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Halloween (1978) - 4K UHD Collector's Edition Review

Halloween (1978) - 4K UHD Collector's Edition

This low budget ($300,000 USD) slasher film, made by a USC graduate in the late 70s, would spawn countless sequels and give its backers some serious profits, the world horror auteur John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Those things make the love for this simple tale worth it alone. It’s cementing into the cultural zeitgeist was all encompassing. It is considered the progenitor of a horror subgenre that survives to this day (although Black Christmas came a few years earlier to be fair).

“I met this six year-old with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes.”
 – Doctor Loomis

 

Halloween tells the tale of Michael Myers; a boy who is locked away after murdering his own sister. He is tended to and kept locked in a sanatorium by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Years later, on a rainy October eve, he escapes custody and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois to fulfill his murderous nature, fixing on a group of teen girls. One of those girls, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) won’t go down without a fight.

"Brilliant. Atmospheric. Masterfully done."


The pitch Carpenter sold this on was a bogeyman killing babysitters. That, in essence, is all this film is about. It seemed commercial to financier Moustapha Akkad, and they were off to the races in Southern California to film the onslaught of Michael’s adult persona: the Shape (Nick Castle).

Plot wise, Halloween isn’t going to tax your mind too much. It’s an oversimplification to describe this film as ‘simple’, nor does it do it justice. But it is in the best way. This is a movie that understands its viewer’s base nature. It gives you the folly of youthful distraction and selfishness and the tragedy of its loss as a consequence. Franchises that followed would grind the moralistic implications of horny teenagers and their fates as a consequence. But the Shape, in its original inception at least, is more like a storm. He arrives and he destroys. Simple? Yes. But with no moral agenda, because he has no morals. In the most cynical perception, the Shape’s selection of half-naked women as victims is more a commercial choice than a writing one. This is amplified by his dispatching of a dog, a truck driver, etc. There is a familial attachment to his sister, but since it is never really fleshed out, it’s left to the viewer’s imagination what made him the way he is. That is the best kind of villain, as it allows you to infer or project your own lean on the how and whys. It digs deeper if you want it to.Halloween (1978) - 4K UHD Collector's Edition

Also brilliant is Carpenter’s use of night scenes and shadows. Of particular note there is a scene where a frantic Laurie Strode thinks she has escaped his clutches, only to have her looking off camera while the Shape’s ghostly blank visage slowly appears from the blackness behind her. It’s almost German Expressionistic in composition and a work of art in building tension. There are plenty of examples of Carpenter’s imaginative compositions, but that scene is the highlight for me.

This is not a perfect movie. The acting is acceptable but far from relatable. The main girls, with the exception of Jamie Lee for the most part, were playing younger than they actually were, and their handling of perceived teenaged attitudes and lingo are a bit on the nose and don’t sell it. The younger children were more believable to me. Nick Castle, who became an accomplished director (The Last Starfighter), donned the Shape’s mask simply because Carpenter like the way he walked. He is almost graceful, with his steady unrushed pace, his lack of extraneous movement, and his infamous head-tilt. None who followed him could replicate it. Laurie Strode was a goodie two shoes sort of character with more on offer, carefully hidden and played very well by the daughter of ‘Psycho’s’ Janet LeeJamie Lee proved a magic foil to the evil of Michael Myers.

If one is to take off the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia for just a moment, there are some truly dated stereotypes and dubious logics for some of the character’s reactions. It will either strike modern teens as quaint or silly. There is immortality to the base nature of this picture that its execution will not benefit from as effectively. Perhaps this is why it’s been sequel-ised and remade so many times. As this was made in my formative years it will always remain the benchmark for which I judge all who had followed.
Brilliant. Atmospheric. Masterfully done.

4/5 stars

 

Halloween 1978

4k details divider

Collector's Edition / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Native 4K (2160p); Dolby Vision, HDR10
Home Video Distributor:
Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- October 5, 2021
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono; English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; three-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray locked to Region A

Shout Factory’s 4K offering, for Halloween purists, may be the pinnacle of the multitudes of releases this film has had the benefit of having. Not only is it packaged in a sturdy cardboard slipcase, but offers three discs with a plethora of (mostly) previously released secondary material. The real feather in its cap, though, is the many different gradings/cuts of the film. Pretty much encompassing any material or presentations from the past right up to now.

VIDEO

Straight out of the gate, this new UHD native transfer skews much closer to the original Cundy palette. (It boasts approved by him in the blurb, but as a side note, he has approved previous transfers as well). Those seeking a modern day HDR feast will be left wanting. Colours, as per the filmmakers’ choices during production, are represented accurately and of the time. This is not to say there isn’t a great uptick in contrast. Even more noticeable than even the previous 4K release, there is amazing detail in clothes, hair, pores, backgrounds that were once softer and unclear. It’s truly a beautiful scan and restoration and will be difficult to beat. If you have the previous 4K is the picture going to blow your socks off? No. If it were just about video, and you’re not a purist, the new scan isn’t enough.

AUDIO

This was what excited me when I heard Shout was doing the Halloween movies: A new 7.1 mix. It’s a DOLBY TrueHD 7.1 mix that delivers the most robust soundtrack in the history of the film’s release. The DTS 5.1 mix was no slouch either, but I was very pleased with the (admittedly) subtle extensions to the other two overhead channels. Loomis’s gunshots at the penultimate moment, had my cat looking like someone just shot at him. Big Points for fooling him. There is also an original mono mix for purists.

Supplements:

As stated above, this Collector’s Edition is jammed to the rafters with supplemental material. As always, if it’s archival (and almost the whole offering is), I’m not going to go deep into it. You’ve been here before. I will say this has multiple previously released cuts and/or colour-timed versions of the film on the accompanying blu-rays and is the best presented package of Halloween to date. Amazingly generous, choked with 3 disc set. It just lacks new material that I sorely miss. Would have loved a new commentary or documentary.

Commentary:

  • Commentary One
  • Commentary Two

Special Features:

Blu-ray one

  • The Night She Came Home (59:43)
  • Halloween Unmasked (27:16)
  • Still Gallery
  • Newsprint Ad Gallery
  • Trailers from Hell
  • T.V. Version Additional Footage (10:46)
  • NBC Broadcast T.V. Promo (:29)
  • T.V. Spots
  • Radio Spots
  • Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray two

  • Halloween: Extended Edition
  • Television Cut
  • Interview (1:17)
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds (20:40)
  • Horror's Hallowed Grounds: Bus Tour (11:27)
  • Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest (87:07)

4k rating divider

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4/5 stars


Film Details

Halloween (1978) - 4K UHD Collector's Edition

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
91 mins
Director
: John Carpenter
Writer:
John Carpenter; Debra Hill
Cast:
Donald Pleasence; Jamie Lee Curtis; Tony Moran
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
The Night HE Came Home.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Those old bones from our attic turned out to be from his wife."
Theatrical Distributor:
Compass International Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 27, 1978
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 5, 2021.
Synopsis: On a black and unholy Halloween night years ago, little Michael Myers brutally slaughtered his sister in cold blood. For the last fifteen years, the people of Haddonfield have rested easily, knowing that Michael was safely locked away in a mental hospital ... until tonight. Michael has escaped and he will soon return to the same quiet neighborhood to relive his grisly murder again. For this is a night of evil. Tonight is Halloween.

Art

Halloween (1978) - 4K UHD Collector's Edition

 

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