Judge Ike Oden has the blackest eyes. The devil's eyes.
Our reviews of Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers (published May 11th, 2001), The Halloween Collection (published October 31st, 2011), and Halloween H2O (published December 7th, 1999) are also available.
Everyone's entitled to two good scares.
Echo Bridge puts out a double feature for slasher fans to die for. Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, the sixth and seventh entries of the popular franchise, have finally arrived on Blu-ray packaged together on one budget friendly disc.
When last we left Michael Myers (a.k.a. The Shape) in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, he had been captured by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance, The Great Escape) and Haddonfield's police department, only to be broken out of his jail cell by the mysterious, gun wielding Man In Black. We pick up several years later in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The Cult of the Thorn, led by the Man In Black, has impregnated Myers' niece and kept her captive. On the night of the birth, Myers resurfaces to destroy her and the child. Before she succumbs to a bloody end, she stows the baby away before The Shape can get to it. The baby is recovered by Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd, Clueless), a Myers victim (he was being babysat when The Shape struck in the first film) who has grown obsessed with the murderer. He enlists the help of Dr. Loomis to protect the baby from Myers, while trying to warn the family occupying the killer's childhood home of the threat that's returned to Haddonfield.
Woo, that was convoluted, and all for naught, it seems, as Halloween: H20 retcons the confusing cult subplot in favor of getting back to basics. Following Myers' original Halloween rampage, Laurie Strode (Jaimie Lee Curtis, True Lies) entered the witness protection program, faking her death to become Carey Tate, a functioning alcoholic and headmistress of the private school her 17-year-old son (Josh Hartnett, The Faculty) attends. The twentieth anniversary of Michael Myers' massacre rolls around and, of course, The Shape finds them. A final showdown between Strode/Tate and her Boogeyman ensues.
Barring the woefully misguided, semi-Meta Halloween: Resurrection, I love all of the films in this slasher franchise unconditionally. The original towers over them all as a true classic, while its follow-up is one of the most inventive slasher sequels ever made. The fourth and (aforementioned) fifth sequels turn the killer into more of a Jason Voorhees type, veering the series toward splatter in a gleefully entertaining, if somewhat kitschy, way. I even appreciate Rob Zombie's remake and its sequel, which approaches Michael Myers and Laurie Strode like a backwoods true-crime narrative. Love it or hate it, Zombie gave The Shape pathos. With this information in mind, it should come as no surprise that I dig this double feature. The films are far from the perfection of John Carpenter's original, but are a lot of fun if taken on their own terms.
If you can't tell by the plot synopsis, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is easily one of the most overwrought slasher films ever made. The script by Daniel Farrands (adaptor of Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door) is the most ambitious piece of writing in the franchisee, attempting to make sense of all the weird, tangential subplots of the series while also harkening back to the original films. It never quite comes together the way it should, but Farrands addresses lingering questions raised by the sequels and while keeping the slasher element fast and efficient. Yet, despite best intentions, the film's scope is never fully executed, creating a tell-all mythos movie that raises more questions than it answers. Did Michael really impregnate his niece? Why did Dr. Loomis go back inside Smith's Grove at the end when everything was so neatly wrapped up? What's with all the stuff about genetics and cloning? The lack of answers is partially due to studio meddling (the infamous, still unofficially released Producer's Cut has a more cohesive narrative but problems of its own) and partially due to the fact the cult subplot never made a lick of sense to begin with.
For a film with so fragmented narrative, the direction is especially strong. Though he approaches the gig as a director-for-hire, Joe Chappelle (Phantoms) crafts a slick, sick looking slasher that crafts the Midwestern Halloween setting to perfection. The film moves as quickly and ruthlessly as the killer haunting it, though the music video style is sure to repel some, as is the quick cuts and somewhat industrial rock score (the droning heavy metal take of the "Halloween Theme" is so 90s it hurts).
