Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blu-ray Review: HALLOWEEN TRIPLE FEATURE

HALLOWEEN TRIPLE FEATURE 

HALLOWEEN: H2O (1995)
Now the headmistress of a private school, Laurie Strode is still struggling with the horrifying, 20-year-old memories of the maniacal killer Michael Myers…when he suddenly reappears with a vengeance.

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1998)
In a single horrifying night, Michael Myers' masked reign of terror changed Halloween forever. Now, six years after he was presumed dead in a fire, Myers has returned to kill again—and this time there's no escape. As the homicidal fury builds to a spine-tingling climax, the long-hidden secrets of the screen's most maniacal murderer are revealed…with shocking results.

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
Reality programmers select a group of thrill-seeking teenagers to spend one night in the childhood home of serial killer Michael Myers. But the broadcast turns deadly when Michael himself decides to crash the party



 HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995) 
Rating: R
Duration: 88 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1080i Anamorphic  Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
Diretor: 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 than Uncle Mike's DNA... yep, you read that right, incest baby! The baby is born on Halloween night ('natch) and it's not long before Michael comes looking to kill his progeny as he's been known to do from time to time. 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 shadows in classic Meyers fashion, 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 shit-faced owner attempts to stop her until Myers twists his head 360 degree, or was it 180? I forget, anyway... . Jaime stops off at a bus depot to alert the authorities from a payphone but when she can't get through she ope instead to 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? You guessed it, 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, 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, it's a pretty great kill. 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 to the DJ (which he conveniently recorded) and traces her whereabouts to the bus depot where he discovers the infant in the restroom and takes it 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 this entry quite a bit.

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 group 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 real dramatic acting chops, there's a lot of overacting, he's just not the right guy for the role, but compared to David Gardner who played Danny he's Oscar worthy, that 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  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 playful introduction at the top of the film and I think his exit is fitting if not great. 

Blu-ray: 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 nice 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 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. 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. 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. Not an optional presentation but definitely 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? 

(3.5 Outta 5) 


HALLOWEEN: H20 TWENTY YEARS LATER (1998) 

Rating: R
Duration: 85 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
Director: Steve Miner 
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams, LL Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adam Hann-Byrd
Tagline: True Terror Never Dies!

A few years before one-time scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis (HALLOWEEN, ROAD TRIP) started slinging adverts for Activia Yogurt - the cultured bacteria food stuff that makes you shit right - she returned to the HALLOWEEN franchise for it's twentieth anniversary. Why? Who knows.  Maybe with passing of Donald Pleasance and with it the character of Dr. Loomis the series needed someone to carry the torch and not wanting to continue on with the Cult of Thorn/Tommy Dolyle story line from HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYER'S the producers instead chose to ignore the continuity of every sequel after John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN and make this direct sequel to the first.

I'll let the cat outta the bag early and say I rather dislike this film, but before I let onto why let me just say that it has a pretty great opener that falsely raised my hopes. Dr. Loomis's one-time colleague Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens, HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN II), the nurse from the original HALLOWEEN, returns home to find that someone has broken into her home through the front door. Alarmed she runs next door to the neighbors home where wise-ass teen Jimmy (Joseph Gordon-Levit, LOOPER) answers the door wearing a hockey mask which startles her. It the first of maybe 150 jump scares in the film among perhaps as many references to other better fright flicks, there's a lot of 'em. Jimmy volunteers to check out the house against Marion's wishes and enters with hockey stick in hand boasting in the third person "Jimmy's been suspended five times this year already for gettin' a little crazy with the stick." He searches the home but doesn't find anyone inside but he does fuck up the kitchen with his hockey stick when he gets spooked while swiping some beers, which he blames on the intruder. With the authorities on their way Marion re-enters the home to inspect the damage. It's here that we gather she was a caregiver for the ailing Loomis until his natural death (completely ignoring the ending of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MEYERS) , one of the rooms is plastered with clippings about the Haddonfield murders  20 years earlier. In her office she finds that files pertaining to Laurie Strode are now missing, Laurie being Myers' sister who survived the attack years earlier. Marion realizes that someone is in the house with her and makes a panicked run for Jimmy's house letting herself in when there is no answer only to find the teen in a sofa chair with is hockey skate impaled into his face, his friend is also dead and as Marion sees the police arrive next door she rushes to the window to scream for help but Myers slashes her throat. Seconds later the responding officers notice the neighbors broken window and enter the house as Myers pulls out of the drive way in a car in pursuit of Laurie.

