I will preface this review with a few facts before you read too much further: I have never seen the original Halloween or any of the subsequent sequels. I do not like horror films. I didn’t much care for House of 1000 Corpses, although I did enjoy The Devil’s Rejects and I’m a huge fan of Rob Zombie’s music. So with that in mind, this was my first visit into the world of Michael Meyers and, for better or worse…I enjoyed it.
Halloween is the retelling of the classic John Carpenter film of the same name, released in the 70s and starring Jamie Lee Curtis. The film was so successful that it spawned countless (and pointless) sequels and even brought Curtis back for a sequel at one point. Having not seen any previous films in the series, I don’t know how much was new to Zombie’s version, but from what I’ve read, one thing is true: we’ve never seen this much of Michael Myers before. While the original Halloween focused more on Laurie Strode (Curtis’s character, played in Zombie’s film by Scout Taylor-Compton), this film spends a full hour exploring the history of Michael Meyers and the reason he is the way he is. It removes the “boogie man” element from the series and instead puts a face behind the mask, one we hear talk as a boy, but never again once he grows older. The film certainly delves deeper into Myers history than any other and whether that’s better or worse is for the fans to decide.
My aforementioned dislike of horror but affinity for Rob Zombie’s past works made it a bit conflicting for me and whether or not I’d end up reviewing this title. I ultimately decided it couldn’t hurt and a few strange dreams that may result from the film would be acceptable if it turned out to be a decent film. I really did enjoy the film; it’s odd saying that, considering how utterly demented a story it was, but it really was superbly executed in almost every way. The decision to focus the first half of the film entirely on Michael made for a very disturbing look into the mind of a psychopath. The subsequent killings Michael makes as a child is also quite disturbing and when he walked into his baby sister’s bedroom you could feel your stomach twist a little bit. Having not seen previous films, I had no idea that the character at the end of the film was actually his sister, so because of this I had an entirely fresh take as to what was going on with the film. Everything was new to me and for that reason alone I think I enjoyed it more than I would have had I seen the previous installments.
The actors in the film did an especially remarkable job of not coming off as too cheesy. That was my main issue with Zombie’s past films, although there it was obviously intentional, the goofiness just didn’t really gel all that well most of the time (except in The Devil’s Rejects, which is just an unexplainable movie to begin with), so I was glad to see the humor kept to a minimum in this film. I cannot think of any moments where I actually felt my mouth curl into a smile in the least, except during a few of the sequences with Malcolm McDowell’s character (Dr. Samuel Loomis). Everything else in the film was appropriately dark and kept in the level of Myers dementia. The psychoanalysis of demented individuals and what made them what they are has always been an interesting aspect to me and the breaking down of Loomis’s results while talking with Michael in his youth created an especially disturbing portrait of a series of events that aligned to create such a true psychopath.
Also a highlight of the film was Sherri Moon Zombie’s role as Deborah Myers, the mother of Michael. While it’s no wonder why Zombie continually casts his own wife in his movies, she has never dragged any of them down and in Halloween she really adds to the film in ways that you couldn’t even begin to count. She’s genuinely motherly in the film and hints to Michael and the Dr. Loomis that she doesn’t truly believe that Michael killed everyone in the house that night; it’s not until she sees Michael kill a nurse and Michael begins yelling at his mother when she removes his mask after the fact do we see she begins to accept what happened. By the time she commits suicide in the film you can truly understand why she would rather kill herself than live with the thought of what she had helped “create.” A truly sad affair, especially considering Michael was his most “normal” around his mother.
Another thing that leapt out at you was the score, which aside from employing the classic Halloween theme to begin with, was equally haunting in every sequence. Especially during the early murders in the film, the music was just perfect and created the necessary tension. When all of this was combined with the directing by Zombie, which took the appropriate horror-style camera tilts and awkward angles, it all made for a really well crafted film.
