Halloween (1978): Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Review)
Release Date(s)1978 (October 5, 2021)
Studio(s)Falcon International/Compass International/Aquarius Releasing (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
It’s difficult to imagine a small, independent horror film not only spawning sequels, but an entire franchise dedicated to its leading boogie man. Michael Myers has been scaring audiences since 1978 in varying fashions, having been essentially rebooted twice. Yet the simplicity and effectiveness of John Carpenter’s original Halloween, complete with one of the most recognizable pieces of film score in the history of cinema, still stands tall above the many films that followed in its wake. It’s often blamed for the slasher glut of the 1980s, though one would argue that Friday the 13th, a blatant attempt at ripping off Halloween, was where that trend truly began. Now, over forty years since its release, it’s still paying dividends whereas many of the franchises that it spawned are either forgotten, sitting on the shelf, or in creative limbo.
On Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois, young Michael Myers inexplicably stabs his older sister. Locked away in an asylum for the rest of his life, he maintains a quiet vigil. Over time, his doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence), becomes uneasy about him, sensing that there’s something more to this man than what’s on the surface. On the evening before Halloween when Michael is meant to be transported to a new hospital, he escapes. Knowing him best, Dr. Loomis heads for Haddonfield where he fears that Michael, now believed to be the essence of pure evil, is going to kill again. Michael sets his sights on three young women, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Annie (Nancy Loomis), and Lynda (P.J. Soles). That night, the withdrawn and shy Laurie babysits young Tommy Doyle and Lindsay while the other girls fraternize with their boyfriends. Meanwhile, Michael stalks their neighborhood, dispatching them one by one, while Dr. Loomis and Sheriff Brackett (Charles Cyphers) search for him.
Halloween was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and anamorphic lenses. For its second release on Ultra HD, Scream Factory has utilized a new native 4K scan of the original camera negative, framed at the proper 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and graded the image for High Dynamic Range (Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are both available). Like its predecessor, this presentation has also been approved by director of photography Dean Cundey.
At this point, it’s hard to say what a definitive presentation of Halloween would look like. The film has been released so many times on so different home formats—with varying degrees of quality and color timing changes—that such a thing might not even be possible. That said, this presentation could be the closest to definitive yet. Lionsgate’s previous UHD was sourced from a scan of an interpositive. Since this release makes good use of the original camera negative, additional detail has been uncovered. Higher bit rates and tighter grain are evident too, and a minor aspect ratio adjustment reveals more information along the edges of the frame. But the largest improvement overall is the color palette. While the previous UHD featured drab hues, pushing towards an almost monochromatic look, this new transfer improves upon that ten-fold. The HDR color timing now reflects a warm, mid-western feel, with bluer skies, greener grass, brown and orange leaves, and pinker flesh tones. Costumes, furniture, buildings, vehicles, and objects all have richer hues, not to mention greater depth and detail. Blacks are also improved, with terrific shadow detail. Everything appears a tad brighter and highlights are bold. The scene of Annie and Laurie driving home at dusk is particularly eye-popping, with great detail on the windows and in the shadows of the car as the setting sun pours in. The image is stable with little to no sign of visible age-related damage or debris. It’s the finest presentation of the film to date.
Audio is included in a new English Dolby Atmos mix (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), as well as the previous English 5.1 and 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio mixes. Subtitles are available in English SDH. The new Atmos track appears to have been sourced from the 5.1 mix, meaning that the added sounds of thunder and leaves hitting the ground, as well as boosted low frequency activity, are present. Purists are likely to go with the original mono track, but it sounds a bit thinner in comparison to the other options. Atmos also improves upon the 5.1 mix by spacing out the various elements, making the stage seem less crowded and more natural. Dialogue exchanges are clear, though mostly relegated to the front, and dated next to the newer additions. The score wraps around the listener with authority and the opening thunderstorm spreads out across the respective channels well. None of these options represent the film perfectly, but the mono and Atmos mixes are the better options by far.
Scream Factory’s 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition release of Halloween is a 3-disc set, featuring the film on Ultra HD on Disc One, on Blu-ray on Disc Two, and on Blu-ray again on Disc Three. The second disc is sourced from the same new 4K transfer and features all of the Ultra HD’s audio and subtitle options, while the third disc includes the original Anchor Bay Blu-ray color timing for the film and the same audio options, minus the Atmos track. All three discs feature the following extras:
DISC ONE (UHD)
- Audio Commentary by Nick Castle, Dean Cundey, and Tommy Lee Wallace
- Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis
First up is Scream Factory’s 2014 audio commentary with Nick Castle, Dean Cundey, and Tommy Lee Wallace, which is a fun chat between the three men as they reminisce about the making of the film while watching it together. They clearly enjoy each other’s company and offer plenty of valuable information about the film. Next is Anchor Bay’s 2013 audio commentary with John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis, which is another enjoyable conversation as the two catch up while watching the film together, spending much of their time jovially sharing their memories of the production. Both commentaries also mention the then recent passing of Debra Hill.