Two days later we're in Northern California, and it's Halloween. We learn that Laurie Strode faked her death some years earlier and is now known as Keri Tate, the head mistress of the Hillcrest Academy High School, and mother of teen John (Josh Hartnett, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES). The events from twenty year prior still haunt her and she's troubled by disturbing dreams. Even after all these years she's convinced that Michael still lives and will one day return to finish what he started, sure enough tonight's the night.

Laurie tries to put her fears aside and plans to spend the weekend with boyfriend Will (Adam Arkin, UNDER THE RAINBOW) while the student body leave on a field trip to Yosemite but Laurie's son John and his girlfriend Molly (Michelle Williams, SPECIES) along with his best friend Charlie (Adam Hann-Byrd, THE ICE STORM) and his love interest Sarah (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, THE CROW: SALVATION) play hooky, skipping out on the trip and holing up in a dormitory on campus to celebrate Halloween with a little drinking and partying. Also on campus is the poetry spouting school security guard Ronnie (LL Cool J, DEEP BLUE SEA).

With the campus pretty much empty Michael Myers arrives on scene having sleuthed Laurie's current whereabouts. Inside Laurie and Will are drinking wine and preparing for some frisky business when she reveals her dark past to him while at the same time the teens get to partying but as ever Michael shows up and the killings begins anew.

The story is economical, it's simplicity itself and the basic story line ain't half bad if you don't mind them ignoring HALLOWEEN 2-6 - which I sorta do. That aside this feels less like a HALLOWEEN film than any that have come before it. There's zero atmosphere, the night scenes are over-lit  most of the deaths are weak or happen just off-screen  Jamie Lee Curtis, the iconic scream queen from John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, offers a decent performance but is not likable as the haunted survivor of her brother's killing spree, and bares little resemblance to the teen version of herself. However, when it's time for Strode to face-off against Michael she's doesn't so much channel her inner scream queen as she does a variation on Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in ALIEN, she's quite the ass kicker.

Josh Hartnett as Strode's son John is pretty wooden (when isn't he?) and I think his best roles (VIRGIN SUICIDES being my favorite) are tailor made to compliment his stiff acting style but as a brooding teen he's just annoying. I rather enjoyed LL Cool J as Ronnie the security guard, it's a bit part with a thankless death but I dig LL in small roles like we see here and in DEEP BLUE SEA. The standout performance of the film comes from a young Joseph Gordon-Levit in a brief but enjoyable bit part, if the film could have maintained the spirit of the pre-credit sequence we could have had something special but the film's post-SCREAM 90's sensibilities and Steve Miner's flat direction really go nowhere.

Blu-ray: Echo Bridge's Blu-ray of H20 presents the film in re-framed 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) which is quite a departure from it's original "scope" (2.35:1) presentation. Honestly, Steve Miner and cinematographer Daryn Okada don't make great use of the scope aspect ratio here but I'm a stickler for presenting films in their original aspect ratio. Aside from the re-frame there's black crush, colors seems muted and the the 1080p boost in resolution only marginally improves fine detail and fine texture over the SD DVD. The 1080i transfer of THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS is noticeably superior to what we have here.


The DTS-HA MA 2.0 Stereo audio is a downgrade from the previous Dimension Collector's Series DVD from a few years back that sported a not only a 16:9 (2.35:1) transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound but subtitles and a small selection of extras, none of which we have here. While the DTS-HD MA 2.0 is adequate it is little else. Dialogue, effects and score come through clean and strong but it's not very dynamic and there's minimal use of the stereo directionals, it seemed very center heavy.

There's no special features, no subtitles, not even a trailer which I consider to be the bare essential, at least give us a trailer, c'mon now. The Dimension Collector's Series was pretty slim on features but at least offered an 18 minute featurette, a lame trivia game and a Creed music video. Actually, I'm kind of thankful that we don't get the Creed video but not porting over something from the DVD release is quite disappointing. The transfer being what it is (re-framed) and the audio not much better (DTS-HD Stereo) at least throw us a bone with some features.

