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Posts tagged “daniel farrands

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers – The Producer’s Cut (1995)

This has become a very well known version of Halloween 6 to fans over the years, most deeming it superior to the theatrical cut.  It has never been officially released by Dimension Films, and can only be found in bootleg form on both VHS and DVD.  Today, you can actually find the full cut freely on YouTube. Among other things, the altered ending is also due to the passing of Donald Pleasance following principal photography, but that was hardly the catalyst for the extent of these changes.  As explained in the review of the theatrical version of this film, Halloween 6 was turned into a mess of a film in post-production following poor test screening reactions and severe creative differences between director Joe Chapelle and the film’s producers.  Thus, this version of the film was dubbed “The Producers’ Cut.”  Suffice it to say, there are distinct and dramatic differences between this version and the theatrical cut.

The setup and premise for the film remains basically the same as the official theatrical release, but this cut follows a slightly different chain of events.  There are alternate death scenes with some happening later in the film, allowing characters to survive longer than in the theatrical version.  One of those is that Jamie Lloyd is not killed by Michael, but rather, dies in the hospital later on by the hands of the Man in Black.  This adds back scenes of Loomis and Wynn in the hospital that better explain how Tommy runs into Dr. Loomis there.  Overall, the film gives more time to developing the relationship between Doctors Wynn and Loomis.  Right from the start there is an extended introduction scene, and as the story goes along a different chain of events, there are more scenes of them together which build them into a stronger, more prominent part of the plot.  More foreboding seeds are planted towards the rune of Thorn as well.

Music cues are also different in mostly eliminating the false scares throughout the film, and you will find no trace of wailing rock guitars anywhere.  The score is more in the traditional Halloween style with a focus on atmosphere and tension.  A definite difference from the start is Donald Pleasance doing the opening narration instead of Paul Rudd’s Tommy Doyle.  We also get a flashback to a never used, never seen ending to Halloween 5 where Jamie, portrayed by Danielle Harris, is abducted by the Man in Black.  Of course, where this version of this film departs from the theatrical version is more in the final act.  I won’t go spoiling much, but everything after Tommy and Loomis are knocked unconscious is almost completely different.  The film follows through on the occult aspects it establishes instead of the nonsensical genetic cloning swerve the theatrical outing offers.  Several scenes throughout the final twenty minutes were re-shot with a heavily revised script, leading to the more ‘by-the-numbers’ ending we eventually got.  The Producer’s Cut ending is less action-oriented, and more plot centric using the idea of the runes to cancel out Michael’s own power to allow for a potential escape for some.

I believe this version is a definite improvement over the theatrical cut.  The film follows its own logic throughout whereas the theatrical cut veers off track, essentially disregarding the development of the story at the start of the final act.  The Producer’s Cut retains a consistency and continuity within its own story, and with its predecessors.  While it requires the story to delve further into bizarre territory, it seems more satisfactory.  More importantly, it is all rather well explained through the course of the overall film.  This is mainly done by Tommy, but in the final act, Terrence Wynn goes further in depth about the motives behind it all.  The film doesn’t envelop itself in clichés or formulaic horror film scenarios building up to or during the film’s conclusion.  It presents a climax and ending which respects the development of the story, serves the tone and themes appropriately.  It also leaves a much clearer opening for a sequel with a definite storyline to follow down.  Unfortunately, this storyline and its continuity were shelved and ignored by the makers of the subsequent sequels.  While I would’ve liked to see such a proper continuation, I don’t believe it would’ve been successful.  Any non-fans would be turned off and lost with such a continuation.  This is merely by the fact of long-stretching mythology and continuity that newcomers would be unaware of.  Of course, this would allow for even lower box office numbers.  I’m sure the death of Donald Pleasance wouldn’t leave much confidence in the franchise’s future along this path, either.

