HALLOWEEN Comes Home on 4K

The classic slasher arrives in Ultra High Definition with mixed results

Just in time for Halloween, this week Lionsgate has released a new 4K Blu-ray edition of John Carpenter’s… Halloween.

You’ve seen Halloween, right? If you’re reading this, chances are you already own it, maybe several times over. Understanding this is a beloved classic, I’ll forego my usual movie review (“it’s great!”) and focus on the technical aspects of this release as that’s the primary interest here — but this is spoiler-free so anyone can read on. Halloween has had a long and sometimes rocky home video history, so I’ll touch on a bit of that as well where relevant.

First point, many fans were quick to point out the lack of the original mono audio on this release, an omission which has been a point of some contention before. I’m satisfied with the surround mix here, but I can understand why this is upsetting, especially to longtime fans.

As for the image, let’s open with a bit of historical context. After a somewhat poorly received initial Blu-ray in 2007 (which had poppy color timing that proved controversial with many viewers), 2013’s “35th Anniversary” Blu-ray remaster was approved by Halloween’s Director of Photography Dean Cundey.

Curious, I did some additional research on this and found that The Digital Bits had reached out to Lionsgate and reports that “both director John Carpenter and cinematographer Dean Cundey approved this new 4K transfer and HDR grade”, so that’s good.

This 4K disc’s picture is detailed and exhibits clarity that’s visibly better than prior Blu-rays. It’s not a DNR hit-job either — film grain is still apparent, but noticeably finer than on the “chunkier” looking Blu-rays. So far, so good! But the color timing seemed quite different than what I remembered — while I’m not an expert on the film, I’ve seen it in multiple formats and didn’t recall this particular palette. The 4K disc’s color looks rather desaturated.

It’s worth noting here that my TV uses different image modes for 4K HDR content and traditional HD or SD video, so it’s possible that this difference (or perceived difference) is either in the HDR grade, or simply lies with my TV. But here’s my personal observation, which I’ve not experienced on other 4K discs in parallel comparisons.

During the daytime scenes, which mostly take place outdoors and make up approximately one-third of the movie’s runtime, the colors looked noticeably desaturated to me, similar to the same manner as a slightly faded 35mm print might appear. As one specific point of reference, there’s a shot in which Dr. Loomis is investigating a red matchbook, it had more of a subdued color than the expected ruby red.

However, at nighttime (which is the majority of the movie), everything looks terrific. The more muted tones are still present, but look appropriate.

Not content to rely on visual memory, I compared the picture directly with both the included Blu-ray (which seems to be the 2007 disc) and the disc from my “Complete Collection” box set (the 35th Anniversary disc) and confirmed that both showed more vivid colors on my equipment. It’s possible that this new edition has the same transfer as the 35th and the adjustment in color is a result of the HDR pass, or of my TV’s picture modes, but suffice it to say the new disc’s desaturation is equal to or greater than that of the 2013 disc.

Above: 2007 Blu-ray / Below: 2013 Blu-ray

To add another wrinkle to this consideration, I turned off my TV’s HDR setting for comparison and switched to the rarely used “Vivid” picture mode (which punches up color saturation), and found that this approximated natural or expected color very closely, while also getting the resolution benefit of the 4K enhancement — clearer picture, finer grain. Obviously this is anecdotal and also doesn’t say much for this disc’s HDR treatment, but direct comparison switching between the discs confirmed for me that this particular presentation looked the best to me by far out of all the various options.

The Package

This is an interesting release with a combination of content from prior releases. The 4K disc includes bonus content equivalent to 2013’s 35th Anniversary Blu-ray release, but the included Blu-ray disc. actually appears to be the 2007 release. While that 2007 Blu-ray has controversial color timing which was adjusted in 2013, it also has boasts different special features, making its inclusion here a net positive.

Aesthetically, it’s a nice looking release which uses the classic poster art on the cover and newer “35th” art on the discs. My copy also came with a very slick looking metallic-foil slipcover.

Special Features and Extras — 4K Disc

  • Audio Commentary by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis
  • The Night She Came Home (59:43)
    Hourlong featurette chronicling Jamie Lee Curtis as she makes a rare convention appearance
  • On Location: 25 Years Later (10:25)
    PJ Soles revisits the shooting locations of “Haddonfield”
  • TV Version Footage (10:46)
  • Trailer (2:42)
  • TV Spots (1:04)
  • Radio Spots (1:24)

Special Features and Extras — Blu-ray Disc

  • Audio commentary with John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis and Debra Hill — note this is a different commentary exclusive to this disc.
  • Halloween: A Cut Above The Rest (1:27:07)
    This feature-length behind the scenes documentary wasn’t included on the 1-disc version of the 35th Anniversary release, so its inclusion here is a very nice unexpected extra.
  • Fast Film Facts
    Cheesy pop-ups appear throughout the movie with trivia blips.
  • Trailer (2:42)
  • TV Spots (1:17)
  • Radio Commercials (1:24)

Parting Thoughts

In summary, whether this warrants a purchase or not is not a one-size recommend. If you somehow don’t own Halloween already, this is currently the best solo version to buy. Upgrading is a tougher choice, but as Lionsgate has been pricing their 4K discs pretty aggressively, I’d say it’s worth picking up cheap.

The lack of mono audio will upset many while others won’t miss it at all. The color timing with HDR leans pale in my opinion, but adjusting TV settings handily compensated. I love the improved clarity, and for owners of large screens, this is a definite benefit of the new disc.

There aren’t any new features, but between the 4K disc and pack-in Blu-ray, this release manages to nab all of the previous ones from among the various discs that have come before, making it a nice, well-rounded option, all things considered.

A/V Out.

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All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.


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