Verdict:  As a continuation of the HALLOWEEN franchise I find H20 to be an utter and complete failure of a film. It has no personality, a complete lack of atmosphere and is definitely a product of the post-SCREAM 90's with an irritating script and a sterile, super-polished look about it. The kills are mostly lame, many of which happen just off screen and the jump scares are completely out of hand. I know this film has a devout following, which puzzles me,  but I can't recommend it as a first-time watch or even as an HD upgrade for fans when there are just so many better films worth your time and money, including HALLOWEEN 1-6. The 90's slasher resurgence is much maligned and not without reason, and H20 is prime example of why. (2 Outta 5) 


HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002) 


Rating: R
Duration: 90 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
Director: Rick Rosenthal
Cast: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tyra Banks, Jamie Lee Curtis
Tagline: Evil Finds Its Way Home.

I thought HALLOWEEN: H20 was the bottom of the barrel but HALLOWEEN producer Malek Akkad lifted up the barrel and scraped what was underneath top produce this last nail in the coffin of the franchise with the help of director Rick Rosenthall who also helmed HALLOWEEN 2 and what we get is just dreadful. 


It's been three years since the events of H: H20 and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, TERROR TRAIN) has been sent to a psychiatric hospital following the events of the previous film after it is revealed that she offed the wrong guy last film - this was just a total revisionist cheat and complete bullshit. Anyway, she's considered a suicide risk and heavily medicated. On Halloween night Michael returns to slay his sister and succeeds after perusing Laurie to the rooftop where she has laid the shittiest of Rube Goldberg snare traps you could imagine, just laughable stuff, of course it's executed perfectly and even still she fucks it up and is stabbed in the back and falls to her death after uttering the remarkably awful phrase "I'll see you in Hell". While H20 started off with a great opener and then proceeded to fail this starts off awful and just gets worse. 

Now it's a year later and the reality programmers at DangerTainment Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora (Tyra Banks) have selected a group of thrill-seeking teenagers from haddonfielf University; Rudy (Sean Patrick Thomas, THE FOUNTAIN), Bill (Thomas Ian Nicholas, AMERICAN PIE), Donna (Daisy McCrackin, 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND), Jen (Katee Sackhoff, TV's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) Jim (Luke Kirby, TV's RECTIFY) and  Sara (Bianca Kajilich, TV's DAWSON CREEK) to spend one fun-filled night in the childhood home of serial killer Michael Myers. The reality program is broadcast over the internet and the contestants are tasked with discovering what led Meyers to kill. The internet broadcast turns deadly of course when Michael returns home to fins that his childhood home is infested with annoying douche nozzles, oh boy. There's just not a lot to say here except Busta Rhymes kills Michael Meyers, 'nuff said. 


Blu-ray: Echo Bridge's Blu-ray of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION presents the film in re-framed 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) which is different from it's original "scope" (2.35:1) presentation (tsk tsk) but it is my understanding that Echo Bridge merely present what elements are given to them from Miramax and do not manipulate the audio-video themselves. Aside from the re-frame the colors are quite good, it's sharper than the Dimension DVD, blacks are decent but inconsistent and the the 1080p boost in resolution only marginally improves fine detail and fine texture over the DVD. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is quite nice, effects and score come through just fine though I noticed dialogue was a bit weak at times, overpowered by the effects and score. 

Like the previous two films on this Triple Feature Blu-ray there are no special features, no subtitles, not even a trailer. That said, if you purchase Echo Bridge's stand alone Blu-ray of HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION it features most if not all of the bonus content from the Dimension DVD if you feel you need to own it. 


Verdict:  The 90's slasher resurgence was ripe with flaccid post-SCREAM wannabees like HALLOWEEN: H20 but this is some next level  shitiness right here, just a wretched post-THE BLAIR WITCH fumble that not surprisingly put the nail in the coffin of the original HALLOWEEN franchise which was not resurrected again until Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN (2007). (1.5 Outta 5) 

Not a fan of two outta the three Halloween sequels presented here but I do love  that Echo Bridge Home Entertainment are offering these films as stand alone Blu-rays or in a budget minded double feature and triple feature sets. Correct aspect ratios, special features and 5.1 surround sound mixes on all three titles would have been appreciated and as such I find myself still hanging onto the previous DVD editions which is sorta sad.

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