The cast isn't half bad, either. Besides the always great, surprisingly restrained Donald Pleasance reprising his role as the Van Helsing-like Dr. Loomis, the real standout of Curse is Paul Rudd. Though he's known mostly for playing laid-back nice guys in Judd Apatow comedies these days, he started his career giving an intense performance here that recollects Pleasance's first outing as Loomis. Clearly, Tommy was meant to take the post of Myers' pursuer in the series (Pleasance died shortly after the film wrapped), a smart move that gives us a strong link to the first movie. It's too bad it didn't work out that way, as Rudd makes Tommy Doyle charming, hard-boiled, and a little crazy, culminating in one of the finest characters in the series. Plus, he wails on Michael Myers with a lead pipe at the end of the film, which is totally badass.
Halloween: H20 is the polar opposite of Curse. It doesn't care about continuity and has no interest in the other sequels besides the second film. Instead, the film is less concerned with adding to the mythology of the series than it is cashing in on Jamie Lee Curtis' scream queen status. H20 is a vanity piece, an uneven homage to Carpenter's original film that never once tries to be anything more than coda to a classic horror film.
Curtis' new take on Laurie Strode is a far cry from the innocent, likeable tomboy that audiences fell in love with in the original. In H20 she is cold, shrewish, and unlikeable. The character change is understandable, but the film pushes it really, really far and just barely justifies the shift in persona, too often curtailing into obvious melodramatic dialogue and PTSD clichés when a little implication would have done the trick. Curtis plays it straight and does well by the character, and when she goes toe-to-toe with Myers in an absolutely awesome third act she makes you remember why Laurie Strode will forever be the Alpha and Omega of Final Girls. The rest of the cast brings their A-game to their stock characters (even LL Cool J!), though only an earnestly hormonal Josh Hartnett (in his first major role) and very amusing Joseph Gordon Levitt make any sort of impression. By the way, Levitt's in the film for all of five minutes. I (and my man crush) just want to note that he's just that good.
Steve Miner (Warlock) directs in a style that shoots for early Carpenter, but lands somewhere closer to Wes Craven's Scream (which also very intentionally mimicked the cinematography Halloween). It looks a bit generic for my taste, and so does Michael Myers, for that matter. For legal reasons, the film was forced to use three different masks, none of them particularly menacing looking. They don't look as stupid as the untucked Halloween 5 mask, but they don't look super great, either, because of wide eye holes and strange facial creases that detract from the "faceless killer" menace of Myers.
Those gripes aside, the film is an entertaining, if slightly overhyped, entry in the series, simultaneously detracted and carried by Jamie Lee Curtis. It's her movie, and if you like her returning to the franchise, you'll enjoy the movie itself. There are a lot of great moments to be had beyond the Myers/Strode battle, including a mother and daughter's near rest-stop run-in with Myers, a fantastic elevator maiming, and an opening that's an exquisite callback to the original movie. Sure, it's a vanity piece, but it's an entertaining, well-meaning vanity piece that's hard to fault.
Echo Bridge brings both films out for the first time on Blu and they look and sound pretty. For one thing, both films have been modified from their original aspect ratios into 1.78.1 transfers. It's hardly noticeable, but the mere fact Echo Bridge so lazily did this irks me to no end. Curse is presented in 1080i, H20 in 1080p, but the difference between them is negligible—there's edge enhancement to tell you this is a smash-and-grab transfer, though the colors look nice and robust in Curse. I consider them a step up from the non-anamorphic DVD transfers the preceded both releases, but the aspect ratio tomfoolery will be a deal breaker for most fans. The stereo mix is equally lazy, with a mismatched imbalance of low dialogue and jarring musical jump scares that'll have you adjusting your volume frequently. There are no extras (not even the puff piece featurette from H20's DVD!).
If you're a Halloween completist absolutely desperate to have these sequels on Blu-ray or a newbie to the franchise less concerned with specs than owning the films, this disc is for you. It is easily technically the best these films have looked (not sounded), but Dimension/Miramax's treatment of the series on DVD so far that isn't saying much.
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