The Ultimate Halloween

There have been a lot of box sets of film franchises. Often, the series is owned by one studio. This gets tougher for many horror franchises. Child’s Play is owned by MGM, the other films are owned by Universal. Paramount owned the first eight films in the Friday the 13th series, New Line had the later films. Halloween was owned by multiple studios, with the first five films settling in under Anchor Bay and the sixth film on belonging to Dimension Films.

Earlier in the year, Shout Factory’s horror line Scream Factory announced a pretty big deal. They got Dimension, Universal and Anchor Bay to agree to allow a box set with every single Halloween film. All ten films. And you get the television versions of Halloween and Halloween 2. I watch the television version of Halloween every year. But the real big shocker? The never before released in America Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6: the Curse of Michael Myers. It has been long rumored to be vastly superior to the (admittedly abysmal) theatrical version of the film.  I addressed that earlier this week.  They also include the unrated versions of both Rob Zombie films.

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The packaging is terrific.  A nice box houses ten individual cases, black instead of the traditional blue.  The cover art is the classic cover art.  The box has some really good and atmospheric painted art.

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Every disc includes special features related to the individual film.  These are made with care and the producers  manage to get a lot of the original teams to return and discuss their experiences on the film.  If you love to dive into special features (as I do), this is a very rich set.  The set includes a bonus disc with new special features (mostly relating to Halloween’s 3-5).

Some of the special features were on previous releases (Considering Anchor Bay has released a 20th Anniversary Set, 25th Anniversary Set and 35th Anniversary set, there was a lot to use).  Considering the Halloween:H20 DVD years ago claimed to have special features that  were not actually on the disc, it is nice to finally get to see interviews and behind the scenes stuff that was promised.  In the end, I think the only thing missing from the deluxe set was the Halloween 25 Years of Terror DVD set.  And they include some of the special features from that.  Keep in mind, the non-deluxe version of the set does not have the Halloween II Television Version or the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6.

The picture quality is great, keeping some of the grain, but the blu-ray transfers are never muddy, allowing us to never miss some of those great out of the shadow reveals.  This is how a box set should be.  I truly wish the Shout Factory had been in on the Friday the 13th and Chucky box sets…because we would more than likely have gotten a pretty sweet deal out of it.  The Shout Factory has set a standard here.  This is not that surprising, they have spent years making themselves stand out as kind of the Criterion Collection for pop culture.

Michael Gets Up Again (Halloween 2)

Rob Zombie returned for the sequel to his fairly successful reboot.  My understanding is he had not intended to, but was talked into it.  And from the outset, this one is a total mess.

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It opens with a bit of text regarding the psychological significance of a white horse.  It then gives us a flashback to young Michael and his mother having as loving a moment between a mother and son as you can have at a sanitarium.  This right here is continuing a wrong foot.  In the original films, Loomis talks about how Michael was quiet and interacted with no one, to the point where everyone grew complacent around him.

The film just jumps ahead fifteen years, to the end of the previous film.  In an imitation of the original Halloween 2, there is a hospital sequence, but it is only about 25 minutes long and then Laurie wakes up a year later.  Was it a memory?  A dream?  The film is unclear.

We learn Laurie is in therapy and has rage issues.  Loomis, on the other hand is now a psych-babble hack who uses Michael as his money-maker.  This is an unpleasant take on the character, which makes him far less sympathetic.  He is convinced Michael is dead, even though no body has ever been recovered.

Michael, very much alive, has been hiding out, building up his murderous rage.  He is haunted by dreams of his mother, and an avatar of himself as a little boy who speaks to the vision of the mother.  There are instances where Michael grunts as he kills that seem out-of-place.  A completely silent Michael makes for a better Michael.  Michael also spends a lot of time with no mask, which just seems wrong.

Laurie seems to have a sudden psychic connection to Michael that comes out of nowhere.  And Laurie has become an entirely unpleasant.  In fact, nobody is really likable in the film beyond maybe Sheriff Bracken and Annie.  But most everyone else is just hard to like or care about.  This is a bad thing for your lead.  It is hard for the viewer to invest our time and emotion to care about a character we cannot even really like.  And to pretty much have her cast her lots in with Michael (this is the same problem the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel had) is troublesome.

