It’s the spooky time of year again. Not where studios release actual new horror titles to disc or sought-after classics but punch out cool repackages of the discs we already have. And Walmart and Lionsgate have teamed up to do just that for Rob Zombie’s Halloween 1 & 2 with a really slick retro horror-style SteelBook. It’s the same two discs for the Unrated Cuts we’ve already had so nothing different there making this more of a niche collector’s item than a necessary collection pickup. Be warned, the bonus features disc for Halloween is absent. 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 followup 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
Rob Zombie’s Halloween 1 & 2 scores a new Walmart-exclusive Blu-ray SteelBook from Lionsgate. As previously stated these are the exact same discs that have been on the market since, well, forever now. Nothing’s different. Same transfer, same audio options, same bonus features - almost. Missing from Halloween is the bonus features disc with the four-hour making of documentary. The only thing that’s new is the SteelBook packaging that has a really fun retro horror magazine sort of vibe going for it. Beyond slick fun packaging, the other advantage for this release over other past editions is this set includes a digital copy code that will redeem both films on Vudu.
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
As previously stated a few times now, these are the same discs as before. Minus one important one with the 4-hour making of documentary about Zombie's first Halloween remake film. Everything else that's here is pretty good, but that missing documentary is a pretty big miss.
Disc One - Halloween Unrated Cut
Disc Two - Halloween II
Did we need a Rob Zombie’s Halloween 1 & 2 Blu-ray SteelBook with retro-styled artwork exclusive to Walmart? No probably not. I know I didn’t. I have these films in Scream Factory’s big franchise box set. I have the Alliance disc with the theatrical cuts. I also have Via Vision’s set that has both the Theatrical Cuts disc and identical Unrated Cut discs. It’s the SteelBook packaging that’s the prime selling point for this set. And it’s a damn fun-looking package alongside the other Walmart Halloween Steelbooks. The biggest sin of this set not the lack of updated discs or 4K upgrades, it's that it doesn’t include the extra bonus features disc for Zombie’ first Halloween with the four-hour Michael Lives making-of documentary. Really this is going to be most appealing for SteelBook nuts or franchise crazies like me that just can’t say no when they see something like this on store shelves. For Fans Only