An archive review from The Gingold Files.

By Michael Gingold · July 26, 2006, 12:55 AM EDT
Halloween 25 Years of Terror

Editor's Note: This was originally published for FANGORIA on July 25, 2006, and we're proud to share it as part of The Gingold Files.

Just when you thought, after several editions, that Anchor Bay had exhausted the DVD possibilities of John Carpenter’s Halloween, along comes the company’s release of Halloween: 25 Years of Terror to serve as (one assumes) the absolute last word on disc regarding the 1978 classic and the sequels it spawned. The titular 84-minute documentary is surrounded by such a surfeit of supplementary material that it almost becomes too much of a good thing, even to a die-hard Halloween fan like myself. For those of us who have been following this film series for years—the devotees to whom this package is most directly pitched—some of the two-disc set’s material covers pretty familiar ground, but there are also plenty of surprises and enough fresh material to satisfy even the most jaded Michael Myers maniac.

The documentary proper follows the chronological history of the franchise by way of film clips and interviews with just about anybody who had anything to do with Halloween and its successors, from Carpenter, producer Debra Hill and star Jamie Lee Curtis to a few of the folks behind the unfortunate Halloween: Resurrection, the last release in the series to date. For the casual fan or the uninitiated, it’s a thorough primer on how a simple idea from the mind of executive producer Irwin Yablans spawned an enduring horror legend (and, eventually, cash cow). However, those more familiar with the Halloween chronicles may find that, regrettably but inevitably, the most interesting material on view accentuates the negative.

Controversial topics aired with candor by the assorted talking heads include the clash between writer/producer Carpenter and director Rick Rosenthal over the gore content in Halloween II; the debacle that was Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, leading the so-called “producer’s cut” to become a hot bootleg item (a Dimension rep insists the company is “looking into” giving this version an official release—we’ll believe that when it happens); and the ongoing problem of coming up with a satisfying Michael Myers mask for Halloween: H20. In between the reminiscences both positive and negative, horror heavyweights like Clive Barker and Rob Zombie weigh in on both the first film’s primal appeal and the downslide of quality and substance in its follow-ups. The latter’s presence is appropriate, of course, given that Zombie recently received the assignment to helm the next Halloween, a development that occurred too late to acknowledge on the doc. What’s hard to fathom is why, as far as this writer can tell, there’s no dedication anywhere on the discs to Hill or Halloween godfather Moustapha Akkad, both of whom died last year; deceased series star Donald Pleasence, at least, is eulogized by several contributors.

But the first disc isn’t done yet, as a host of additional interview snippets shed more light on assorted side topics. Among the highlights: Tommy Lee Wallace, who would go on to write and direct Halloween III, explaining why he turned down the first sequel and revealing his own idea for it (rather similar to the eventual H20, with Curtis’ Laurie Strode in college; Tom Atkins humbly addressing his image as a cinematic ladies’ man; diminutive Danielle Harris charmingly recalling how as a young girl on the H4 set, she looked up (no doubt literally as well as figuratively) to statuesque co-star Kathleen Kinmont; and Resurrection star Bianca Kajlich noting that her onscreen college-age Internet pal was originally written as a young boy, with the change made so late that she did a number of auditions opposite much younger potential co-stars. The inclusion of these outtakes also provides a showcase for a few actors who didn’t make it into 25 Years itself, like the initial movie’s Charles Cyphers and P.J. Soles (though the latter does narrate the doc).

There’s also a revisiting of a number of the Carpenter film’s locations, some with Soles in tow; on-set footage of H5 director Dominique Othenin-Girard guiding his young performers through their paces; and assorted fan-oriented material, much of it centered on the 2003 Halloween Returns to Haddonfield convention. The buffs’ enthusiasm is celebrated through a look at assorted props and memorabilia, and snippets from numerous tribute videos; among the most amusing are one done in claymation and another in which two actors perform a brief condensed version of the entire series. In one convention clip, this devotion is rewarded when a drawing is held to award a lucky fan the chance to appear in the ninth Halloween; the winner is a cute girl whose victory is evidently unrelated to the fact that she flashes the documentarians’ camera elsewhere on the disc.

Much more of Halloween Returns to Haddonfield is on view in seven videotaped panel discussions that appear on the second DVD. The camerawork here is on the amateurish side, but the discussions all hold the interest, particularly cast reunions for the first film (Soles, Cyphers and Brian Andrews, plus executive producer Joseph Wolf) and HII (Pamela Susan Shoop, Tawny Moyer, Cliff Emmich and Gloria Gifford). Both quartets have a lot of fun recalling the filming of their respective Myers adventures, and Shoop handles the inevitable queries about her nude hot-tub scene/murder with good humor. Also inevitable, here as well as during the Curse panel, are requests from fans in the audience to recite favorite lines from their respective films; a surprise arrives when Curse actress Janice Knickrehm recites an entire monologue from memory!

In other taped panels, H4 and 5 heroine Ellie Cornell is most likable; cinematographer Dean Cundey is intriguingly technical; and a Michael Myers reunion allows seven of the masked murderer’s alter egos to reveal their favorite kill scenes and recount the various injuries they suffered. Sending the stage appearances off on a high note, Akkad and Yablans appear together, fielding audience ideas for the ninth film, going into detail on the ’78 film’s origins and giving both their fellow Halloween creators and the franchise’s devotees due appreciation. They get the love right back, in a sense, via a gallery of fan-created art joined by collection of convention and location stills, topped off by Vicious Disorder’s song “Pure Evil,” which incorporates Carpenter’s famous musical theme (and plays without any video accompaniment beyond a still of the band).

With Zombie preparing his entry for, one presumes, a 2007 release, Halloween’s legacy will obviously extend beyond 25 years (and already has, if you want to nitpick). Yet if the rocker-turned-filmmaker makes good on his premise to reinvent the franchise, it could mean a welcome new beginning for Halloween—and if such becomes the case, there’s no better way to close the book on the original series than with this DVD package.