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The Halloween franchise, a film series synonymous with horror, centres around serial killer Michael Myers, who on Halloween night 1963, as a six-year-old boy, murders his sister and is sentenced to time in an asylum for the criminally insane. Fifteen years later, Myers (Tony Moran) escapes from the institution and the custody of Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and returns to his hometown to kill again, but this time it's a group of unsuspecting teenagers that is his target, especially teenage babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). Also included in this Halloween five-disc box set are the film's first four sequels which, apart from Halloween III, follow the Myers storyline and his quest to kill his remaining family.

Review by Craig Miller:
Basically, any self-respecting horror aficionado should already own John Carpenter's original horror masterpiece Halloween on DVD, but what this newly released box set of the first five Halloween movies does offer is a chance to experience most of the franchise, warts and all.

What started out as a small indie film in 1978, costing a whopping (tongue in cheek!) US $300,000 to make and taking only 20 days to shoot, the original Halloween has become a pop-icon for the horror film genre and, as the granddaddy of the modern horror genus, is among the top two or three horror films of all time.

Often mis-categorised as a "slasher flick" rather than its more accurate horror/thriller description, Halloween is primarily designed for scares, containing surprisingly little gore but delivering some mighty achievements in suspense and terror that rival anything put to celluloid.

Writer/director John Carpenter knows exactly where the scares are in this terrifying tale, and whether it's the opening prologue scene where he uses a 'first person' tracking shot to get inside his young killer's head, peripheral shots of the masked psycho hiding in the shadows, or some guttering banging against a window, it's all perfectly realised and deliberately manufactured to get his audience feeling utterly petrified and keep them in a state of unease.

Carpenter's strong focus on what really scares - our mortality, the death of loved ones and the perceived pain that is inflicted when stabbed with a ruddy big knife - is really the driving force and, say what you will about the rest of his filmic achievements, here he really terrifies.

The additional sequels included in this set are, unfortunately, nowhere near this calibre of filmmaking. The 1981 sequel takes up directly where the original leaves off, as we see the lovely 'scream queen' herself Jamie Lee Curtis again left to fend off the 'kill, kill' advances of her psycho admirer, this time in a hospital as she is treated for wounds that she received in the original film. Also returning is Donald Pleasance as the 'I tried to warn you' Dr. Loomis. His work in the original was outstanding, but sadly here, and for the remainder of the Halloween series that centres around Myers, Pleasance is criminally underused and given very little to do but spout off how Myers is 'evil incarnate' (a point that he reiterates every time he opens his mouth).

There is no sense of menace here, no stifled suffocating feeling, and the film is extremely one-dimensional; you can't help thinking this one was made to reap the benefits of the box office. Carpenter, too, felt this and hence was only involved in the writing process, leaving the direction duties to TV director Rick Rosenthal.

The third film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, is a complete departure from the Michael Myers storyline and sees a depraved manufacturer developing evil kids' masks and summoning up Celtic magic by stealing a slab of Stone Henge (dumb). Initially, this is the way Carpenter wanted to go with the franchise - every year he was going to do an original horror Halloween story - but this one is a disaster and his idea died in the water.

The remaining two sequels in this release are back to the winning formula of the first two, with the return of the menacing Michael Myers and his unhealthy need to kill his entire bloodline with some nasty sharp instruments, and this is where the series REALLY loses it! These are 100% mid-1980s slasher flicks with little story and lots of killin'. They do try to continue with the mythology of Myers, but it's so clunkily done there is just no grace to them (yes, horror films can have grace!). The fourth installment is the better of the two, and the ending of this chapter is nothing short of inspired. (I won't ruin it for you).

If you haven't had enough by the end of five movies of killing, hacking and horror, then the extras package is only a click away! Spread over the five discs, there is everything from trivia about the films, a fantastic thirty-minute making-of feature made in 2000 featuring interviews with Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill, and an entertaining short film from writer/director Jeff Cooper called Cut which features a horror film director offing people under the guise of art. Many of these features are contained on the Halloween disc that was released a couple of years ago, and if you've got that little gem, then that's probably going to be enough. Otherwise indulge, after all, it is Halloween.

Published August 26, 2004

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(US 1978 - 1989)

CAST: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran, Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, Tom Atkins, Danielle Harris, Ellie Cornell

DIRECTOR: various

SCRIPT: various


PRESENTATION: Widescreen, Dolby Digital 1.0, 2.0, 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Halloween 2000 documentary, Inside Halloween V featurette, Short film 'Cut', Theatrical trailers, Production notes, Trivia, Cast and crew biographies, TV and radio spots, Stills galleries.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Force Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: July 12, 2004

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