I don’t see a real point in reviewing the acting since the quality of the performances don’t change from one cut to the other.  Rarely, if at all, does an alternate take appear, and it’s more a fact of extended and additional scenes appearing throughout.  Although, aspects of the editing should be addressed.  Whereas the theatrical version is far gorier than previous Halloween films, this cut removes a good deal of the gratuitous bloodshed.  This helps to put it back on track with the other Michael Myers outings, and much like with Alan Howarth’s score, keeps the horror focused more on atmosphere and suspense than on shock gore value.  I believe both cuts of the film were done by the same editor, Randolph K. Bricker, and so, the quality of the editing is quite consistent between both versions.  Of course, without a doubt, the story flows much better in this version.  This is probably because there’s more story here to work with between various characters.  Even the timeline alteration of Jamie’s death offers up a well-timed plot turn, and a slightly tighter pace about one-third of the way into the film.  It also keeps the idea of the Man in Black alive where he’s barely present in the theatrical cut.  Also, bare in mind, the Producer’s Cut was put together first.  So, the theatrical version’s gratuitous gore was all added in later, but still, several small character moments were excised in the theatrical version.  In regards to the Strode family turmoil, while they are nice touches, I don’t think either cut is exceptionally better or worse because of their presence or absence.  Still, it helps to give an extra touch of depth to one or two characters.

I can honestly say that I do find more enjoyment in watching this version of the film, but watching a multi-generational bootleg copy, no matter what lengths skilled fans go to improve the experience, is not something I would do often.  I really feel that if Dimension Films had any intention of releasing the Producer’s Cut officially on a properly mastered DVD or Blu-Ray release, they likely would have done it already.  Still, it is an investment in time and money, and there’s no guarantee that they still have all the necessary elements to present the complete film.  Sometimes, audio tracks or film elements are lost.  Beyond that, who knows what condition the master print is in.  I’m not saying these are absolute certainties, but there are numerous factors to take into consideration.  Of course, if they don’t show the initiative, we’ll never know.  Regardless, if you ever have the opportunity to view this version of the film, I believe it is worth your while if the more occult aspects of the story intrigue you.  Like I said, it’s readily available on YouTube, for the time being, so it costs you nothing to give it a look.


Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

The early-to-mid 1990s were generally not a good era for horror films.  The slasher craze of the 80s was dead, and the few surviving franchises were really limping along, creatively and/or commercially.  Now in the hands of Dimension Films, who had already begun tarnishing the Hellraiser franchise, Moustapha Akkad pushed forward with a sixth installment in the Halloween series.  It would explore the origins of Michael Myers, and follow-up on the events in The Revenge of Michael Myers.  It had good beginnings, but what could’ve been a very solid and satisfying film for certain fans, turned into a real mess with an obscured potential.  It just goes to show that certain franchises shouldn’t be given to certain studios.

Following six years later, much has changed for our familiar characters.  Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) has retired after suffering a stroke during his last encounter with Michael Myers.  Almost everyone believes that Jamie Lloyd and Myers died that night.  Although, it is October 30th, 1995, and things are about to change further.  In actuality, Michael survived, and Jamie (J.C. Brandy) has been held captive by the Man in Black and his cohorts all this time.  Jamie has since been impregnated, and is now mother to a newborn baby boy.  In an escape attempt, Michael pursues her relentlessly.  Meanwhile, shock jock Barry Simms (Leo Geter) holds a radio broadcast about the return of Halloween to Haddonfield, and one of his callers is a panicked Jamie Lloyd, calling out for help.  Among those listening are Tommy Doyle (Paul Stephen Rudd) as well as old friends Dr. Loomis and Dr. Terrence Wynn (Mitch Ryan).  Of course, it is not long before Michael claims his niece’s life in quite a gory fashion.  While the child is lost to The Shape, Tommy soon tracks the baby boy down, and chooses to protect him.  Loomis & Wynn soon join the hunt for Myers, but ulterior motives loom in the shadows for some.  Meanwhile, relatives of Laurie Strode – including Kara (Marianne Hagan) and her young son Danny – now occupy the old Myers home, and are in danger of Michael’s boundless evil.  Tommy, quite obsessed with the truth about Michael Myers, believes he has discovered the origin of his evil, but how this version of the film progresses, it eventually becomes irrelevant.

It is rather easy to see how this entry in the series failed to be a serious success.  The main factor is that, after poor test screenings, Dimension Films ordered the third act to be re-shot and much of the film to be re-edited to be a much less intelligible story.  However, the original version survives in the bootleg market as “The Producer’s Cut.”  In this, the theatrical cut of the film, there’s much left to be desired regarding the plot.  What begins as a supposed occult plot surrounding Michael eventually takes a sharp swerve towards some form of genetic cloning, and all things occult are bafflingly washed away.  The film also goes for a lot of cheap, false scares which only degrade the quality of the film.  Re-casting or dispatching with the character of Jamie Lloyd didn’t win any fans over either.  However, Danielle Harris did not like the script, or what happened to Jamie in it.  So, she passed, forcing the role to be given to another actress who did a fine job, but the re-casting does affect the impact of what does happen to Jamie here.