The resolution of the film is nonsense leaving this a complete (as stated earlier) mess of a movie.  It robs Laurie of any actual strength, and ultimately punishes her.  It is pretty clear that Laurie Strode was accepting Michael’s ways.  Her deviant smile before the cut to black is far to dark to be interpreted as triumph over the evil of Michael Myers.

There are some great shots, as Zombie has a real eye for framing shots, especially when going for a creepy vibe.  And there are some solid performances, especially from McDowell, Dourif and Harris.  People need to give Dourif more roles like this.  He shines in the film.  And Zombie (as usual) peppers his film with tons of character actors who clearly had a lot of fun in their roles.

But in the end, the writing and ideas are inconsistent, the characters overwhelmingly unpleasant and a Michael Myers who does not feel at all like Michael Myers.

Chucky’s Package

For years, a Chucky box set has meant one thing.  You would not get the original Child’s Play.  Earlier in the year, to coincide with the sixth film, the Curse of Chucky, Universal and MGM came to an agreement.  A limited edition box set with all six Chucky films.

The packaging does it’s job, but I cannot say it is all that unique.  But the discs themselves are quite nice.  All the film’s blu-ray transfers look great.  The audio is effective (I had the menu for Child’s Play going and kept looking around as I would suddenly hear footsteps).

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Child’s Play:  This is chock full of special features to go with the movie.  There is a lot of information to be found in the featurettes.

Child’s Play 2 & Child’s Play 3:  Each disc just has the films.

Bride and Seed of Chucky: Both have the features that were included on the original DVDs.

Curse of Chucky:  All the special features included on the solo release of the disc

As franchise collections go, this is pretty darn good.  It would have been nice if they had created special features for films two and three.  One of the great things about these types of franchise sets is getting to hear the thoughts and feelings of cast members decades later.  For one thing, people tend to be more honest, rather than in promotion mode.  Hearing how everyone felt about two and three would be intriguing.

But overall, this is a nice little set and it is worth it for Chucky fans.

Packing Up Camp Crystal Lake

In 1980, Sean Cunningham and Paramount pictures unleashed Friday the 13th, one of the biggest horror franchises ever in the world of horror.  Who knew ripping off Halloween would be so successful.  34 years and ten films later, we have a box set billed as the complete collection.  This is a big set, it has the eight Paramount films and the four New Line films, 3-D glasses for Friday the 13th 3D, a camp counselor patch and a booklet called Crystal Lake Memories. (an excerpt from the book).  It is all held together in a steel tin with an embossed Jason.  The discs are housed in a very nice book with slip case pages.  The artwork is great.  This is very nice packaging.

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And it starts off great.  First, the sound and picture are great.  The films benefit from Blu-Ray.  Each of the first eight films are packed with special features covering the various DVD releases of the films.These are pretty in depth and since some featurettes were made years apart, they do at times retread tales that were told.   But there are fun inclusions like convention footage featuring multiple Jasons and the like.  There is a series, an episode on each disc that is called “Lost Tales From Lake Blood”.  It is the tale of a Jason like killer who is not actually Jason.  It is not all that effective, and lacks a sense of real plot.

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After the fifth film, the features taper off slightly, mainly just including the features from the original DVD releases and the Lost Tales.  But after the eighth film?  It becomes hit or miss.  There are no special features for Jason Goes to Hell.  Just a trailer.  To top it off, they only include the theatrical cut of the film.  The DVD had the uncut version along with the theatrical version, as well as an audio commentary and featurettes.

There are a few features from the Jason X disc, and the same goes for Freddy Vs. Jason and the Friday the 13th remake (which is the same disc that was available in stores on it’s own.  Starting with Part V through Jason X, each disc has two films per disc.  I suspect Freddy vs Jason and the remake are on their own discs simply because it was less trouble to repress the discs they had.

Probably the biggest disappointment?  The promoted bonus disc.   The bonus disc is the same DVD that was included with the previous DVD box set from a couple years before hi-def that only covered the first eight films.  And a majority of the special features included on that disc appear on their respective blu-rays.

