character in the movie. For us, the scariest part of the movie is knowing something the characters don't. It's the anticipation of what could happen. After the remarkable opening sequence (wherein young Michael Myers kills his sister in one continuous POV shot), there isn't another death in Halloween for almost an hour. But The Shape is always there. Watching. Lurking around corners and just out of sight. That kind of restraint is almost unimaginable today.

Carpenter is one of those rare filmmakers who understands that the scariest part of the roller coaster ride isn't the hairpin turns and insane loops. It's that long, slow climb up that first impossibly high hill. Halloween has one of the best long, slow climbs of any horror movie ever made. Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey find every possible way of revealing The Shape... emerging from the shadows, glimpsed in the distance, seen from behind. Their skill combined with that iconic mask and blank slate costume create a threatening symbol of death that retains its power to this day. I'd seen Halloween a few times before but prior to writing this review, I hadn't seen it in years. I'd always liked it but this may have been the first time that I truly appreciated the skill behind the camera. This is great filmmaking at work.

As you may or may not have noticed or cared, this is also the first time I've attempted to review a high-def title so bear with me. Yes, I've made the leap into HD technology. Lucky me. Halloween was released as part of Anchor Bay's initial foray into Blu-Ray and the results, to my as yet unjaded eyes and ears, are very impressive. Halloween has enjoyed about a kajillion different releases on DVD. The one I own was Anchor Bay's first attempt and quite frankly, it sucked. Later releases probably improved on it but the Blu-Ray version handily trumps the one I had to compare it to. I didn't really expect much, considering that the movie is almost thirty years old and was made for very little cash, but even so, I was impressed by the picture quality. Shadows and black patches are of paramount importance to this film and for the first time, I was genuinely surprised and chilled by the appearances of The Shape. The sound wasn't quite as breathtaking. It's offered in Dolby 5.1, PCM Uncompressed 5.1 (whatever that means) and the original mono. I played around with all three and was most satisfied with the original mono track. Not that the others are bad. The mono version just struck me as the most natural and fulfilling. Your mileage may vary.

I have no idea how many different extra features have been offered for this film. I'm assuming quite a few. So this edition may not be the definitive Halloween in terms of cramming every single available thing onto a single disc. I'm just going to treat it like this is the only version of the movie that has ever been offered and judge the content on that basis. In that light, it turns out quite well. You get an audio commentary by John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and the late Debra Hill, originally recorded for the Criterion laserdisc way back when. It's still a great track and well worth preserving. There's a lengthy documentary called Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest, that goes into detail on the making of the film and includes some terrific behind-the-scenes footage. You get the original trailer, a handful of TV and radio spots, and Fast Film Facts, a Blu-Ray exclusive feature that gives you factoids and trivia pop-up video style throughout the film. Is there more Halloween bonus material out there? Probably but oh well. What you get here is more than enough. Oh, the bonus material is presented in standard-definition instead of HD if that matters to you. Personally, I don't care either way but you might feel differently.

And with that, we draw the curtain on the Hell Plaza Oktoberfest. I hope you've enjoyed this month-long excursion into the macabre. The Electric Theatre will be returning soon and I'm quite sure that the next Bottom Shelf column will have absolutely nothing to do with horror movies, so if you hate them, I thank you for your patience. Happy Halloween.

Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 16
Audio (DD & PCM - 1-20): 12
Extras: A-


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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