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A new take on the legend and a new chapter in the Michael Myers 'Halloween' saga. Directed by Rob Zombie, this reimagining of the original Halloween horror flick finds masked sociopathic killer Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) on the run from the mental institution where he's been committed since he was 10 years old. Immediately returning to his home town of Haddonfield, Myers haunts teenager Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) -- and has no qualms about killing anyone who crosses his path.
For more about Halloween and the Halloween Blu-ray release, see Halloween Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 26, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris
Director: Rob Zombie
» See full cast & crew
Halloween Blu-ray Review
Rob Zombie's take on a horror classic comes to Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 26, 2008
I'm afraid you can't go home.
Director Rob Zombie's (House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects) Halloween courageously visits what is cinematic sacred ground, his film boldly entering the hallowed halls of horror history and re-imagining a film that is arguably the most influential, admired, and well-made horror film of them all, John Carpenter's 1978 classic Halloween. In some ways a re-imagining, in others a re-make, and in others still an expanded and in-depth look into the makings of the abomination that is Michael Myers, Zombie's film has its heart in the right place, but it doesn't quite nail the material the same way Carpenter's did. Carpenter's film offered little backstory on the killer, while Zombie creates for him an origins story that works rather well and gives the character another dimension. Where the film is less effective is in its third act, which plays more like a remake of the 1978 film with a few new elements tossed in to separate it from playing as too similar to the original.
These are the eyes of a psychopath.
Halloween introduces audiences to the young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) whose life is influenced by his low-rent, bad-attitude family. Michael seems like a normal child living in a dysfunctional world, attending school, wearing masks, and killing his pet rodents. Despite his rotten home life, he defends his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie, The Devil's Rejects) from the insults of the school bully by beating to a bloody pulp that same little thug later in the day; it is that action in the woods of Haddonfield that proves the first step towards his becoming a mass murderer. On Halloween night, young Michael, eager to trick-or-treat, is left to fend for himself; his mother is at work while her boyfriend (William Forsythe, 88 Minutes) dozes in front of the Myers' television, and his sister is entertaining her boyfriend. Michael dons his favorite mask and kills everyone in the house, and is arrested and ultimately incarcerated at a sanitarium where he comes under the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, Doomsday). Despite the best efforts of both Michael's mother and the good doctor, he grows into a hulk of a man, silent, obsessed with masks, and refusing to speak a word for over 15 years. Michael ultimately escapes the sanitarium and returns to Haddonfield on Halloween night in search of young Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) who may be the closest thing to humanity Michael has left, killing anyone who gets in his way.
The child christened Michael Myers has become a sort of ghost, a mere shape of a human being. There's nothing left here now.
Halloween begins as a character study, examining young Michael Myers' breaking point and attempts to explain the relentless, psychotic nature of the man he is to become. This lengthy exposition, more than any other aspect of the film, sets it apart from the original and serves as both the foundation of the film and also its strongest segment. Rather than simply (though uniquely) showing a young Michael Myers murder his sister, what is presumably his first kill, and skip ahead to his adult life, as was the case with the original Halloween, Zombie chooses to dwell on the character, his family, his odd behavior, influences, and his environment, all of which drive him to a breaking point, though it is presumed through the character's actions, such as the killing of a pet rodent, that a disturbed, perhaps tortured, soul has resided inside him for quite some time. This exposition is often hard to watch; the depiction of his lower-class, foul-mouthed, spiteful, and angry family is depressing and practically distasteful. Nevertheless, Zombie accomplishes here what he set out to do, which is to set the stage for Michael's rapid descent into insanity. Michael's foray into murder comes almost as a reprieve from the filth and despicable characters showcased in the film, and it is here that the film gains intensity and begins to take form. Michael's attack on the school bully is but the beginning, and the subsequent violence he inflicts on his family takes on a surreal, terrifying tone as he goes about his business with a certain aggressive nonchalance that makes the character truly horrifying -- as did Myers in Carpenter's film, and as he will later in this picture. It is also here that the child Michael first dons the famous mask, meant for an adult, and the vision of the young boy wearing the mask several sizes too large offers viewers a startling and phantasmagorical image, a harbinger of the character's bloody destiny. Zombie handles this first act with an honest brutality that conveys the true meaning of insanity and relentlessness, marking the high point of the film.
