Updated: Oct 3, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray; 1978; R for horror violence and terror some sexuality and nudity; streaming via Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: Commentary by John Carpenter and Jaimie Lee Curtis
SURPRISE – John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is getting a sequel just as the 1978 original makes its 4K debut.
What’s this, you say? The horror classic has had plenty of sequels from “Halloween II” (1981) to “Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers” (1995). The latest, however, is produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions that developed the “Paranormal Activity,” “Purge” and “Insidious” franchises as well as “Get Out,” “Whiplash” and “Split.” Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode 40 years later and suffering PTSD from the night of the slayings. John Carpenter, as well as Curtis, is an executive producer.
The latest “Halloween” marks Carpenter’s return to the series for the first time. The new story ignores all the other sequels, and gives Nick Castle, the original Michael Myers, a cameo.
Setting the stage is the new Ultra Blu-ray presentation from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. How fitting for the upcoming October holiday, and that “Halloween” 1978 gets one of the early 4K upgrades. It was one of the first to get a Blu-ray release when that format opened, too. The Blu-ray was a beaut, although some fans didn’t like the bright, oversaturated colors. Horror films are traditionally darker, and the original low budget feature – made for a mere $325,000 – had a rough and grainy appearance, all the better to suck viewers into the tale of an escaped mad man out to slaughter teen babysitters in his old home town.
“I wanted to do a horror film, so I started thinking about how to do this for the limited amount of money we had. It occurred to me if we did a film about babysitters, it would work ... Then the magical thing that I learned. The word ‘Halloween,’ as much as it had been used, had not been used as part of another title in the history of the movie business.” — Executive producer and independent film distributor Irwin Yablans, “‘Halloween:’ A Cut Above the Rest”
The Blu-ray presentation, Disc 2 of Lionsgate’s release, was made for the 35th Anniversary Edition. It still has bolder color than the theatrical release, with sharper detail and contrast, and good depth. I liked it and still do. The new 4K picture is darker and more atmospheric. Shot on 35mm film, it has been remastered in 4K (2.35:1 ratio), adding HDR10 and Dolby Vision upgrades. Color is cooler and more nuanced, while detail and contrast remain sharp. There is more to see in the background of heavily shadowed wide shots and closeups. Complexions have been tamped down; they’re natural but pale. In exterior shots, rich autumn colors are tinged toward gray.
The 4K package gives viewers a choice between a more natural look on the Blu-ray disc and a painterly effect on 4K. Grain is present in both formats, and heavy in some sequences providing a true Grimm’s fairy tale look. Viewers get the best of both worlds.
Both formats use a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack delivering dialogue, effects and Carpenter’s iconic score to all speakers. During the commentary, he talks about an early showing – without music – to a potential distributor, who didn’t find “Halloween” at all frightening. Later, after the film’s great word-of-mouth audience reviews made it a big success, she told him the pulsing, electronic rhythms made all the difference. It’s hard to imagine “Halloween” without Carpenter’s music.
Fans also complained about the lack of the original mono soundtrack. They want that option, but it is not available here.
Bonus features are excellent, all carried over from earlier releases including the 35th Anniversary great. Both discs include “Fast Film [popup] Facts,” radio and TV spots. The Blu-ray has a making-of, “Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest,” with interviews from creators and cast. Joseph Wolf, co-founder of Compass International Pictures with Yablans, calls the film, “the ‘Gone with the Wind’ of horror movies.” Its commentary edits observations and anecdotes from Carpenter, Curtis, and Carpenter’s longtime collaborator and producer Debra Hill.
The 4K disc has a commentary with Carpenter and Curtis. “The Night She Came Home” shows Curtis at a fan convention, and “On Location: 25 Years Later” revisits filming locations.
“Halloween” holds up very well; it’s still scary, still enthralling – especially if you happen to be seeing it for the first time. (Yes, there are newbies out there.) Watching it today, the lack of gore comes as a surprise. The magic of Carpenter’s film is how it suggests more than it shows and, in so doing, is more terrifying.
On the other hand, it’s amazing to consider how “Halloween” spawned generations of imitators and a genre all its own. This is the best of them; don’t miss it!
— Kay Reynolds