Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – The Producer's Cut Blu-ray Review
Directed by Joe Chappelle
Written by Daniel Farrands
1995, Region A, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 23rd, 2014
Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis
Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle
Marianne Hagan as Kara
Mitchell Ryan as Dr. Wynn
Kim Darby as Debra Strode
Bradford English as John Strode
Keith Bogart as Tim
Mariah O'Brien as Beth
J.C. Brandy as Jamie Lloyd
Devin Gardner as Danny
Leo Geter as Barry Simms
George P. Wilbur as Michael Myers
It has been six years since the town of Haddonfield banned the Halloween holiday following an ongoing series of brutal murders at the hands of the infamous Michael Myers. After much effort, the decision has been reversed and a giant rally is planned on the college campus. Halloween isn't the only thing coming back to Haddonfield, as a radio talk show receives a call from a woman warning that He is coming back and only Dr. Loomis can save her. The good doctor has retired but cannot resist the plea and returns to face Michael one last time. Once in town, Loomis meets Tommy Doyle, a survivor of an earlier attack who has become obsessed with Myers and is currently in possession of something that might bring an end to the nightmare.
In 1995, Dimension Films released Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, a film that had publicly undergone a troubled production. There were complaints of studio interference and reports of extensive re-shoots after the death of actor Donald Pleasence. It did not take long before bootleg copies of the original workprint began circulating within the underground video community. Like all unfinished rough cuts, the picture quality was terrible, but fan interest made the content one of the most sought-after titles at horror conventions. Now, as the film approaches its twentieth anniversary, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Scream Factory, Dimension Films and Trancas International have teamed up for a super deluxe Blu-ray box set collection of the entire Halloween franchise and, as an added bonus, are including the restored Producer's Cut of this film. Having suffered through various pirated copies (first on VHS, then on DVD-R), I can gladly add my voice to the numerous fans that support this decision. But the question that lingers for anyone who hasn't seen it: Is it any good?
Director Joe Chappelle (Phantoms) and screenwriter Daniel Farrands (The Girl Next Door) set out to make a slow-burn character piece that gradually unfolds into a full-blown horror film. The script pursues the religious mythology of Halloween and traces the history of how the celebrations changed over time. Farrands was tasked with cleaning up the loose ends of the previous film that introduced a supernatural element and included a cliffhanger involving a mysterious man in black. His original script featured plenty of creepy set pieces but was soon viewed as either too slow or too expensive for the studio executives (pronounced: the Weinstein Brothers) who ordered frequent last minute re-writes.
As a result of this interference, Farrands' script was never fully realized and the film suffers from extreme gaps in logic. Michael Myers can now hide corpses in public without notice and also apparently teleport when necessary for a quick kill across town. Characters drift in and out of the script and – for shits and giggles – there's a whole druid community living under the hospital. The jumble stems from forcing the new ideas into the mix while trying to retain the ideas everyone initially agreed to use. When this early version failed to connect with test audiences, the studio stepped in again and made even more changes which introduced a new set of problems. The original cut was deemed too slow, so the picture was altered to include a fast-paced editing style, which is inconsistent with the content. The ending did not work and was replaced, the kills were not over the top, so another effects artist was brought in to go nuts. Parts of the original version that worked just fine were truncated and while the new finale at least returns the series to a familiar hospital environment, it simply adds more confusion and prevents anything resembling satisfaction.
The film landed in theaters with a thud and despite making back its budget, was deemed a critical failure. Chappelle eventually bounced back from the hit and has enjoyed a long career working in television directing episodes of shows like The Wire and Fringe. Farrands directed the mega-documentaries Never Sleep Again and Crystal Lake Memories, proving himself a master educator in the field of slasher franchises. The Producer's Cut is a flawed film, without question, but one that had more in common with the tone of John Carpenter's original than many of the sequels that came before or after. It is definitely worth checking out and Farrands offers additional insight in his audio commentary that fans won't want to miss.
