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Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge John Carpenter fan. All through his career Carpenter has taken a beating from critics for being associated with the most maligned of all cinematic genres- namely horror. Well, as far as I am concerned both John Carpenter and horror movies have been treated unfairly by critics. Audiences love to be scared and John Carpenter knows how to make a scary movie. This brings us, of course, to HALLOWEEN, the most influential of all modern horror movies. Not only did HALLOWEEN spawn six sequels (if you count number three); the film also spawned the entire "horny teens stalked by psycho" sub-genre.

Back in 1978, director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill took little more than $300,000.00 and made cinematic history. Born in simplicity, HALLOWEEN evolved out of the little more than a simple idea about a killer stalking a babysitter. From that small concept, John Carpenter and Debra Hill created a horror tale with an almost mythological quality. HALLOWEEN opens on Halloween night 1963, with one of the most visually brilliant sequences in horror cinema history. In a virtual "single take," the audience follows the point of view of a killer who makes his way through a house before stabbing a teenage girl to death. Taken on its own, the sequence is very scary and genuinely disturbing. However, when the identity of killer is revealed, HALLOWEEN takes its audience someplace they have never been before by painting the face of evil in a completely unexpected way. 

HALLOWEEN then jumps forward to October 30, 1978, where we find that Michael Myers has spent the last fifteen years in Smith’s Grove mental institution for killing his sister. Michael escapes from Smith’s Grove and heads back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to continue what he began fifteen years earlier. Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is Michael’s psychiatrist and the only man on Earth who understands what Michael is capable of doing. As soon as Michael makes his escape, Loomis knows where he is heading and sets off in hot pursuit of his homicidal patient. When Michael gets to Haddonfield on Halloween morning, he seems to become fascinated with a teenage girl named Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). During the day, Michael follows to school, to her home and finally to the house where she will be babysitting on Halloween night. However, once the sun goes down, Michael picks up a knife and shows Laurie and her friends how he really likes to spend Halloween. The cast of HALLOWEEN also features Nancy Loomis, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, Arthur Malet, Tony Moran, Sandy Johnson and Nick Castle.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has rectified an old mistake by doing a fantastic job with their new THX certified edition of HALLOWEEN. The dual layered DVD offers the choice of cropped and wide screen presentations. Since no John Carpenter movie is worth watching in the cropped format, I recommend enjoying the 16:9 enhanced wide presentation of HALLOWEEN. John Carpenter is one of the true masters of composing images for the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and this film continually shows off this specific talent. The new THX certified transfer of HALLOWEEN is simply astonishing in its level of cleanness, clarity and detail. Not even Criterion’s terrific looking Laserdisc release, can hold a candle to Anchor Bay’s supreme achievement. For the first time, Dean Cundey’s superb cinematography can fully be appreciated at home. This is as good as HALLOWEEN will ever look under the current NTSC system. Additionally, the transfer was created from a newly prepared film element that is nearly flawless. Color reproduction on the DVD is very good; providing flesh tones that look very natural, as well as a level of saturation that is better than what one usually sees in a film from 1978. The image also provides picture perfect blacks and incredibly good contrast in both the bright daylight scenes and those created in eerie darkness. Solid DVD authoring by Crest National has disguised all visible traces of digital compression artifacts. 

For his release, HALLOWEEN has been provided with a brand new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While nowhere as impressive as brand new Dolby Digital soundtrack, the new mix is light-years ahead of the original monaural track. There are some nice stereo effects that pan across the forward soundstage, as well as a couple of startling effects that jump out of the rear channels. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and is well focused in the center channel. Where the new mix really shines is in the reproduction of John Carpenter’s classic score. Utilizing the original 16-channel studio master, the music has far more sonic detail than anyone ever heard in the past. Subtle little nuances within the music can finally be appreciated; just hearing Carpenter’s main title theme proves to be a thrilling experience. Of course, the soundtrack doesn’t have a tremendous bottom end; but then again HALLOWEEN is a low-budget film that was made over twenty years ago. A two-channel Dolby Surround soundtrack, as well as the film’s original monaural mix are also included on the DVD. 

The interactive menus are nicely designed, containing animation, music and full motion video. Through the menus, one can access the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the disc’s supplements. Topping off the extras is Halloween Unmasked 2000 a new documentary that contains recent on-camera interviews with all of the major players in the production of HALLOWEEN. Other supplements include theatrical trailers, TV spots, radio spots, various production stills and cast biographies/filmographies.

HALLOWEEN is one of the most significant horror movies of all time as well as being one of John Carpenter’s finest films. Anchor Bay Entertainment has created a superb DVD that every fan will want to own. Absolutely recommended.


Anchor Bay has issued two separate editions of HALLOWEEN on DVD. There is a single disc release priced at $29.95 that offers everything mentioned above. Anchor Bay has also released 30,000 piece limited edition version that includes a second DVD and is priced at $44.95. On the second DVD one will find a hybrid version of HALLOWEEN that is neither the theatrical version, nor the television version of the film. The hybrid version is the full theatrical version of HALLOWEEN with all of the additional television version footage cut into the body of the movie.





DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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