Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 Days of Halloween - The Halloween Blu-ray Box Set

So I caved and bought the new Limited Edition 15 Disc Halloween Blu-ray Box Set. You know, this one:

Well, I traded for it. I took a bunch of stuff up to MovieStop and got a hefty chunk of that retail price knocked off. I also managed to get a free copy of 22 Jump Street (whenever it comes out). I’m still not sure how that happened.

I’ve watched the original, parts II, III, the Producer’s Cut of 6, and both Zombie movies. I haven’t made it to IV and V yet and I have no interest in H20 or Resurrection because they both sucked.

Who am I kidding? I know I’ll end up watching them. Probably by the time this posts.

UPDATE!: I’ve watched all of the movies now. More on that later.

My point here is that my opinion of Zombie’s remake and its sequel has evolved. It hasn’t really changed, but I’ve fleshed out my thoughts and have developed slightly different opinions.

Obviously they are two completely different stories. The original series (barring Season of the Witch, which I think is deserving of a spin-off series of its own, but only if they are all filmed in an 80s style; similar to the way Grindhouse aped the 70s) features a supernatural predator that returns from death after death and is seemingly invulnerable. Or at least can recover from anything. Any characterization of Michael Myers other than as a monster pretty much stops after the opening scene of Halloween
Rob Zombie’s remakes are an examination of what made and motivates that monster. Or at least, the genesis of the monstrosity. We get to know Michael Myers quite well and even see moments of seeming humanity from him when he and his mother are together (Sherri Moon Zombie is absolutely fantastic in these movies, by the way). As a grown-up, Michael Myers is not the silent, foreboding Shape that John Carpenter created. He is a grunting, yelling human whose face we see constantly throughout the second feature. He is far less supernatural and mysterious, which brings the invulnerability of this version into question.
The original Michael’s constant recovery and returns were easier to take because once we get past the opening recap of Halloween II he is completely The Shape. Rarely do we see more than his eyes and heavy breathing is the most that is heard. He moves like an automaton and is rarely seen to falter. You don’t question his recuperative abilities because he is clearly a force of the supernatural and something beyond human.

Zombie’s Myers is a different creature entirely, especially in the second film, which admittedly is an intentional and massive departure from anything the original movies established (though I absolutely fucking LOVE the feint and misdirection of the hospital opening). This Michael Myers is a human monster. We met him as a little boy and followed his life all the way up through his escape from Smith’s Grove and his ensuing fate at the hands of Dr. Loomis and Laurie Strode (which in itself is quite different from the original and seems to be setting the stage for the events and outcome of the second Zombie film). We know that he is flawed, but we also know that there is no magical force behind him other than psychosis and dementia. The visions of his mother in the second movie don’t seem to be anything more than just that – visions. She isn’t a witch providing him with power from beyond the grave. This is simply how Michael sees Judith Myers through his delusional eyes.

All of this makes Michael’s recovery from multiple massive traumas a little harder to wave away. Which is exactly what I did the first couple of times I watched Zombie’s movies, but now having seen them in close proximity with the originals I am noticing them a bit more. It isn’t really having an effect on my enjoyment, It’s just one of those things you notice.
I still love Zombie’s interpretations, especially the second one. It’s a wild, way-out movie that really departs from the Halloween mythos so much that it’s Zombie’s own movie. There’s no separating his ideals and aesthetics from the material. Zombie’s hand is as recognizable as Terry Gilliam’s or Tim Burton’s, which is one of the reasons I love his work so much. Sure, his dialogue is painfully bad at times. But I feel like that’s a by-product of his devotion to 70s cinema. If he could get someone to clean up his scripts I think we could get some truly incredible movies from the man. As it is, we are receiving unique and memorable ones and that’s good enough for now.

