The father of modern slasher horror Michael Myers stalks the streets of 4K once again in Halloween Collector’s Edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Scream Factory. John Carpenter’s classic tale of suburban terror’s second outing on the format offers some slight but welcome improvements to the 4K Dolby Vision transfer, a trio of audio options, and a rich slate of bonus features makes this release the best overall 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray package to come out thus far. Highly Recommended
In 1963 when he was just six years old, little Michael Myers brutally stabbed his older sister to death. 15 years later after living in a state of near catatonia, Michael escapes from a mental institution and returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois. Pursued by his doctor Samuel Loomis, Michael stalks a young teenage girl, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). As her friends are picked off one by one, Laurie will come face to face with the most terrifying boogyman of all.
Like a frog in a high school biology lab, we’ve dissected John Carpenter’s Halloween, and again, and again, and again… and again! At this point, I really don’t have much more to add to the commentary here other than to state outright I’m a die-hard fan of the franchise. I may not love every entry equally, but I devour each one as they come out and watch them all through every year come October.
I didn’t get to discover this film in theaters. Like many kids of the 80s, it was either neutered television edits or the rental store to get our fix of the shape. Thanks to a kick-ass local television station that aired recent horror releases, I got a pretty regular dose of Halloween or one of its sequels growing up. It wasn’t until I could rent these films without my mother’s veto that I was finally able to fully appreciate them - especially this particular film. The first and always the best, this was raw John Carpenter at his finest. A small production that made big waves and left an indelible mark on horror filmmaking for generations. Now with the 12th entry in the franchise Halloween Kills on the horizon, we’re given a grand excuse to burn through these films one more time.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Michael Myers gets another stab at 4K glory thanks to Scream Factory’s Halloween Collector’s Edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 3-Disc set. You get the film in 4K, a new 1080p Blu-ray, along with another Blu-ray with more bonus features and the film’s 2007 color timing along with the Extended end edited TV cuts of the film. The discs are housed in a three-disc black sturdy case, each with their own tray, with reversible insert artwork depicting the more traditional poster artwork - all contained within a hard cardboard stock side slipcase. Each disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
Technical Note: For some reason, my Oppo 203 wouldn't play this 4K disc directly. I kept getting an "Unknown Disc" error. I had to insert the disc into the player, turn it off, and then upon startup the disc would load. Neither my Samsung player or my PC disc drive had any playback issue.
Another day, another Halloween transfer, one that will no doubt split fans again but in my view is a notable improvement. Before I dive into the merits of this 2160p 2.35:1 4K Dolby Vision (HDR10 also available) transfer, I want to quickly discuss my methodology for reviewing this disc. First I started watching the 2018 4K disc from Lionsgate, watched for roughly five minutes, then flipped over to this new 2021 4K disc, watched that same five minutes then went an additional five minutes, and then flipped back and forth all the way through.
I did it this way because the differences between releases are literally on a scene-by-scene basis. Some scenes are virtually identical, others are improved. In some scenes you really had to look hard to detect any difference, others it was much more noteworthy and easy to spot. The TLDR version is yes, this is a better transfer, but in minute ways you may not instantly appreciate at first glance.
Reportedly sourced from a new 2021 4K scan of the OCN and approved by Dean Cundey, I will say this new transfer is the best this film has looked on disc in recent memory. Maybe not accurate to the original 1978 color timing apparent in the Criterion LaserDisc and maybe not as bright orange toned as the 1999 DVD, but compared to everything that came after, this is a welcome middle-ground approach. Details for this edition are still just as striking as the 2018 4K disc with a healthy film-like grain structure. Even comparing bitrates they’re both virtually identical with averages in the upper 70s and into the high 80mbps range.
What’s different are slight changes in color timing with Dolby Vision and HDR10. I’m pleased to report that red is much more natural this time out. The overall color pallet is still on the cool side of the spectrum, that darker green tone is still there, but it’s not nearly as strong. The first indication of the changes is when we meet little Tommy Doyle, the red and white of his jacket is actually red and white and not a murky maroon and tan color. When Loomis is on the phone before he discovers the truck and matchbook, the green foliage is a lighter more fall-like shade. When Laurie, Linda, and Annie are walking home from school, their skin tone is a healthy peachy color again instead of the ashy pallet that left them looking like they all smoked ten packs of cigs every day. Annie’s yellow sweater vest no longer looks like deli-style Gray Poupon and has a much more normal bold French’s mustard yellow.
Green leaves and lawns are still bright green, this flick was shot in California during the summer, but they don’t glow as if an irradiated leprechaun vomited all over town. Oranges are again stronger and much closer to the 1999 DVD timing than the previous disc. When Laurie discovers Annie’s body the glowing light of the pumpkin casts a stronger flickering orange shadow in the room and Laurie doesn’t completely disappear into darkness when Bob’s body flops down behind her. Likewise, when Loomis is hiding in the bushes, Lonnie’s jacket is a natural bright primary red, and Loomis and Sheriff Bracket’s skin tones are a more healthy natural color instead of dark and ashy. Blues are also a tinge stronger in key places. When The Shape appears in the shadows behind Laurie that first time, it’s a faint blue, but you don’t lose sight of that mask as he gets closer and closer before he attacks.
As there have been these little slight color timing changes on a near scene-by-scene basis, I’m pleased to report, that Black Levels are still deep and inky, perhaps even better balanced this time out with terrific bright whites free of any blooming issues. The image maintains a strong sense of three-dimensional depth throughout. Some very very slight speckling is still apparent, but nothing distracting and is barely noticeable.
