Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blu-ray Review: HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)

LABEL: Echo Bridge Entertainment
REGION: A NTSC
RATING: R
DURATION: 88 mins
VIDEO: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
AUDIO: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
DIRECTOR: Joe Chappelle
CAST: Paul Stephen Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitch Ryan, Donald Pleasance
TAGLINE: True Terror Never Dies!

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS picks-up six years after THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS in which Michael was abducted from the Haddonefield Police Dept. by the mysterious Man in Black who also kidnapped Jamie Lloyd, too. Now 15 years old Jamie (JC Brandy, KINDRED: THE EMBRACED) is held against her will by the Cult of Thorn and forcibly impregnated via in-vitiro fertilization with no less that Uncle Mike's DNA... yep, you read that right, incest. The baby is born on Halloween night ('natch) and it's not long before Michael come looking to kill his progeny as he's been known to do. Jamie and the baby escape the cult's labyrinthine compound with the help of a sympathetic nurse who dies very shortly after at the hands of Meyers who emerges from the shadow, picks her up and rams her skull against a sharp implement protruding from the wall. With Michael not too far behind Jamie steals a pick-up whose owner attempts to drunkenly stop her until Myers twists his head 360 degree. Jaime stops off at a bus depot to alert the authorities from a payphone but when she can't get through she instead call radio shock-jock DJ Barry Simms (Leo Geter, NEAR DARK) whom hosts a
Michael Myers conspiracy show. Jamie gets on air and pleads for help from Dr. Loomis, and who just happens to be listening? None other than a very frail Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance, RAW MEAT) and Tommy Dolye (Paul Rudd, KNOCKED UP) who was the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the first film and is now an awkward young man completely obsessed with Myers after his traumatic childhood experience. Stowing her newborn in a bathroom stall Jamie narrowly avoids Michael but is later run off the road by Myers who catches up with her inside an old barn where he impales her through the guts on a corn-thresher. Jamie's a goner but the baby remains safe, for now. 

The next day Tommy is able to play back a recording of Jamie's frantic phone call tot he DJ and traces her whereabouts to the bus depot where he discovers the infant which he takes to the hospital where he encounters Dr. Loomis and the two strike-up a friendship while trading Myers theories. Tommy tells Loomis that he lives across from the Myers house which is currently inhabited by relatives of the Strodes.

The Strode family living in 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 real 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". Eventually Kara, Danny, Tommy and Loomis' paths converge and Tommy tells her that Danny has been selected to inherit some nutty Druid curse and that the Cult of Thorn hopes to sacrifice Danny. This sets up Myers motivations for killing his family and culminates in a bizarre showdown at an asylum wherein Michael is injected with syringes of nitric acid. The film really takes a left turns towards the end teetering on the edge of becoming a mad-scientist flick but is not without it's merits and I actually enjoyed it.

As the film plays out the Strode's are predictably killed off by Myers, as are some peripheral characters, the Cult of Thorn is revealed to be a teak of Druid-esque geneticist out to distill Michael's ancient evil down to it's purest form. Yeah, it's hard swallow for sure but I gotta give it to screenwriter Daniel Ferrands (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR) for making a strong effort to inject the franchise with some new life and he did so without launching Myers into space. It doesn't quite work 100% and it's overwrought and convoluted but I'm gonna tell you I like this film a bunch despite it's faults.

First, right from the get-go we have two of my favorite elements; buckets of rain and a pretty great Midwestern Halloween feel, there's some great set dressing throughout and the entire film is evocative of the season, jack-o-lanterns, kids in costumes, corn husks - the setting just feels appropriate, there's some great atmosphere throughout. Myer's mask is one of the better variations since the original film, too. It's had it's up and downs over the years but this one's a keeper for sure. Director Joe Chappelle (PHANTOMS, TV'S FRINGE) keeps things on track, cult elements aside this is a slasher film through and through with some great kills right from the start.

Like I say it's not a perfect film, first the Cult of Thorn stuff is a hard swallow but I didn't hate it, it was something different and I only mention it because some of you might balk at the notion. On that note the one singular thing that irked was after killing Jamie Michael burns the image of the Thorn rune into a stack of hay, that's just fucking ridiculous. Paul Rudd had just come of CLUELESS when he took on the film and doesn't seem to have any dramatic acting chops, there's a lot of overacting, he's just not the right guy for the role, but compared to Davin Gardner who played Danny he's Oscar worthy. The kid just cannot act for a shit and is easily the worst feature of the film.

This was the last film to feature Donald Pleasance in the role of Dr. Loomis and he gives it a solid go but is obviously in a very poor state of health and actually died shortly after the film wrapped. I loved his playful introduction at the top of the film and I think his exit is fitting if not great.

 DVD: The film arrives on Blu-ray from Echo Bridge Entertainment in 1080i HD in a re-framed anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer from a pretty great print. Colors are saturated, black levels are deep, flesh tones look accurate and there''s plenty of fine detail in facial features and textures, definitely an improvement over previous non-anamorphic DVD editions. Audio wise we have a lossless DTS-HA MA 2,.0 Stereo track that delivers effects, score and dialogue quite well but is pretty standard. Alan Howarth's score sounds great but nothing can make Southern rock band Brother Cane sound any good at all.

An immersive 5.1 surround track would have been appreciated but from what I've seen many of Echo Bridge's blu's feature re-framed aspect ratios and down-mixed audio. I would love to know if these are the elements they're being provided from the Miramax vaults. Ideally we're seeing films presented in OAR with the best audio presentation and it's unfortunate that EB continue to dump skewed presentations on us. Honestly, the re-framed film didn't catch my notice during the viewing but on principal I think we need to see director's visions adhered to, a recent abomination of a re-frame job can be seen with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro's unfortunate re-framing of Arrow Video's THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE which I think was an intrusive blaspheme perpetrated upon the film, this is less an abomination but still unfortunate.  

There are no special features presented which isn't surprising when you consider the Dimension DVD from years back offered none either and EB like Mill Creek Entertainment don't seem to be in the market for creating and/or licensing supplemental material. Two other versions of the film exist but have not been officially released, though they remain available through less than legal means. I do not understand why we haven't seen either come forth with a legitimate release, you cannot tell me there's no market for these films. I've read elsewhere that Disney owns the rights to the producer's cut of the film and surely they're not wanting for cash so I would assume it's a rights issue. Not an optional presentation but a step-up from the Dimension DVD and at a budget price. 


VERDICT: HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is an enjoyable entry in the series with some great atmosphere,  decent kills and an interesting if overwrought cult-curse element that, perhaps wisely, was never to be referenced again in the series. Then again, if you've seen the final two entries in the original run of films it may have been preferable. Definitely a film I will rewatch again and enjoy. It's not John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) but then again, what is?


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