Dimension Films // 2007 // 121 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 15th, 2008
The face behind the mask.
I have some seriously mixed feelings about Rob Zombie as a filmmaker. I was bored to tears by House of 1000 Corpses. However, I Loved (with a giant capital "L") The Devil's Rejects. I also have mixed feelings about the original Halloween. Although I obviously recognize it as the genre classic it has become, it doesn't have the same resonance for me as it seems to have for many fans. Because of this, I didn't immediately throw back my head and howl when this remake was announced: I had enough faith in Zombie and enough detachment from the original to give the new Halloween a shot. As you might expect, my feelings about the result are rather mixed.
As for Halloween 3-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition, it's a cash-in release that repackages the previous two-disc Unrated Edition with a third disc containing a four-and-a-half-hour documentary about the film.
Young Michael Myers (a very creepy Daeg Faerch) is growing up in a very dysfunctional household. His mother (Sherri Moon Zombie, The Devil's Rejects) is a stripper, while his father figure is an abusive alcoholic (William Forsyth, The Devil's Rejects). As a budding sociopath, Michael likes to kill small animals and obsesses about death. One Halloween night he snaps and kills. This gets him placed into a mental institution under the care of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, If...). Years later he escapes and seeks to reestablish a connection with his little sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton, The Honeyfields. Death and mayhem follow.
Rob Zombie's Halloween would have been a great film if he hadn't tried to remake Halloween. The first half of the film covers the "origin" of Michael Myers and has little to do with the original film. The second half cleaves closer to its source, but sacrifices most of the touches (gritty trailer-park culture) that made Zombie's Devil's Rejects such a good film. Fans of Halloween are almost sure to hate the first half of the film, while fans of Zombie are almost sure to be disappointed by the second half. Since a shot-for-shot remake of the original would be pointless, the world would have been better off if Zombie had simply changed all the names and rewrote the ending to fit with his style.
Revisiting the film for this review, it struck me how effective the first half of the film is. Daeg Faerch is ridiculously effective as young Michael. He's capable of some very evil looks, but more importantly he can sell those moments when he's just supposed to be a "normal" little boy who doesn't understand the evil inside him. Sheri Moon Zombie and William Forsyth play off one another brilliantly, with loads of curses and insults flying. And, unlike many, I prefer Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis. In the extras, Zombie reveals that much of McDowell's performance was developed while improvising. The combination of his fierce intelligence with the energy of improvisation makes his character much more interesting (although I will grant that Donald Pleasence is better at deadpanning some of the film's more famous lines).
On the second time around, the last half of the film felt even more tedious. Once Michael finishes his encounter with Ken Foree, the film enters full-on slasher mode. However, it doesn't really add anything special to the formula. Halloween worked thirty years ago because it was different. Zombie throws a little more blood at the camera than the original, but the same stalking sense of dread just doesn't work this time. There are a few effective set pieces, but they just don't fit well enough into the narrative to make watching the second half as fun as the first.
Although the film is a mixed bag, the presentation is not. The transfer on this DVD isn't pristine (and who would want a pristine Rob Zombie film?), but it does preserve the "look" of the film. Blacks are generally strong, and color saturation has a nice tinge that suits the film. The audio has a punchy low-end that suits the film's brooding mood.
The extras on the first two discs are precisely those found on the previous Unrated edition of the film. On the first disc, Zombie provides a good commentary, filling the whole running time with production stories, as well as his ideas about the film and the franchise. The second disc includes an alternate ending (no more satisfying than the first), deleted scenes, and a blooper reel. There are a couple of EPK-style glimpses in "The Many Masks of Michael Myers" and "Re-Imagining Halloween." For those curious about the diverse group Zombie hired for the film, there's "Meet the Cast" and "Casting Sessions," as well as a screen test for Scout Taylor-Compton.
When it was first released, the 2-Disc Unrated Edition seemed pretty good. Zombie's commentary covered a lot of production info, and the extras were decent, if not exemplary. However, I (like many fans) wondered where the documentary was. Zombie had provided a 144-minute behind-the-scenes extravaganza for Devil's Rejects, but despite the famous cast and the controversy of remaking a classic, the original Halloween release didn't have a comprehensive documentary. Well, this new Collector's Edition remedies that. In fact, when the sticker on the front advertises "Over 4 Hours of All-new Special Features," they're basically talking about the 4.5-hour-long documentary included on the third disc: "Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween."
The documentary treats the making of the film in excruciating detail. It goes in chronological order from pre-production through to the final day of shooting. Although there's no narration, some semblance of order is kept by title cards. Most of the footage is candid shots of people working interspersed with some interview footage. There are also shots from the finished film that reflect the work we see happening on-screen.
I'm putting this in the rebuttal section for two reasons. First, this documentary is over four hours long. I thought the 144 minutes of the Devil's Rejects documentary was pushing it. Yes, "Michael Lives" provides heaps of detail about the film, but it's probably quite a bit more than most people want to know. Second, it's doesn't appear that anyone will be able to buy the documentary on its own. So, those who already bought the previous Unrated Edition who want to get the documentary will have to duplicate the first two discs. So, while I applaud the release of the documentary, it feels like a lame cash-in for Halloween.
I can't say that I would recommend Halloween to anyone. There are certainly large parts of it that I enjoyed, but not enough to give it an unequivocal endorsement. For fans of the movie who didn't get in on the previous edition, Halloween 3-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition is the one to own. If you already own the earlier version, then rent, beg, or borrow the third disc contained here, since it's unlikely that you'll be watching a four-hour documentary more than once.
Halloween is guilty of having too much Rob Zombie for a Halloween film and too much Halloween for a Rob Zombie film. The court admonishes Zombie to stick to original material from here on out.
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Ending
* "The Many Masks of Michael Myers"
* "Re-Imagining Halloween"
* "Meet the Cast"
* "Casting Sessions"
* Scout Taylor-Compton Screen Test
* Theatrical Trailer
* "Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween"