Halloween (1978)

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Released 16-Feb-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Halloween Unmasked 2000
Trailer-Re-release
TV Spots-2
Radio Spots-3
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo-Publicity Photos and Posters
Gallery-Photo-Behind The Scenes
Trivia
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 87:08 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Carpenter
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis
Donald Pleasence
P.J. Soles
Nancy Loomis
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $36.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Returning to Halloween after not having seen it in over a decade is like revisiting another time. In this time, substance was more important than style or hype, and ill-conceived films with no artistic merit were generally eaten alive at the box office. It's hard to say, but I miss those times.

    A true product of that era, Halloween is the most successful independent horror film ever made because once you've seen and heard the film, it stays emblazoned on your mind forever, much like the image of Denise Richards semi-nude during Wild Things, or that of an eyeball flying into Kassie DePaiva's mouth during Evil Dead II.

    Having seen the film on the Very Hazy System many, many times (at least ten dozen, in fact) about a decade ago, the first thing I think of when I see or hear the word "Halloween" is John Carpenter's mesmerisingly evil-sounding theme. You could play this theme to me over and over while only showing me the test pattern for two hours and I would stay firmly gripped to my seat. Even a series of sequels that varied from being average to dumbfoundingly awful could not diminish the influence this film has had upon its audience and present-generation filmmakers. Indeed, some of those filmmakers are already at work on a seventh sequel, currently titled Halloween H2K: Evil Never Dies, and yes, I do know how bad that sounds.

    It is really such a pity that this classic has been dragged down by a string of lacklustre sequels, much like the Nightmare On Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises, although the classic status of the latter example is somewhat debatable. Still, given that sequels to films like Scooby-Doo are now in production, I cannot honestly say that there is such a thing as a (comparatively) bad horror sequel anymore.

    In spite of those things, Halloween has cast an influence that even ranges outside of cinema, with novelists and musicians also acknowledging a somewhat more subtle level of influence from the score music. Yet, for such an influential and groundbreaking horror film, the plot is an extremely simple one. The film begins in the year 1963, when Michael Myers (Will Sandin) is a boy of no more than six years in age, whose eyes we see the beginning of the film through. For a number of reasons that are still best known to himself, Michael hunts down his elder sister, Judith (Sandy Johnson) and stabs her to death. After he is discovered staring off into space with the bloody knife in his hand, Michael is sent to the lock-up ward of a mental hospital where he is observed as a pet project by Doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance).

    Fifteen years later, a twenty-one year old Michael (Tony Moran) manages to escape from the hospital and return to Haddonfield, the town in which the original murder took place. From this point, we are introduced to a young woman named Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends, who are all unknowingly about to become a target of Michael. Also present through much of the film is an ominous black apparition known only as The Shape (Nick Castle), who is basically interchangeable with Michael, and whose face is revealed to us in this film for the first and so far only time. One theory that looks upon the film in psychological terms has it that The Shape is a personification of that ever-present threat of death which hangs over us all whenever we accept a certain necessary level of risk in order to make our lives worth living, something that lies beneath the surface of many things that we do all the time but hardly ever acknowledge. It is subtle things like this that dominate Halloween, giving it a much more cerebral and ominous feel than almost all of the horror films that have come before or since.

    I really can't describe much more of the film than that without giving away vital information, so I will wrap this up with a few statements. If you want to see true independent horror film-making at its finest, then dive in. You will also see the film where almost all of the ideas in the Scream series originated, as well as the first film to take the concept of a nearly invincible serial killer and run with it like a try-hard runs from comparisons with this film. The history of horror films was forever altered by Halloween, even if it only did so by taking the more tense moments of Psycho and turning them into a film of their own, as has been suggested. Sit down with a box of popcorn and an easily-scared loved one, and breathe in the atmosphere.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is presented in the proper aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The difference that this feature alone makes to the film is similar to the difference it makes to show Blade Runner in its proper aspect ratio: the image seems much more full of life and atmosphere.

    The sharpness of this transfer is very good, almost a little too sharp for the good of the film in some places, as a matter of fact. The shadow detail, on the other hand, ranges from average to poor, with little detail on offer within the many dark patches of the image. This is more a characteristic of the film stock than the transfer, however, and the shadow detail is still miles ahead of any other home video medium by virtue of the fact that there is no low-level noise to be found in these patches of black.

    The colour saturation in the daytime scenes is somewhat muted due to both the environments being photographed and the film stock with which they were shot. In the exterior night-time and low-lit sequences, the colour saturation almost becomes monochrome in nature, partly due to the reduced shadow detail. There is no colour bleeding, misregistration, or composite artefacts on offer in this transfer, and this is something I wish all independent distributors would incorporate into their work.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem in this transfer, in spite of the fact that it is quite heavily compressed in order to fit all of the features onto the DVD. The backgrounds are slightly hazy in some shots, but the compression is otherwise transparent. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some minor telecine wobble in the opening credits, which settled down as the feature commenced, and some aliasing. The aliasing was a moderate problem in the daytime shots, with car chrome, road markings, and rooftops all shimmering away with abandon; standout examples of this aliasing can be found at 11:08, 14:37, 17:52, and 26:56. It's a shame that these instances exist to remind us that we are watching a home video medium and not an actual film as such, because it is otherwise pretty hard to fault the transfer. Film artefacts consisted of some black and white marks on the picture that, while intrusive at times, were within the acceptable limits of a twenty-two year old feature.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Halloween was originally released with a monaural soundtrack and then remixed into Dolby Stereo for a 1999 re-release, so it stands to reason that this DVD has been released with a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded remix, although it would have been nice to also have the original mono mix.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, with its higher bitrate of 224 kilobits per second, is the only soundtrack to be found on this disc.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, although it is really the lack of dialogue from one of the central characters that makes the film work so well. Some mild distortion can be heard in Jamie Lee Curtis' screams of terror, such as at 72:57, but this is only a minor problem, especially compared to the distortion and unintelligible dialogue passages that plagued the VHS versions of this film. There are no discernible problems with audio sync.

