Home Video

Halloween (1978) - 4K Blu-ray Review

  • Movie Review

  • Blu-ray Review

  • Film Details

  • Art

Halloween (1978)

This low budget ($300,000 USD) slasher film, made by a recent (in the 70s) USC graduate, would spawn countless sequels and give its backers some serious profits, the world horror auteur John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis. Those things make the love for this simple tale worth it alone. It’s cementing into the cultural zeitgeist was all encompassing. It is considered the progenitor of a horror subgenre that survives to this day (although Black Christmas came a few years earlier to be fair).

“I met this six year-old with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes, the devil’s eyes.”

 – Dr. Loomis

"Brilliant. Atmospheric. Masterfully done."


 

Halloween tells the tale of Michael Myers; a boy who is locked away after murdering his own sister. He is tended to and kept locked in a sanitarium by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance). Years later, on a rainy October eve, he escapes custody and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois to fulfill his murderous nature, fixing on a group of teen girls. One of those girls, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) won’t go down without a fight.

The pitch Carpenter sold this on was a boogeyman killing babysitters. That, in essence, is all this film is about. It seemed commercial to financier Moustapha Akkad, and they were off to the races in Southern California to film the onslaught of Michael’s adult persona: ‘The Shape’ (Nick Castle).

Plot wise, Halloween isn’t going to tax your mind too much, and oversimplification like this reviewer’s description of it as ‘simple’ doesn’t do it justice. This is a movie that understands its viewer’s base nature. It gives you the folly of youthful distraction and selfishness and the tragedy of its loss as a consequence. Franchises that followed would grind the moralistic implications of horny teenagers and their fates as a consequence. But ‘The Shape’, in its original inception at least, is more like a storm. He arrives and he destroys. Simple? Yes. But with no moral agenda, because has no morals. In the most cynical perception, The ‘Shape’s’ selection of half-naked women as victims is more a commercial choice than a writing one. This is amplified by his dispatching of a dog, a truck driver, etc. There is a familial attachment to his sister, but since it is never really fleshed out, it’s left to the viewer’s imagination what made him the way he is. That is the best kind of villain, as it allows you to infer or project your own lean on the how and whys. It digs deeper if you want it to.

Also brilliant is Carpenter’s use of night scenes and shadows. Of particular note there is a scene where a frantic Laurie Strode thinks she has escaped his clutches, only to have her looking off camera while ‘The Shape’s’ ghostly blank visage slowly appears from the blackness behind her. It’s almost German Expressionistic in composition and a work of art in building tension. There are plenty of examples of Carpenter’s imaginative compositions, but that scene is the highlight for me.

This is not a perfect movie. The acting is acceptable but far from immersive. The main girls, with the exception of Jamie Lee for the most part, were playing younger than they actually were, and their handling of perceived teenaged attitudes and lingo are a bit on the nose and don’t sell it. The younger children were more believable to me. Nick Castle, who became an accomplished director (The Last Starfighter), donned ‘The Shape’s’ mask simply because Carpenter like the way he walked. He is almost graceful, with his steady unrushed pace, his lack of extraneous movement, and his infamous head-tilt. None who followed him could replicate it. Laurie Strode was a goodie two shoes sort of character with more on offer, carefully hidden and played very well by the daughter of ‘Psycho’s’ Janet Lee. Jamie Lee proved a magic foil to the evil of Michael Myers.Halloween (1978)

If one is to take off the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia for just a moment, there are some truly dated stereotypes and dubious logics for some of the character’s reactions. It will either strike modern teens as quaint or silly. There is immortality to the base nature of this picture that its execution will not benefit from as effectively. Perhaps this is why it’s been sequel-ised and remade so many times. As this was made in my formative years it will always remain the benchmark for which I judge all who had followed.

Brilliant. Atmospheric. Masterfully done.

4/5 stars

Halloween (1978)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Home Video Distributor: Lionsgate
Available on Blu-ray
- September 25, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; English: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Region-free playback

VIDEO:

This native 4K scan of the film is a cooler palette than previous Blu-ray releases that maintains its film grain reasonably consistently as well as presenting its original theatrical aspect ratio. What it improves on mostly is the blacks, which are bold and heighten contrast as never seen before. HDR adds a new dimension and depth to the low budget movie. Highlights show everything from the detail of the wallpaper to the shine off the cars. There is more shadow detail and the colours, while not eye popping, are richer, or, due to the contrast, look that way. The best the film has ever looked, but made require a bit of adjustment for personal taste to make the most of it. This scan is approved by its cinematographer Dean Cundy.

AUDIO:

Same lossless 7.1 Dolby True-HD mix from the previous –Blu-ray. It is a pretty awesome upgrade for modern technology and works the speakers into a sweat. Some purists hate it and find its excesses ill-in-keeping and on the nose with the film. I loved it. Bad news is, for some really odd reason, Lionsgate didn’t include the original mono as well (it comes on the Blu-ray which is also in the pack).

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Writer/Director John Carpenter and Actor Jamie Lee Curtis

Special Features:

Good but as usual with 4K nothing new. You get features ported over from both the 2013 and 2007 Blu-ray releases.

  • The Night She Came Home!!
  • On Location: 25 Years Later
  • TV Version Footage
  • Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spots

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

3.5/5 stars

Halloween (1978)

MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
83 mins
Director
: John Carpenter
Writer:
John Carpenter
Cast:
Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran
Genre
: Horror | Thriller
Tagline:
The Night HE Came Home!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Those old bones from our attic turned out to be from his wife."
Theatrical Distributor:
Compass International Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 27, 1978
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 25, 2018
Synopsis:Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill again.

Halloween (1978)

Movie Reviews

Our Tweets

 

You are here: Home Home Video Halloween (1978) - 4K Blu-ray Review
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Google+
Letterboxd
Find us on Rotten Tomatoes