Our reviews of Halloween: Extended Version (published August 24th, 2001), Halloween: 25th Anniversary Edition (published August 12th, 2003), Halloween: 30th Anniversary Commemorative Set (published October 25th, 2008), Halloween: 3-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition (published October 15th, 2008), Halloween (2007) (Blu-ray) (published October 21st, 2008), and Halloween (Blu-Ray) (published October 4th, 2007) are also available.
The night he came home.
After their horrific bungle of John Carpenter's classic film, Anchor Bay has released a stellar Limited Edition disc set for Halloween to appease those fans infuriated by their original DVD release of the film.
Not to sound like a tagline or anything, but John Carpenter truly did change the face of Halloween forever with his release of Halloween 21 years ago. A decade after Psycho, John Carpenter finally capitalized on the "slasher" horror genre with a white masked killer named Michael Myers. Halloween is the first film to bring "the bogeyman" to life and unleash him on a small American town. The film immediately led way to a plethora of slasher flicks that continued through the 1980s and into the early '90s. Thought provoking scares are the rage today, but for those that remember, a trip back to one of the original slasher films is nothing but a frightening joy.
Halloween is the story of a man, Michael Myers, considered pure evil by his psychologist, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). On Halloween night, at the tender age of six, young Michael Myers took a butcher knife and stabbed his sister to death. Following the incident Myers slipped into a trance where he was completely unresponsive to external stimuli. Myers was considered clinically insane and sentenced to psychiatric care until his 21st birthday, where he would be brought before a judge for sentencing in the murder of his sister. When Loomis shows up to bring Myers in front of the judge he discovers that Myers has spawned the escape of all patients in the mental hospital he had been committed to. Myers is able to steal a car and tear off into the rainy night, back to his home town, Haddonfield. Hot on his trail, Loomis follows Myers to Haddonfield on the 15th anniversary of Judith Myers death: Halloween.
An unassuming teenage babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), soon falls prey to Myers as he stalks both her and her friends. We later learn, in the TV version of the film, that Laurie is actually Myers' sister, given up for adoption by her grief-stricken parents after the murder of their other daughter. This fact has never really sat well with me because of several major holes it creates in the plot. First of all, going by the original film itself, there are absolutely no hints that Laurie is Michael's sister. In subsequent films Michael's only goal is to directly kill his relatives, but in the original, Myers goes after all of Laurie's friends before his focus shifts to killing her. Michael is stalking all of the babysitters in the film, not just Laurie. Then there is Dr. Loomis…Once Dr. Loomis knows (and he immediately knows) that Myers is going after his sister, why doesn't he try and contact her directly? Why go around hunting for Myers when you know exactly who he is going after to kill? It all makes no sense, but links the sequel film to the original. So basically, what I am doing, is denouncing the TV version (included in this disc set) because it basically adds in the plotline of Laurie being Michael's sister. Nevertheless, love it or hate it, Halloween fans can't deny themselves the chance to own both versions of the film on DVD.
As I mentioned earlier, Anchor Bay committed one of the worst DVD atrocities ever with their release of Halloween back in the early days of the format. The transfer for that disc was actually worse than watching the film on VHS or TV! Riddled with compression artifacts and a completely horrid "black" level (could be considered a gray level) many fans of the Halloween series immediately wrote off Anchor Bay as a DVD studio whose discs they would spend their hard earned money on. In order to bring Halloween fans back to their product, Anchor Bay launched an incredible restoration process of the original film. Not only did Anchor Bay go back and completely revamp the original film, with a 5.1 surround track, but they also went out and uncovered the widescreen version of the scenes filmed for TV, never seen before in that aspect ratio, to include as part of a second disc in their set. Anchor Bay needed nothing less than a spectacular disc to win back Halloween fans, and they have done it.
To begin with, the image is absolutely immaculate. You will never find another video transfer of this film with such good quality than on this DVD. Black levels are dead on (key to many scenes in the film), flesh tones are accurate, and the grain on the transfer is kept to a minimal level. Did I mention the transfer is anamorphic? Yes, finally something I can show to my grandchildren! The audio certainly isn't as stellar as the video transfer, but is still quite good. I'm a large believer that if the film was recorded with a mono audio track, a new 5.1 surround track will prove to be annoying and distracting, at best, when added to the film. Just take a look at Universal's recent release of Frankenstein. Not that I don't applaud the effort to bring a new element to a film that wasn't there before, but it just falls flat on its face most of the time. Thankfully, those re-mastering Halloween came to the realization that adding in bogus new surround effects won't win over any new fans. Instead, the audio track is mostly centered on the front sound stage with some good placement of sound elements, but nothing fancy. Anything more from the audio track and it would come across as phony and distracting. For those purists like me, the original mono-track is available on the disc as well. Fans should also note that the TV version is in 2-channel surround sound only—not 5.1.
I was more than sold on Halloween with its stunning new transfer, so there is little more that could give me an even greater admiration for this DVD. However, Anchor Bay went out and produced a new half-hour long documentary on the film, which is extremely insightful. I loved hearing John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Jamie Lee Curtis re-telling some of the classic Halloween rumors, success stories and memories of those in the film (especially Donald Pleasance). Also included on the disc are a few theatrical trailers, TV spots, radio spots, a still gallery (including promotional photos, posters, and behind the scenes pictures), and bios on the cast and crew of the film. With the Limited Edition of the film you also receive a separate disc containing the entire TV version of Halloween which includes 12 minutes of additional footage for the film, shot just prior to the release of Halloween 2 to integrate the storylines of both films.
Almost everything a Halloween fan would ever want…
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Absolutely no gripes with the transfer. There was the occasional grain on the video transfer, but nothing that can't be attributed to the 21-year-old age of the film. As I said, the 5.1 surround track is mixed well and not overdone, and the original mono-track is still an option for fans to hear.
What this disc is noticeably lacking, though, is a commentary track. Fans would kill (not literally) to hear a track on this disc with John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Commentary tracks for Halloween are available on certain laserdisc releases, but have yet to become available on DVD. Anchor Bay attempted to get director John Carpenter to record a new commentary for this disc, but he refused, and they were also unable to secure a commentary track the director had previously done on laserdiscs. Although Anchor Bay tried to get a commentary track on this disc, it still prevents the disc from being what I truly hoped it would be; the definitive edition of Halloween.
I doubt you will ever be able to find a better transfer for Halloween; there certainly is no transfer out there right now that can match the quality of this disc. The extra content is well worth the additional price of the disc, but comes just short of being the definitive version of this horror masterpiece.
Just a reminder, the Limited Edition is limited so horror fans better race out now to get a copy of this disc before it disappears forever. Those less-than-die-hard horror fans can now purchase Anchor Bay's release of this film which contains the new transfer for the theatrical cut only—the TV version is not included. All true movie-buffs should own one of these discs!
Anchor Bay is freed from their lifetime prison sentence and allowed to provide more outstanding DVD content for hungry consumers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Theatrical Trailers
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