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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 10/21/98
updated: 10/31/00




Halloween

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits


Halloween: Limited Edition

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

THX-certified

Halloween
Limited Edition - 1978 (1999) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A

Specs and Features:

Disc One: The Theatrical Version
91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered, dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, Halloween Unmasked featurette, theatrical and re-release trailers, 3 TV spots, 3 radio spots, cast and crew filmographies, publicity photo and poster gallery, "behind-the-scenes" photo gallery, trivia, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1, 2.0 & mono), subtitles: none

Disc Two: The Television Version
101 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX-certified, single-sided, single-layered, dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, About the TV Version text, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none



Halloween

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

THX-certified

Halloween
1978 (1999) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B

Specs and Features:

91 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), THX-certified, single-sided, dual-layered, dual-disc Amaray keep case packaging, Halloween Unmasked featurette, theatrical and re-release trailers, 3 TV spots, 3 radio spots, cast and crew filmographies, publicity photo and poster gallery, "behind-the-scenes" photo gallery, trivia, animated film-themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (26 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1, 2.0 & mono), subtitles: none




Halloween (original release)

Halloween
1978 (1997) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): D/D-/C-

Specs and Features:

90 minutes, NR, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), full frame, dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (9 chapters), languages: English (mono), subtitles: English, Close Captioned


"I watched him for 15 years. Sitting in a room. Staring at a wall - not seeing the wall. Looking past the wall, looking at this night…"

No one who has seen Halloween will ever forget it. I saw it for the first time when it was initially broadcast on TV. It was around Halloween, and NBC grabbed the rights. It was a pretty big deal that they were showing it. My mother allowed me to watch it, because a friend of hers (who had seen it in the theaters) said there was hardly any blood in it - even with 4 or so deaths in the film. I guess it's important to note, that this was basically the first slasher film (if you leave out Psycho) and it started the whole hunted baby-sitter/camp counselor movie craze, which eventually lead to the recent Scream thing (that thankfully has died a quiet death). Who would have guessed that an awkward girl with a long, sad face, a scraggly, pasty-white filmmaker and a guy in a Captain Kirk mask (no kidding - that's what it is), would change horror history? Certainly not my mother, because after we watched Halloween on NBC in the early 1980s, my mother would never "allow" me to watch another horror film again. Until my late teens, I would have to sneak into theaters, or quietly turn on HBO in the middle of the night to get my horror fix. To this day my mother won't watch anything with a holiday in the title. As for me... I can't get enough of those 80s slasher films.

Halloween, film scholars remind us, is one of the highest grossing independent films ever made. I think film scholars like to throw that around, because it validates the film's power somehow. It makes it legitimate to be fan of the flick. It's like enjoying Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which was arguably the first Blaxpoitation film (and therefore is important, even if it IS cult trash). It's still good filmmaking, and as a critic, you don't have to hide your love for it (like, say, a love for 80s porn). Considering that I'm a critic and I love slasher flicks, Blaxpoitation films (and 80s porn), I don't see the point in validating it. To me, if a film is worth watching, it's worth talking about. Halloween is a true classic, and even if it made nothing and influenced no one, I'd still be here singing its praises. It's a great film from a great filmmaker, and the simple fact that it did make loads of cash and influenced a nation of filmmakers just nails that point home all the more.

As the film starts off, we find ourselves looking through a 6-year-old child's point of view. It's Halloween 1963, and a young boy pulls on a clown mask. At first we think, "Oh, boy! We're going to see some trick or treating from this kid's point of view." No. What we do get to see is some serious knife stabbing. There's no blood, but that icky knife-in-a-melon sound, that fills in so well for a knife in a human chest, is more than enough. Cut to 1978. It's once again Halloween, and the little boy is all grown up and freshly escaped from a mental hospital. His keeper, Dr. Sam Loomis (played by the all-time best Carpenter character actor, Donald Pleasence) is hot on his trail. He knows that the boy/man (named Michael Myers) will return to the scene of the crime - Haddonfield, Illinois. What he wants in Haddonfield, only Loomis and Myers really know (I mean, we know now, some 20 years later... but at the time, it wasn't clear). The best guess is that he wants to kill everyone. And the one person he really wants to ventilate with a kitchen knife, is Laurie Strode (played by pop culture diva, Jamie Lee Curtis). This Myers guy, now sporting the aforementioned Captain Kirk mask, really has a hard-on for Laurie. And Loomis is slow to realize what is going on... or to get the police to help him.

