JANUARY 15, 2008
While HMAD sort of got ‘famous’ for posting a list of all the differences between the “workprint” and theatrical versions of Rob Zombie’s Halloween, I never actually reviewed that version. And I kind of feel bad about that, because in all honesty, it was a much better film in that form. It still suffered from major problems, but many of the things I disliked in the theatrical version were corrected, or at least improved, in the original version. With that in mind, I was actually looking forward to Rob’s official “Director’s Cut”, which was issued on DVD alongside the theatrical. But as it turns out, this version is, astonishingly enough, the WORST of the three.
Luckily, some of the “workprint” stuff has been re-inserted in the film, such as Michael following Laurie home after school (the only sort of “stalking” scene of merit in the entire film) and another scene with Udo Kier, rendering his cameo slightly less jarring. So folks who never saw the workprint version sort of luck out in these regard, as these scenes help the film. Unfortunately, Rob chose to go back to the original, awful version of Michael’s escape, which involves raping a female inmate and more general redneckery. The theatrical version (Michael kills a bunch of cameos, er, guards during a transfer) isn’t all that much better, but it’s at least consistent with the film’s ideas. This version sort of sets up Michael as a sympathetic antihero, who escaped because it was convenient at the time. But making the whole thing even STUPIDER, this version also has the Danny Trejo death scene (not in the workprint), which means Michael just sort of hung around the hospital long after he could have escaped so he could kill the film’s only sympathetic character. Fine, whatever.
Some stuff in this version wasn’t in either of the previous cuts (see the updated list for a fullish rundown of changes), but most of it is sort of superfluous, like an extra asylum “interview” in which no one speaks. One thing of note is some grainy super 16 footage, presumably shot by Loomis, of young Michael in a mask. During these quick inserts (there’s like 3 or 4 sprinkled into the asylum sequence), Loomis explains a bit about all of the masks Michael made, and these bits also help clarify how much time has passed. The only other “new” addition of note is a quick bit during the finale that proves that Loomis HAS in fact survived his injuries. This struck me as odd – when I interviewed Rob for the DVD release I asked if Loomis survived or not and he said that’s up to the producers. But now it’s pretty obvious he lives – a few minutes after Michael squishes his head, Loomis grabs at Michael from the floor, and then Michael just sort of brushes him off. While it’s sort of an OK addition, it also makes the brutally bad continuity error of Loomis’ head injuries all the more apparent, so if it’s NOT there to help explain that Loomis is indeed alive, why bother putting it in at all? Again, whatever.
Speaking of the ending, this version has the theatrical ending (though I never noticed before, you can see an out of focus cop, possibly Brackett, in the background while Loomis talks; a remnant of the previous, and superior ending). This ending is not only insanely overlong (Michael smashes the ceiling for what seems like a full 5 minutes), but it also once again puts the focus on Laurie, who is a non-character in the remake. She doesn’t appear until an hour into the film, and even then she’s not exactly front and center for the most part. If not for the fact that the NAME “Laurie Strode” is important to the Halloween legacy, the film gives absolutely no reason for us to really care about her any more than her annoying friends (or anyone else in the movie who is actually allowed more than one scene). In the workprint version, the film is more clearly about Michael and Loomis, but in the theatrical (and now, this “definitive”) cuts, the movie is about Michael and Loomis for one half, and Michael and Laurie for another.
A couple of the editing decisions that were made for the theatrical release remain correct. The truly stupid scene from the workprint where Lynda pours a drink all over a female classmate is nowhere to be seen, and Rob was wise to keep in the “color spectrum” scene that was absent from the workprint. Not that it’s a particular highlight of the film, but it lengthens the asylum stuff, which is not only the best segment of the film but also delays the point in time where Michael escapes, at which point all three versions of the film fall apart (to differing degrees).
Rob’s commentary isn’t particularly enlightening; he mentions the reshoots on occasion but doesn’t quite go into detail about them, nor does he pull a Michael Bay and start going off on the public reception (listen to the commentary for The Island – all of a sudden Bay begins ranting and raving about the box office gross, it’s fucking amazing). Instead, he just sort of discusses where each scene was shot and tells some humorous anecdotes about a few of the actors (apparently Danny Trejo didn’t like that he looked “like a bitch” as he was drowned). So I was a bit disappointed; I would have liked to have heard him be a bit defensive and talk about the genesis of his ideas. But still, I like listening to Rob speak, even if I disagree with some of his choices, and frankly I’d much rather listen to him talk about Pasadena shooting locations than Laurie talk about being molested by the hardware store owner.
So oh well. The last chance the movie had at working, but it ends up being the least effective. Like I’ve said all along, I wasn’t on the “hate” train with this movie; I like a lot of remakes and I like Rob’s other films. And there are a few scenes that I really enjoy, plus there are two good jump scares. But overall it just doesn’t work for me. Can’t say I haven’t tried – this makes the 6th time I have watched the film in some form (7 if you count the commentary viewing), which is more of a chance than I have given any other movie in history that I’ve disliked (and 7 more chances than most of the film’s hardcore detractors ever gave it). I even bought the damn thing; this wasn't a studio freebie (gee, wonder why they didn't want to give me one for free?). Let’s move on, shall we?
What say you?