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Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 12/18/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/13/2007
I've never been crazy about Hollywood's apparent intent to remake every movie ever made, but for the most part, it didn't bother me. That is, until it was announced thatHalloween was being remade. As this is my favorite movie, I certainly had reservations about this, even though noted horror devotee Rob Zombie was attached to write and direct the film. I dreaded the idea of a Halloween remake, but I must admit that I was curious, and I actually ventured to the theater to see it. I left the cinema bewildered at the mess that I'd witnessed. Rob Zombie's Halloween is not only an unnecessary remake, it's an abomination.
Halloween opens in an undisclosed time period (it looks like the 70s) in Haddonfield, Illinois, where we meet 10 year old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch). Michael lives with his mother, Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie), who is a stripper, her loser boyfriend, Ronnie (William Forsythe), his older sister, Judith (Hanna Hall) and a baby who is known as Boo. Michael is clearly a disturbed youngster, as he likes to hurt animals, and his unstable environment doesn't help. He is also constantly tormented by those around him. (This may have to do with the fact that he's always wearing a mask.) After getting into a fight at school, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), a child psychologist, is brought in to evaluate Michael. But, before that can happen, he kills three people on Halloween night. Following this, Michael is incarcerated and Dr. Loomis is put in charge of his care. Deborah often visits Michael, who claims that he doesn't remember that Halloween night. As time goes on, Michael becomes more distant -- he stops talking and refuses to remove his homemade mask.
The story then jumps ahead 15 years. Michael (now played by Tyler Mane) has grown into a very large man. He has continued to remain mute and he still makes masks. Because of this, Loomis decides that he can't do anything with Michael, and takes himself off of the case. That night, Michael escapes from the hospital and heads for Haddonfield. When Loomis learns of the escape, he immediately begins to track Michael. In Haddonfield, we meet Laurie Strode (Taylor Scout-Compton), a teenager who has made plans to babysit on Halloween night. Her two best friends, Lynda (Kristina Klebe) and Annie (Danielle Harris), have plans to see their boyfriends. Little do they know that a masked killer is stalking all three of them.
In theory, Halloween should be judged on its own merits, but as it's a remake and I love the original film, I can't help but compare it to John Carpenter's film. Zombie has wisely decided to steer clear of mimicking Carpenter's style and he's given the film a much different look. That's about as close to a compliment that I'm going to get for this film. As far as remaking Halloween, Zombie has missed the mark on every level. Again, I realize that he was making his own film, but when compared to a classic, the movie doesn't work.
Let's start at the beginning. The idea to examine Michael Myers' childhood isn't necessarily a bad one...but any sort of examination robs Myers of his mystique. To make matters worse, Zombie uses the most stereotypical elements -- abusive environment, hurting animals, etc. -- to explain Michael's violence. However, there's no consistency. Michael is violent, then he can't remember what happened, and then suddenly he's not talking anymore. It doesn't make any sense. Zombie has obviously worked hard to bring a sort of gritty realism to the film, so why aren't there any other patients at the mental hospital? And no institution would allow a patient to wear masks like that.
Story wise, the second half of the film bear a stronger resemblance to the original Halloween, but Zombie has made a huge mistake by waiting so long to introduce modern-day Haddonfield into the film. We don't really get a chance to get to know Laurie, Lynda, or Annie. Lynda is barely in the film for 10 minutes before she is killed. This part of the film is far from fast-paced, but we can't help but feel that we are missing so much as we watch these characters, who are little more than random strangers, stalked and killed. Why should we care about them? And what's the deal with Michael Myers being so big? Are we supposed to believe that this is that Dakota Fanning-looking kid grown up?
Again, I realize that this is Zombie's film and not Carpenters, but Zombie's tone simply doesn't match the material. As stated above, the second half of the film mirrors the original movie as far as the plot is concerned, but the mood of the film is quite different. Halloween should be about subtlety and suspense, but there is no attempt at suspense here. Zombie's Michael Myers is simply a killing machine who busts down doors and wrecks houses in order to murder everyone in sight. This new Michael Myers makes the old one look lazy as he'll do anything to get to his victims. But, the film simply becomes an exercise in violence and tedium as we watch Michael attack everyone. The last 10 minutes is a numbing experience where we watch Laurie hide from Michael, but we don't really care if he finds her.
One thing which must be said about Rob Zombie is that he doesn't pull any punches and he's not afraid to depict human depravity and suffering in his films. This served him well in The Devil's Rejects where we had a character like Otis who was crazy and liable to do anything at any time. There was definitely a level of tension in that film as we knew that Otis was going to hurt someone, but we weren't sure when it was going to happen or how bad it was going to be. But, with Halloween, Zombie is locked into a familiar formula and we have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen. Thus, we're left with just the violence...and that gets old pretty quickly. I can only imagine that someone is going to have a drinking game based on this movie where you drink every time someone is crawling away from Michael and crying. This unflinching view of violence would have worked better had it been used sparingly. For example. there's a scene where a victim is attempting to escape from Myers and they flee from a house. Michael grabs them, pulls them back inside, and slams the door. The shot stays on the door for a moment, and I assumed that Zombie was going to have us imagine the carnage happening inside. But no, the scene immediately goes inside the house to show yet another crawling and crying victim.
