'Halloween: The Complete Collection' brings back Michael Myers in all his gory glory

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Warning us that this would be “The Night HE Came Home!,” the poster for the original Halloween movie depicted a hand tightly clenching a dagger tipped with a starburst reflection of light. Looking like the bloodied fangs of a sabre-toothed tiger, the dagger was echoed four more times behind the primary image, creating one of the most terrifying images ever for a popular movie.

That dynamic poster lured the curious to theatres exactly 36 years ago this month, starting in Kansas City, Mo. As it rolled out across the U.S. and Canada in the days before and after All Hallows Eve that year, Halloween became a sensation — and enormously profitable.

It is still sensational and remains a money generator almost four decades later. Many factors are in play. John Carpenter’s slasher film defined his career. It propelled Jamie Lee Curtis to stardom, especially as a cult sex symbol. It left audiences breathless as psycho serial killer Michael Myers wreaked his revenge on his hometown of Haddonfield, Ill.

Beyond all that, the low-budget but well-made movie also revolutionized horror cinema forever. The modern era of the slasher film began then, despite the enormous restraint Carpenter had exercised in powerfully suggesting but never actually showing the gore. That restraint soon disappeared and is largely absent from the seven Halloween sequels. By the time Rob Zombie did his 2007 remake and his own 2009 sequel, extreme violence had become de rigueur in horror (although Zombie is the most extreme of the extremists).

But the legacy of Halloween is unassailable in terms of scale and influence, just as it owes something itself to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror classic, Psycho. Credit goes to director, co-writer and music composer Carpenter, his then writer-producer girlfriend Debra Hill, the cast led by the superb English character actor Donald Pleasence, and the two core co-producers who dreamed up the idea for a Halloween horror, Irwin Yablans and Moustapha Akkad.

Now, recognizing its potency, the current rights holders of all ten Halloween movies — the 1978 original, its sequels and Zombie’s mini-franchise — got together to package everything up for the hardcore fans. Anchor Bay, a horror specialist in the home entertainment field, has just released two versions of Halloween: The Complete Collection. Besides Anchor Bay, Shout! Factory was crucial in getting the two collections ready. The third company involved is Trancas International Films.

“The miracle of all miracles,” as an indie Canadian publicist put it this week, is that three competing distributors actually cooperated on a joint project. Not just for their own self-interest but for the fans’. That is extremely rare in the movie business.

The collections are both Blu-ray box sets. They differ in terms of content. One is a 10-disc set of the 10 movies, with the first eight in their theatrical versions and the two Zombie movies in their unrated cuts. There are limited extras on the discs. The other set has 15 discs, with far more bonus materials added, including a bonus disc for Zombie’s Halloween that includes the epic-length mega-doc, Michael Lives: The Making of Halloween. Disc 15 in the Limited Deluxe Edition is an exclusive package of extras, among them the extended TV version of the original Halloween that Carpenter created for broadcast in 1981. Another gem for hardcore enthusiasts and completionists is the producer’s cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (also known as Halloween 666). This is a first and is only available in the 15-disc set. Many other extras are fresh, not just recycled from other releases, and Michael Gingold of Fangoria Magazine created a 40-age souvenir book.

One unfortunate note: Fans have been complaining that, for 20 minutes during Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the sound is out of synch. To placate these fans, and to bring the box sets up to standard, it is absolutely essential for Anchor Bay to correct the problem and send out replacement discs.

Otherwise, Halloween: The Complete Collection is the definitive release. It plunges us right back into the terror, the horror, the entertainment value of some of these movies. It gives us the opportunity to renew the debate on how (or not) the Halloween franchise and other horror movies objectify women as victims, how some women are empowered, how the first Halloween created a template for how people survive or die in horror movies, how terror is an essential part of the entertainment experience, how movie violence evolved into splatter porn and how — even in genre filmmaking — inspiration is an elusive and precious thing.

Halloween is one of the best and most influential horror movies of the modern era. Not all of its sequels and remakes are so blessed. With the recent Blu-ray release of Halloween: The Complete Collection (either in a 10-disc standard set or a 15-disc Limited Deluxe Edition), we offer you the best and the worst of the franchise.


• Halloween (1978): Using his camera with a POV shots through the eyes of Michael Myers, filmmaker John Carpenter implicated audiences in the serial killer’s murders. Then he amped up the creepy action with intelligence through Donald Pleasence. Plus he added sex appeal through the star-making turn of Jamie Lee Curtis. Adding his own simplistic yet haunting score, Carpenter’s opus remains as fascinating as it is horrifying.

• Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998): Because Carpenter and former flame Debra Hill reunited on the franchise for the first time since Halloween II in 1981, the innovative H20 deserves a shoutout. Steven Miner directs with a story set exactly 20 years later — yet ignoring all but the first two movies. Curtis returns as a mother with a son who is threatened. The gore is restrained, although not as much as in the 1978 movie.

• Halloween II (1981), With the Carpenter-Hill team still involved as writers and producers, Rick Rosenthal’s sequel picks up where the original left off. Curtis’ Laurie Strode is in hospital, Pleasence is still gloomy Loomis and lives are still in danger. Without Carpenter, Hill et all, the Halloween franchise later became a product, not an inspiration.


• Halloween (2007): Horror circles celebrate Rob Zombie’s remake. But his filmmaking is meanly misogynistic and his take on the Myers-Loomis relationship is madly misguided. So his slick technical prowess does little to reinvigorate the franchise. Zombie’s Halloween II was even worse.

• Halloween: Resurrection (2002): Curtis returned, Rosenthal directed again but the story and the movie sucked. This resurrection turned up dead.

• Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989): The only revenge here was on us … and the movie’s Swiss director. The incomprehensible story was just an excuse for more Myers bloodshed.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland