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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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Halloween (Unrated Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]

(aka "Rob Zombie's Halloween")

 

(Rob Zombie, 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Dimension Films

Blu-ray: Genius Products/Dimension Extreme

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 121 min

Chapters: 24

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: October 21, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English D5.1 Dolby TrueHD, English DD 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English SDH & Spanish (feature film only)

 

Extras:

• Disc 2: Documentary: Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween (4 hrs. 20 min.)

• Commentary by Writer/Director Rob Zombie

• Deleted scenes with optional commentary. (22:19)

• Alternate ending with optional commentary. (3:45)

• Featurette: The Many Masks of Michael Myers (6:26)

• Featurette: Re-imagining Halloween (19:11)

• Featurette: Meet the Cast (18:16)

• Featurette: Casting Sessions (29:52)

• Scott Taylor-Compton screen test (7:47)

• Bloopers (10:18)

• Theatrical Trailer (in letterboxed 480p)

 

 

The Film:

For those of you (like myself) who didn't already know but must be dying to ask: since about the late 1980s, having founded the heavy metal band, White Zombie, Rob Zombie has been the stage name of Robert Bartleh Cummings and, appropriately enough, the name he used to write and direct his remake of John Carpenter's classic 1978 Halloween. Despite his movie being generally panned by critics (Rotten Tomatoes scores 26% and Metacritic 47), Zombie's Halloween has been the biggest money maker of the Halloween movies (according to Wikipedia.)

Given its ratings, which I had more or less in mind having looked it up in passing interest many moons ago, I came to my first viewing with low expectations. Much to surprise, I found that Rob Zombie actually knows something about how to put a movie together. More about that shortly. Zombie's Halloween is very much a rethink of Carpenter's film. The Michael of the original is actually the Boogieman: the manifestation of mindless Evil. There is no explanation offered for his killing. He just kills, and he's pretty much unstoppable. Zombie, on the other hand, spends a considerable part of his movie (nearly half) in placing Michael in a psycho-social context, though he is smart enough to assure us that his environment doesn't explain him, it only provides the catalyst. As Dr. Loomis puts it: A perfect storm of internal and external factors gone violently wrong.

Zombie's Michael is 10 when he commits his first murder, already 4 years older than Carpenter's, which not only gives him not only more time for the social context to work its way into him but, being older, he's also stronger and does more damage. When Michael makes good his escape from the psych hospital many years later, he is correspondingly bigger and stronger as well (the actor who plays, Tyler Mane, is 6' 9"), with a greater body count to his credit.

There is something particularly creepy about Carpenter's Michael simply because he is so primitive, so inexplicable. Our identification is with his victims because they are innocent. Not so in Zombie's film. Though no one deserves to die at his hands, most of his victims – with a few exceptions of the ones we have some acquaintance – are just nasty enough that we find ourselves rooting for Michael as a sort of avenging angel, however criminally psychopathic he may be. This may be an uncomfortable place to live in, even for two hours, and it may or may not have been Zombie's intent, but I found the feeling fascinating to sort out. All the same, I think it gets in the way of coherency.

 

 


As for the filmmaking itself, aside from some painfully clichéd dialogue and line reading, especially in the earlier parts of the movie, Zombie has an informed way with camera and lighting. There are some moments of genuine terror – as when Michael tears down a ceiling searching for Laurie (played by a sympathetic, but generally unsimpering18 year old Scout Taylor-Compton) who is up there trying vainly to stifle her screams, or when Laurie leaves an envelope in the door slot of the old Myers home and Michael, waiting on the other side, takes it from her. There is sometimes a fusion of time and place almost more artful than it needs to be, that is, until we learn more about why Michael is so set on following Laurie in particular.

Zombie can be painterly with his images: as the juxtaposition of Laurie, a tombstone, and the body of her girlfriend lying nude and dead in the small room she is imprisoned in; or when Laurie is trapped at the deep end of an empty swimming pool, filled with fallen dead leaves, as Michael makes his way toward her; or in Michael's cell in the hospital completely lined with his handmade masks. It is the mask that is the main image of the movie. When Michael makes his way back to his home after so many years and he digs up his old knife and the adult mask he killed his sister in, we feel how he has grown into that mask and that it has become him and vice-versa. I have to admit, it's a compelling piece of cinema.

 

 


My teeth still itch at Dr. Loomis' line at the end when he says in response to the question of Michael's being the boogeyman: As a matter of fact. . . I do believe it was. It's a terrible line, far too parsed for this moment, and even more badly recited by Malcom McDowell than Donald Pleasence. A simple 'Yes' would have sufficed. After all, it's a conclusion Loomis resisted for 15 years. In any case you can't have (AS fact of matter aand I believe do)in the same sentence. Loomis may be exhausted, but he's still an educated man.

Zombie does rely too heavily on Carpenter's music, as perfect as it is most of the time, just as he rarely cuts away from Michael's slashing. It does become a bit much, but just when things could get worse, his film turns poetic. He's a very strange filmmaker.

 

Image: 7/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

From the look of the parts of the film that show off the medium, I'd guess that this Blu-ray does a better than fair job of recovering the image that's on the film. Especially in the first part of the film, the raw and hand-held photography seems careless, without little regard to lighting. But over time, it is clear that what we see is likely what is on the neagtive. Since much of the movie takes place at night it is of utmost importance that it be free of noise in the shadows – and so it is. And there are shadows, and the shadows do or do not have information as filmed. I was not aware of worrisome artifacts or dirt. Bit rates generally in the upper 30s. I was, frankly, surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/8
The audio track mixes music with FX at times like a sound painting. One of the best examples is the scene where Michael tears down the ceiling searching for Laurie. What begins as a naturalistic rendering of the breaking up of wood, evolves into a complex pastiche of music and increasingly scary noises. At a couple of points I actually thought my upstairs neighbors were pounding on my ceiling, as if to demand I turn the volume down, but it was all in the mix. Brilliant! Dialogue could have been a tad clearer at times. I would have given the music rating a higher score if there was a little less of Carpenter's theme.

 

 

 

Operations: 5
Chapters are viewable only a few at a time, so search is hampered. Similarly, the extra features are viewable only a couple at a time: if you want to see more, you have to click - more than once before you're done.

 

Extras: 8
Probably no better example of the discrepancy between the persona and the artist can be found than on these extra features. Here's a man with more tattoos than visible skin, who introduces himself as Rob Zombie on the feature commentary, yet who speaks in reassuring tones, without a trace of connotation for his namesake. His manner is professional without condescension, confident, yet open. His comments are a well thought out diary of his creative process. Much the same could be said of his remarks for the ending he shot first and the deleted scenes, which he rightly discarded. Oh, yes, there's a four-hour-plus documentary on the making of Halloween – all six weeks of shooting plus preproduction - on the second disc in widescreen 1080i – more than you ever want to know about such things.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
I'm still surprised. You have to be willing to exchange one nihilistic vision for another. This is not Carpenter, but neither is it pornographic. Good picture. Very good sound. Worth a look.
 

Leonard Norwitz
October 14th, 2008

 

 

 

 

 


 

 





 

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