|THE SHAPE OF FEAR REVIEWS THE NEW 2-DISC BLU-RAY RELEASE
October 27, 2008 —
Quickly in the wake of Dimension's 3-disc DVD release comes the high-definition 2-disc Unrated Collector's Edition of Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN on Blu-ray, and the massive 4 1/2-hour documentary Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween, giving fans unprecedented access to the production of Rob Zombie's challenging and gritty take on the HALLOWEEN mythology. This isn't John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN to be sure, nor should it have been — we already have that film to enjoy as we have for the past three decades. Yet Zombie had to walk a fine line between updating and expanding this fan-favorite horror tale while keeping it consistent and true to the best storytelling aspects of the 1978 classic.
For the complete Shape of Fear review of the Unrated Director's Cut of HALLOWEEN, open up our earlier analysis of the extended cut released on DVD as a sidebar supplement to this new Blu-ray review. In brief, this expanded version gives viewers a longer, better paced and more character-driven edit of HALLOWEEN, all driving toward the expanded and more satisfying edit of the film's lethal ending. In his audio commentary track, Director Rob Zombie gives a fairly thorough tour of the editing variations from the theatrical release, and the new Disc 2 documentary takes you through the entire production as if you're on the set. Suffice it to say, this version isn't simply longer because more shots and scenes were added, but the overall storytelling improves and characters — especially Michael Myers — become more identifiable and believable. This Unrated Director's Cut ultimately strengthens the 'reboot' vision of the once-tired franchise and makes for a stronger if not scarier horror tale — one suspects it's the tale which Zombie should have told (and should have been allowed to tell) the first time around.
HALLOWEEN IN HIGH-DEFINITION BLU-RAY
While the DVD transfer of Zombie's HALLOWEEN was very good overall, especially for such a dark film, this new hi-def Blu-ray transfer is eye-popping spectacular! Presented in full 1080p resolution via AVC MPEG-4 artifact-free encoding, Phil Parmet's stark, dense and downright creepy cinematography will ice your blood as Michael Myers slices his way to the deadly finale. The widescreen transfer shows off Parmet's 2.40:1 framing which offer some very painterly fall images of Haddonfield, color timing sprintime Southern California to convincing perfection. As noted, darkness pervades Zombie's film and this excellent transfer maintains deep, dark shadows throughout, which make scenes like Laurie's attic crawl to evade Michael's attack visually chilling. What grain makes the crossover to this HD image is intentional as a stylistic device to make Zombie's vision more down and dirty compared to Carpenter's cleaner, more objective approach. Not only is HALLOWEEN an outstanding Blu-ray conversion of the theatrical experience, it's one of the best hi-def Blu transfers of the year!
The Dolby TrueHD audio track continues the high-tech excellence with 48kHz/24-bit quality that demonstrates skillfully dynamic range and gut-piercing power across the field. Even more impressive, this powerful mix is no blunt instrument, but rather as sharp and defined as Michael's lethal blade. Bass lines thunder and growl yet dialog and high tones remains sharply defined, and all expertly mixed to maximize the surprise and impact of HALLOWEEN's shocking moments. The TrueHD track also allows composer Tyler Bates' updated and distinctive score to impress on its own merits without overpowering the suspenseful mood and terrifying action. Enjoy the best of both high-definition worlds in this attentive and awe-inspiring HD transfer.
Disc 1 offers the same copious bonus features previous released on the standard-definition two-disc Unrated Director's Cut of HALLOWEEN from last December, as reviewed earlier here at The Shape of Fear.
MICHAEL LIVES AND BREATHES IN A NEW IN-DEPTH DOCUMENTARY
Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN also redefines the making-of documentary in his whopping 270-minute Disc 2 production feature (nothing four hours long can be called a featurette!), Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween. In the words of CBS News' venerable series, you are there with director Rob Zombie and his crew from the earliest days of pre-production location scouting and casting of actors, through the final shot on the last day of main unit production. Clocking in over four hours long, Michael Lives erases Zombie's previous high-water mark of his impressive on-set video diary for THE DEVIL'S REJECTS in both quantity and quality of content.
This new documentary opens during the hectic deadlines of pre-production and straight through forty-two days and nights to return Michael Myers to theaters. Zombie tours locations around Southern California, picking exteriors for major set pieces like the Strode house and Smith's Grove, to approving interiors of existing homes, Michael's school and the Myers house. Even after one day of preproduction, footage catches Zombie and his production team facing studio pressure to trim the budget and cut scenes before filming even begins. Casting the film is revealed as a anxiety-driven procress, especially in the debate over who should play Laurie Strode and why. Location approvals also coordinate future details of set decoration with production designers and prop masters, along with segments on costume design, makeup, and cinematography. Finally the cast gathers for a table read of the script as Zombie's brutal tale takes shape, cleverly intercut with corresponding clips from the film for visual comparison from reading to finished scenes.
Once main unit production begins, the HALLOWEEN juggernaut ramps up to full speed ahead. What impresses most in this majority of the documentary is the wealth of video footage from many different vantage points on-set and location. This is hardly a basic EPK reel from a studio, but rather an in-depth, cinema verite-style observation of tense, humorous, candid and interview moments, seemingly from every possible angle outside and amid the crowd. Quite like Zombie's actual film, the illusion of glamour is erased, and viewers are treated to a fly-on-the-wall real, palpable document of life on the HALLOWEEN crew in all its action thrills and exhausting hours.
While the entire post-production phase — editing, scoring, visual effects and sound mixing — are left unseen, this process would inevitably have been a letdown in action for all but the most hardcore filmmaking geeks. There is such a thing as too much information, and with over four hours of production video logging all key moments of HALLOWEEN's creation for the camera, fans have plenty of information to enjoy and absorb, watching in installments over nine chapters or buckling up and barreling through the entire documentary in one glorious sitting.
From makeup designer Wayne Toth casting Tyler Mane's head to create the new Shape mask to the final take of the final shot ending the horrifying Myers family nightmare, Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween is a fascinating and enlightening look at the hard work of this nearly impossible juggling act required to keep a major motion picture moving ever forward toward its impending release in theaters . . . and eventually on this stunning high-def Blu-ray edition.
REVIEW SUMMARY — THE LAST SLICE
While many fans who have not yet upgraded their home theaters to high definition will enjoy all the same bonus content above including the new Michael Lives documentary, they will certainly miss out on the stunning visual and audio quality of this excellent transfer of the feature film to Blu-ray disc. For those who have gone Blu already, this HD edition of Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN is the only viable option for maximizing the home entertainment experience and all its Blu-ray advantages over the standard DVD. Zombie's grittier, gorier vision gains palpable, visceral power in 1080p which effectively sucks viewers deeper into the drama and terror unfolding, erasing the artificial boundaries of the format and letting the horror of Michael Myers' evil seep into one's imagination. Michael lives and HALLOWEEN thrives on Blu-ray, and it's coming home to claim you next!
Visit HALLOWEEN makeup designer Wayne Toth's own store Halloween Town for all your bloody good masks and props this October