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DVD Review: Halloween – Unrated Director’s Cut

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Many said that the very idea of a Halloween remake was sacrilege. Others were open to the possibility of a new vision. There is a smaller subset of fans who love anything Rob Zombie throws at them. Then there is the larger pool of non-horror fans who don't care one way or the other.

Where did I fall? I would have to say I am a combination of all of them. I have been a fan of Zombie since his White Zombie days and absolutely loved what he did with The Devil's Rejects. I also love the original Halloween, perhaps not to the same level as many (or even most), but it deserves a special place in the hearts of horror fans.

Well, the controversial remake came and went from the theaters, burning bright and fading fast, greeted unkindly with a host of negative reviews from across the spectrum. A few liked it, me included, but the number of supporters was small.

Now, here we are, less than four months since that fateful day. The theatrical flame has long since burned out and the gift-giving season is upon us. It is the perfect time to remind everyone of this bloody, foul-mouthed, white trash affair and just how great a gift it would make. Right? I know everyone I know wants a little piece of Myers in their stocking.

You are probably familiar with the story of Michael Myers and the night he came home. The 1978 film, directed by John Carpenter, chronicles the night Myers escapes from the asylum that had been his home since he was a young boy, a boy who snapped and murdered his sister (in the remake, most of his family). He returns to Haddonfield and goes on a murderous rampage while Dr. Loomis, who worked with him for years, pursues him in an effort to cut his freedom short.

Rob Zombie's re-imagining amps up the violence and bloodshed. He takes the suspense out of the shadows, shining a light into the darkness. In other words, nothing is subtle in this version. Is that a bad thing? No. It is just different. Is it perfect? Again, the answer is no. Of course, I am not sure there is a perfect slasher film, although the original Halloween does come pretty darn close. Despite its failings, Rob Zombie's take does have something fresh to offer. It takes the seeds planted in the original (and in a couple of the sequels) and builds upon them effectively, creating a new universe to play in.

The first thing Zombie did was introduce an element of white trash to the idyllic suburban neighborhood of the original, signaling that a new universe is being forged, an alternate universe where middle class meets white trash. It is a distinctly Zombie flavor that has permeated all three of his projects thus far.

The biggest addition is to the first act, which centers on Michael as a young boy. In the original film this was just a small part in the beginning, concluding with Michael murdering his sister. Zombie adds context to the boy's life. Rather than a boy who randomly snapped, he is portrayed as a child living in an abusive family, bullied at school, who has even gotten into animal mutilation. He is shown as someone pushed to the edge and then shoved off into the abyss of pure evil. However, he has not lost all of his humanity. The driving thrust of this new Michael is not the motion of his killing knife, but his attachment to his baby sister. His overriding drive is to protect her at all costs, to the point of killing any threat.

The other big addition is the meaning of the mask. It is not just an uber-creepy look anymore. Throughout the first portion of the film there is a lot of focus on masks. The hiding of his face is an important part of Michael. He has a desire to cover his ugliness, and when he puts on a mask he becomes someone other than himself. It hides the real person, freeing him from any culpability for his actions. We all know that isn't true, but in his warped mind it allows him to do what the real Michael cannot.

You can read my full review of the theatrical version for more details.

The DVD release comes in two flavors, the original theatrical cut and a new unrated cut that runs 12 minutes longer. Besides the obvious length differences, the unrated cut has a couple of scenes that were completely omitted from the theatrical version and one sequence that has been completely replaced.

Beware of spoilers below!

The biggest difference is Michael's escape. The theatrical version has Michael being led out for a transfer by security guards, whom he overpowers and kills. In the unrated cut, the rape scene that appeared in the leaked workprint has been put back in. So, instead of being led out by guards, a pair of night guards bring another patient into Michael's cell and proceed to do the deed, unnoticed until a mask is touched, when all hell breaks loose. The escape scene from the theatrical release is not found among the deleted scenes.

Among the other instantly noticeable alterations is the inclusion of a number of black and white 16mm clips of young Michael in the asylum. These clips are accompanied by voiceovers by Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis.

The one noticeable omission is the scene with Bill Moseley and other The Devil's Rejects alums. This is a shame, as I liked that brief clip. It is also not found among the deleted scenes.

Also, during the film's climax, it is revealed that Dr. Loomis survived his encounter with Michael and is able to assist Laurie in her escape from the house. Not exactly believable, but it is nice to see the character alive.

A number of other changes are not instantly recognizable. Among them are a few extended conversations and some added shots of characters walking and such.

So, you are going to have to give some thought to which version you want. I think it really comes down to which escape you prefer. I think I like the theatrical better, although I do like the 16mm bits.

Audio/Video. The tech specs are all quite good. The 5.1 audio is nice and crisp and the anamorphic widescreen image is nicely detailed. Nothing to really complain about.

Extras. In addition to the new cut, the third counting the workprint and theatrical, this is a nicely loaded two disk set.

  • Commentary. The lone extra on disk one is a commentary track with writer/director Rob Zombie. It is a good track with no dead spots. He has plenty of anecdotes about each scene and why he made some of the choices he made. It is definitely worth a listen.
  • Deleted Scenes. These are a number of scenes that are neither in the theatrical nor the unrated version. Some of them are okay, but mostly they deserve to be left behind. There is optional commentary by Rob Zombie. (21 minutes)
  • Alternate Ending. This was the ending from the workprint, that features Michael getting shot down by an unknown group of cops. The theatrical ending is much better. (3.5 minutes)
  • Bloopers. This is your standard reel of flubbed lines. Kind of funny but nothing all that special. (10 minutes)
  • The Many Masks of Michael Myers. This is a brief look at the importance of the mask and how much effort the filmmakers spent on recreating the mask, respecting its significance. (6.5 minutes)
  • Re-Imagining Halloween. This is broken up into a few segments. It covers a lot of subjects, including Rob Zombie's initial concept and his contacting John Carpenter, the production design, special effects, props and more. (19 minutes)
  • Meet the Cast. This is a nice featurette. It delves into the importance of finding the right people and how he cast all of the primary characters. (18 minutes)
  • Casting Sessions. These are video recordings of the main cast members when they first came in to audition. Always worth seeing, to watch as they try to win the part. (30 minutes)
  • Scout Taylor-Compton Screen Test. This is a filmed test reading by Scout as she tries out for the role of Laurie Strode. It's always interesting to see how actors approach their characters so early in the process. (8 minutes)
  • Sneak Peeks. Trailers for Death Proof, Planet Terror, 1408, and The Furnace.
  • Theatrical Trailer. Exactly what it says it is.

Bottom line. I like this movie. It is in your face, brutal, and evil. Rob Zombie's film stands on its own as a successful film, not interfering with the legacy of Carpenter's classic original. If you like your movies a little on the gritty side this could be for you. Just remember that it does not attempt to supplant the original, but just to provide an alternate way of telling the tale.

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About Draven99

  • Gene Vallee

    I just viewed the new Halloween Movie and I dare say to ROb Zombie, “Bravo” this is the halloween Movie that will be the classic of them all, it is definately a jewel. It keeps your attention through the whole film and it’s not all sexual like most so called horrors are now made.