As far as general comparisons between the original Halloween movies and Zombie’s remakes – I prefer the originals as far as being stories of Michael Myers. He’s a pure evil that generates no empathy and that has never been a victim. Evil for the sake of evil. And his foil - Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode – is the perfect opposite. She is sweet, innocent, and kind.

And I think I just nailed my personal outlook on the two – the originals are a fairy tale. There’s a clear right and wrong unsullied by any sort of ambiguity. Good versus evil. But Rob Zombie gave us something closer to the real world - where there are shades of grey and everybody has their dark side. It’s gritty and ugly and sometimes it’s hard to know who to root for. I enjoy both for different reasons, but when presented with a Michael Myers I’ll take the pure evil every single time.

Now it’s time to talk about the movies that I wasn’t sure I would have time to watch before the end of the month. Actually, let’s just run down the whole list. Then I’ll hit on the box set and some of the features I’ve been able to check out.

Halloween – The original and still the best. Even on what could be my hundredth viewing the movie’s creepy, tense atmosphere is still effective. The young cast of victims do a great job of acting like regular teens. They aren’t overly obnoxious or trying too hard to be trendy and cool. They’re just kids.

Michael is pure evil and stabby. As he should be. The end of the movie is still shocking. Carpenter doesn’t even suggest the death of his monster. When Loomis looks over the railing, Michael simply isn’t there. It’s wild and surprising, especially considering the never ending cycle of deaths that we have seen the great slashers go through since 1978.

Halloween set a standard that no other slasher movie has ever met, let alone exceeded. It doesn’t have the sense of immature humor and the feeling of being aimed at young people that most other slasher flicks display. It’s a horror movie and it horrifies time and time again. 5 out of 5

Halloween II – The first time I saw this movie – whenever that was – I was delighted by the fact that it picked up immediately after the original. I still love that fact and usually have to watch the first two movies together. I consider them a single work. Carpenter didn’t direct this one, but he did write it with his original writing partner Debra Hill.

The feeling of continuity is very strong, as there are no major differences in the way that Michael Myers is portrayed and Jamie Lee Curtis once again plays Laurie Strode. Lance Guest plays a very likeable love interest for Laurie and the hospital setting is fantastic. 
Nobody likes hospitals, so the tense atmosphere that Carpenter is so good at comes easily and naturally.

The only reason this one scores lower than the original is that it isn’t, well, original. It’s more of the same. It’s great same, but it doesn’t do anything new. 4 out of 5

Halloween III – Season of the Witch – The first time I saw this movie I was terribly disappointed. Like a huge majority of fans of the franchise, I wanted more Michael Myers.
However, in recent years I have developed an appreciation and even a love for this standalone feature. We talked about it on Earth Station Boo and decided it fit nicely into the horror/sci-fi genre and was even an excellent example.

It’s not perfect and it’s certainly dated, but Season of the Witch is a lot of creepy fun with some unforgettable concepts and imagery that will haunt me forever.. 4 out of 5

Halloween 4 – The Return of Michael Myers – This movie brought the Shape back, for better or for worse. I love what they did with Jamie Lloyd and with Dr. Loomis. Danielle Harris does an absolutely fantastic job. Donald Pleasence gets to run around acting all crazy and just generally appearing to have a good time with his character’s mania. The character of Rachel is one of the most charming and likeable of the entire franchise. The movie is a little muddled and trudges in some places due to an unnecessary focus on the lives of the teenage characters, but overall this is a fairly satisfactory return to form with a feel that is new and yet still true to the first two parts of Michael’s story.

I love the fact that everybody is taking Michael Myers seriously in this one. The cops are out in force and there is a genuine feeling that Haddonfield is a broken town in the aftermath of his original crimes. I also love the end of the movie. The cops show up and simply blast the shit out of Michael Myers. No questions. Just shooting. And Pleasence sells the shit out of Loomis’ horror and dismay at Jamie Lloyd’s actions.

