Halloween appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This 25th anniversary release marked the film’s third DVD incarnation. I never saw the 1997 one but heard it was simply atrocious. The 1999 edition didn’t seem flawless, but it presented pretty solid visuals.
The 25th anniversary Halloween may well be the best looking of the bunch, though a few issues may affect some viewers. I’ll cover my impressions of the picture and then discuss the particulars of those concerns.
For the 25th anniversary Halloween, sharpness appeared excellent. A few lightly soft shots popped up, but those were very brief and only slightly ill defined. The vast majority of the flick looked tight and distinct and seemed quite crisp. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no problems, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. While the 1999 transfer didn’t present many print flaws, the 25th anniversary one cleaned up matters further. Virtually no source defects showed up during this wonderfully clean and fresh picture.
Black levels looked deep and dense, and low-light shots appeared nicely visible. Shadow detail was clear, a change from the prior release; that one often seemed rather dark. Colors looked accurate and vivid. They showed good saturation and clarity and demonstrated no concerns.
No concerns related to their reproduction, but fans of Halloween have taken issue with this DVD’s color timing. When compared with the 1999 release, the hues looked distinctly different. The older version demonstrated more of a bluish tint. It also presented darker low-light shots. Since director of photography Dean Cundey approved the transfer, many have accepted it as being the correct one.
However, that topic doesn’t seem set in stone. I did some investigation into the discussions, and there doesn’t appear to be a consensus among fans about which color timing is correct. Some folks think that the 25th anniversary disc presented hues that more closely matched the original theatrical release and that the 1999 one altered them.
Personally, I won’t make any claims to know the truth. Is one version “right” and the other “wrong”? Perhaps, but there doesn’t appear to be any proof either way. I thought I should mention the concerns and leave it at that. I will say that I thought the film still worked fine with the different colors. This wasn’t a case like the 2001 MGM release of The Silence of the Lambs. That one brightened the image noticeably and robbed the film of its mood. I didn’t experience that problem with the 2003 Halloween.
While the new DVD altered the prior one’s picture, both presented the same Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Remixed from the original monaural material, the audio seemed surprisingly robust. Many of these 5.1 remixes fare poorly, but I thought the one for Halloween appeared quite natural and well done.
The soundfield offered a good sense of atmosphere. John Carpenter’s score worked really nicely, as it showed fine stereo imaging. The track didn’t go nuts with effects, but it created a solid feeling of place. A little directional dialogue added to the presentation at times. Some elements panned smoothly across the front channels, and the surrounds kicked in occasionally. The DVD's "demo" moment came during a thunderstorm in chapter 3, a moment when the sound genuinely heightened the tension in the scene. Most of the other sequences were more subdued, but they contributed a decent sense of atmosphere nonetheless.
Overall, I found the actual quality of the audio to also be surprisingly strong. Speech was distinct and natural and suffered from no signs of edginess or issues connected to intelligibility. At times the effects sounded a little flat and artificial, but those issues occurred infrequently, and they avoided the harshness and the tinny quality that frequently accompanies these older efforts. The score remained the track’s strongest element, as the music seemed rich and full at all times. One of the better 5.1 remixes I’ve heard, this version of Halloween remained impressive.
The two-disc “25th Anniversary Edition” of Halloween comes with a mix of extras. On DVD One, we get one attraction: an audio commentary from writer/director John Carpenter, writer/producer Debra Hill, and actor Jamie Lee Curtis. All three recorded individual running, screen-specific tracks that were then edited together for this piece. The commentary originally was created for a Criterion laserdisc that came out in the mid-Nineties.
While not one of Criterion’s absolute best efforts, the Halloween track works pretty well. The commentary covers a variety of topics. We learn about the project’s genesis and formative stages as well as issues related to its creation. The participants go over a few technical topics plus some creative concerns and influences. They also get into genre-wide issues and chat about the movie’s influence and legacy. No one speaker dominates, as the track seems pretty evenly spread among the three. At times Carpenter does little more than narrate the film, but that doesn’t occur often, and this remains a pretty entertaining and informative discussion.
When we move to DVD Two, we open with a newly assembled documentary called Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest. This 87-minute and three-second program combines movie snippets, archival materials and footage from the set, and interviews. In the latter category, we hear from Carpenter, Hill, Curtis, actors P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, and Nick Castle, Fangoria Magazine editor Tony Timpone, Compass International Pictures CEO Joseph Wolf, executive producers Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akaad, production designer/co-editor Tommy Lee Wallace, and director of photography Dean Cundey.
”Cut” goes over the standard progression. It starts with the project’s origins and leads us through casting. From there we learn a lot about the production itself, and the show then moves to the flick’s reception and success. The remaining parts of the program discuss Halloween’s legacy and subsequent success for its participants as well as its sequels. We already know a lot of the information from the audio commentary, but the package also includes much new material, and it communicates a clear and well-depicted examination of its subject. “Cut” presents too many extended movie clips, but overall, it’s a good documentary.
One other new featurette shows up here. On Location – 25 Years Later runs 10 minutes and 36 seconds as it offers a general look at the film via production stills, new shots from the locations, and comments from Debra Hill and P.J. Soles. Along with her daughter and a friend, Soles briefly revisits the sites as well. Locations dominate the discussion. However, the focus isn’t always that specific, and we hear a fair amount of information that already appeared during the prior piece. “Location” is only moderately useful.
The Halloween DVD also includes a bunch of promotional material. We find the film’s original theatrical trailer along with two TV Spots and two Radio Spots. The latter elements appear to promote a reissue of the flick, as they open with narration that reads "The One, The Only, The Classic”.
Inside the Poster and Still Gallery we get 55 images, most of which offer publicity materials. The Talent Bios area provides entries for Carpenter, Curtis, and Pleasence. On most DVDs, these listings are bland and perfunctory. Not here. Anchor Bay provides the best bios in the biz, and these seem typically long, detailed, and honest; the entries don’t hesitate to discuss failures. The DVD’s booklet includes a good essay from Michael Gingold. He reflects on the movie’s reception and its influence, and he debunks some myths along the way.
For those with DVD-ROM drives, they can check out the movie’s original screenplay and two screensavers. The former is the most interesting and useful, and it adds a nice element to this package.
Halloween is definitely a DVD that should belong in the collection of anyone who even remotely considers themselves a fan of horror films. One of the most influential movies of any genre, it still holds up well after 25 years. The DVD’s image has inspired some controversy but seems generally very satisfying, and both audio and extras are quite positive. Overall this appears to be the best home video incarnation of Halloween to date.