4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2018: R for horror violence and bloody images, profanity, brief drug use and nudity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “The Legacy of ‘Halloween’”
THERE are nearly a dozen sequels, including a remake, to John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” the thriller that tipped viewers worldwide on their collective butts in 1978. None of them have come close to the excitement of the first. It’s ranked No. 68 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years, 100 Thrills” list.
Now we’ve got “Halloween” 2018 made 40 years later by Producer/Co-writer/Director David Gordon Green. The big news for fans of the original is that Carpenter himself participated as Executive Producer; he’s never contributed to any other “Halloween” sequel. Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions, is a producer. Blum’s low-budget horror hits – “Get Out” and “The Purge,” “Insidious,” “Paranormal Activity” franchises – are muy simpatico with Carpenter’s early features, “The Fog” (1980), “Escape from New York” (1981) and “Prince of Darkness (1987).”
“I’d like to give credit to David and his partner Danny [McBride, co-writer and EP] for coming up with this story. That’s what made it,” Carpenter says in “The Legacy of ‘Halloween,’” one of six bonus features on the release from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
The new story ignores the other sequels, taking place 40 years after the “Babysitter Murders” of 1978 in Haddonfield, Illinois, when escaped serial killer Michael Myers donned his soulless mask and killed five people. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) survived the massacre and aided in Myers’ recapture. It was a hard-won victory, leaving the teen in severe shock.
Jump to Halloween night 2018 and Strode, again played by Curtis, suffers from acute PTSD. She lives a survivalist’s existence, barricading her home and training for the day Myers escapes again. (Nick Castle also returns!) Her daughter has all but separated from her, although Strode’s teen granddaughter remains friendly. When Myers escapes again, he tracks Strode and her family down, making his way back to Haddonfield, prepared to finish the killing he began all those years ago.
“Halloween” 2018 was shot in digital and finished in 2.8K (aspect ratio 2.39:1). While some pixels are lost on the Ultra 4K screen, this is still an excellent picture with lots of atmosphere. Shot mainly in Charleston, S.C., exterior and interior scenes were made mostly at night, although there are bright, memorable daylight scenes as well. Young British podcasters visit Myers and interview his psychiatrist at an unusual sanatorium where sunlight is razor sharp. Detail at Strode’s cluttered sanctuary and Haddonfield’s carnival-like streets are eye catching, as finally tuned as anything found on film today. Depth and contrast is very good, and color gets a fine HDR boost, while the variety of skin tones remains natural.
The DTS:X and default eight-channel tracks on the Ultra 4K and Blu-ray discs deliver clear dialogue, effects and Carpenter’s iconic, updated score. It’s as memorable as Bernard Herrmann’s work for Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”
There are notable similarities between the two films. Both feature a disturbed, human monster; their motives are simple, personal and abnormal. Norman Bates hides behind his mother; Michael Myers must have The Shape’s mask before he can strike. The victims are very real and locations authentic. Both killers represent “pure evil,” as Myers’ original psychiatrist tells us. And they are fascinating.
Height sound is minimal. It could be because most of the action takes place at ground level or in Strode’s basement, but effects are golden, lending atmosphere, suspense and jump-starts as required. They never overwhelm the story, and popup just where needed.
There are seven deleted/extended scenes to enhance the storyline. Pet lovers should beware of “Jog to a Hanging Dog”; no explanation needed.
Most of the featurettes are short, falling into the video press kit category. Still, they’re interesting for fans of the original and the new “Halloween.” “Back in Haddonfield: Making ‘Halloween’” introduces the main players, Carpenter, Curtis, Green, Blum and others, giving them an opportunity to address viewers. “The Original Scream Queen” is a super-short, but fun interview with Jamie Lee Curtis, who says she doesn’t care for horror movies. Cast and crew provide the traditional superfluous praise.
“The Sound of Fear” focuses on Carpenter’s music. He was inspired by his father, who taught him 5/4 time. Carpenter’s son, Cody, worked with him on the new score.
“The most important thing about setting the mood in a horror movie is to write scary music,” Carpenter says. “[The] original ‘Halloween,’ I had a bunch of equipment and one guy. In this score we had a bunch of equipment and three guys. It’s three times the score.”
“Journey of the Mask” revisits the “boogeyman’s” origins and shows how Myers’ mask was altered to show its disintegration. “When the mask goes on, I’m in an altered state. There’s this switch that goes off, and all of a sudden my breathing changes. It’s not something I’m really in touch with outside of doing this,” says James Jude Courtney, the stuntman for The Shape/Michael Myers.
Green, an established filmmaker, isn’t known for horror movies. But “if you’re a great director, you can make a great horror movie,” Blum says. “A lot of our movies, we hire directors who haven’t made horror movies before.”
The original film has fans among filmmakers, too. “The very notion of [doing] ‘Halloween’ made my legs start to shake,” Director Green says. “It became this passion project for me to try to write something that would appeal to [Carpenter], then appeal to the world.”
“Halloween” 2018 won’t change your life, but chances are thriller fans will have a good time with it. Michael Myers waited to find Laurie Strode. He didn’t realize she was waiting for him, too. Let the chase begin.
— Kay Reynolds