Until now, there has only ever been one legal way for fans to see the "Producer's Cut" of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers - at the screening I programmed and hosted last year at the New Beverly (RIP). Blurry bootlegs have circulated for the past 18 years, often proudly displayed at more than one dealer table at even a second rate horror con, so I admit I was actually kind of charmed when I asked the crowd who was seeing it for the first time and saw a lot of raised hands. Since it seemed like this version would never be officially released in any capacity, I couldn't really blame anyone for breaking down and buying a bootleg of it (as I had done), as while I abhor such behavior in general, this was a unique case in that we fans were merely buying a copy of the movie we had paid for and expected to see when we bought a ticket in 1995. A good chunk of the trailer and subsequent TV spots for the film focused on footage that was no longer present (including many of Donald Pleasence's best lines) and the voiceover promised "secrets will be revealed" when the theatrical cut had mostly removed anything that could be considered a coherent scene, let alone any sort of explanation.
But still, it was a bootleg, and I felt funny about writing about it - until now. Thanks to the efforts of Anchor Bay and Scream Factory, the "Producer's Cut" has finally been given an official release, looking just as good as every other movie on the set. This is no workprint or Frankenstein'd thing where the quality keeps changing - it's a fully restored film, and in high def to boot. Any fan that's suffered through the blurry new scenes for years (particularly the one where Loomis finds "Michael" in the hall, which also usually had tracking errors on most copies) will likely be amazed at how good it looks. For example, you can clearly see Dr. Wynn's face when the "Man in Black" appeared in Danny's room early on in the film, thanks to the Blu-ray's quality - that's the sort of thing that can truly make you appreciate how solid the presentation is.
However, I'm not much interested in how good it looks. For those people who stood their ground and never picked up a copy of the Producer's Cut, this will finally answer a question they've had for nearly 20 years: is this version actually better? By all accounts the production was a mess from the start, with seemingly no one on the same page and too many camps vying for control. You had the Akkads producing, director Joe Chapelle, the Dimension suits (including the Weinsteins), screenwriter Dan Farrands and producer Paul Freeman who (according to some) fancied himself a director as well. Dimension wanted more gore, Chappelle wanted less Loomis, Farrands wanted direct ties and references to all four previous films, and Freeman... actually I don't know what he wanted, but he produced part 4 too and that's my favorite sequel, so I want to favor his judgment. And I'm sure the Akkads just wanted to protect their baby from being ruined by meddling.
So, needless to say, the P-Cut isn't exactly a night and day difference from the theatrical version. It fixes many of its issues, but has some of its own (including a laughable climax), and no amount of re-editing or reshooting could change the fact that the movie centered heavily on a polarizing element: the Man in Black and the "Thorn" mark, both introduced in Halloween 5 (no one's favorite entry to begin with). As fans know, H5's team didn't even have an answer for who this mysterious man was or why he had the same tattoo as Michael (something we'd never seen before, of course), but the assumption at the time was that they'd make a followup within a year or two and figure it out then. By the time Curse actually got made, literally everyone involved with part 5 (save Pleasence and the Akkads) was no longer around, and so it's safe to assume that the explanation the H6 team came up with was wholly their own. Could H5's writers have come up with something better than a cult of Druids that have control over Michael? Or provided a more satisfying identity for the Man in Black than "The guy who argues with Loomis for one scene in the first film and whose name you'd only know if you read the credits"? Maybe. We'll never know. All we do know is this: from the get-go this one revolved around a plot concept that would have polarized fans no matter what. I mean, there are some who don't even acknowledge part 2 (which Carpenter wrote!) because it already starts to betray the point of the first one, which is that Michael was a literal boogeyman who picked these girls at random. Making Laurie his sister was bad enough for those fans - making her death part of a Druid cult's plan of sacrifice that would allow Myers to pass his killing "curse" on to another young lad? That's tantamount to treason.