The movie unfolds slowly and when the chills and killings start, they're relentless. What really makes this film, is its pioneering use of Steadicam and its music. Carpenter used the Steadicam expertly, weaving in and out of a house, sneaking up on people with a unearthly flow. It was off-setting and made you feel like you were right there in the room. And following Bernard Herrman's lead (based on his soundtrack work for the Hitchcock films), Carpenter fashioned a truly relentless score, that still makes you want to check your closets for bogeymen each and every time you hear it. Scary.

Before last year, Halloween fans were left with only a really piss-poor DVD edition. Thankfully, Anchor Bay recently remedied that. But since we like to remind people of the evils of poorly mastered films on DVD, here's some comments on the original disc. To start with, heavy artifacting kills the brilliant opening credit sequence. The opening shot, when the kid puts on the mask, is almost unwatchable due to black noise all over the screen. The sound is adequate, but is a very muffled mono. What is nice, is the dual-sided nature of this early DVD. You get the opportunity to check out Carpenter's use of the entire wide Panavision screen. Or, if you'd rather, the full frame version is on the flip side of the disc. There's also a theatrical trailer on both sides, but it looks even worse than the movie in terms of artifacting.

So what has Anchor Bay done to fix the situation? They remastered the film and put it out on DVD again. For the record, there are two new editions of this film. One is a Limited Edition 2-disc set, with the theatrical version of the film on one disc and a TV version on the second (the Limited Edition is what we'll review here). The other version has only one disc, that includes the original theatrical version. It's the same exact disc as Disc One of the Limited Edition, so this review should serve to cover both versions (you can see the separate disc specs and cover art for each above).

Now... where the original was grainy and digitally-artifacted out the ying, here we have a video transfer so clean you could lick chocolate pudding off it and not get anything but sweet, sweet pudding. Quite frankly, it's beautiful. It's not perfect mind you, but it's certainly leaps and bounds better than the original disc. It's also anamorphic, which is very nice and preserves the original Panavision widescreen aspect ration of 2.35:1. Blacks are pretty solid, shadows are detailed and there's only minimal DVNR (digital video noise reduction). Compared with the first Anchor Bay release, this is brilliant... but it's also not quite reference quality either. On the audio side, we're given three incredible English tracks - a remastered mono track that sounds really nice, a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that sounds even better and a wondrous Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. I don't think you could hear Carpenter's music sounding any better if you tried. Just pop in the DVD, crank up the stereo and let go.

As I mentioned, the Limited Edition also includes a second disc featuring the television cut of the film. With about 11 minutes of additional scenes (mostly drawn-out time filler), this is an interesting keepsake. This is actually the way I first saw the film on NBC (as mentioned above). This version includes a few moments of film that have burned themselves into my memory, but that I couldn't find before now (like the word "sister" written on Mike's hospital room door). The additional scenes don't add much and were actually filmed during the production of Halloween II (which explains the sister angle and why Jamie wears a towel around her head in her additional scene). The picture quality on the TV version is just as good as the theatrical version (including anamorphic widescreen), and the sound is given to us in a nice Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There are no extras on this second disc at all - just the film.

But there are a few extras on the first disc. Along with the standards (picture galleries, cast and crew info, trailers and TV and radio spots), we get an original documentary, called Halloween Unmasked. I didn't like it. I mean, it's fine for the occasional fan... but there's something cursory about it. It's almost like the people involved with this documentary have heard and told these stories so many times before that there's nothing left to tell. The video quality is edgy and the film clips it contains recall the last version's transfer. All in all, it's simply okay.

Thank Kubrick Anchor Bay went back and fixed Halloween on DVD. The disc was a ugly pimple for their company and, with it gone, I find I like the Bay that much more. I would have loved a commentary track on this new release, but I'm sure they tried to give us one. In any case, the extras you do get are nice, and the real treat is having a remastered version of the film (and getting the TV version along with it). So what are you waiting for? Get these discs a spinnin'! After all, it's getting dark. And when the babysitter's away... Michael comes out to play. [Insert creepy theme music here.]

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


Halloween (THX, non-Limited)


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