The film's second half is a beefed-up re-imagining of the original film, though it retains a plethora of elements from the original film to hearken audiences familiar with Carpenter's film back to that original. This is both good and bad. It's good in that the film recognizes its roots, pays homage to the classic around which it is structured, and creates an air of familiarity about the project. Character names are carried over to this film, some shots and sequences play out almost exactly like their 3-decade old counterparts, and some character dialogue and behavior are eerily similar. The problem is that Zombie cherry-picks certain elements to bring into the fold and leaves others out; the end result is a confused, jumbled, haphazardly constructed half that can just never decide if its the 1978 version or something completely different. Oddly, various classic scenes from the original are left out in favor of something else, while other, seemingly throwaway characters and scenes are brought back with striking similarity to the original. Some of the death scenes are more elaborate and drawn out, and some new ones are tossed into the fold. Surprisingly, gore isn't as elaborate or in-your-face as it could have been, which plays to the tone of the original, which featured minimal blood. Halloween doesn't need limbs and intestines and brain matter splattered all over every inch of the film, but the lack of intense gore came as quite a surprise.
In Halloween, Rob Zombie uses sound to great effect. There are several instances in the film where silence, an emphasis on one particular sound whilst others are drowned out or eliminated completely, or a series of lows, signal a turning point in the film or announce impending dread and doom. The best example of this comes in chapter eight. Michael has killed yet again, this time a nurse in the sanitarium. As the action becomes a jumbled scramble, the agony, the cries, the shock of the moment are replaced by a single sound -- the wailing of a hospital alarm. This potent, screeching, startling, constant sound signals the end of Michael as a human being and the arrival of "The Shape," as Dr. Loomis calls him, an inhuman machine that has succumb to true evil despite the best efforts of his mother and Dr. Loomis to save any shred of humanity that may have still resided in the child. "The Shape" has taken form, and only history awaits one of the most deranged and indestructible killers the world of cinema horror has ever known. In addition to a plethora of popular music, Zombie also re-uses the simple, elegant, and intoxicating theme John Carpenter created for his original film. The theme is perhaps more representative of Halloween than any other aspect of the film -- including the famous mask. Indeed, no self-respecting Halloween film would work without it, and its chilling presence adds to the mystique of the character and the films that incorporate it.
Halloween Blu-ray, Video Quality
Halloween stalks Blu-ray fans through its 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer. The picture quality is solid from beginning to end, but it never compares to the cream of the crop of high definition eye candy, an observation credited to the somewhat somber, dark look of the film, particularly during the second half. The movie offers some bright interior and exterior shots during the first half, but the second half, taking place at night and in many poorly lit interior locales, takes on a whole different look and feel. Take an exterior shot of Michael's school, setting the stage for a sequence as he gets into a fight in a bathroom. Plenty of depth and detail is visible, the bright, natural exterior makes the shot the first to truly stand out in the film. Previous shots in the Myers' home are somewhat dull and pasty in appearance, with ghastly flesh tones and only moderate detail. Blacks take on a more gray appearance in select scenes, but later, darker scenes in Haddonfield offer truer, deeper blacks. The sterile interiors of the sanitarium are bright and clean, where the is little in the way of backgrounds or objects to show off fine detail, though what is to be seen -- plain tiled or blue-painted walls, old, beaten chairs, or the occasional lunch tray with a pedestrian selection of bland foods -- look fine. Close-up shots of Michael, his mask, his clothing, and his flowing golden hair look marvelous. One of the finest segments of the film take place in an adult Michael's sanitarium cell, the walls covered in dozens, if not hundreds, of masks Michael has fashioned over the years. The resolution available on this disc shows each and every one off. They give the room a surreal, colorful, maybe even cheerful feeling, superficial as it may be as it only hides the true terror that resides in the room. Halloween offers well above average, though never striking, high definition material.
Halloween Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Presented with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack, Halloween's audio quality is on par with the video -- well above average but never spectacular. Dialogue reproduction is fine, and much of the movie is dialogue-centric, particularly the mid-section of the film, depicting a young, institutionalized Michael Myers. The famous theme, heard for the first time when Michael runs from school and Loomis speaks of his possibly deranged mind to his mother, sounds as good as ever, flowing from the speakers with a foreboding presence. The music, instrumental and vocal, drifts into the rears but remains centered across the front. The soundtrack doesn't start to spread out until a few minor directional effects are heard in chapter four as Michael flings halloween candy throughout the kitchen. When Michael strikes in the sanitarium in chapter eight, the alarm klaxon rings loud and clear through the listening area, emanating mostly form the front but managing to do its job well, filling the listening area with the sound that signifies the death of the human being inside of Michael Myers. Bass finally comes to the surface in chapter 10, and the track picks up in intensity in the final 30 minutes of the film with a barrage of screams, sound effects, and the chilling Halloween theme playing more often. None of it offers a strong presence in the rear channels, despite the presence of several scenes featuring the potential for strong atmospheric presence, like the blowing of wind and the rustling of fall leaves littering the Haddonfield turf. All in all, Halloween offers listeners a strong, though not completely aggressive, soundtrack.
