Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Hootenanny - Late Night Double Feature: Halloween and Halloween II on Blu-Ray!

As I said yesterday, watching the Argento cut of Dawn of the Dead allowed me to segue somewhat neatly into last night's double bill, seeing as like Halloween, it's also from 1978, and furthermore, both are among the greatest and most seminal horror films ever made. I'm not gonna be going into Carpenter's classic and its 1981 follow-up in any great detail here... I just want to share a few general reactions I had to watching these particular favourites for the first time in previously unseen high definition editions...

First up is Anchor Bay's recently released 35th anniversary edition of the original. Now, cynics may observe that the company has re-released this more than a few times (including on Blu-Ray) in the past... in fact, you could say that if you had a pound for every time they put out a new version then you'd have, well, a fair few pounds. But a new Blu-Ray release is not exactly uncalled for, seeing as the previous edition, while pretty good visually speaking, was a little bit off on the colour front. Specifically, it was a little too warm and not as autumnal as it had originally appeared in its previous Dean Cundey approved DVD outings. And speaking of that legendary cinematographer, fans will be pleased to hear that he supervised this new transfer. I've seen this film more times than I can count, but during last night's re-visit, courtesy of this gorgeous new release, my appreciation for the film's masterful camera-work and lighting grew even more. 

This edition also features a fairly robust sounding 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix, which may not be the preferred option for purists (I'll admit I don't know where I currently stand on such issues... sort of on the fence I guess...) but it certainly does the movie no harm... the music in particular benefits quite a bit here. I think the original mono/stereo track (I forget which) is also included... I had a quick flick between the two when the movie began, eventually settling for the new mix, mainly for the added oomph it seemed to give the soundtrack, and, like I said, especially the score.

I haven't got around to checking the extras out yet, but it sounds like there should be some interesting stuff in there. First and foremost, there's a new commentary track from Carpenter and Curtis, which I'm sure will be far from dull, knowing how opinionated both director and star can be, so I'm hugely looking forward to that. Also, there's a Jamie Lee Curtis featurette called "The Night She Came Home", which is apparently directed by her sister Kelly, who starred in my favourite Michele Soavi movie, The Sect... so obviously I'm highly curious to check that out as well. I think there may well be more goodies stashed away on here too. Needless to say, this is an essential purchase for fans of the film, and now the previous colour issues seem to have been sorted, it could well be the definitive edition of the film... well, for now at least. And finally, it was handsomely packaged in a striking looking steel-book with some informative liner notes (interspersed with behind the scenes photos), which is always a bonus.

The edition of Halloween II I watched next is sadly a bit more problematic, though I'd say its flaws are minor in the grand scheme of things. Specifically, Universal apparently fucked up a bit with the credits, somehow omitting Moustapha Akkad's name. Now, personally I can live with this, though I will concede it's pretty bad considering that without the producer, the film wouldn't exist at all, and the series itself wouldn't have run as long as it had without his continued financial support. Also, I hear whispers on a few forums that the audio tracks are lossy, which coupled with the above error led to floods of complaints, so much so that I think I heard Universal even issued corrected replacement discs... if this is the case, I'll certainly try and get my hands on one... but if I can't, I won't be too disappointed... like I say, I can live with these somewhat minor issues.

On the positive side, I was very impressed with the transfer, which also beautifully showcases Dean Cundey's sublime cinematography. As I've said before, Halloween II is my favourite slasher sequel, and finally getting to see it scrubbed up in high definition has certainly cemented that status. While the film's atmosphere is a pretty organic continuation of what the original exuded, I think on this level alone the sequel may have the current edge for me (though this may be because I've seen the first film more so am somewhat overexposed to it)... there's just something about the scenes of Michael stalking through the suburbs at the beginning and through the halls of Haddonfield's hospital (which is seemingly devoid of other patients) later in the film that totally hits my sweet spot for this sort of thing.

Again, I haven't had chance to watch the extras yet. Included are an alternate ending, some deleted scenes, and the horror documentary "Terror in the Aisles", hosted by Donald Pleasence and Nancy Allen. I've heard a bit about the latter but have never seen it, so I'm curious to scope that out. Apparently the region A locked Shout Factory release is superior, but if that one's not an option (which it wasn't for me as I don't have a multi-region Blu-Ray player) then fans of the film can't go wrong with this release, even if it does have those aforementioned issues. All in all, I think this was money very well spent, and these are the editions I'll be returning to for the foreseeable future.

For more Halloween stuff, click here and here... the latter link features my report about seeing the original film at the cinema last Halloween night... an experience I'm still buzzing from even now in recollection, some twelve months later.

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