Sunday, September 14, 2014

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS - THE PRODUCER'S CUT (1995)

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS - THE PRODUCER'S CUT (1995) 

from
THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 15-DISC [DELUXE EDITION]

Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment / Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Video: 1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1:78:1)
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles: English
Director: Joe Chappelle
Cast: JC Brandy, Paul Rudd, Donald Pleasance, Mariah O’Brien, Leo Geter, Devin Gardner, Mitch Ryan

One of the Holy Grails for Halloween fans for years has been the infamous Producer's Cut of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995). After test screenings of the film didn't go so well the meddlesome Weinstein's at Miramax ordered re shoots which included more gore to punch up the death sequences and trimming out a lot of the Cult of Thorn stuff with a completely different finale which was choppy, you could tell it had been stitched together. This new version ended up being what we watched in cinemas and the original version became known as the producer's cut and has widely been available for years via a bootleg dubbed from a crappy third-generation VHS source - but no more! 


We we're lucky enough to get a preview of the HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS - PRODUCER'S CUT from the new HALLOWEEN - THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 15-DISC DELUXE EDITION from Anchor Bay, so enjoy a small taste of the set which is released on September 23rd...

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS PRODUCER'S CUT much as the theatrical cut picks-up six years after THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS which ended with Michael and Jamie Lloyd being abducted from the Haddonfield Police Dept. by the mysterious Man in Black. We pick-up with Jamie (
JC Brandy, KINDRED: THE EMBRACED) who is now 15 and pregnant  and being held against her will by the Cult of Thorn and impregnated by dear old Uncle Mike... that's right, this one goes the incest route! That was implied by the theatrical cut but here we have some black and white flashbacks that confirm it - sort of gross.  Naturally the incest baby is born on Halloween and the Cult of Thorn mark the baby with the Thorn rune and intend on having Michael sacrifice the child. Before this can happen Jamie and the baby escape the cult's underground compound with the help of a sympathetic cult member who dies shortly after when Meyers who rams her skull against a sharp implement protruding from the wall. With Michael not too far behind Jamie steals a pick-up truck but not before Myers  snaps the neck of the vehicles owner. She stops off at a bus depot to alert the authorities from a payphone but when she can't get through she opts instead to call radio shock-jock DJ Barry Simms (Leo Geter, NEAR DARK) and pleads for help on-air from Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) who  just happens to be listening. Knowing Michael will catch-up with her she leaves the child in the bus depot bathroom before continuing. Expectantly the Cult of Thorn and Myers catch-up and force her off the road where she crashes into a pumpkin patch and is stabbed by Myers. Jamie's discovered just barely alive and taken to the hospital but the baby remains safe, at least for now. 

Also listening to DJ Barry Simms that night was Tommy Dolye (Paul Rudd, KNOCKED UP) who was the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the first film. Now an awkward young man Tommy is  consumed with Myers. Playing back a recording of Jamie's desperate phone call (which he conveniently recorded) he manages to traces her whereabouts to the bus depot and finds the infant in the restroom.  At the local hospital where Tommy encounters Dr. Loomis and the two start trading Myers theories and the two join forces. Tommy lives across the street from the infamous Myers home which is currently inhabited by relatives of the Strodes.

The Strode family living at the Myers home are Kara Strode (Marianne Hagan, STAKE LAND), her young son Danny (Devin Gardner), teenage brother Tim (Keith Bogart), mother Debra (Kim Darby, BETTER OF DEAD) and a shit-turd of a father John (Bradford English, WOLF). Playing into the Cult of Thorn mythology is young Danny who is having visions of the Man in Black telling him to "Kill for me". It is revealed by the creepy babysitter Mrs. Blankenship that a young Michael Myers also heard voices telling him to kill before he murdered his sister. 


Eventually Kara, Danny, Tommy and Loomis cross paths and converge and Tommy explains what the Cult of Thorn is and we sort of piece together what they're end game is. Turns out that most of the Smith's Grove Sanitarium staff are cult members lead by Dr. Wynn (Mitch Ryan) and they intend for Michael sacrifice the baby and for Danny to sacrifice his own mother - it's up to Tommy and Loomis to stop the madness.

The film starts off strong with an authentic Midwestern Halloween feel about it, there's some great sets and the atmosphere throughout that are evocative of the season with jack-o-lanterns and kids in costumes, the setting just feels appropriate. The Myers mask is one of the better variations since the original film - this one is creepy. Director Joe Chappelle (PHANTOMS, TV'S FRINGE) keeps things on track with some decent kills and some nice atmosphere, this is a pretty great looking Halloween entry.

