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Chances are you've already made up your mind about Rob Zombie's Halloween. It's considered by many as one of the biggest blasphemies in horror remake history ever. Personally, I don't think it's nearly as bad as most reviewers made it out to be. There's talk of a possible sequel coming, via a different director, and I've already seen comments on the web that ask, "How can this not be better than the first one?" Rob Zombie's vision certainly doesn't compare to the original in quality by any means, but I think people were a little 'out there' with their blasts, after all, Halloween is considered one of the best horror movies of all time, how could there not be people foaming at the mouth? It was to be expected. If you happened to be amongst the minority that enjoyed this film though, it's finally available on Blu-ray in its unrated form.
Instead of opting for a straight remake, Rob decided to use almost half of the film to give us the story of Mike Myers as a kid, and show us exactly what made him into the silent slasher we've always known him to be.
Coming off as being extremely similar in style to The Devil's Rejects, Rob continues to embrace a vision that depicts the uneasy lifestyle of a white trash family that's dysfunctional in almost every way. Mike's mother is the only one in the family that shows him any love, but she's with a deadbeat that's verbally and physically abusive, so she takes the sole responsibility of bringing home the bacon by stripping at night. His step-father likes to make fun of him constantly, and his older sister follows suit. The only other one in the family that Mike actually cares about besides his mother is his baby sister, who's too young to have been corrupted enough by the negative vibe in the house and use it against him.
Mike's mother is called into school to speak with Dr. Loomis, a psychologist that was called in after some disturbing photos of animal brutality were found in his locker. It's an early warning sign that someone may have the mental capacity to unleash similar pain to human subjects. Since we already know Myers kills as a kid, it's of no surprise that he gets down to the act of murder sooner than anyone has a chance to shake a finger at him.
The gates of hell in the mind of Myers have been opened, and we as the audience get to travel down the dark spiral to see him become something that's filled with rage, and pure evil. We get to see Loomis visit and talk with Myers throughout his descent, as well as his mother. What once was a boy, begins to hide behind masks he's able to make in his spare time. Eventually his emotional state no longer resembles that of a person. Loomis tries to get Michael to talk for years with no luck. He goes on to speak at college classes about him, and he even writes a book about his experience with the Myers kid.
The latter half of the film focuses on Myers escaping from the mental institute and going after Laurie and her friends, and this is where the 'remake' aspect comes in. Although Rob did a great job at showing us a real background for Myers, it was the mystery that kept him creepy in John Carpenter's version. What also helped Carpenter creep us out with his vision was that the narrative was on Laurie Strode. In this film however, the first half of the movie follows Michael, and halfway through, the narrative erratically shifts to Laurie.
The idea behind showing us why Myers is the way he is, only works for as long as this aspect of the story is on the screen. The latter half of the film was pieced together very well, but there's very little time to get the audience to care about Laurie at all, and that's a vital aspect for Halloween. The failure to bring us into her world effectively hampers the effort put behind creating the terror we should feel in the second act, and that's where I end up having mixed feelings about the movie as a whole. I want to be scared of Myers, not feel sympathy for him.
Unfortunately, the theatrical edition didn't make it onto this release. I can see why the marketing gurus would want to put the unrated cut on Blu-ray first, considering the 'unrated' gimmick always helps to move units off the shelf. I don't feel confident that we'll end up seeing the theatrical cut on Blu-ray anytime soon though, so I can't help but feel as if someone dropped the ball.
What are you missing out on if you've only seen the theatrical cut of the film? Much like the movie overall, I found myself torn. Some of the additional footage shows us more time between Loomis and Michael during their early therapy sessions in the nuthouse, an alternative take on Michael Myers escaping from the facility, as well as some different twists near the end of the film. I liked the additions to the Myers and Loomis session, as well as the changes near the end, but I miss the original escape scene from the theatrical release.
Last but not least, for those of you that have been sitting on the sidelines due to all the harsh criticism this film received, you should really check it out for yourself. There's still much to appreciate here, such as the background for Michael that was pieced together excellently, as well as many of the visuals during the climax of the film Rob had captured. This definitely could have been a lot worse. I know the entire franchise is considered classic by horror fans, but Michael changed from being a madman in a mask, to some sort of supernatural entity that was referred to as 'The Shape'. Rob easily could have taken this route to try and scare us with a ghoul instead of a man, but he didn't. He stuck with what worked best. True, the remake portion of the film was severely lacking the terror it should have had due to time constraints caused by artistic choice, but the rest is worth seeing at least once.
It's no surprise that Rob used a gritty texture for this film in order to enhance the dark and gritty tone he wished to convey. This tends to make make a standard definition DVD look softer than it should, and being as that's what I've been used to watching up to this point, I was surprised to see just how sharp and clear the picture looked.
The grain was intact as it should be, but it was much more minimal than what the standard DVD conveyed. Although the picture is much sharper in high definition, thanks to the high tolerance a good transfer can have for grain, it's not sharp enough to wipe away the illusion of dimensionality. There's plenty of detail, and edges are natural. This combined with some excellent black levels and contrast, really bring Zombie's vision (like it or lump it) to life.
