Did John Carpenter know he would be making horror movie history when he unleashed a low budget thriller called Halloween on an unsuspecting public starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis and seasoned b-movie actor Donald Pleasance? Nope, but that doesn't change the fact that he did. While maybe not quite as recognizable as Freddy Kruger or Jason Vorhees, the inimitable Michael Myers has long held a place in the hearts of slasher movie fans all over the world and that first film has gone on to inspire, at the time of this writing, seven sequels (with one more in the works), action figures, comic books, and more.
This enduring popularity has lead to a strong fan community being built around the films, which culminated at a convention in 2003 called Return To Haddonfield where a wealth of footage was shot with many of the people who were involved in making these films. A lot of this footage has been edited and put into context and combined with interviews and clips from the films and out of all of this was born the feature length documentary, Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror, narrated by P. J. Soles.
So what can fans expect in this almost ninety-minute look at the franchise? Interviews galore, clips, rare footage and more. We also hear from a lot of the people working in the horror industry now who were influenced by Halloween at a younger age, such as Rob Zombie, Clive Barker and Edgar Wright and on the opposite side of the spectrum we learn of the films that came before Halloween that had an impact on its genesis, such as Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre and of course, Bob Clarke's Black Christmas. It's interesting to see what came before and what came later in regards to the movie as it puts it into context in an interesting time capsule styled sort of way.
The documentary gets a little highbrow in spots but it always remains interesting even when it does in comparing Dr. Loomis' plight to put a stop to Myers's murderous ways to the similarly obsessed Captain Ahab from Moby Dick - a comparison that few of us would likely have caught on to but one that is perfectly valid and quite natural when you think about it. The psychology of Myers himself is also explored to an extent as we hear about the bits and pieces of different cultural villains who came before him and how they manifest in various aspects of the seven movies in which he stars. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a documentary if it didn't explore the reasons that the films are as popular as they are, so of course screen time is given to the sex and violence that this series and so many other slasher movies are known for, though even these more exploitative elements are discussed with some brains and critical insight that makes this more than just a greatest hits reel of kill scenes and exposed breasts.
After hearing how Carpenter's first film was put together we then hear about the sequels. Say what you will about them, they've all been successful and they all have their fans despite the varying degrees of their quality. Even Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, which has nothing to do with Myers at all, is covered in a fair bit of detail and out of fairness to that much maligned third film, it's one of the more interesting follow ups to the first one even if it doesn't expand the storyline.
We hear of the effects work and how that was done from the men who went out and did it and from there the famous murder set pieces. Relating to that is the psychology of the way in which female women of dubious morals are dispatched and how their deaths differ from the men in the films with a few different explanations, some of which hold water, some of which don't.
On a melancholy note, it's both charming and sad to hear how passionate producer Moustapha Akkad was about the series (he was killed in a terrorist attack in Jordan not too long after this footage was shot) and how he always tried to treat the franchise as he felt would benefit it the most.
Really, when it's all said and done, no stone is left unturned as we get insight from writers, directors, actors, effects technicians, fans, and pretty much anyone else you would expect to see show up in something like this. It's all put together very well and proves to be not only entertaining but genuinely interesting and insightful as well.
The fullframe image looks pretty good overall, despite a few clips here and there that can only look as good as the source material provided (a few of the convention clips aren't as sharp looking as the film clips or the interviews but that's to be expected). Detail in both the foreground and the background of the picture is fine, black levels are pretty strong and there aren't any noticeable issues with mpeg compression nor is there an abundance of edge enhancement. There's some mild line shimmering here and there but nothing to worry about in terms of print damage, dirt or debris. Things look pretty nice all the way across this two disc set.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on this release is on par with the video in that there are a few spots where the quality fluctuates a little bit based on the source material but for the most part there's little to complain about here. Dialogue is pretty consistent in that it's easy to follow and understand and the score comes through nicely. This isn't the type of release that really warrants anything more involved than a stereo track so the two-channel mix gets the job done. No alternate language dubs or subtitles are included.
With as much supplemental material as has been provided here, it shouldn't surprise anyone to see that it's been spread across two discs. Here's what you'll find and where:
First up on disc one in terms of supplements is a featurette called Horror's Hallowed Grounds: An Exclusive Tour Of The Halloween Filming Locations which, as you'd expect, is a video tour of a few of the recognizable shooting locations used in the first film. This excellent segment is handled by Sean Clark of Dread Central, with some help here and there from P. J. Soles. Essentially what happens is they go check out the locations used for the film and give us a peek at how they appear now, decades since the movie was made. It's a fun segment and Soles makes for a great commentator here.
Moving right along we find Halloween II Extended Interviews and Halloween III Extended Interviews in which a few of the actors interviewed for the feature documentary get to talk a little longer than the snippets used in the documentary allowed for. These segments extend on some of their experiences working on the films, and they're worth checking out if you have an interest in either of the sequels that they cover.
Sure to be of interest to a lot of fans will be the Halloween 5 On-Set Footage that Anchor Bay has supplied here as Donald Pleasance shows up in a few of the shots. There isn't a lot of context to it, and the quality isn't fantastic but it's nice to see the atmosphere on set as the movie was being made and it's always a treat to see Pleasance doing his thing and it's great to see him taking things in stride and showing a great sense of humor on camera.
Rounding out the extra features on the first disc is a Halloween Convention Montage clip which gives us a look at the convention as well as the guests and attendees, and a segment entitled Fans of Halloween: Collections Of Props And Memorabilia which is a look at the collections that a few completely rabid fans have assembled.
The second disc starts off with a group of panel discussions recorded at the Return To Haddonfield Convention that took place in 2005. Each of the seven different discussions runs about twenty minutes, some a little longer and some a little shorter, and they cover the following: Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 6, Ellie Cornell, Michael Myers (wherein seven of the men to have donned the famous mask tell their tales), Dean Cudney (who served as the director of photography on the first three of the films in the series), and the Halloween Producers (with Yablans and the late Akkad, may he rest in peace). While the titles of the panel discussions pretty much sum up what the participants talk about, these discussions, when combined, do a really fantastic job of giving fans a truly comprehensive view of how these films were put together and who did what and why. While it might seem like overkill to some, there is an absolutely massive amount of information in here for those who want even more. The problem with this material is that it is shot very haphazardly and it doesn't look good at all and adding to that is the fact that the material really isn't edited down, and so we get some 'dead air' moments throughout which can make things tough to get through. Only one camera was used and it's about as exciting to watch as paint drying which makes this more for the hardcore Halloween fan than the casual one, but the same can be said about pretty much everything on this disc as it really is a gift to the fans more than anything else.
Rounding out the extra features are a great Halloween Location Still Gallery, a Halloween Convention Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery, an Original Artwork still Gallery and a Halloween related song entitled Pure Evil by Vicious Disorder that plays out over a still shot of the band.
Of course, both discs have menus and chapter stops and all that good stuff. Inside the two disc set, which is housed inside a nice slipcase, there's an exclusive full color Halloween: Autopsis comic book that provides some interesting insight into a few of the more famous characters from the series.
This two-disc set, an obvious labor of love for all involved, is a Halloween fans dream come true. The feature documentary is an excellent, interesting and comprehensive look at one of the most influential franchises in horror movie history and the wealth of extra features fill in more details than you can shake a butcher's knife at. While there obviously won't be a whole lot of appeal for those who don't already love the films, for those of us who cherish Carpenter's original classic (and the sequels it spawned) Halloween: 25 Years Of Terror comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.