Rob Zombie is a fine director, but he would have been better suited for a remake of "Friday the 13th" or a prequel to "A Nightmare on Elm Street." But this is the remake he got, and "Hillbilly-Halloween" is what he gave us.
Halloween: Unrated Director's Edition (2007, DVD)
Directors: Rob Zombie
Producers: Rob Zombie
Writers: Rob Zombie
Features: * Unrated Version * Commentary * Deleted Material * Featurettes * 4 1/2 hour Documentary
Malcolm McDowell...Dr. Sam Loomis
Tyler Mane...Adult Michael Myers
Daeg Faerch...Young Michael Myers
Sheri Moon...Deborah Myers (as Sheri Moon Zombie)
Scout Taylor-Compton...Laurie Strode
Danielle Harris... Annie Brackett
Brad Dourif...Sheriff Leigh Brackett
William Forsythe...Ronnie White
Halloween: Three-Disc Unrated Collector’s Edition DVD Review
There are few horror films that still delight as much as John Carpenter's "Halloween" does. Sure, there are campy characters and silly late 70s trends dripping all over the film, but the sheer terror of the ultimate bogeyman, Michael Myers, and the fine performances from Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis, all make up for the it.
The film is a classic, but that doesn't mean a remake shouldn't be made. "Halloween" could be better. It could. Dr. Loomis's psychology could be better fleshed out, making him just as crazy as Michael, if not more so. The "Laurie Strode is Michael's sister" subplot could actually be in the first film. Michael Myers himself could use a little more depth--not too much more, but maybe a little more interaction, or lack thereof, between him and Loomis. And, of course, the corny dialogue between the teens could have used some tweaks.
So, that brings us to Rob Zombie's "Halloween." Is it a remake? Absolutely, in every sense of the word. Producers will try to bill it as a re-imagining, but every bit of psychology that Zombie gleans is based off of hints in the original film. But Zombie, in only his junior theatrical effort (after the awful "House of 1000 Corpses" and the surprisingly good "The Devil's Rejects"), is completely incapable of handling this daunting project.
In sad truth, Rob Zombie's "Halloween" is easily one of the single worst remakes ever made. It's an utterly abysmal waste of film, void of the guttural emotion and terror of the original. It has absolutely no idea what made the original scary and it resorts to shocking gore and dank violence to "scare" you. It doesn't help that the film feels like three movies smashed into one. It's like taking the Hannibal Lector films, "Hannibal Rising," "Red Dragon" (or the superior "Manhunter") and "Silence of the Lambs" and cramming it into one, barely coherent film.
The psychology of the first two acts compared to the psychology in the final act of the film do not mix at all, either. The first act, you can clearly see why Michael Myers becomes a killer. He lives with a stripper mother (played, quite poorly, by Zombie's wife Sheri Moon) and an awful, obviously abusive father figure (the always competent William Forsythe). Michael quickly becomes void of emotion and kills most of his family, save for his mother and baby sister who he seemingly sees as innocent. And while there is some psychology there, it's so obvious and cliche, it's hardly worth your time. Why can't Michael just be evil incarnate? Why do we need to know more? Isn't it more scary if Myers parents were completely normal, loving parents and Michael was still evil?
But, the psychology switches gears to the original film's approach as we reach the final act (yes, the entire original film is lumped into about 40 minutes). Dr. Loomis once again spouts off that Myers is "absolute, pure evil" and that "he will stop at nothing" to get his baby sister, who Michael apparently knows despite the fact that he's never seen her as a young adult nor does he know that she's changed her name! I mean, for all he knows, she moved away and lives somewhere else now. Or she’s dead! Why does Michael know exactly where she is? Why does Loomis think that Michael is pure evil now? Why did the past seemingly take place in the late 1970s, but fifteen years later it's 2007? Why? Why!?
It just doesn't make sense.
Regardless of Zombie's terribly written dialogue and two-dimensional characters (why are there redneck hillbillies in Chicago suburbs), the film is fairly well directed in the first two acts, despite the genuine lack of horror. The final act falls apart, as Zombie plays to the spirit of the original, only more violent and less intense. Characters, who we loved in the original, are introduced slightly, only to be killed off 10 or 15 minutes later. Why did Zombie think this would work?
Zombie's remake is a complete mess of a movie--a movie with so many ideas and so little time to expound upon them. The movie is part backstory and part remake, but neither gel when combined. I do not believe that Michael Myers came from a broken home with an abusive step father and a stripper mother because, down to the very core, that's just not scary at all. It's tragic and sad.
Perhaps that's what Zombie is trying to say, but that message is totally lost in the rubble. And why does he think people would want to see that anyway?
The film does have a few shining spots. There is a lot of inspired casting from Malcolm McDowell to Brad Dourif to Udo Kier and Danielle Harris (who once played Laurie Strode's daughter). Scout Taylor-Compton's portrayal of Laurie Strode is also top notch though she's given very little screen time and bad dialogue.
I really have no idea who likes this film, and why. If you've never seen the original, I can't imagine this film will work for you as it's incomplete in almost every way. And if you have seen the original, I can't imagine you'd enjoy it as it tarnishes the mystique and allure that made the first film so terrifying.
Which leads me to believe that this film was made for two people--people who hated the original film, and producer Malek Akkad, who knows he'll grab a few dollars from the folks who don't know what they're getting themselves into.
