Halloween 6: The Producer's Cut (1995) [Collector's Edition]

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2014-09-22 19:17
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Halloween 6: The Producer’s Cut (1995)
Studio: Scream Factory
Release date: September 23rd, 2014

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman



The movie:

If the 90s are generally regarded as a low point for the genre (a perception I don't exactly share), then it was an especially brutal time for the heavyweights that had dominated the previous decades, many of whom limped in just long enough to be killed off and/or put on hiatus. However, in many of these instances, one couldn’t simply accuse filmmakers and studios of simply offering up more of the same, as so many of these 90s sequels were gonzo takes looking to inject some life into their respective mythos. Some of these efforts—such as New Nightmare and Bride of Chucky—did so rather effectively, while others were downright disastrous. Falling somewhere between these extremes is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, a curious sequel that’s preoccupied with tracing the origins of its monster (like so many of its slasher sequel brethren).

Such an approach is an especially dicey proposition when dealing with Myers, who was conceived as the genre’s ultimate tabula rasa (with a butcher knife) before the various sequels began to peel the layers off his mystique. Not content to keep scratching the surface, Halloween 6 opts for a scorched earth approach by completely revealing the method behind Myers’s madness with plot developments so infamous and controversial that Dimension actually attempted to put the lid back on with a round of reshoots that only resulted in an even more bewildering, nigh-incoherent final product. While that theatrical cut at least does what it can to preserve the remaining shreds of Myers’s dignity, it also feels like a confused cop-out. If nothing else, the fabled Producer’s Cut—long “available” in bootleg circles but only now seeing an official release—presents The Curse of Michael Myers in its fully bonkers form.

On the surface, the general setup between each cut is negligible, as each picks up six years after the mysterious events at the end of Halloween 5 (though the P-cut actually presents flashbacks to make the connection stronger. During that time, Jamie Lloyd (J.C. Brandy subbing for Danielle Harris) has been held captive in the bowels of some nefarious complex, where’s she’s recently given birth a baby boy. After she escapes with her son, Jamie’s psychopathic uncle is dispatched to track her down, which puts him back on the path to Haddonfield to raise more hell. Waiting for him there is Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd), who has spent the last fifteen years obsessed with tracing the roots of Myers’s evil, and his research has led him to an ancient Celtic rune that corresponds with the maniac’s various reappearances.

The introduction of the Thorn rune into the Myers mythology is primarily responsible for the film’s notoriety, and with good reason: it’s a thoroughly weird concept that answers a question no one in their right mind would ask. Myers is an enigma whose effectiveness is only diminished with each revelation about his past, so it’s easy to see why anyone would balk at the notion that he’s not only been influenced by a Celtic rune but also completely manipulated by its cult. He’s not so much pure evil as he is an ancient of evil, a hapless mercenary under the thumb of handlers; it’d be like learning that Freddy Krueger is simply doing the bidding of ancient dream demons or that the Sawyer clan was actually part of some Illuminati conspiracy (bless you, 90s slasher sequels).

But here’s the thing about going nuts—if you’re going to do it, you may as well go all the way, and that’s exactly what the Producer’s Cut does. Whereas Dimension’s tinkering left a film that essentially does an about face during its final act, Moustapha Akkad and Joe Chappelle’s original vision embraces and respects writer Daniel Farrands’s kooky origin angle. For several years, I only considered this version to be a slight improvement over the theatrical cut, but I now find it hard to deny it as more complete vision precisely because it’s so committed to its weirdness for better (yay, coherence!) or worse (magic runes to stop Myers in his tracks—which, to be fair, is still better than Paul Rudd pounding him to a green pulp).

Having stumped for the Thorn angle as a lesser of two evils in the past (it sure beats the predictable childhood trauma route), it should come as no surprise that I would greatly prefer the version of the film that at least bothers to engage its insanity. The Producer’s Cut treatment is effective because it’s likely the closest we’ll ever come to a Michael Myers film by way of Hammer Studios. With its revelation of and subsequent commitment to the Thorn Cult, it totally feels like the sort of movie that would have been conjured up on a Bray studios back-lot in the 70s, complete with unassumingly wicked old ladies, ritual sacrifices, and even totally weird instances of incest. Only Halloween III better reflects this franchise’s pagan roots, though Curse is certainly soused in them to the point of capturing the similarly bleak, sinister atmosphere of Halloween II.

Truly, though, Chappelle and company initially set out to recapture the approach of Carpenter’s original; without even taking into account the improved treatment of the Thorn cult, the P-Cut is simply a more effective film because it relies more on suspense, atmosphere, and characters in lieu of outrageous gore and obnoxious stylistic flourishes. In my review of the theatrical cut, I referred to Halloween 6 as being almost anachronistic, and the P-cut is even more so, especially when it’s stripped of its over-the-top gore, it’s pulsing guitar riffs, and 90s alt-rock outfit Brother Cane’s contributions to the soundtrack. Instead, Alan Howarth’s score is a low-key throwback to the musical style of the first film, there to augment the proceedings rather than overwhelm them.

With the exception of Bradford English’s loathsomely asshole patriarch and a Leo Geter’s shock-jock, Curse also features a set of relatively well-realized characters who aren’t there to simply add to the body count (though it’s a shame that the returning Jamie Lloyd still gets lost in the shuffle in either cut). Plus, Donald Pleasence’s presence as Dr. Loomis can never be appreciated enough—I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the franchise has struggled mightily to find a direction after his passing. Here, Loomis is weathered and humbled, yet no less devoted to ending Myers’s reign of terror, an appreciative course correction from his portrayal as a wild-eyed, child-terrorizing psycho in the previous film.