DISC TWO (BD)
- Audio Commentary by Dean Cundey, Tommy Lee Wallace, and Nick Castle
- Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis
- The Night She Came Home!! (HD – 59:43)
- Halloween: Unmasked (SD – 27:16)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD – 2:42)
- Trailers from Hell with Adam Rifkin (HD – 3:01)
- TV Spots (SD – 3 in all – 1:15)
- Re-Release TV Spots (HD – 2 in all – 1:03)
- TV Version Additional Footage (SD – 10:46)
- Radio Spots (HD – 3 in all – 1:28)
- NBC Broadcast TV Promo (HD – :29)
- Newsprint Ad Gallery (HD – 42 in all – 3:42)
- Still Gallery (HD – 97 in all – 13:04)
- Easter Egg (SD – :30)
The Night She Came Home!! is a documentary of sorts about Jamie Lee Curtis’ first horror convention appearances in decades. Halloween: Unmasked is Mark Cerulli’s 2000 documentary about the film with most of the main cast and crew, narrated by Dee Snider. Filmmaker Adam Rifkin provides a Trailers from Hell commentary for the film’s trailer. Following that are 5 TV spots total for the film’s original release and its 1981 re-release. The additional footage consists of 3 scenes shot specifically for the TV version of the film. Next is 3 radio spots from the original release. The NBC Broadcast TV Promo is a pretty good HD recreation. The Newsprint Ad Gallery features local newspaper clippings from the film’s original and 1981 re-release theatrical engagements. The Still Gallery features 97 images of posters, promotional photos, behind-the-scenes stills, newspaper ads, movie novelization covers, video game photos, lobby cards, and magazine covers. The Easter egg can be found by clicking right when TV Version Additional Footage is highlighted, which will light up the eyes of the jack-o-lantern. Pressing enter will play a Sci-Fi channel ad for a TV airing for the film.
DISC THREE (BD)
- Halloween: Extended Version (HD and SD – 101:08)
- Vintage Interview with Producer Moustapha Akkad (SD – 1:17)
- Television Cut (HD and SD – 97:54)
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (Original Pilot) (SD – 20:40)
- Horror’s Hallowed Grounds Bus Tour from Halloween Convention (HD – 11:27)
- Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest (SD – 97:07)
- Easter Egg #1 (SD – :32)
- Easter Egg #2 (SD – :30)
The widescreen Extended Version of the film, which was released by Anchor Bay on DVD, combines high definition footage from the original Blu-ray color timing presentation with standard definition footage of the three inserted scenes. In the Vintage Interview with Producer Moustapha Akkad, he is asked why he chose to finance and release Halloween. The Television Cut is presented full frame with the recreated NBC Broadcast TV Promo from Disc One, the three extra scenes, and cuts for commercial breaks. The Horror’s Hallowed Grounds segments feature host Sean Clark visiting filming locations and providing a tour of them for fans. Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest is a 2003 retrospective documentary featuring most of the main cast and crew, as well as others, about the making of and impact of the film. Easter egg #1 can be found by pressing up when Play Film is highlighted, which will light up the eyes of the jack-o-lantern. Pressing enter will play an ad for a TV airing of the film. Easter egg #2 can be found by pressing right when Vintage Interview with Producer Moustapha Akkad is highlighted, which will reveal a glowing pumpkin. Pressing enter will play another ad for a TV airing of the film.
The three discs sit inside a black amaray case featuring new artwork by Joel Robinson on the front and the original US theatrical artwork on the reverse. This is housed in a rigid slipcase featuring the same new artwork.
There are also a number of notable extras absent. The Criterion Collection Laserdisc (and most DVD and Blu-ray releases since) featured an audio commentary from 1994 with John Carpenter, Debra Hill, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Also missing from that Laserdisc is an isolated music and effects audio track, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s 1980 Sneak Previews segment on the film, and a couple of photo essays about Halloween and splatter films in general. The Anchor Bay 25th Anniversary Divimax DVD release featured the film’s original screenplay via DVD-ROM. Other DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD releases included the On Location: 25 Years Later featurette from 2003, as well as a Fast Film Facts trivia track. Anchor Bay’s DVD-only Halloween: 25 Years of Terror documentary, which featured additional interviews, featurettes, convention footage, panel discussions, and a music video, is absent as well. A German DVD release of the film by Marketing Films included extra trailers; TV spots; radio spots; an additional interview with John Carpenter; and a music video for a remix of the Halloween theme.
The biggest omission, and one that was not likely to be included anyways, is all of the unearthed camera negative footage from the film, which was discovered in the mid-2000s by Don May, Jr. of Synapse Films and Billy J. Kirkus. That footage is said to consist mostly of silent alternate takes and outtakes (at least, according to what Don May has actually seen of it). Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in utilizing it at this point, for whatever reasons. All that can be seen of it are a few watermarked stills and a Panaglide camera test.
The main takeaway here is that this Collector’s Edition of Halloween improves upon its Ultra HD predecessor with better picture quality and a nice selection of bonus materials. They’re far from complete, and the audio isn’t perfect, but this is a great package overall.
- Tim Salmons
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