Halloween Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Halloween comes home as a loaded two-disc special edition. Disc one begins with an audio commentary track featuring writer/director Rob Zombie. The director has a sort of hypnotic effect in his speech patterns, recounting of the filmmaking process, and his enthusiasm for the film and the commentary experience. It's hard to turn off once he gets rolling, and the track moves along at a brisk pace. Zombie walks audiences through the film, discussing the casting, trivial facts, shooting locations and challenges, the film's excessive use of foul language, props, changes in character behavior between the films, and so forth. Next are 17 deleted scenes (480p, 22:19) with optional commentary from Rob Zombie, an alternate ending (480p, 3:45), again with optional Zombie commentary, and a series of bloopers (480p, 10:18). The Many Masks of Michael Myers (480p, 6:26) features interviews with Zombie, actors Tyler Mane and Daeg Faerch, editor Glenn Garland, costume designer Mary McLeod, and effects artist Wayne Toth. The piece examines the various masks worn in the film, from the clown mask worn by young Michael that was purchased on eBay, to the reproduction of the classic mask worn by the killer in the second half.
Re-Imagining 'Halloween' is a three-part feature that examines various aspects of the filmmaking process. The piece begins with From Camera to Screen (480p, 6:18). Zombie discusses the approach he took to set the film apart from the original. Various cast and crew discuss the strengths Rob Zombie brings to a project, the influences of other films such as 21 Grams or The Constant Gardener on Halloween, the varying approaches to and tones of the film's acts. The Production Design (480p, 5:34) examines the film's set designs, color schemes, and more. The Makeup, FX, Props, and Wardrobe (480p, 7:18) wins the award for most self-explanatory title of the year. Moving along, a feature entitled Meet the Cast (480p, 18:16) is next. Here, the process of assembling the cast is discussed, and is followed by a closer look at each of the film's primary characters and discussions with the actors that portray them. Casting Sessions (480p, 29:52) features video snippets from the auditions of 15 different actors. Scout Taylor-Compton Screen Test (Laurie Strode) (480p, 7:47) is an extended audition sequence. The film's theatrical trailer (480p, 2:00) is next. Rounding out disc one is the option to access a BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) page, though the feature was unavailable at time of writing.
Disc two contains the massive 4.5 hour documentary that covers the entire spectrum of the filmmaking process. Broken into several parts, including Preproduction and 8 segments that look at all 42 days of the shoot, Michael Lives: The Making of 'Halloween' (1080i, 4:20:00) is one of the most comprehensive, painstaking, and thorough documentaries to date. Zombie begins by discussing his preference for original material, but also understands the opportunity of re-inventing an icon. After the first few moments, viewers will become enthralled in the piece; the candid trip into the world of the finer nuances of the filmmaking process is like an amusement park ride for film enthusiasts. The hard work that goes into making the film -- from scouting locations, the costume design, the casting process, creating storyboards, choosing the right props, and, of course, the day-by-day process of shooting the film -- is made accessible to everyday movie audiences. A title card announces the day of the shoot and the content of the shoot. The process of applying makeup to the actors, applying the finishing touches to the set, dousing people and places with blood, and most anything else one might imagine went into the making of the film is examined. Interview snippets with the cast and crew, as well as shots from the film, intertwine with the feature. Honest, fast-paced, intriguing, and highly watchable, Michael Lives: The Making of 'Halloween' is itself worth the price of this Blu-ray package.
Halloween Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ultimately, Halloween is more of a disappointment than it is a success, particularly considering director Rob Zombie's short but intriguing track record as a filmmaker and the lofty, perhaps unreachable goal of capturing the very essence of the best horror has to offer in John Carpenter's original. When a film takes on the grandfather of modern horror, perhaps the best it can do is build on it and pay homage in one form or another, and more often than not Zombie's film does just that. Rob Zombie is a fine horror director. He has an eye for filmmaking, a nose for gore, and ear for dialogue and characterization, and a genuine passion for the genre, and in each of his films, all four merge to breed true horror. Zombie has a unique style that is becoming more apparent through his three films, not only evident in the various characters, settings, and language he employs in his films, but also through a distinct approach to filmmaking that manages to capture the essence of terror. Halloween isn't his best effort, but all things considered, the film works well enough and makes for a fine supplement to the original film. It offers strong replay value, decent performances from some of the cast, but is a bit short on the gore. Meanwhile, the film's second half falters, in part because nothing can top the original. Fans of this film will be delighted by the quality of Weinstein's Blu-ray release. The disc offers solid video and audio quality in addition to a comprehensive supplemental package, including a commentary track and a definitive and exhaustive making-of documentary that runs more than twice the length of the film it discusses. This Rob Zombie remake of Halloween is a a film certain to create divided loyalties within the ranks of franchise fans, and only Blu-ray completists, Rob Zombie fans, or established fans of the film should purchase before giving the film a look-see.
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