While I enjoy this one, it is definitely a sequel and suffers from a lack of direction and an overabundance of writers. But the kill count is high and Michael only feels slightly deviated from his stabby origins. He hasn’t (yet) fallen victim to stereotypical slasher tropes. 3 out of 5

Halloween 5 – The Revenge of Michael Myers – Part five is pretty bad. Michael becomes just another slasher looking for varied ways to kill his victims. Jamie can’t talk for most of the movie, which is hugely annoying. Also annoying is the fact that Rachel – a great character – is quickly killed off and replaced in the narrative by Tina, who is an annoying moron.

Rather than continuing the narrative of Jamie Lloyd’s following in the footsteps of her uncle Michael, the producers decided to make her mute and psychologically damaged. She also shares some kind of hokey psychic link with Michael, so we get scenes of Danielle Harris gesturing in an annoying manner interspersed with scenes of Danielle Harris having weird fits in an annoying manner. Lots of fits. And they go on for-fucking-ever. Listen – it’s not Harris’ fault. She’s doing what she was being told to do. But holy shit did they turn one of the most interesting child characters in the history of horror into somebody you dreaded seeing on screen.

Of course, you pretty much dread seeing anybody on screen in this movie, as the entire cast has been reduced to the same kind of stereotypical, annoying shitheads that were slowly killing the slasher genre at the time.

I can’t say I’ll never watch this one again, as I enjoy Donald Pleasence’s wacky performance and there are some good beats, but there isn’t much to recommend Revenge overall. It is, however, where The Curse of Thorn was introduced, so I have to give credit for that.
2 out of 5

Halloween 6 – The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut – The original version of this movie is quite flawed, but it has always been my favorite of the originals. Not the best, mind you. But the one I always had the most fun watching. I like the weird mythology of The Curse of Thorn (conspiracy stuff always gets me). I like Paul Rudd’s off-kilter portrayal of Tommy Doyle. Kara Strode is a solid new character that has a little depth. Her son Danny isn’t too annoying. And crazy Dr. Loomis is back again!

For years I had heard about The Producer’s Cut of this movie. Apparently it is something that has been floating around in bootleg form for years, but I never really pursued it because you never know how those sorts of things are going to turn out.

It turned out AWESOME. It’s still flawed, but the movie goes so much further with the crazy conspiracy/cult stuff. I had a blast watching this version and can’t wait to do it again. I always hated that Danielle Harris wasn’t able to reprise her role as Jamie Lloyd, and now it’s so much worse because of the character’s expanded presence in The Producer’s Cut.

This movie also looks slicker than its predecessors. I’m not overly familiar with the director, Joe Chapelle, but he’s directed a lot of television, including Fringe and The Wire. Halloween 6 has a great pace and a clean visual look that I really like.

While the standard version of Curse gets a “4”, The Producer’s Cut gets a higher rating for being crazier, more entertaining, and overall a standout entry in the series. I feel like it’s a sort of spiritual predecessor to Zombie’s take on the franchise in that it tried different things. 5 out of 5

Halloween H20 – I didn’t like this one when it came out. I felt like it was dumbed-down Scream-spawn and that it completely homogenized Michael Myers, making him just as generic and interchangeable as the rest of the slashers had become by the late 90s. I haven’t watched it since I saw it in the theater, aside from occasional snippets on television.
I went into this viewing with fresh eyes. I figured my younger self had been too harsh on H20 and that maybe there would be things there that I could appreciate now with a little more perspective on life and horror movies in particular. After all, it was Jamie Lee Curtis’ big return to the franchise. There must be something to appreciate.

Sure enough, there was something to appreciate. Clocking in at 82 minutes, it is the shortest movie in the franchise.

I kid, I kid.

At the beginning I was enjoying the performances from Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams. I liked their characters and their dynamic. And Curtis’ portrayal of a paranoid, shell-shocked Laurie Strode was solid. What I didn’t realize going in was that H20 completely scrapped the stories of Return, Revenge, and Curse. I didn’t remember that from when it came out (and it is somewhat subtle), but realizing it now was a mark against it. Anything that erases Danielle Harris from history is my enemy.

