35 years after its initial debut, "Halloween" is still one of the most impressive horror films that never seems to lose its appeal, and is widely considered John Carpenter's best film to date - although I have to admit that I personally prefer some of his later films over "Halloween" for their visual qualities.
Over the years Anchor Bay Entertainment has released countless incarnations of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray Disc, but in celebration of its 35th anniversary, the studio decided to give it another go. Glad they did, as it delivers a remarkable presentation of the initial antics of one of cinema's most lasting and most terrifying of predators - Michael Myers.
Originally titled "The Babysitter Murders" but renamed before its release in 1978, "Halloween" is the primordial of all slasher flicks. No matter which stalker film you watch today, each and every one of them builds upon the formula established by Carpenter's film, although I certainly do not wish to diminish Tobe Hooper's impact on the genre with his "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" from 1974 here.
The film starts with a young boy, Michael Myers, killing his sister in a state of mental disorder. In this sequence look out for Carpenter's phenomenal use of the steadycam and the music that greatly emphasizes and enhances the ominously approaching menace directly from the boy's point of view. The scene when he puts on the mask is as simple as it is brilliantly effective.
As a result of the murder and the diagnosis that followed, Michael is put in to a mental institute under the observation of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). After years of therapy Loomis gives up on the now grown up Michael Myers (Nick Castle) and wants to make sure he is never in his lifetime released from the institution. Loomis is convinced that there is an unstoppable evil inside Myers and that he poses a serious threat to human society.
One night, however, Michael manages to break free from the high security mental prison hospital. When arriving on the scene Dr. Loomis fears for the worst and makes his way to Haddonfield, the place where Michael grew up - but Michael has already targeted a new victim and slowly stalks his prey.
Much has been said about "Halloween" and it almost feels as is any additional word would be redundant, if not superficial. It is one of the most relentless and intense horror films ever made, and it carries many of Carpenter's stylistic trademarks that make him such an iconic filmmaker.
To me personally, it is amazing, how the presentation of "Halloween" has come from its first, compression-riddled DVD release to what we witness on this version. Over and over again, Anchor Bay has put money and effort into transferring and retransferring the film and once more for this release, "Halloween" received an entirely new transfer, taken from the original camera negative, and has been color corrected by the movie's director of photography Dean Cundey himself. Every time Anchor Bay did this, I though, it would not get better than this, and every time I have been proving wrong. And so it goes that this 35th anniversary edition of "Halloween" is downright jaw dropping. I mean, how do you make a 35 year old film look like it was shot last week? Magic, I suppose, as that is whatAnchor Bay is dishing out here. Pure magic.
The film is absolutely stable without any blemishes or defects. The transfer holds such an incredible amount of detail that you can even read street signs in the far distance. (Yes, you can now exactly pinpoint where the shots have been taken in Pasadena and Hollywood and look them up in Google Maps, my friends.)
The same goes for the color reproduction. Immaculate is the only word that comes to mind. As I mentioned, the film looks as if it was shot last week, and both the color reproduction and the rock solid black levels can be attributed to that. So, even though I've said it on numerous other occasions before, yet again, this is the best-looking version of "Halloween" ever released, and it is absolutely stunning to behold. Period.
The transfer is incredibly sharp and holds every bit of detail, even in murky and underlit conditions. Prepare yourself to count the lines on the wallpaper in the Myers house, for example, as every bit of the wallpaper pattern and texture is clearly visible. You will single blades of grass in the shots of Laurie walking home from school and you can count the leaves on the trees. Unbelievably, this transfer adds another level of detail to the presentation that you thought was pristine before. I can't even put into words, how fans of the movie will enjoy this!
To perfectly complement the video presentation, Anchor Bay has remixed the audio once again as well, now releasing the film boasting a 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD track. This is a master quality sound track, exactly as it has been mixed down by the sound engineers. Most of you are by now familiar with the 5.1 remix that Anchor Bay did on the film a few years ago, and while not substantially different, this 7.1 mix adds a couple of nice nuances and a mix that is overall perhaps a little more rounded out, once again, shaving about 20 years off the film.
Aside from the film's 35th Anniversary, one of the reasons why Anchor Bay decided to re-release "Halloween" was that at long last they had been able to get Jamie Lee Curtis to participate in the release. As you may know, for the past 35 years, the actress has virtually detached herself from the movie - as well as most of her other early films that established her as a horror scream queen and built the foundation for her later career. Therefore, getting Jamie on board was a truly big deal for both the studio and the fans, and you won't be disappointed because the release features a brand new commentary track starring John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. While it's a great commentary to have and full of insight, I was a bit disappointed to see that the "old" commentary track with John Carpenter and Debra Hill was not included here. After all, this track had been the "internal voice" of the film for the better of 20 years or so.
Also featuring Jamie Lee Curtis is the brand new documentary "The Night She Came Home." While it is cool to see the actress acknowledge "Halloween" after all these years, I have to admit that I was underwhelmed by this documentary. There's just not much going on. It's essentially a camera following her to a major horror convention where she made her appearance alongside many Halloween cast and crew members. She makes it very clear in the beginning that she does that not because she feels very strongly about the film or the impact it had on her career, but for monetary reasons. In Jamie Lee Curtis terms, this means, she was trying to raise money for charity through the autograph session she held at the convention, while in return she would make the fans happy with her appearance. It's all a bit cut and dry, and quite honestly she shows very little real enthusiasm, in my opinion, except for the moments when she is first reunited with other cast members the night before the event, seeing people some of whom she had not seen in 35 years.
The featurette "On Location: 25 Years Later" is also included on the release, culled from previous DVD versions, as well as the movie's trailer and TV Spots, and Radio Spots.
If you're a fan of the film, clearly, there is no way for you to avoid this hot new high definition version of John Carpenter's seminal slasher flick. While it may sound like a stereotype, "Halloween" has never looked better. I bet not even during its theatrical run did it look as beautiful as on this disc. Sadly, the release is very thin on supplements, and I am not sure why Anchor Bay did not include all the cool extras they have produced for the movie in the past. Therefore, you may want to hang on to your previous DVD or Blu-Ray release for that reason, but when it comes to watching the film itself, nothing quite compares to this new Blu-Ray Disc.