In that respect, Curse is caught between serving two masters: on the one hand, it’s a complete course correcting attempting to recapture the tone and feel of the original, much like Halloween 4 did. On the other, it also aims to take the franchise in a bold new direction, particularly in this original cut, which ends on a bizarre note that would have been difficult to follow (Pleasence’s passing made it almost impossible). Considering what came afterwards (namely, the ret-conning shenanigans of H2O), it’s tempting to simply regard this film as the proper conclusion of the Halloween franchise. Something about it is perfectly fitting: for all its attempts to shed light on Myers, it ends rather inexplicably, with the Shape still out there, wandering—a slightly diminished Boogeyman perhaps, but still the Boogeyman all the same.

The disc:

For nearly twenty years, the Producer’s Cut has been in circulation, but it’s been consigned to shoddy, multi-generation VHS transfers. In a remarkable coup for Halloween fans everywhere, Anchor Bay and Scream Factory have teamed up to finally deliver a proper release for this fabled alternate version. Ostensibly the crown jewel of the studios’ upcoming Complete Halloween Collection, the film has skipped right over the DVD format and has been stunningly transferred to high-definition. Watching it on Blu-ray is a true revelation—I almost can’t believe the film elements survived to be in such immaculate condition, especially after rumors once persisted that they were lost in a fire.

It turns out that couldn’t be further from the truth (as internet rumors of shady repute typically are), as the P-Cut looks magnificent. Make no mistake: this isn’t some composited rush-job, as the film has been transferred over completely in its original form. Likewise, the original audio elements have been restored in both 5.1 and 2.0 lossless tracks that improve mightily over the weak audio to which fans have grown accustomed over the years.

With almost two decades having elapsed since the film’s release in any form, the disc also serves as the first special edition of any sort for Halloween 6, as Scream and Anchor Bay have produced several hours of material dedicated to this film alone. Headlining the supplements is a commentary with Farrands and Howarth, with the former appearing to be quite eager to finally discuss this film on such a platform. Other contributors appear over the course of several interviews, including Mariah O’Brien and J.C. Brandy, both of whom discuss various recollections and offer thoughts on the film’s reshoots (it should come as no surprise that these two—and everyone else—reaffirms their preference for the P-Cut).

Effects maestro John Carl Buechler appears alongside George Wilbur to discuss the effects and stunt-work on the film, plus Michael Lerner drops in to discuss his contributions as The Shape for the reshoots (ever graceful, Wilbur chalks this up to being “show business” and notes that he actually appeared as one of the ill-fated doctors in the theatrical version). It should be noted that it’s sort of ironic that Buechler was charged with beefing up the violence in this film considering his experiences on Friday the 13th: The New Blood, and it’s nice to see him delight in adding gore instead of complaining about it being cut out.

“The Visual Design of Halloween 6” allows cinematographers Billy Dickson and Thomas Callaway to have their say about their work, while set designer Bryan Ryman discussing how he worked in tandem with the two to achieve a unified look for the film. Producers Malek Akkad and Paul Freeman feature in “A Cursed Curse,” with the former lifting a curtain on the behind-the-scenes difficulties that resulted in multiple versions of the film. He attributes the “Producer’s Cut” nomenclature to the fact that it’s the edit that his father preferred while also noting Chappelle’s preference for it as well; however, concessions had to be made now that Dimension was essentially footing the bill, an act that would portend the studio’s treatment of horror movies that persists to this day.

Howarth is also the subject of his own featurette, as is Danielle Harris, who candidly discusses the course of events that led to her passing on the film altogether. The various participants also come together for a three-minute tribute to Donald Pleasence, a kind gesture that might have been better served as a longer feature with the cast and crews from every film, but it’s hard to complain too much about this.

The rest of the supplements—which still add up to 45 minutes worth of material—are all vintage offerings making their debut here, including the film’s original teaser, a notable piece of marketing in that it features the film’s original working title. Some archival interviews with Pleasence, Paul “Stephen” Rudd, and Marianne Hagans appear with some select B-roll footage, plus Farrands has provided about 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. 7 minutes of deleted and alternate footage also appears, and the vintage EPK rounds out an impressive offering.

That this is only the fraction of the set (which also includes the Theatrical Cut of Curse restored in HD) is even more impressive. In addition to featuring the entire Halloween oeuvre in one box (something heretofore thought to be impossible given the various rights issue), this collection goes all-in with newly-produced features to supplement the wealth of preexisting material (the first three films have been treated very well during the last few years, and most of it makes the leap here). Even the television versions of the first two films are along for the ride. Just about the only oversight is the lack of the superior theatrical edits of Rob Zombie’s efforts, though one could argue that including those films in any form is more disconcerting (I suppose it’s appreciated for the sake of completion, plus the four-hour documentary accompanying the remake is truly great).

Forgetting for a moment all of the surrounding material and returning to Halloween 6 specifically, I must commend these two studios for finally bestowing some affection on this red-headed stepchild of a sequel. I don’t know that goes off the page as much as some of its fellow 90s sequels, but it’s easy to see how it’s struggled to find ardent defenders over the years. Not that it completely excuses its missteps, but the refrain of the supplements here makes it clear that it was actually serving multiple masters behind the scenes in Farrands, the Weinsteins, and the Akkads; the initial result was expectedly schizophrenic, yet the seeds of more daring, bold sequel lay at the center. Twenty years later, that demon seed has blossomed to reveal the admittedly malformed but compelling original vision, and it’s one that I’ll take over anything the franchise has had to offer during the last 20 years.
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