Far from a perfect film there are plenty of things that irk me about it.  Let's start with Michael burning the image of the Thorn rune into a stack of hay which is stupid but you  might be able to chalk that up to the handwork of the cult. I hated the introduction of the Man in Black in the previous film and I didn't care for it here either. I didn't mind the Cult of Thorn mythology but the spur-wearing MIB is just silly. A scene with Tommy stopping Michael in his tracks my having him step into a circle of rune stones is just laughable. Paul Rudd had yet to go onto success following CLUELESS when he took on this film and doesn't quite have the acting chops but he does weird-guy pretty well enough, at least he;s not as awful as the kid who played Danny, oh-boy.

This was the last film to feature Donald Pleasance in the role of Dr. Loomis he gives it a solid go but is obviously in a very poor state of health and died shortly after the film wrapped. I loved his introduction at the top of the film and I think his exit in the producer's cut - while not perfect - is way better than the chopped finale is the theatrical version.

Things missing from the producer's cut are a lot of extra gore scenes like the head explosion of Mr. Strode and the bone protruding from the snapped neck of a victim. Pretty much the entire finale was re shot so you don't have the operating room massacre or Michael being injected with a syringe full of nitric acid, but what you gain with the Cult of Thorn mythology makes for a more complete story. This cut of the film is just more enjoyable with more atmosphere and is not as disjointed. I enjoyed the previous version of the film to a degree and I like this only a hair more, it's still not a perfect film but I do like the further exploration of the Cult and the references to the previous film with flashbacks and some exposition.

BLU-RAY:
What we have here is a new HD Master from the original inter-negative and it looks very nice with a decent grain structure that provides some nice moments of fine detail and clarity. Colors are crisp and properly saturated while the black levels offer some decent shadow detail - there's no comparison to what's been available previously - this is like watching it for the first time with new eyes .


We have the choice of English 5.1 DTS-HD MA or English 2.0 DTS-HD MA and both are strong options. Alan Howarth's score sounds great and there are some nice sound design elements which make for a entertaining surround experience. There are optional English subtitles provided. The score is different that the theatrical which included some off electric guitar flourished added to many of the scenes, this is much truer to the original Halloween score.

Just having this version on Blu-ray with superior video and audio would have been enough but Anchor Bay and Scream Factory have stuffed this release with loads of fun extras beginning with a commentary from Screenwriter Daniel Farrands and Composer Alan Howarth. Farrands speaks extensively about the original script and what ended upon screen - which is quite different even in the producer's cut.

An hour's worth of new and vintage interviews with cast and crew which go into about anything you could ever want to know about the producer's cut of the film. Noteworthy is an interview with Danielle Harris who did not return as Jamie in this one, she speaks very candidly about what transpired behind-the-scenes.

On top of the interviews we have behind-the-scenes footage shot by the screenwriter during the first week of production with some shots of scenes being set-up and a tour of the sets. There are also seven-minutes of deleted and alternate scene not featured in either cut of the film plus an electronic press kit. 





SPECIAL FEATURES:

- NEW High Definition Master from the original inter-negative
- NEW Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Daniel Farrands and Composer Alan Howarth (Producer’s Cut)
- NEW “Jamie’s Story” – An Interview With The Original “Jamie” Actress Danielle Harris (7 Minutes)
- NEW “The Cursed ‘Curse’” – An Interview With Producers Malek Akkad And Paul Freeman
- NEW “Acting Scared “– A Look At The Film’s Cast With Actresses Mariah O’Brien And J.C. Brandy (19 Minutes)
- NEW “The Shape Of Things” – A Look At Michael Myers’ Murders And Mayhem With Special Make-Up Effects Artists John Carl Buechler And Brad Hardin And Actor George P. Wilbur (Michael Myers) (11 Minutes)
- NEW “Haddonfield’s Horrors” – The Sights of Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers With Director of Photography Billy Dickson And Production Designer Brad Ryman And Director of Photography (Additional Scenes) Thomas Callaway (10 Minutes)
- NEW “Full Circle” – An Interview With Composer Alan Howarth (7 Minutes)
- NEW Cast And Crew Tribute to Donald Pleasance (3 Minutes)
- Archival Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage (8 Minutes)
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage (approx. 30 Minutes)
- Alternate And Deleted Scenes (Not Present In Either Cut Of The Film) (7 Minutes)
- Teaser Trailer: Halloween 666: The Origin Of Michael Myers ( 1 Minute)
- Electronic Press Kit (5 Minutes)

VERDICT: 

I am not one of the fans who proclaim the producer's cut to the superior version of the the film, both versions are flawed and neither is completely satisfactory but the producer's cut is less disjointed with a clearer vision and focus with superior suspense elements. This new Blu-ray is a very nice restoration of the film and comes with a bunch of great extras. Anchor Bay were wise to team-up with Scream Factory who knocked it out of the park with their Collector's Editions of HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. Unfortunately this disc is exclusive to the HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION [DELUXE EDITION] so you're gonna have to shell out for it at this point, though I would have difficulty believing this won't be released as a stand alone release at some point. 

Will have a review up of the BONUS DISC from the set later this week!

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