Two of the most divisive films of the franchise, Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II carves up a new four-disc Ultimate Edition release from Australia’s Via Vision Entertainment. While fans may bicker over quality, Zombie certainly delivered a unique take on Carpenter’s classic making it his own beast. With theatrical and untreated cuts for both films, this set is essentially a repackage of existing discs, right down to the main menus. If you have them, you’re all set. If you need them, this is a great way to get them in a convenient package but it’ may have limited appeal For Fans Only
Part of being a longtime fan of John Carpenter’s Halloween comes with rewatching the films again and again. Even the ones that I don’t particularly like all that well. With each viewing, even if it’s on mindlessly in the background for work noise, I inevitably reassess what I think of each film. While I wasn’t very enthused with Rob Zombie’s Halloween and I didn’t particularly care for his follow-up Halloween II, they have grown on me. Especially in the wake of the recent David Gordon Green-directed legacy trilogy that wrapped up with the aptly titled Halloween Ends. I no longer feel Zombie’s two entries are the worst of the franchise.
Halloween was always a dangerous prospect for a remake. That’s a lot of franchise baggage on top of remaking a classic by a respected horror director, but Zombie gave it a whirl with his signature flair for unappealing characters and brutal violence. That isn’t to say that every character is the worst, but the ones that die and die badly, you’re glad to see them go. Of the two cuts I still prefer the Theatrical Cut as I find the rape-escape sequence in the Unrated Cut truely awful, unnecessary, and unwatchable. The pacing of that cut may be better, but that sequence alone makes me want to skip it entirely. With that, I wish Zombie’s original work print cut ending where Michael dies at the end would someday come to disc. Ages back that’s how I first saw the film downloading it days before I set off for the theater and I thought that was a damn bold ending that practically screamed “never make another sequel.”
But you have to have a sequel, and Halloween II is here. Recently Rob Zombie has spilled some production beans about what it was like working on these films under the frustrating eyes of the Weinsteins and it sounded like hell. I really didn’t like this when I saw it in theaters and the Unrated Version didn’t do much to change my mind when it hit Blu-ray. But again, it’s risen in my estimation, especially after reading about Zombie’s experience making the film. It sounds like it’s a bit of a miracle there was even a final film at all. Better than what Halloween Kills and Ends tried to do, I think Zombie did an impressive job diving into the sad underbelly of a town scarred by tragedy. Some more appealing characters might have helped, but it’s a visually striking film, to say the least. It’s uniquely his own thing and it isn’t trying to be anyone else’s and with thirteen entries in the franchise, that's actually commendable.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Australian label Via Vision sharpens up for their own two-film four-disc collection of Rob Zombie’s Halloween I & II Ultimate Edition. Each of the discs in this set are simple re-authors of existing discs. The Halloween (2007) discs is the same two Feature and Bonus Features Blu-rays as before, the Halloween II Blu-ray is the same, and the Halloween/Halloween II Theatrical Cut disc is essentially identical to the Alliance disc from 2011. The only thing different about these is a Via Vision intro logo appears before the main menus - and these are the exact same main menus for each disc we’ve already seen. The trick here is now all four discs are bundled together in a nice convenient set in a four-disc case without being stacked complete with slick slipcase artwork. Even though the artwork indicates Region B, all discs are in fact Region Free and have been tested on multiple setups.
As these are virtually identical discs as before - the A/V hasn’t changed. Even comparing bitrates, there wasn’t any notable difference to speak of. But that’s not altogether a bad thing either. These were solid presentations in their day and remain so. Sure, I’d love to see these in 4K someday, but since that may not happen for a long time, the current 1080p masters hold up. Given it was shot on 35mm, Halloween generally looks the “best” but I have a love for the look and aesthetic of Zombie’s Halloween II. Using 16mm gave the film a genuinely gritty and dirty vibe that fit perfectly with what the film was going for.
Likewise, the audio are audio tracks we’ve already heard before. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. Zombie has always made good use of surround tracks in his films and that’s especially true here. If the aggressive score isn’t filling the soundscape, the squishy crunches of brutal killings will keep your channels working throughout each film. Using my receiver’s DTS Neural:X function opens these tracks up beautifully. I’d be curious what Atmos could do for these, but when or if they ever come to 4K I wouldn’t be mad if the 5.1 tracks remained.
Halloween Unrated - Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Halloween II Unrated - DTS-HD MA 5.1
Halloween Theatrical - DTS-HD MA 5.1
Halloween II Theatrical - DTS-HD MA 5.1
And again, no new bonus features since these films were given their own solo releases or rebundled with Scream Factory’s badass Halloween 15-Disc Deluxe Edition set from a decade ago. In case you’ve never gone through those, there’s a ton of stuff to dig into. Not the least of which is the incredible 4 hour documentary Michael Lives about the making of Zombie’s 2007 Halloween. I feel like that was really one of the last great truly exhaustive making-of experiences for disc media. Yeah, it’s great when we get a release that has an hour or two with commentary tracks, but that documentary was something else.
Disc One - Halloween Unrated Cut
Disc Two - Michael Lives
Disc Three - Halloween II
Rob Zombie certainly made two divisive entries for the Halloween franchise. His 2007 Halloween and 2009 Halloween II certainly have their passionate fans and detractors - but then virtually every Halloween film does. Of the films that I initially disliked or didn’t much care fore, it’s Zombie's efforts that rise in estimation each time I see them. I don’t think they’re flawless, again some more sympathetic characters would have helped, but I give the guy a lot of credit for taking the characters and scenarios and making them his. Especially in II with some of the most haunting imagery of any Halloween film.
And now Via Vision Entertainment steps up to the plate to deliver fans a collection of Zombie’s efforts. Complete with the Unrated and Theatrical cuts for both films, the discs themselves are essentially repackages of what’s already been on the market. The A/V presentations still stand up nicely, but an upgrade to 4K would have been welcome. As I understand it these films and many others in the Weinstein catalog are a bit of a rights nightmare so it seems unlikely we’ll see a notable upgrade any time soon. Throw in all of the excellent bonus features and you’ve got a great, convenient set for fans who haven’t added these to the collection yet. However, if you already own them either solo or in a previous box set, you’re all good. For Fans Only