What I do enjoy a great deal about this film is what many don’t like – the entire Thorn / occult plotline.  Many despise it, but it’s much the same as I like Jason Goes To Hell.  It offers up a better explanation than just “he’s evil.”  Evil alone doesn’t make you immortal and impervious to injury or pain.  There has to be a reason, and after a while, you need to add something more to the stalk and slash formula to keep it interesting.  Whether it succeeds or fails depends on how well the explanation is integrated into the established mythos.  For me, I think screenwriter Daniel Farrands did a very exceptional job tying all the little bits and pieces scattered throughout the films into a credible storyline.  While the entire Thorn mark on Michael in Halloween 5 was purely random, trying to give Moustapha Akkad some thread to continue with into the next sequel, I find it is quite a valid revelation.  Like it or not, John Carpenter did set this up, partially, years ago.  When filming additional scenes for the network television broadcast of the original Halloween, he introduced the plot twist that Laurie was Michael’s sister.  He also introduced the idea of Michael being linked to Samhain in his and Debra Hill’s script for Halloween II.  Despite which belief system you categorize it under, Samhain is directly linked with an array of paranormal and supernatural events and rituals.  All of which involving the relationship between the living and the dead.  Therefore, while none of this origin came from a singular stream of consciousness, it all eventually fit together with perfect logic.  If for nothing else, in my honest opinion, it’s a better and more creative origin for Michael Myers than what trash Rob Zombie tried to feed us.  I don’t believe in making evil incarnate a sympathetic figure.  You shouldn’t feel sorry for evil, but you should respect its power and legacy.  The one person who survives throughout these films is the one who respects and never underestimates the evil that is The Shape, namely Dr. Loomis.

The film has a solid setup giving us plenty of mysterious and haunting elements that create suspense.  Having the Man in Black haunting Danny Strode was handled nicely, and created a driving plot element which passionately involved Kara Strode.  She’s not being randomly stalked.  She is fighting for the safety of her son, and thus, naturally forms an allegiance with Tommy Doyle.  Bringing back a character from the original film, and developing him down this path is something I’ve always strongly enjoyed.  He could’ve been the Halloween franchise’s allegory to Tommy Jarvis from the Friday The 13th films – a young protagonist who has dedicated himself to understand the evil that once stalked him, and seeks to destroy it, once and for all.  Doyle is very smartly handled in this story giving the character enough weight to bring credibility to everything he says.  Just as how Dr. Loomis could come off as very preposterous if wrongly cast, the same goes for Tommy Doyle.  Where Loomis has always brought a dreadful urgency to the plot, Tommy brings a scary vibe of mystique as he explains the truth of Michael Myers.  The addition of Dr. Terrence Wynn mixes both of those into a heavy, frightening threat, regardless of which cut of the film you view.

While all the Strode family drama was quite unnecessary, it at least has some bearing on the story and the characters.  It creates enough emotional turmoil for Kara which makes her more vulnerable and emotionally open for an audience to connect with.  However, on the down side, I definitely get that John Strode is not meant to be likeable in the least, but he actually comes off as far too stereotypical, dumb, and tiresome.  He’s a dull thud of a character that I just wanted to be rid of, and if the film spent less time with him, I would have been perfectly all right with that.  That is really the only character which fell flat for me.  Actor Bradford English just didn’t seem like a very solid fit for this role, and does little with it for anyone to take him very seriously.  He comes off like a bull-headed buffoon.  Even the crass shock jock character of Barry Simms is vehemently unlikeable, but he’s supposed to be, and Leo Geter hit the role perfectly on the mark.

Now, what further drives this away from the tone of a Halloween film is the excessive gore.  The splatter level here is more akin to that of a Friday The 13th film.  The Halloween films have, generally, been more focused on atmospheric horror than shock gore.  I can only fault director Joe Chapelle for a good measure of this.  He was the one Dimension Films called on to re-shoot sequences for Hellraiser: Bloodline.  Thus, essentially butchering everything that film had left going for it after the Weinstein’s kicked Clive Barker and original director Kevin Yahger off the project.  He’s clearly not a filmmaker who strives to fight for his vision or establish his own identity.  He does what the studio wants him to do, even if it means butchering his own film or someone else’s.  Chapelle also perceived Donald Pleasance’s performance as “boring,” and cutout several of his scene from the film, further showing Joe Chapelle’s lack of sense for good talent.  Clearly, there was a good movie under all these re-shoots and re-edits that Chapelle deserves some credit for, but he really loses a lot of that credit and respect due to his track record with this film and others.

