Halloween Kills 4K Blu-ray Review

‘Did Michael kill again….?’

by Mark Costello
SRP: £25.00

Halloween Kills Review

If the 2018 reboot was the continuation of Laurie Strode's story and how that infamous night forty years earlier had impacted and devastated her life, this follow up is the story of the town of Haddonfield itself and how it has or hasn’t dealt with those same events...

Narratively and thematically interesting – ignoring so many previous entries means the town of Haddonfield has been little more than a set of streets and houses, rather than a lived in environment. Now, digging deep into the shared psychosis of a population, with all of its individuals' own feelings of guilt, of terror, or anger bubbling up and surging, blending, melting together into almost a single collective conscious nicely ties into current socio-political themes of pretty much the entire world – it has some really good bones. Especially given how solidly enjoyable the previous film was to almost everyone’s surprise.

And yet its execution leaves it feeling horribly like a middle chapter spinning its wheels with nowhere really to go. In focusing on expanding the narrative to cover an entire town, Jamie Lee Curtis’ (True Lies, Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda) Laurie Strode has now been horribly cast aside, relegated to spouting philosophical platitudes from a hospital bed for only a small proportion of the screen time, while the film, arguably HER film, takes place around and pretty much completely without her. The narrative focus and propulsive drive her character created in previous films is now gone, replaced with a sprawling cast of characters, some of whom we've seen before, some new, that in rather on the nose fashion now begin to tell us little more than exactly what we already know is happening around and to them.

... a missed opportunity to build on the solid work that Halloween '18 did

This feeling is also compounded by some truly strange narrative decisions around this core – the turning on a die of an entire community, from concerned onlookers to vigilante murderers is wholly unearned and seems to come from nowhere but narrative necessity (you only have to look at the previous film to see a community who had all but forgotten Michael Myers suddenly now be immediately mobilised into a killing frenzy by the mere mention of his name). Additionally, the case of mistaken identity that fuels a chunk of the second act is borderline laughable and exists solely to drive home the now horribly unsubtle socio-political themes of its creators. This is of course accompanied by all the usual insanely stupid decisions made by protagonists in the face of near supernatural antagonists. All of which means while the idea of the story of Haddonfield is solid, the film gives us pretty much the very worst version of it we could have hoped for…

... which is ironic given this film's Michael. He's an utter beast, brilliantly used and shot by David Gordon Green (Halloween 2018, Joe, Pineapple Express), a complete force of nature and he's deployed with a huge number of kills (thirty-one to be precise!) that are bloody, brutal and totally crowd-pleasing. Getting Michael so right in a film that gets so much wrong is one of its saving graces, arguably the main reason for the film itself (who comes to a Halloween movie for a story, am I right?). And even its controversial ending, hinting at something altogether grander and stranger, seems to be giving us a nice twist on Michael for this year’s Halloween Ends.

But in amongst all this new story, the film also gives us some really nicely done links back to the original Carpenter film: not just in a cast of returning characters (Tommy, Lindsey, Sheriff Brackett, none of whom were actually that successful as characters outside of pure fan service) but in returning to that actual night in 1978, with flashbacks and new scenes filling in some of the gaps, including some very unexpected ‘cameos. These sections work as not just fan service but help flesh out the notion of Myers’ story impacting more than just the Strode family - some may find it indulgent, others like me won’t.

And so, it all leaves us with an overall feeling of this being somewhat of a missed opportunity to build on the solid work that Halloween '18 did: a solid theme and premise, with a great Michael and brutal set of fan-pleasing kills, but with far too much narrative redundancy and a sense of a film waiting for its next part rather than being a satisfactory entry in its own right.

Note: the disk contains both the theatrical version and an extended cut. The extended cut is just over four minutes longer with a host of short extensions to existing scenes (including a little more grue to the final Michael takedown) – however there are three additional scenes of note, two of which should have been included in the theatrical cut (including one which gives Lonnie more motivation for his actions and an extension of the film’s very final shot to enable the film to finish back on Laurie Strode). It doesn’t change the film at all, but interestingly, these new scenes give a finality to certain characters who now, with the shift in narrative of Halloween Ends, may not be as dead as they were once intended to be…

Halloween Kills 4K Video

Halloween Kills
The included images are not sourced from the 4K disc.

Halloween Kills was shot digitally using a range of Arri Alexa cameras to deliver a 4K digital intermediate. Universal has then used this to present a native 3840 x 2160p resolution image with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio that uses 10-bit video depth and High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision varieties) and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. The two cuts are on both the 2160p disk and the 1080p disk.

We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Halloween Kills on a JVC-DLA N5 Ultra HD 4K projector, Philips 50PUS6754/12 and a Panasonic DP-UB9000 Dolby Vision HDR10 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

... a lovely looking image

It needs to be all about the blacks here. And they are delicious.

Shot over the course of a single night, there’s not a hint of daylight, so the shadow detail and depth have to be perfect and Universal doesn’t disappoint. Not a hint of milkiness or grey, the blacks remain as deep as the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. And both the HDR10 and DV HDR layers enable these blacks to sink into the screen, some superb deep shadows in the long shots of dark streets giving a real sense of depth.

The rest of the colour palette is muted, save for the darkness puncturing lights (street and police) and the harsh glare of Haddonfield Memorial Hospital’s interior. Skin tones look natural yet overall, the darkness continues over into the colours – there’s not a lot of bright splashes across the film's run time (even the blood is dark, rich, almost oil like in its colour) so it's not a film to use to show off the razzle dazzle of every colour under the rainbow. However, the Strode house fire has a plethora of lovely warm, rich yellows and oranges, which offset those deep blacks really nicely.

