On October 25, 1978, Writer/Director John Carpenter and Writer/Producer Debra Hill unleashed what would become one of the most powerful, if not the ultimate embodiment of cinematic evil – Michael Myers. From his humble beginnings as fictional Haddonfield, Illinois’ most infamous son to his reign as frontman of one of the most successful film franchises in horror history, Myers has slashed his way into the jugular of genre fans the world over.
2003 marked the silver anniversary for Carpenters’ seminal film and with it came the type of celebration usually reserved for Trekkies and comic books – a convention.
From October 30th to November 1st, the “Halloween Returns to Haddonfield: Official Halloween 25th Anniversary Convention” took place at the Pasadena Convention Center mere miles away from many of the original locations that served Carpenter and his crew as they made cinematic history. From that event, which drew a who’s who of stars, writers, directors and crew from the original film and it’s seven sequels, grew the documentary DVD experience that is Halloween: 25 Years of Terror. This 2-disc special edition on the history of the Halloween films serves as a surprisingly adequate record of nearly three decades in the history of one of horrors most terrifying creations.
The simplest way to dissect the vast array of information and bonus features that accompany this release is to pick them off one by one in much the same way that Myers dispatched of his plethora of teenage targets, beginning with the documentary feature itself.
Clocking in at a sparse 1 hour and 24 minutes, the film from writer/director Stefan Hutchinson and HalloweenMovies.com Webmaster and Writer Anthony Masi manages to cram some 80 interviews alongside clips, art, outtakes and commentary on the production of all eight original films, including insights from such non-Halloween luminaries as Edgar “Shaun of the Dead” Wright, Rob Zombie (who as you are all keenly aware will be helming the latest installment/reimagining of the storied series) and the prince of pain, Clive Barker, who gives us the shockingly frightening report that he and Carpenter very nearly wrote and directed a Pinhead vs. Michael Myers spin off in a effort to cash on the Freddy/Jason craze of a few years back. While the doc contains the requisite talking heads from Carpenter, Curtis, Tommy Lee Wallace, Tom Atkins and the lovely Danielle Harris, it is far from overtly revealing about the inner workings of the franchise. In fact what makes the film more interesting is the fan reactions that are peppered in and the vast amount of archival material that the filmmakers have amassed. The film contains a few other notable moments, specifically provided by a particularly overzealous young lady who randomly appears throughout the convention before performing a decidedly shocking, and entirely revealing homage to the infamous “See something you like?” scene from the original film – get a good look guys because this tiny tart, who later wins a walk on roll in the likely never to be produced Halloween 9, may never be seen from again.
The Doc is short on focus, offering something like an extended Cliff’s Notes insight on most of the entries, specifically H20 which neglects to interview or even mention executive producer Kevin Williamson (Scream) who arguably is as responsible as anyone for the resurgence in popularity of the Myers tales. H20’s 55 million dollar take on Halloween not only returned star Jamie Leigh Curtis to the fold, but brought in the franchises highest box office totals since the original film and grossed nearly as much as the previous four installments combined. Also of noted absence in the interview portion, but seen randomly throughout in archival footage, is P.J. Soles who provides the documentary’s narration. Apparently the filmmakers felt that with P.J. on the voice over they didn’t need her take of the film’s historical context – a faux pas that is remedied in the first bonus feature on the disc.
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds is Sean Clark’s fantastic ode to all the lost locales of our favorite cult classics, taking viewers on a guided tour of some of the major sites in the original Halloween film, including a familiar stroll home from school with aforementioned and vivacious bad girl Soles in tow. Clark who comes across like the genre geeks very own version of Monster Garage’s Jesse James knows how to keep the flow going as he escort’s viewers to some of filmdom’s most famous landmarks, including the original Myers house and the legendary streetscapes where the nights of bloody terror all began. In addition to his witty commentary, Clark provides a unique insight into the scenes that were shot at those places, even taking a few moments to interview the current owner of the renowned “the hedge house”, which still sees its fair share of terror tourists taking snapshots and swiping leaves to add to their obscure collections. Horror fans beware, just 5 minutes alone with Clark’s show is liable to set you on a nostalgia trip that’s so fervent you may find yourself glued to a computer, manically booking plane tickets before the end of the episode just so you too can touch the seat where the lovely Jamie Leigh Curtis once rested her tasteful teenage tushie.
Most of the other features on the DVD, and I can assure you that this puppy is packed to the hilt, consist of extended interviews and panel footage from the con. All the best parts of these bits have already found their way into the documentary, but I for one found it pretty cool that the filmmakers decided to include the bulk of their interviews intact for the special features. One down side on the Con footage is that, watching a panel discussion while at a con is one thing, and too often even then their pretty dull, but watching it at home on your TV feels a lot like plodding through a mindsucking public access college course of the history of slasher film anecdotes.
The last few features included in the set have a barrage of marginal entertainment value and include some still galleries of the Con, the Fans, and some original artwork. Sorely missing here would have been a gallery highlighting the masses of promotional art and posters, which make their appearances at various times during the feature. Also included is a behind the scenes look on the set of Halloween 5 which feels like a toss off from the standard DVD release. The last pieces of note come in the form of a little loveable aficionado appreciation. Once again throwing a spotlight on the Con, the disc contains a brief montage section looking at some serious Halloween fanatics, featuring a massive assortment of geeks from all over the world gushing about their obsession, flashing their tattoos and generally looking and acting like any number of deranged devotees of your standard cinematic serial killer should. The major highlight of this reel is the inclusion of a few fan films, featuring everyone’s favorite boogeyman in some pretty precarious situations. Enough to make you repeatedly laugh out loud; some of the clips actually show some interesting promise for the fanatical filmmakers.
The biggest disappointment about Anchor Bay’s release is that now, 3 years after the silver anniversary of Halloween, the Documentary or at least the bonus features do not contain something as integral as an epilogue. While the documentary touched on the passing of the brilliant Donald Pleasence, whose embodiment of the very antithesis of Michael Myers was the heart and soul of the films, the release fails to mention the tragic passing of producer and co-creator Debra Hill, who succumbed to cancer in early 2005, or the incredulous death of Moustapha Akkad. Akkad who was murdered along with his daughter in November of that same year during a terrorist attack in Jordan was the grandfather of the series, and arguably the one man that kept Michael Myers from fading from the public’s view for the better part of 30 years.
Surely the future of Halloween seems bleak without the love and devotion of its most ardent figures. One can only hope that Rob Zombie’s vision of what will become Halloween will carry the figure of “The Shape” to future generations and still uphold the integrity of Akkad and Hill’s magnificent monster.
While something like the E! True Hollywood Story or AMC’s Behind the Screen might have managed to put together 2 hours or more just on Carpenters’ original entry, it no doubt would be lacking the love that Masi and Hutchinson have shown their beloved charge. Halloween: 25 Years of Terror might not be the definitive look at the series, but it is likely the only one that will address this classic franchise and give any recognition and begrudging respect to such tragic entries as the long lamented Curse of Michael Myers and the non-entry error that was Season of the Witch. So fanboys, what are you waiting for, I could have given this review one star and you’d still be swimming the English Channel to get your hands on a copy of this disc, in fact – why are you even reading this, go buy a copy right now!