The more time I’ve spent with this transfer the better it got. Especially flipping between 4K discs it became easier and easier to appreciate the small differences and overall improvements that steadily start to add up. It may not be the full bright bold orange tone of the 1999 DVD, but, this is a big step in the right direction. This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Scream Factory is easily the best looking and the better color balanced transfer we’ve had for this film in the last 20 years. That 2003 Divimax DVD master really set this film on a tough course for the last few disc releases. This new transfer is a welcome middle ground, cool and autumnal but with more natural primary colors, skin tones, and more orange tones with robust details. Outside of John Carpenter actually getting involved and tweaking the thing himself, this is the best we’re likely to see for a while, and I’m pretty damn happy with the results.
Now, for the Disc Three Blu-ray, they call the main version here the “Original Color Timing Presentation” and it’s important to note that it isn’t. The closest to original color timing still widely available would be the 1999 DVD. While it’s more orange/yellow tinted, it’s the problematic 2007 release sourced from the 2003 Divimax DVD master that pulled out most of the signature blue tint skewing far too bright and white, especially during critical appearances of The Shape.
Not to shirk the audio department, Scream Factory has packed this disc with three options for you to choose from. The default track is a new DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix that is a welcome improvement over the rather lifeless Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that’s been recycled so many times now. Dialog is a little crisper, music cues punch harder, and overall sound effects have a little more life in them. Levels are also much better, I didn’t have to turn up my rig 10-15 points past my normal listening volume to hear what was happening at a natural listing level.
[UPDATE] After receiving some questions to this point, this new DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track is very similar to the Dolby TrueHD 2.0 mono mix found with the Deluxe set. Quite possibly the same mix ultimately under a different format, to that point, there's something about this DTS version I can't quite put into words other than to say it has more oomph. A little stronger presence than the TrueHD 2.0 mono. Certainly better than the Dolby Digital 2.0 track where I always had to turn the volume far higher than my normal listing levels.
Next is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that’s pretty good, but not a terrible lot to write home about. It’s a front-heavy track but everything sounds a bit pulled back and stretched to give some sense of side activity when there really isn’t much going on in the surround channels. Dialog is decent, but again, can sound a tad muted. Not a terrible track, but also not altogether necessary.
And now we come to the new Dolby Atmos mix - which really isn’t all that Atmosy. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track of past releases never had much of a strong surround presence, to begin with, and neither does this mix. Any side surround activity is sporadic because so much of this film’s sound design is front/center heavy it rarely moves. The opening rainstorm may offer some side activity but not a whole lot. Where this mix benefits over the past TrueHD mix is the height channels feel active and engaging. The rain sounds come from slightly above instead of flat and in your face. Some of the music cues like stingers when Michael attacks hit from slightly higher. The sounds of leaves rustling in the trees come from the height channels now. There’s a little more oomph in the bass tones - especially when the music hits those darker dissonant chords. The soundscape has the feeling of the DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix but with the elements distributed between the center and left/right front channels with a little more activity out of the subs with the two height channels getting more engagement. The sides only occasionally fire and I didn’t feel much out of the rears. It’s a solid track for sure, but certainly not the most aggressive nor is it a blow your hair back sonic experience.
At the end of the day, I favor the mono mix. There’s good reason it’s the default track on the disc. The Atmos mix is good, a bit better than the TrueHD 7.1 mix of old but not enough to get too excited about. The 5.1 mix is rather limp compared to the other two options and doesn’t really bring anything to the table.
DTS-HD MA 2.0 - 4/5
DTS-HD MA 5.1 - 3/5
Dolby Atmos - 3.75/5
In a nice move from Scream Factory, the vast majority of bonus materials from past releases have been brought over for this set. The 4K disc only has the two audio commentary options, but, the two standard Blu-rays are packed to the gills with extras. If you missed out on Scream Factory’s past Halloween Deluxe Collection set, you’re getting nearly everything that set had to offer. The only really notable extra feature missing from the pack is the original 1995 Criterion LaserDisc audio commentary featuring John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Debrah Hill.
I’m not surprised this didn’t carry over, Criterion has tightened their grip on their commentaries - their track for The Silence of the Lambs didn’t carry over to KLSC’s 4K disc release. The other missing extra is the little On Location: 25 Years Later featurette. While a nice piece, it’s not a huge loss. That said, this is still a robust and impressive package. You get the film in 4K, 1080p from the new scan and color timing, the old 2007 color timed version, as well as the Extended Edition with SD inserts, and the television cut edited for content so if you have little ones in the room this year they can watch Michael Myers kill coeds in a slightly less brutal way.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray - Disc One
1080p Blu-ray - Disc Two
1080p Blu-ray - Disc Three
John Carpenter’s Halloween is a genuine horror classic. No sequel has come close to equaling it - and no remake has ever touched it. There will be more Halloween movies even after the latest trilogy of sequels is done. That’s just a simple fact of life. Someone somehow will come up with a way to bring Michael Myers and his Captain Kirk mask back to the big screen or more likely these days as a television series. No matter what happens, we’ll always have the first and best of this seemingly unending franchise.
Scream Factory gives Michael Myers another stab on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a packed three-disc set. Offering a new and improved transfer in 4K and 1080p, this is the best the film has looked in a long while. Maybe not quite to the high standards of some, but it’s still better than the last several disc releases. Throw in two additional cuts of the film along with hours upon hours of bonus features and you have a pretty amazing set to add to the collection alongside all of your other copies of Halloween - Highly Recommended