Interestingly enough, the film’s overall aesthetic has been designed to mirror that of Carpenter’s 1978 classic – and not just because of its extensive use of flashbacks to the period and to the original film itself. Detail is nice and sharp but never in that modern ‘overt’ way, DoP Michael Simmonds (Halloween 2018, Nerve) continuing to ape original DoP Dean Cundey’s (Jurassic Park, Halloween 1978, The Thing) use of anamorphic lenses (to give that crystal clear central image with then slight blurring as the image moves away and towards the sides of the screen). It straddles both ‘ultra-modern’ yet retaining a texture that matches perfectly with the ‘new’ and original 1978 footage, thanks to the inclusion of what looks like a fine layer of digital grain that has been added in to further try and match textures. Luckily, this doesn’t look overtly digital or noisy at all, meaning the image looks almost like film – it’s certainly a job well done by the digital grading team.

It’s a lovely looking image that isn’t necessarily the sharpest or most detailed you’ll ever see, but it does represent Haddonfield in its very best light…. or lack thereof.

Note: There was little difference noticed between the two HDR layers, with both helping produce a near-identical deep, textured and life like image.

Halloween Kills 4K Audio

Halloween Kills

There is a single audio track on the 4K disk – an English lossless Dolby Atmos track (the same track is also on the 1080p blu, as is a 2.0 English Audio Description track). Subtitles on both disks are English SDH only.

We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Halloween Kills on a Denon AVR X4300H and a 7.2.4 array of Kef speakers (including the Q range and CI in-walls/in-ceilings).

... a track that tries to have as much fun with every kind of mayhem as Michael is

It’s a track that tries to have as much fun with every kind of mayhem as Michael is. And it very nearly succeeds…

Surround steering and positioning of spot effects around the full Atmos array is an absolute blast – there’s plenty of living flames, creaking floorboards or footsteps on car roofs going on in the overheads, as well as a cavalcade of surround effects that range from the atmospheric to the cacophonous (the crowd marauding their way through Haddonfield Memorial is a riot of all-encompassing sound – feet, voices, the sharp tinkles as medical equipment hits the floor, you name it, it’s in this mix). Even the new interpretation of the classic score sits beautifully across all the speakers – its new almost ambient electronic background perfectly suited for some individual speaker placement as the notes ebb and flow in time with the visuals.

But it’s the omnipresent LFE that breathes real life into the film – the wonderful LFE underpinnings of the Carpenter’s score means the room is filled with deep, rich bass from almost start to finish and it's glorious. Even on my modest twin subs, it’s a track that has some of the deepest and most consistent bass I’ve heard in a long time (the wave of bass accompanying the roaring flames as Michael leaves the Strode house to the waiting scrum of firemen/meat fodder is stunning and only one such example).

But that bass doesn’t ever seem to overpower the film – the attack scene in the playground has that score-pumped LFE, but perfectly balances it against the piercing screams of the victims and some lovely mid-range thumps as handguns are fired. And with all the gimmicky surround sound usage (which admittedly, I adore), it's this near perfect balance across the entire film of that meaty bass and everything else, without it ever getting swamped or drowned out that is the real achievement of the sound mixers.

A brutally brilliant soundtrack.

Halloween Kills 4K Extras

Halloween Kills

The extras on this release are included on both the 4K and 1080p discs and are:

  • Gag Reel – 3 mins of, er, gags from the shoot
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes - 3 mins in total, these are in addition to those scenes put back into the extended edition
  • Haddonfield's Open Wounds – a 7 min look at the town at the centre of the film
  • The Kill Team -11 mins in length, a look at the team behind the brutal kills
  • Strode Family Values – 4 mins, looking at the Strode family dynamics as they have evolved since the very first film
  • 1978 Transformations – a look at how the film explores more of the story from 1978 in this film from 2021 (7 mins)
  • The Power of Fear – a look at mob mentality as depicted in the film (4 mins)
  • Kill Count – a one minute run through all 31 kills in the movie
  • Audio Commentary – from Gordon Green, Jamie Lee Curtis and Judy Greer

... included on the 4K disc

All video extras are presented in 4K and Dolby Vision (on the 4K disk), and they all look fantastic. There’s some solid BTS information here – the 1978 transformations piece is by far the most interesting, showing how the team recreated locations and characters from 40 years ago, but the majority of the remainder of the featurettes are of little real value. Unfortunately, the audio commentary hasn’t been able to be listened to at the time of going to press.

Conclusion

Halloween Kills 4K Blu-ray Review

Halloween Kills

On first watch at the cinema, the side-lining of Laurie Strode and the meandering jaunt through Haddonfield with its near comedic rent-a-mob rendered the film a disappointment. A second watch doesn’t necessarily stop those things from being any less disappointing, but with expectations now well and truly set appropriately, more enjoyment was certainly had second time around. There’s still a sense of nervousness about… Ends, especially with its seemingly abandoning the original plan of continuing that Halloween night in 2018 in favour of a random time jump of several years. But the eternal optimist in me can’t help but be intrigued now where this film’s brilliantly brutal Michael will start from and ultimately end...

... this release managed to help increase the enjoyment of the film second time around

The 4K release from Universal gets the transfer perfect and even if the extras are exactly the kind of puff pieces to be expected from all modern releases, this release overall managed to help increase the enjoyment of the film second time around.

Halloween Kills is released by Universal in the UK on 4K UHD on the 17th January.

Scores

Movie

.
.
.
.
6

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

10

Extras

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Overall

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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