    The score music written by John Carpenter and performed by The Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra is mesmerizing and haunting to the point that it can occupy its own little space in the memory of horror film buffs for all time. The score is based around a singular piano-based theme, which is so well-written that I could listen to it again and again for hours without getting bored. Other themes are also used throughout the film, most of which are sedate and creepy enough to get the skin crawling. This is quite seriously one of the ten greatest film scores ever written.

    The surround channels are used lightly to support the music and the occasional directional effects, such as speeding cars and storms. Given the monaural nature of the film's original soundtrack, the remix is as good as can be expected. Very little of the film has overlapped sound effects, which is an interesting contrast to the Very Hazy System soundtracks of episodes four and five in this series, where shotgun blasts sounded like trains crashing through cars. The soundtrack works on the listener over time, slowly sinking into the pores and infecting the listener with its tension rather than leaping out all at once and stripping itself of any mystique. In that sense, the audio transfer can be considered completely appropriate to the nature and needs of the film.

    The subwoofer, although not specifically encoded into the soundtrack, was present during most of the film, lending a kind of spillage support to the music and occasional heavy sound effects, without calling any attention to itself.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A huge collection of extras that enhance the film and further the viewer's understanding are present on this disc. The only thing we don't have is a commentary by the director or other members of the crew, but the featurette almost makes up for this omission. The only thing missing from this disc that I can honestly say I miss is RSDL formatting, but even that can be forgotten in the context of the disc's quality.

Menu

    The main menu features some introductory animation and the Halloween theme, rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding. The scene selection menu features animation and similarly rendered audio, while the special features menu is merely static. They are, however, not 16x9 Enhanced. They are excellent at providing a sample of the tense atmosphere that one can expect from the film, and quite honestly gives the animated menus provided by the likes of Columbia Tristar a good run for their money.

Featurette - Halloween Unmasked 2000

    A twenty-seven and a quarter minute featurette about the writing, production, and shooting of Halloween. The aspect ratio varies between 1.33:1 and 2.35:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced, but annoyingly windowboxed at all times. The Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack is clear and free of any distortion. The documentary itself is very insightful and a must for any serious fans of the film. There are some problems with audio sync in the featurette, but this looks like it is source material-related.

Re-Release Trailer

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound, this trailer correctly proclaims this film as "the one, the only, the classic". The video quality of the trailer is a little on the average side, but it is really quite a nice inclusion for the novelty value.

TV Spots

    A sub-menu containing two thirty-second television spots. They are both presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, windowboxed, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Radio Spots

    A collection of three radio spots, presented over a static background in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound. Some distortion is present in the sound, and static can be heard in the background of each radio spot, but they do make an interesting inclusion.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies for Donald Pleasance, Jamie Lee Curtis, P.J. Soles, director/writer/composer John Carpenter, writer/producer Debra Hill, executive producer Irwin Yablans, and financier Moustapha Akkad are present under this menu. They are extremely comprehensive, revealing all sorts of interesting facts about each subject, and their only fault is some ordinary typesetting, with the occasional word broken over two lines.

Photo Gallery - Publicity Photos and Posters

    A collection of the photos and posters used to publicize the film, which has some cursory annotation.

Photo Gallery - Behind The Scenes

    This is a collection of stills taken of the production, which also features some cursory, but interesting, annotation.

Notes - Trivia

    A string of trivia entries about the making of Halloween, presented over static versions of the menu screen. This is an exceptionally informative and interesting collection of trivia. For instance, did you know that Halloween's total budget was $320,000, and that it only took 21 days to shoot? When was the last time you saw a film shot under such conditions that was this effective?

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Two versions of this film are available in Region 1: a stock-standard version, and a Special Edition, both of which were released by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The stock-standard version has all the same features as our version, but features a poor-quality video transfer. There is also a Limited Edition available for US $44.98 (about ninety dollars in Australian pesos) that contains everything on the Special Edition plus an alternate edit of the film that was shown on network television.

Compared to the Region 1 Special Edition, the Region 4 version misses out on;

According to Widescreen Review, the 5.1 remix is a real treat for hardcore fans of the film, and the picture is pleasantly clean save for some fine film grain and minor artefacts. Given that there is little to no film grain present in our local version, I'd have to say that I'd consider investing in both versions of the film, as any major fan of this film would. However, the ravings about the 5.1 remix on Widescreen Review lead me to believe that Region 1 is noticeably ahead with this film.

Summary

    Halloween is the greatest, most influential independent horror film of all time. End of story.

    The video quality is excellent, let down only by a moderate aliasing problem.

    The audio quality is somewhat limited, but still perfectly complements the film.

    The extras are comprehensive, lacking only a commentary track.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Wednesday, January 31, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDGrundig GDV-100D/Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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impulsegamer.com - Richard Hill

Comments (Add)
Anchor Bay can't help themselves - the 25th Anniversary edition just released -
re: Colours of the 25th Anniversary - Mickey Juice
Magna Pacific -
RE: 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' movies on R4 DVD -