Within half an hour I was disliking this one and recognizing all of the things that had made me dislike it back in 1998. It’s bland, repetitive, and predictable. Michael Myers looks like a lame knockoff of Michael Myers. The mask is too tight and the actor is too human. He also gets knocked around. A lot. Here are some comments I made on my Facebook page while I was watching:

I can’t see watching it again. There’s just nothing special or interesting about this twentieth anniversary flick. 2 out of 5

Halloween: Resurrection – This is an utter piece of shit. I remembered about forty-five minutes in that this was one of the first movies that ever inspired me to get up and walk out of the theater. Maybe the first. Every fucking thing about it is intolerable. Every fucking thing. The cast is a horrible nightmare, even Katee Sackhoff, who I normally adore. 
It has a shitty pop music soundtrack, Michael looks like a joke and is basically treated like one, and the whole plot is a redo of Curse’s idea of a big media event at the Myers house, but done with reality TV instead of radio.

I hate this movie. Here are some Facebook comments to that effect:

I hope to never watch this garbage again. It’s no wonder they went after Rob Zombie to reboot it rather than follow up this fucking turd. Shit Sandwich out of 5

Okay, I will say this about Resurrection – Jamie Lee Curtis was great. I liked her character so much more in that one than I did in H20. I felt like that was the Laurie Strode I wanted to see. And while her death was kind of lame and definitely weird, she was great to watch while she was on screen.

I guess I pretty much covered my feelings about Zombie’s movies above, so let’s get to the set.

As far as it goes, it has the most current versions of each movie, along with a ton of all-new features. This is the fifteen disc set, not the slightly cheaper ten disc version that is not, as far as I know, a Limited Edition. Here’s Anchor Bay’s blurb about the set:

For the legions of Halloween fans, the Deluxe Edition boasts 15 discs and contains all the Halloween feature films – Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20, Halloween: Resurrection, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II. The set includes the NEVER BEFORE RELEASED producers cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers as well as the ultra-rare network TV version of the original Halloween, the network TV version of Halloween II, plus the unrated versions of Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II. It is packed with hours of BRAND NEW bonus features including new interviews with cast and crew from the entire franchise! In response to years of fan feedback, the first Halloween will now also include the original mono audio track and the set will include both versions of the original Halloween-the original Blu-ray™ release and the recently remastered 35th Anniversary version with the mono track added back in! It also comes with a limited edition 40-page book written by Michael Gingold of Fangoria Magazine. The collectible packaging will include a newly commissioned illustration on the outer case and each film will be in its own black Blu-ray™ case with the original theatrical one sheet as the key art. This deluxe set carries an SRP of $169.99.

That’s a bunch of stuff. I’ve barely even dipped into the Special Features. I should have started with the new disc, but instead I went back to the first movie and listened to the commentary featuring John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis and watched some of the documentary about Curtis putting together some kind of media event to exploit fans raise money for charity.

Putting those two things together in one viewing brought me to the conclusion that Jamie Lee Curtis is kind of an asshole. Not a malicious asshole, but one that is pretentious and dismissive of horror and its fans. She makes it quite clear that if she hadn’t come up with the charity thing she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with the kinds of creeps that enjoy the movies that launched her career. During the commentary track with Carpenter she seems almost regretful that she was part of Halloween.

Maybe I took certain things the wrong way, but I wasn’t thrilled with those portions of the Features.

And that’s really about as far as I’ve gotten. I wish I could’ve covered more, but October is busy, man. And it’s not like I got a free advance copy or anything.

The bottom line is this – the box set has pretty much all of the Halloween that exists at this point except for the excellent 25 Years of Terror documentary. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you have to have this set.

Just throw Resurrection in the trash. Or use it as a Frisbee. Whatever.

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