Monday, January 14, 2019

Halloween 2018: Blu-ray / DVD Review

Cody takes a look at the Blu-ray / DVD release of the latest Halloween film.

It didn't occur to me because time flies by, but the nine year gap between 2009 the release of Rob Zombie's Halloween II and last year's new Halloween film was the longest time that has passed between Halloween films in the history of the franchise. Thankfully, when the new Halloween film arrived in 2018, director David Gordon Green provided us with quite a treat: a sequel that, instead of connecting to the world of Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, took us right back to John Carpenter's original, 1978 classic Halloween.

Picking up after the events of the first Halloween and ignoring the events of all sequels and reboots that have been released over the decades, Green's Halloween, which the director wrote with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, has masked maniac Michael Myers (now played by James Jude Courtney) escaping after forty years of captivity in a sanitarium and returning to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to once again stalk the streets with knife in hand... And to cross paths with Halloween heroine Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, playing the character for the fifth time), who was deeply damaged by her encounter with Myers in 1978 and has been waiting for a chance to kill the man (or the boogeyman) who murdered her friends and almost got her, too.

Myers isn't targeting Laurie this time around. What I like about Halloween '18 more than any specific story details is the fact that it has finally wiped out the "Myers and Laurie are siblings" twist that was dropped into the original Halloween II, returning the killer to the sort of character he was intended to be when first created: a completely random force of evil. He picks and chooses his victims at random, there is no purpose to what he is doing.

Yet while the blood connection between the killer and heroine is now gone, this is still a family affair, because we're also introduced to Laurie's daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), who have also suffered from the trauma Myers caused Laurie. They get some trauma of their own as this Halloween plays out, as they will meet Laurie's tormentor and lose friends and loved ones of their own.

Halloween 2018 doesn't do a whole lot that's new to the series - Myers is doing his Halloween '78 thing, we've seen Curtis play a traumatized Laurie before in Halloween H20 - but what it does bring to the table is solid slasher entertainment. The set-up is interesting, the stalk and slash sequences are fun, and this is one of the better movies in a series that has very rarely lived up to its potential.

The latest Halloween is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, and I have to say that the home video release is surprisingly lackluster. Now that we've had the amazing collector's set Scream Factory put out that contained all of the previous films, I want to see any new Halloween movies get releases that will live up to the discs in that set... Unfortunately, this first release of Halloween '18 does not.

As far as I'm concerned, the most important special feature a release can include is an audio commentary, and the Halloween '18 discs don't even have one. There were several people involved with this film that I would have loved to have heard from on a commentary - Green, Curtis, McBride. After more than thirty years away from the franchise, John Carpenter returned to executive produce this movie and compose the score with his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. Get Carpenter on a commentary! But they got no one.

What the discs do include are twelve and a half minutes of deleted and extended scenes, plus about twenty minutes of featurettes.

Digging into the deleted and extended scenes, I could see why the cut scenes and moments we're in the finished film. The cuts make sense, and there was not a single minute in there that I would have wanted to see cut back in. In "Extended Shooting Range" we spend a little more time with Laurie as she checks her weapons and shoots mannequins at the shooting range she has on her property. We see her take a drink, we see her have a Martin Riggs moment where she contemplates suicide - but given the position of the gun when she holds it to her chin, it's less a threat of killing herself and more of a threat that she's going to terribly disfigure herself.

"Shower Mask Visit" is a nod to Psycho, but an entirely unnecessary moment.

"Jog to a Hanging Dog" has Allyson finding the grisly Halloween decoration Myers has created using the corpse of a dog. Green has said it was cut for pacing reasons, as it wouldn't have fit into the movie where it was intended to. More interesting than the "Jog to a Hanging Dog" scene itself (which, if you look closely, features an appearance by original Michael Myers performer Nick Castle) is the fact that it's the second of two "Allyson jogging" scenes that were in the script but aren't in the movie, and the description of the first jogging scene in the script is what convinced Curtis to sign on. She loved reading about Allyson jogging around town, returning home, going to her closet, opening the closet doors and pulling a string to switch on a bare lightbulb hanging from the ceiling - as the closet was reminiscent of the closet Laurie hides in at the end of the first Halloween, and reading a reference like that made Curtis realize what a return to the original film this one was going to be.

