Home Page | About Me | Home Entertainment | Home Entertainment Blog | Politics | Australian Libertarian Society Blog | Disclosures

Region 4 DVD Reviews: Who's The Scariest Of All?

Originally published in Australian HI-FI, June/July 2001, v.32/3

Halloween cover Halloween
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis
H2O cover Halloween H2O
Director: Steve Miner
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, LL Cool J and Josh Hartnett
Movie: A, Picture: B, Sound: B, Extras: A Movie: A, Picture: A, Sound: B, Extras: B
One of the interesting things about the passage of 20 years is how the crediting priorities change. Despite the fame of her parents (Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh), and despite being the central character, Jamie Lee Curtis received only second billing for the theatrical release of Halloween behind Donald Pleasance. Part of the reason is that it was her first movie. On this DVD release she is promoted to prime billing.

It's tempting to think that a twenty year old movie must be tame. Wrong. Sure the blood tends to be shown pooled rather than gushing, but a decent horror movie such as this relies on tension, not gross-out. That director John Carpenter managed to get this right is attested to box office earnings of $US47 million in the United States alone. Not bad for a movie that cost just $US325,000 to make.

The picture quality of this movie had me bemused. For the most part it was excellent, especially in the dark scenes which, of course, dominate the movie. Clear and rich and not looking all that much like a cheap movie. But the relatively few bright scenes were troublesome. For example in the pan to Donald Pleasance's roadside telephone call, the power lines, road markings and even the features on his BMW flickered awfully with the camera movement, despite the anamorphic encoding of its 2.35:1 picture. There are some film flecks, but these are not too intrusive.

The sound quality is rather good, rendered as a gentle stereo in Dolby Digital with Dolby Pro Logic flagging so that dialogue comes from the centre speaker, and the music is as evocative to anyone who has seen this movie as the screeching violins of Psycho. The movie is 87 minutes long, not the 93 claimed on the cover. But spend the extra time on a documentary that is actually interesting.

There have been far too many sequels to Halloween, so you'd think that what is called in some markets Halloween 7 would be the sixth too many. But it draws upon the original story, adds in some 90's style motivation, and makes Jamie Lee Curtis 20 years smarter than she was in 1978. There is far more depth to the characters than the original, while the scary bits are just about as scary as the first time around.

And the movie's quick-fire 83 (not the claimed 87) minutes provide more for the brain to chew on, with witty references to Psycho (Janet Leigh has a small, otherwise pointless, role, and uses the same car as she did then). As the first Halloween appeared in Scream, so Scream appears on the small screen in this movie. Scream's writer, Kevin Williamson, was in the production team. The Shape, aka Michael Myers, is even more eloquently played in this none-speaking, masked-face role than in the first movie.

Naturally this version benefits from Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. As is Roadshow's practice, it includes a downmixed Dolby Digital 2.0 version with Pro Logic encoding. (It also has a silent MPEG audio track, included on some Roadshow releases due to some early mastering equipment not allowing the MPEG track to be switched off.) Yet the sound, while generally good, tends towards a harshness in the dialogue ... well, the loud bits anyway, if you can call cries of terror 'dialogue'. Interestingly, the music that plays while the main menu is displayed is not Dolby Digital, but PCM encoded.

The picture quality benefits from a good quality film print and rather better encoding than that enjoyed by the first in the series.

Aspect: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Sound track: English, Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Pro Logic flagged, 224kb/s
Subtitles: Nil
Features: 28 minute retrospective documentary, Stills, Trailers, Biographies, Trivia
Aspect: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Sound track: English, Dolby Digital 5.1, 448kb/s, and Dolby Digital 2.0 (Pro Logic) 256kb/s
Subtitles: Nil
Features: Biographies, Featurette, Interviews, Trailers

© 2001-2005, Stephen Dawson