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HALLOWEEN
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, William Forsythe
Director:  Rob Zombie
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Dimension
Features:  See Review
Length:  121 Minutes
Release Date: 
October 21, 2008

“Was that the boogeyman?”

“As a matter of fact…I do believe it was.”

Film ***

I still remember sitting in the theatre with my girlfriend waiting to see Grindhouse, when a trailer that seemed awfully familiar flickered across the screen.  I groaned.  “They’ve remade Halloween,” I complained to her.  “How can they even think of remaking one of the quintessential classic horror films of all time?”  Then at the end of the trailer, the words “Directed by Rob Zombie” appeared on the screen.  I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Scratch that.”

So that’s how quickly I went from thinking Halloween should never be remade into actually eagerly anticipating the final product.  Rob Zombie, a long time musical favorite of mine, had commanded that kind of respect from me as a filmmaker.  His first feature House of 1000 Corpses was the first true throwback to 70s horror I had seen.  His second, The Devil’s Rejects, took the characters and the concepts even further, making for one of the truly best scare films of the new millennium.

So if it had to be done, Rob Zombie was the one, nix, the ONLY choice to recreate John Carpenter’s legendary and groundbreaking classic for modern audiences.  I felt in my gut that Zombie had the instincts to deliver what horror fans loved about the original, while expanding it into a new style that wouldn’t leave the same fans squirming uncomfortably.

I was right.  Halloween is better than the misguided remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Amityville Horror and others that don’t even rate mention.  Zombie’s angle was to go back further into the story…how did legendary killer Michael Myers (Mane) become what he became?

Most of the first half focuses on the young Myers (played at 10 by Daeg Faerch).  We see his home life, with a worthless father-in-law (Forsythe), a slutty big sister, and a mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) who earns a living on the stripper pole.  Young Michael has already shown an affinity for animal cruelty; never a good sign.

Michael engages in a brutal early spree, leaving most of his family dead and his mother in shock.  It’s then that he gets sent to Dr. Samuel Loomis (McDowell), who tries to reach the boy unsuccessfully. 

These early years are the best part of the film…we see whatever innocent boy Michael might have been slip further and further away, as his passion for masks and increasing silence begin to make Loomis realize he can never reach him.  Call it the portrait of a killer as a young man.  And as Michael grows into an incredibly tall, strong, and never speaking adult who eventually escapes from the asylum, trouble is brewing for his little town of Haddonfield.

That trouble, of course, involves a perky young babysitter named Laurie Strode (Taylor-Compton), and a bevy of friends who think they’re in for a wild Halloween night.  They have no idea.

Zombie, as you might expect, isn’t afraid to turn up the violence.  John Carpenter’s original was so suspenseful and effectively scary that it earned a reputation for being bloodier than it actually was.  No such mistake can be made for the Rob Zombie remake.  In fact, my only complaint involves the stretch of film after Michael returns until the final confrontation…to me, it was just an exercise in blood and violence, kind of by the numbers, and what you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill slasher pic, not one authored by Rob Zombie.

But the climax brings back the real momentum…it’s big, it’s suspenseful, it’s scary, and it’s masterfully handled.  And the added information about Michael’s youth makes for scenes that have even more impact than they might have otherwise.

All in all, I’d have to say that Halloween is a mostly successful re-imagining of a classic.  Being a fan of the original, I don’t feel insulted as I did by the numerous other 70s horror remakes of late.  Zombie as writer and director had the intelligence to make the unworkable work; if there’s an occasional misstep, they still come more few and far between compared to his contemporaries.

It still seems poetic justice to me that Rob Zombie is the man to bring real, authentic horror back to the screen for fans.  The man knows his genre, and most of all, he instinctively understands what fans are wanting to see.  Halloween may have been his greatest challenge to date, but he proves the impossible can be achieved.

BONUS TRIVIA I:  Early on, the movie White Zombie is seen on a TV screen, which is, of course, Rob Zombie’s original band.

BONUS TRIVIA II:  Look for Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Leslie Easterbrook and Ken Foree, all seen in The Devil’s Rejects, in small roles.

Video ****

This is a terrific example of how a horror film SHOULD look on Blu-ray.  Even though the darker scenes are plentiful, this high definition transfer renders them all with crispness and detail, and I can't really remember any grain or murkiness (though maybe I was just so engrossed in the film I couldn't pay attention).  Lighter scenes are delivered with the same kind of attention to detail and clarity.  A frighteningly good treat!

Audio ***1/2

This seems to be the same Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was on the DVD version, but it's a good one.  Dialogue is clean and clear throughout, and there are sequences of terror that employ the surround channels quite well.  The subwoofer gives the music a little extra kick…John Carpenter’s theme has never sounded so good!

Features ****

This double disc Blu-ray set is quite loaded, starting with the first disc and a terrific commentary from Rob Zombie.  He’s turning into one of my favorite directors to listen to, as he’s more than generous with details, thoughts and explanations as the film rolls along.

There is also an alternate ending, which apparently was never intended to be used other than to keep the real ending secretive, plus deleted scenes with optional Zombie commentary.  There's a blooper reel, a look at the casting including the Laurie Strode screen test, a trailer, and a couple of featurettes on “The Many Masks of Michael Myers” and “Re-Imagining Halloween”.

The second disc contains something fans of Rob Zombie have come to know and appreciate: an extensive 4 1/2 hour documentary on the making of the movie.  This is as in-depth, up-close and personal as you can get.

Summary:

By bringing in an effective and imaginative back story for one of cinema’s most notorious serial killers, Rob Zombie delivers in Halloween a movie that manages to be faithful to the landmark original, yet offer fans a little something new to chew on.  It’s not perfect, and will never replace the Carpenter original, but it offers plenty of good new meat for both fans and casual admirers alike.

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