I know that this review make me sound like a bitter old 1978 Halloween fan who simply hates the idea of a remake. That is true, but the reasons sited above point out why this film would have been awful had it been an original story. A movie following the life of a killer from childhood to adulthood could be interesting, but not if one takes the approach that Zombie took here. I liked Zombie's first two films, but I don't think that he was a good fit for this material. Simply put, I think that a Halloween remake was simply too mainstream for Zombie and the attempt to merge his gritty style with a classy classic simply didn't work. Do yourself a favor and go watch the original again.
Halloween is an abomination on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The movie has come to DVD in two separate releases -- an R-rated cut which has both the widescreen and full-frame versions and an unrated director's cut, which is widescreen. For the purposes of this review, the widescreen unrated cut was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture shows very little grain and only a couple of defects from the source material (white dots on the image). The clarity of the image works well here, as Zombie has given the movie a dark, cold look. We rarely see bright colors, but those which do appear, such as the red of young Tommy's costume, look fine. The image shows no overt distortion or video noise. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an impressive track, as it shows off the movie's nice sound design. The stereo effects are solid, and there is a good amount of surround sound action here. The subwoofer is used a lot, both with sound effects and with loud musical tones to accent the violence.
As noted above, there is an unrated director's cut of the film. As I've actually seen the R-rated version of the movie, I can tell you that the main difference here is that the manner in which Michael escapes from the institution. The R-rated cut shows a simply jail break, if you will, but the unrated cut features the much talked about rape scene which appeared in Zombie's work-print of the film. This scene is both repulsive and pointless, proving that the R-rated cut worked much better. It didn't matter to me that the rape scene had been put back into the film because the movie had already raped by childhood by sullying the name of my favorite movie.
The only extra on Disc 1 of Halloween is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from
writer/director Rob Zombie. This is an OK track as Zombie gives some notable
information about the movie. He offers a very detailed account of the various
locations used for the movie and the way in which one scene can contain shots
done in many different places. But, his talk lacks enthusiasm, and one gets the
feeling that he's tired of talking about the movie.
The remainder of the extras can be found on Disc 2. The DVD contains 17 DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with optional commentary by Zombie and run about 22 minutes. Most of these are from the first half of the film. We get a lot of footage of Dr. Loomis and Michael's mother talking about Michael. There are moments from Michael's escape which look more like the theatrical cut. There are also some alternate scenes here, such as when Loomis learns of Michael's escape. Judging from this, the rumors that much of the film was re-shot are true. And we get to see Adrienne Barbeau! In a separate extra, we also get the ALTERNATE ENDING (4 minutes) which again has optional commentary from Zombie. This ending dispenses with the pointless, suspense-free chase between Michael and Laurie. Next up is a 10-minute Blooper reel. "The Many Masks of Michael Myers" (6 minutes) examines the masks used in the film (we get comments from mask maker Wayne Toth), and there's also a look at Tyler Mane's performance. In "Re-imagining Halloween" (19 minutes), Zombie shares his thoughts on how he approached the remake. We then get an overview of the look of the film from production designer Anthony Tremblay. Wayne Toth then discusses the special effcts makeup used in the film, John Brunot talks about the props, and Mary McLeod gives us examples of the wardrobe. "Meet the Cast" (18 minutes) examines each of the major cast members and their characters, with Zombie commenting on each. We get comments from each of the actors. We also get to see "Casting Sessions" (30 minutes) for fifteen of the actors. And, we also get the "Scout Taylor Compton Screen Test" (8 minutes). The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, which is not 16 x 9.
On September 21, 2008, Dimension Home Entertainment released Halloween on Blu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. The image looks very good here, as the picture is sharp and clear. The image shows no grain (save for the black & white footage, and even there the grain is kept to a minimum) and there are no defects from the source material. This is a dark film, but the image is never overly dark -- the action stays out of the shadows and we can always tell what is happening. The occasional colors look good, especially reds. I didn't note any overt artifacting or haloing here. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects with no hissing or white noise. This is an odd track. The stereo effects are good and nicely detailed. However, the surround sound effects are nearly non-existent, save for the music cues. Simply look at the finale; there are plenty of opportunities for strong surround sound here, but it never happens. The music itself sounds very good and it delivers some nice bass tones, but sound effects rarely inspire the subwoofer.
The extras found on Disc 1 of the Halloween Blu-ray Disc are the same as those on the 2-disc unrated DVD. The second Blu-ray Disc in this 2-disc set features the documentary "Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween". This 4 hours and 20 minutes feature begins with Pre-production and then documents all 42 days of shooting. Clearly this piece is very in-depth and fans of the film should love it as it goes into great detail about the making of the film and contains tons of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage as well as comments from cast and crew. On the other hand, a four-hour-plus documentary for such a bad movie could be seen as overkill -- the piece lingers on on-set footage and the "fly on the wall" effect gets old very quickly.
It should be noted that the Blu-ray Disc of Halloween contains only the Unrated Cut.
Review Copyright 2007-2008 by Mike Long