Video and Audio:
For years bootleg copies have circulated the convention circuit and popped up on the internet with picture quality that ranged from barely adequate to blurry, eye-straining challenges for diehard fans only. Now, the first official version is sourced from the original film elements and presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is an understatement to say the transfer is anything short of revolutionary, as even the theatrical cut received a shoddy DVD release. Colors are bright and rich, while black levels are solid and there is plenty of small-object detail.
The default 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is the way to go here, as there is a surprising level of bass to this mix. Dialogue is clear and free from distortion and music cues are strong. There are plenty of ambient sounds and isolated effects that add to the experience. Fans of the original stereo mix will be happy to find the 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is faithful to the source. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Daniel Farrands and Alan Howarth sit down for an audio commentary that is pretty solid, but would benefit from a moderator. Farrands has a lot to say about this version and where it strays from his original script. Howarth discusses the changes to his score that resulted from the re-shoots, but is not as chatty as his companion on the track. Both men appear to be over the worst of the experience but seem disappointed in the missed opportunities of having this version properly finished and released in 1995 without interference.
Mariah O'Brien and J.C. Brandy reflect on their roles of Beth and Jamie, respectively, in Acting Scared (19 minutes), a standard talking-head segment allowing the actresses to share how they got involved with the production and the working conditions on set. O'Brien shares a fun story about recently working for an unexpected fan of the film, while Brandy discusses getting hypothermia after running around in freezing rain wearing only a hospital gown.
John Carl Buechler and make-up artist Brad Hardin discuss the various special effects and their approach to designing the iconic mask in The Shape of Things: The Murder and Mayhem of Halloween 6 (12 minutes). George Wilbur talks about returning to the role of Myers, and being replaced during the re-shoots.
Production Designer Bryan Ryan and Cinematographer Billy Dickson share the ideas behind the look of the picture in Haddonfield's Horrors: The Visual Design of Halloween 6 (11 minutes). Both men remember the the project fondly, but are candid in their thoughts on the studio interference and forced changes. Thomas Callaway replaced Dickson as cinematographer during the re-shoots and has mostly positive things to say about his experience.
Producers Malek Akkad and Paul Freeman reflect on the troubled production that was taken out of their hands by the Weinstein brothers in the too-short featurette A Cursed “Curse” (10 minutes). The tales are informative and entertaining, but it feels like they are holding back a bit or have simply given in to the disappointment of the experience.
Composer Alan Howarth was working with John Carpenter on Prince of Darkness when he got the call asking him to return for Halloween 6 and both agreed it made sense for him to continue the franchise. This is just one of many brief stories shared in the interview segment Full Circle (7 minutes).
Jamie's Story (8 minutes) is a long-overdue interview with Danielle Harris, who despite originally playing the role of Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 & 5, was dismissed from returning to close the trilogy, reportedly over monetary issues. Harris sets the record straight and gives an impassioned recollection of a terrible situation. The piece begins fairly traditionally, but as she gets into the tale her language grows saltier as she becomes more emotional about being denied closure. Easily one of the highlights on this disc, fans will want to start here.
If there is a missed opportunity on this disc it is in the Cast and Crew Tribute to Donald Pleasence. Running only three minutes, the stories are welcome but participants should cover the full franchise as opposed to limiting them to Part 6, especially as new content was being culled from the entire series for this release.
A brief teaser trailer reveals what the film promises to deliver.
A collection of archival interviews and behind-the-scenes footage (8 minutes) offers a peek into the original marketing material. This is followed by the original Electronic Press Kit (5 minutes) that shows how the film was presented to the media.
As a special treat, writer Daniel Ferrands documented the first week of filming on set with a video camera, and the footage is included here (24 minutes). There's a walk through the locations, some rehearsals with the director working with his cast and even some joking around with Mr. Akkad and a surprise change in the weather.
There are many versions of this film, and a collection of alternate and deleted scenes (7 minutes) displays a few variations that are in neither the theatrical nor Producer's Cut versions of the film. Some additional gore and dialogue and a different opening shot are included.