Fortunately, the acting rises far above anything that might be lacking in the director’s chair.  Donald Pleasance, as always, delivers what had always kept this film series so unique.  He provides a dramatic and emotional weight which brings an honest credibility to the film, despite what strange turns it might take.  Paul Rudd and Marianne Hagan bring equally real and solid performances.  Rudd fashioned a definite eerie quality for Tommy making it quite apparent that he’s had a weird time of it since Halloween, 1978.  I always find myself especially intrigued by his character, hoping that a subsequent film would follow him in more depth, but that really became a dashed hope.  Beyond just the change of direction in the franchise, Paul Rudd emphatically made it known he’d never work with these filmmakers again.  He signed onto what was supposed to be a high caliber suspense film, but the studio ultimately decided to take the low road.  That being said, aside from my previous comments, there’s hardly a weak link amongst the cast.  Mitch Ryan was a welcomed addition adding some extra strength and stability.  He does an immensely effective job in his plot twisting role as Terrence Wynn.

Lastly, George P. Wilbur returns as The Shape.  He previously took on the role for Halloween 4.  The performances are about the same, but he gets to do more walking here.  You see more of his movement, but it doesn’t have that natural fluidity that Nick Castle had in the first film.  It seems everyone who portrays Myers always tried to emulate the robotic and rigid performance of Dick Warlock.  I cannot explain this approach as I believe Castle’s more natural movement made Michael seem more eerily human, and in a way, more frightening and relentless.  He seemed to move with more purpose, more determination, and thus, showed he was more motivated.

Alan Howarth, a frequent collaborator of John Carpenter’s, and the man responsible for the scores of Halloween 4 & 5 returned here.  He takes things in a different direction this time out.  This is a much heavier score with the synthesizers regularly slamming into the soundtrack with a more overbearing presence, at times.  The familiar themes of the series have a more atmospheric or polished synth sound, which I do enjoy.  It gives this film more self-identity that works, but there are undesirable elements of this score.  The music in the climax is overwhelming with shredding electric guitars in a very 80s pop-metal style.  It’s like a second rate Eddie Van Halen wannabe took over the scoring job on the film and did a terrible job at it.  This is not scary or suspenseful.  It’s just obnoxious   Now, this is something exclusive to this cut of the film.  It was another decision made by people less interested in creating a coherent and effective horror film, and more interested in just making whatever’s going to give them one extra dumb dollar – even if only makes the film worse.

Thankfully, the film is shot very well, in most part.  The cinematography has a serious approach with focus on dramatic weight and eerie atmosphere.  The lighting creates some uneasy moodiness.  The bleak visuals create a sense of foreboding and unease.  You get the feeling all the way through that this is a film that is taking itself seriously with intense, unrelenting horror, and a storyline that’s supposed to have dire consequences.  I really love how the film was shot.  It takes the blue tones of the first and fourth films, and adds an extra layer of depth and grit to enhance the more grim tone of this film.  I give much praise to cinematographer Billy Dickson on this production.

Generally, I feel this version of the film is less fascinating than its bootlegged counterpart.  Based on its own merits, the film boils down to a mindless slasher with a messed up plot progression which ultimately negates itself.  While it does have strong acting and solid production values, the studio heads botched it all up to cater to stupid fourteen year olds who wouldn’t end up being able to see the film in theatres anyway.  The whole film seems meant to build up towards answers and revelations regarding the origin of Michael’s evil.  Sadly, it’s all thrown out to introduce a new ending which makes no sense, and doesn’t bother to explain itself.  I’m not one who demands that all mysteries be solved, and all questions be answered thoroughly and definitively in a film, but things need to make some degree of coherent sense.  Simply said, the fact remains that this ending does not fit to this story.  It washes away all plot points and hints at answers the film establishes, and introduces brand new ones which come to no light.  It’s a cliché, shallow, and hollow conclusion to a film which laid the seeds for so much more.  Satisfaction, at least for me, does not come from this version of Halloween 6.