But I gathered that trivia from online sources, you won't find that information on the DVD or Blu-ray.

"Allyson and Friends at School" gives us a little more time with Allyson, her boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold), and their pals Vicky (Virginia Gardner), Dave (Miles Robbins), and Oscar (Drew Scheid). It wasn't needed and doesn't really work.

"Cameron and Cops Don't Mix" also gives us more time with Cameron, and is the scene I'm most glad was cut from the movie. In the film, Cameron turns out to be a creep who has an argument with Allyson at a school dance, takes her phone away from her, and drops it into a bowl of nacho cheese. This causes Allyson to leave the dance before the police arrive to evacuate the school and send everyone home, so she doesn't know it's dangerous to be out on the streets as she walks across town and doesn't have her phone with her when her family is trying to contact her. In this deleted scene, Cameron catches up with her before she leaves school property and gives her the phone back, and she's there when the police show up to evacuate the place, so she does hear that it's dangerous for her to be out walking. Cutting "Cameron and Cops Don't Mix" makes what follows with Allyson much more effective. It's better that she's uninformed and doesn't have her phone with her at all. And I'd rather just continue hating Cameron than watch him try to apologize.

"Deluxe Banh Mi Cops" is a bit of completely extraneous banter about sandwiches between two cops. "Sartain and Hawkins Ride Along" is an odd bit of comedy that is funny and well played by Haluk Bilginer (as Myers' doctor Sartain) and Will Patton (as Haddonfield police officer Hawkins), but would have been out of place in the movie.

The featurettes are very standard, bite-sized, electronic press kit promotional stuff. The longest of the bunch, at a whopping 6 minutes, is "Back in Haddonfield: Making Halloween", in which the filmmakers and stars discuss - in very quick cuts - the approach to the story, the experience of making the film, and the first time they watched the original Halloween.

"The Original Scream Queen" is a two and a half minute look at Curtis and her return to the role of Laurie Strode. This featurette doesn't have much to offer if you've watched the movie, because most of it is spent telling the viewer about Laurie's emotional state in it.

The 3 minute long "The Sound of Fear" was the most interesting featurette of the bunch for me, as it gives a behind the scenes look at the process of Carpenter, his son, and Davies recording the score. It even shows how my favorite sound in the score was achieved: it's Davies pulling a violin bow across guitar strings.

Over the course of 2 minutes and 33 seconds (exactly the same length as the "Scream Queen" featurette), "Journey of the Mask" recounts the well-known story of how a William Shatner mask was turned into the Michael Myers mask during the making of the first movie, and special effects artist Christopher Nelson (who also played one of those Banh Mi Cops) talks about making the mask for the new movie. In the movie, Myers gets his hands on the same mask he wore 40 years earlier, so Nelson had to recreate the original mask and then simulate 40 years of wear, tear, and dirt. James Jude Courtney also mentions that his demeanor would automatically change every time he would slip the mask on.

For "The Legacy of Halloween", Green, Blum, Curtis, and Carpenter sat down at a table in front of the Myers house for a chat about the project that lasts just over 4 minutes.

Halloween 2018 is definitely worth checking out, and if you're a fan of the Halloween series and of slashers in general I think it's absolutely worth owning. This initial release of it is quite underwhelming in the bonus features department, though. There is a lot of room for improvement if Universal ever decides to double dip, or if a company like Scream Factory wants to do a special edition and dig deeper into the making of the movie and the minds of the people who made it.

If you're like me, you'll pick up a copy of this edition now and hope for a better one in the future.

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