It's really sad that remakes get such a bad name as a remake could really be an opportunity to refine a classic, reintroduce it to a new generation or turn a bad movie into a good one. But with obvious cash guzzlers like "The Fog," "The Hitcher," "Black Christmas," "When a Stranger Calls" and now "Halloween," it's easy to forget their
A SECOND LOOK AT THE UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT:
Looking back on "Halloween," I still can’t find much to enjoy about the film’s disturbing middle act or the downright tiresome final act. From the moment we are introduced to the hillbilly janitor who rapes a patient in front of Michael, the film takes a dark turn for the worse. But, I’ve grown fond of the opening moments of this film and have decided to alter my final grade accordingly. It seems like Zombie really wanted to delve more into the psychology of Michael Myers, and tell a fresh, original story. But, certain producers wouldn’t allow this film to be his own. The end result is a disgusting mess. There are interesting idea strewn throughout, but the lack of care and attention to minute details is frustrating.
I compared this extended cut to the leaked ‘Workprint’ as well as the original theatrical version and found that I prefer Zombie’s original ‘Workprint.’ That version ends on a more poetic, abrupt note (it’s the alternate ending on the disc) and the incredibly dark violence is toned down a notch. I also like the avant-garde nature of opening moments, particularly the credits sequence. I wish this version would have been included on this disc.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: D
Film Value: D
Genius Products presents the film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This appears to be the same transfer used for the Blu-ray disc. Given the spotty nature of the film’s tone, which shifts between a dirty, grimy backstory to a glossy remake, I wasn’t sure how this transfer would hold up. Thankfully, the print is pretty solid, with almost no dust, dirt or grain on the print. Black levels are a little pale at times with darker sequences looking flat and murky. One such example is the scene in the Myers house where Michael confronts Laurie for the first time. Colors just don’t quite look right here. Blacks look grey or even blue with little depth or detail. Other times, levels are spot on, though the film isn't nearly as sharp as its high-def counterpart.
Thankfully, the film is housed on it's own disc, so compression issues were minimal. I didn’t note any digital artifacting or ghosting. On the whole, this is a pretty solid transfer, with only a few minor hiccups along the way.
"Halloween" sports a fine Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. It’s an aggressive mix that differs little from the Blu-ray TrueHD 5.1 mix, though the TrueHD mix is noticeably more crisp and cleaner. The track starts out strong and continues to engage throughout. Bass effects are very powerful, but never too intrusive. Rear surround effects are kept to a minimum, but Tyler Bates’ schizophrenic score, which shifts between Carpenter themes and his own themes, is perfectly balanced throughout, driving chills in every corner. Center dialogue is also perfect. I would have liked to hear to a slightly more enveloping mix, but for what it is, this 5.1 track provides a decent listen.
Genius offers up a vast array of insightful special features for fans to peruse. This is a truly great special edition, better than the older DVD released less than a year ago.
• Unrated Director’s Edition -- I wish there were various versions of this film via seamless branching. It would have been great to see the ‘Workprint’ version, the theatrical version, this version and perhaps a massive extended version. Alas, folks who loved the theatrical version or the ‘Workprint,’ will have to settle for this cut only.
• Commentary -- Rob Zombie runs solo in this informative, honest track. It’s pretty clear that Zombie struggled with this final cut. He discusses his fears about the production and the ultimate results. It’s a fairly strong track that fans are sure to enjoy.
• Deleted Material w/ optional commentary (SD) -- There’s over 25 minutes of deleted scenes as well as an alternate ending. Most of the scenes are needless, with little development. Some of the scenes are merely alternate takes used in the theatrical cut. I do, however, prefer the original ending. Zombie offers commentary on the alternate ending and claims he wanted to connect the story to Laurie Strode a little more. So, his solution was for her to hide for 15-minutes while Myers smashes up his house? Yeah, give me a more poetic, thoughtful ending any day over needless action and intrusive gore.
• Bloopers (SD) -- Your average gag reel with on-set improv, gaffes and goofs. Pretty funny stuff.
• Featurettes: ‘The Many Masks of Michael Myers,’ ‘Scout Taylor-Compton Screen Test,’ ‘Re-Imagining Halloween,’ ‘Meet the Cast’ and ‘Casting Sessions’ (SD) -- Running well over an hour, these featurettes aren’t you typical fluff. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes footage paired with compelling interviews with cast and crew. I enjoyed the casting featurettes best as this proved to be the best element of the film, even if this talented cast was mostly wasted.
• Documentary: ‘Michael Lives’ (SD) -- Like Zombie’s other film, "The Devil’s Rejects," he’s compiled an extensive 4 ½ hour documentary detailing the entire production, from pre-production through post. It’s an exhaustive look at the making of this film that actually makes one enjoy the final experience a little more. Still, it’s disappointing to watch Zombie make detrimental creative choices after being pressured by producers and looming deadlines.
Rob Zombie’s "Halloween" is a missed opportunity. This is a film series that could have used a remake, but it got the worst makeover possible. Rob Zombie is a fine director, but he would have been better suited for a remake of "Friday the 13th" or a prequel to "A Nightmare on Elm Street." But this is the remake he got, and "Hillbilly-Halloween" is what he gave us. This new DVD edition is magnificent. The A/V presentation is solid and the special features are insightful and expansive. If you like this film, you should own this disc, or the high-def Blu-ray disc.
DVD Report Card:
Recommendation: Worth a rental. Fans should own this one.
On DVD and Blu-ray Disc: October 21, 2008.
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----R. L. Shaffer