With over two hours of footage in its belt, I’ve no idea what was “unrated” in this version of the film when compared to the theatrical, but I can guess there was a bit more nudity involved than we had originally. The film also had its fair share of explicit language (both at home and at school) particularly during Michael’s childhood that undoubtedly influenced part of his mind to become unhinged. In an almost odd way Zombie created a film where the viewer feels slightly compassionate towards Myers at the end of the film, rooting for him to take a step towards sanity rather than completely letting go. I’m sure that can’t be said for the original Halloween; I’m sure this one loses part of the intensity and scary moments that made the original so famous, but even if it is lighter in that fare, Rob Zombie’s Halloween makes up for it with perhaps the even scarier element: what it takes for an individual to truly become a psychopath. Recommended.
Arriving in two separate two-disc editions (Unrated Widescreen and Rated Fullscreen), Halloween will certainly make for an interesting Christmas gift when it streets on December 18th. While the release date for the film may be odd, it makes sense to release it sooner rather than waiting until next Halloween to release the DVD—and for the fans of Zombie and of the film, it will undoubtedly make their day to see this unrated two-disc edition, which is filled with great extras and featurettes.
Arriving in a standard amaray two-disc case (with the locks), there is no insert or outer slipcover and the interior disc art mirrors that of the front cover for both the unrated and rated DVD releases. Also a note I want to make is that the plastic insert covering on the front of the DVD seems to be made of a thinner, more rubbery material—this is the first DVD case I’ve seen this on, so I don’t know if this is a turn to be more environmentally friendly or what, but it has a noticeably different texture. Not terribly important when talking about this film, but it’s just something I felt was worth mentioning.
Menus are simple and easy to navigate and video and audio for the film are what you’d expect. Video is consistently clear, with great black levels and very little noticeable compression. Audio isn’t exactly a powerhouse when it comes to surround work, but there are a few elements, mainly later in the film, that get some rear channel play.
Moving onto the extras we have a full-length film commentary from Rob Zombie. While he can be dry at times and merely point out the obvious, he does his best to explain the reasoning behind the film and the reasons he chose certain shots over others. His career as a director is still young, but it’s obvious he has the love for it—hopefully he’ll be able to continue it. Seeing that the commentary is the only extra on the first disc, it is actually just an option from the main menu of the DVD, rather than being shoved into a sub-Special Features menu. Nice streamlining job there.
Disc two starts off with an alternate ending to the film, which also has commentary by Zombie. This alternate ending has it ending shortly after Michael pulls Laurie out of the car; Michael then lets Laurie go after some persuasion from Loomis and the Haddonfield police force then open fire on Michael, dropping him to the ground. Not quite as impactful as having Laurie kill Michael herself, thus showing off some of the insanity that she may or may not have inherited from being related to the psychopath and for that reason alone I’m glad Zombie went with the ending that was used in the film.
Next up is a series of deleted scenes, also with commentary. The large brunt of these scenes is just explanatory scenes and they actually contain a large bit of humor courtesy of Loomis. Again, these scenes would’ve either been unnecessary or simply too unfitting for this film and they were all cut for the right reasons. A semi-lengthy blooper reel follows these deleted scenes and is mostly just Malcolm McDowell going off on tangents about whatever pops in his head. Sherri Moon Zombie also has a fair share of flubs here, but they’re really the only two who actually break most of the time.
“The Many Masks of Michael Myers” takes us on a brief tour of the hundreds of masks he made while in his cell, while “Re-Imagining Halloween” is the real behind-the-scenes featurette here, dedicated to the initial concept of doing the film, to the production, makeup, special effects, props and wardrobes. Altogether they only run about twenty minutes, but they’re nice, short and to-the-point. After these extras we have a “Meet the Cast” bit with some quick interviews about how they came to be on the film and why Zombie chose them for the parts. Twenty-nine minutes of screen tests by the chosen actors is included as well as a quick screen test of Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Chode.
Overall this is a solid DVD set to accompany a solid film. While the extras aren’t as elaborate as the two-hour documentary on the making of The Devil’s Rejects they’re adequate and pleasing enough. Like the film, this DVD set comes Recommended.
Halloween – Unrated Two-Disc arrives on DVD on December 18th.
Be sure to check out the Michael Myers Rampage game online here.