The younger years of Myers intentionally looks a little retro by adding a touch of a 'washed out' look, but once we start to follow Laurie around, the film is bright and very colorful in daytime scenes, with good looking skin tones to boot. Hands down, this 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode is a nearly flawless transfer. It may not earn itself the title of being a demo worthy Blu-ray title, but it's presented as the film was meant to be seen.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is as flawless as the video. The first thing you'll notice listening to it, is just how dynamic it can be. Sound effects and the score are used in ways together that complement intense moments in the film. When Michael strikes, or when he's busting through a wall, your whole surround system is going to react. Wherever the sound is coming from, it's loud enough to give you a good jump if you scare easily in a horror film. Surround effects are almost always sounding from the rear channels, giving you a good sense of being in the middle of all the terror. The sound effects never seem to sound flat. You'll find them to be quite full. The dialogue never seems to be compromised during loud sequences, and there's never any distortion or popping to speak of. Although the standard definition version of the film sounded pretty darn good, I don't I'd ever want to go back to it after hearing how good it sounds in TrueHD.
Commentary with Rob Zombie - I've got to give it to Rob; he's definitely one for giving a lot of information on a commentary. He's not really boring to listen to, but he sounds like he knows he has a lot to say, so he seems to sound like he's a little rushed or mentally exhausted while he's trying to filter the information throughout the course of the track. He presents everything in a very organized fashion despite this, and if you're curious to know why he took certain directions he did, you'll get those answers in here, as well as lots of behind the scenes information.
Deleted Scenes/Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary - There's about twenty two minutes worth of deleted material here. There's some material you won't find in either version of the film, including an alternate ending that was on the original workprint version of the film, but not on the versions that were made available for home video. In my opinion, I thought it was the best ending overall. It's a shame it didn't make it even onto the unrated cut.
Bloopers - The bloopers are pretty entertaining. I got a pretty good chuckle over how often Malcolm McDowell would screw up his lines, and how he'd keep a scene going very professionally if somebody messed up theirs.
The Many Masks of Michael Myers - At almost six and a half minutes, this feature is a very informative piece that details the creative process of designing and creative the many masks that appear in the film.
Re-imagining Halloween - This is close to twenty minutes in length, and covers most of the basic behind the scenes stuff that's become almost standard for home video. It covers how the idea of the remake came to be, wardrobe, and many aspects of the production itself. It's a decent feature, but seems like overkill, thanks to the documentary that's available on the second disc.
Meet the Cast - This feature is eighteen minutes in length, and introduces us to most of the main and supporting cast members. They give their impressions on the remake, as well as their opportunity to work with Zombie himself.
Casting Sessions - There are thirty five minutes worth of casting auditions here. I've always considered features like this to be very interesting to watch. You get to see the people from the finished product step into their roles for the first time. You can always see how far people have come from the start of the casting process. Definitely worth a watch.
Scout Taylor-Compton Screen Test - This is an extended screen test. I could only assume an extended screen test is necessary because Rob was looking for someone to fill the integral shoes of Laurie Strode, and those are big shoes to fill. I don't think Scout ever filled those shoes in the film, not by a long shot. However, it's not as if she had much of a chance because of the amount of screen time Laurie didn't get this time around. She actually didn't do that bad for her screen test though.
Also available on this disc, is the theatrical trailer. Kind of ironic, considering the theatrical version isn't on this release! Blu-ray Live content is also available.
The reason why I mentioned one of the features on the first disc seemed like overkill, is because disc two sports the four and a half hour documentary, Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween.
Unlike the rest of the special features on disc one, this documentary is in high definition.
Every single part of the filmmaking process has been recorded, from conception to release. I know four and a half hours seems like an impossible task to undertake, but it's worth your while, even if you didn't care for the film that much. You get to see the good times, as well as the bad. The supplemental features we usually see on home video releases take us behind the scenes, but we really don't get a very broad scope of what actually goes on. Here however, we get everything from on-set hijinks, to arguments that perhaps we shouldn't witness as an audience... but there's no denying that it was irresistible to watch. I recommend watching this in chunks, but if you get this Blu-ray, make sure you check this out.
It's not a great film by any means. Rob Zombie's Halloween jerks its narrative so abruptly in the middle of the film, you could probably cut this film in half with a knife and have two short films on your hands, and they wouldn't seemingly interfere with each other. This unfortunately never gives the audience enough time to connect with Laurie and her friends, which was vital to experiencing Michael in John Carpenter's original vision. For everything it gets wrong though, there's still plenty it gets right. Michael's childhood was fantastically put together, and the climactic scenes, despite the muffled effect on the terror due to Rob's direction, are loaded with some of the best Myers imagery we've ever seen.
You have to give it up for this release; it provided all the essentials as far as special features go, and takes it ten steps further by providing such an in depth behind the scenes documentary that clocks in at over four hours. The video and audio transfers are absolutely magnificent, and recreate the experience you would have experienced in the theater, if not better. This is a release I'm going to recommend. You can throw your popcorn and soda at me all you want. Despite what anyone else thinks, this film may not be perfect, but it's nowhere near as bad as everyone has made it out to be. After we've seen the home video cheese market turn Myers into an evil mystical being, as well as the wretched Halloween H20, there's no way this pales in comparison to those. If you're a fan of the Halloween franchise, pick this one up. Everyone else may want to stick to a rental.
The images in this review are not indicative of the Blu-ray release. These screens were captured from the Unrated standard definition DVD.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!