Overall, it is a nice set, and the first eight discs are nice and packed with features.  It is just that it starts to decline after that.  As I said previously, the picture quality is solid and the audio is high quality.  And again, the actual packaging is great.  I can only wish the Nightmare on Elm Street set had been packaged with such care.

You Cannot Keep a Nazi Zombie Down

Back in 2009 the movie Dead Snow was released.  It was fairly enjoyable as far as horror comedy goes.  It felt a bit like it was following a blue-print on how to be like Evil Dead 2.  But it had some inventive moments and good practical effects.  This year saw the release of the sequel.  A film that feels like it was made by a stronger and more confident film-making team.dead-snow-2-red-vs-dead-poster

Plot based spoilers are about to occur.

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Lord of the Bloat

A common (and quite fair) criticism of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films is they are expanded and bloated. They often are incredibly busy and sometimes overwhelming in their additions.

And yet, it seems almost ironic. I read The Lord of the Rings books in my late thirties. Truth is, I find them bloated with needless story diversions, such as a 100 page excursion about a guy who proves the threat of the One Ring might be a bit overstated. It goes on and on and on.

Tolkien certainly loved world building (and really, language creation)…almost to the detriment of the story… He wanders on endlessly about the minutia of various languages. He also will spend pages telling us about historical myths and legends of Middle Earth that supposedly give us insight into the world, except they tend to drag the actual story down.

Really, I find the Jackson films are completely in spirit with Tolkien’s works. Entertaining, but bloated with needless detours and an obsession with minute details.

The Unfair Files: But the Real Victim Is The Perp!

Over the weekend I watched a documentary on HBO called Valentine road.

It tells the story of Larry King, who was tragically shot to death in 2008. You might recall the story from the news. On February 12th of 2008, Brandon McInerney(age 14) walked into class, behind Lawrence ‘Larry’ King (age 15) and shot him twice (at least once in the head). The motive turned out to be that Brandon was embarrassed and angry because Larry, a young man trying to find his identity (the information I have seen both suggest a young gay man or a trans girl… Two weeks after Larry started to accessorize (how the school referred to his wearing makeup and jewelry) and generally express himself, he was dead. This time frame matters, because there was something rather horrifying that developed.

A defense of Brandon’s actions crept into the public. We needed to consider just why he killed Larry. And yeah…things like motive matter. But this bizarre defense came about. It was Brandon who was harrassed…he was the victim in the situation and it is unfair to punish him.

This comes up in the documentary several times. He was greatly embarrassed because Larry had asked him to be his valentine in front of Brandon’s friends. And shortly after called out “love you, baby!” And one other time paraded around “flamboyantly” in front of Brandon and his friends. This was portrayed as a hard push campaign of harrassment by Larry against Brandon.

And you know what? I get being generally embarrassed by general activity like that… Sure, if someone you are not interested in makes a few overtures for your attention, it can be a bit uncomfortable and awkward….especially when your friends tease you about it. Young women are faced with that stuff all the time. They get uncomfortable because a boy they are not interested in is attempting to get their attention. And some of those incidents develope into real harrassment. There are a lot of factors that go into it all.

But the cold hard truth? Brandon’s embarrassment was his own. He could have told his friends to stuff it. He could have shrugged it off. He had a girlfriend, so he did not have to “prove” his heterosexuality to them. There is a long list of ways to handle the attention he got from Larry. Shooting him twice in the head was never an acceptable option. Terrifyingly, you would not necessarily know that from the reaction of some of the teachers and jurors interviewed in Valentine Road. It is heartbreaking to hear people take the side of a killer who killed with malice and forethought.

Imagine this… It was the unpopular girl. She is seen as a joke by classmates. Made fun of… But she takes the risk and asks out the cute basketball player. His friends tease him mercilessly. So, a day or two later he walks up behind her and shoots her twice in the head. Tell me, defense attorneys, jurors and teachers… Would you feel so comfortable suggesting she brought on her own death? That Brandon should be granted leniency?