So since I can't just say "This cut is better," I thought I'd run down a list of a few key changes and explain why I prefer one version over the other. This is NOT an exhaustive, 100% complete list of every change, as some are very minor. Sometimes it's just an extra line or two within an otherwise unchanged scene, some scenes have been re-arranged, etc.... there are lists out there of each and every change and I encourage you to check them out if you're so inclined. These are merely the ones that caught my attention and actually made one version (in that moment) better than the other. If there's something I neglected to include, you can assume it was a change that I simply don't care about either way, since, no matter what, it's just not that great of a movie. I think the key thing that makes Halloween more special than the other horror franchises of the era was the relationship between Michael and Loomis, and neither version of the film contains a single moment where the two are even in the same room. So regardless of how the cult and other plot elements changed from one cut to the other, the film always had a major disadvantage compared to its predecessors.
1. Opening sequence. Things are much different right from the start. The theatrical version opens with a bunch of flash cutting and a VO from Jamie (JC Brandy) saying "Michael please don't hurt me!", followed by the title sequence, more quick cuts (mostly of Jamie being wheeled down a hall, prior to giving birth), and finally a monologue by Paul Rudd as Tommy Doyle. In the Producer's Cut, the race to get Jamie to the delivery room is presented much less frenetically, and the credits have a font that matches the one in the original (the theatrical has ugly narrow letters). And instead of Tommy, Loomis delivers the monologue (both versions play over shots of the Man in Black performing a ritual on the baby), and the dialogue is pretty different though they're basically saying the same thing ("Michael is evil and blah blah"). The dates are also made clear, unlike the theatrical cut which has a few "six years ago" mentions but otherwise keeps the exact year of 1995 hidden for some reason. Producer's cut definitely has the win here.
2. Not a big change, but in the theatrical cut we hear a few different radio calls to the Barry Simms show, including one that makes fun of John Carpenter's idea of sending Michael to space (his pitch if he were to come back to the series). You all know I love Carpenter, but a space-set sequel would be just as obnoxious as Resurrection, if you ask me, so I appreciate the little slam on it here. Point for theatrical! Speaking of Simms though, as time goes on I realize I actually hate him more than any cult plot point. Apparently Howard Stern was offered the role; a shame he turned it down since his stories about this clusterfuck of a production would be legendary.
3. Another extension to this part of the film is an explanation from Loomis as to where his burn marks went. In reality they just didn't want to put poor Donald Pleasence through the makeup process, but it needed an in-movie explanation (not sure why, since Myers got his eyes shot out and they never needed to explain that) so in the P-Cut he says he got plastic surgery. Like a few other snips (and the removal of the number 6 from the title) it seems like Dimension wanted to get rid of anything that would be considered a direct reference to the other sequels. But since the movie completely revolved around explaining a mystery from the least-seen entry (H5), you can see why this wish didn't quite mesh with the film's narrative, and thus why it's such a goddamn mess.
4. Probably the biggest change in the narrative prior to the climax is that Jamie doesn't die instantly in the Producer's Cut. Michael just stabs her (below frame) and leaves her in the barn, where she is found the next morning and brought to the hospital (albeit unconscious). Her flashback-driven coma dreams provide some exposition and a few answers that the theatrical cut lacks (such as the fact that Michael is the father of the baby; there is absolutely no mention of who impregnated her in the theatrical cut*), but she never wakes up and eventually dies anyway, so I really don't care about this difference. Her death in the theatrical is needlessly violent, but it works as a sort of Psycho (or, okay, Nightmare on Elm Street 4) level twist to kill off the heroine so soon. Obviously this would have been a bigger shock if Danielle Harris had returned (there's a bonus feature on the disc explaining why she didn't; I highly encourage you to check it out as it's hilariously candid), but on the other hand the new actress is probably why I'm not bothered too much by her early demise. So I'll give this one to the producer's cut not by actual preference, but because it just fits the movie better - not only do we get those aforementioned bits of backstory, but the theatrical cut has a giant plot hole as a result of her early death: Loomis has absolutely no reason to be at the hospital unless she is alive.
5. Another big change in this early part of the movie is that the Man in Black taunts Danny more often. The bedroom nightmare scene is similar (like most things in the theatrical, it's raced through so fast it's hard to understand what is happening), but the breakfast table blowup is changed, as we now hear Danny being instructed to kill, unlike the theatrical where he suddenly just has a knife pointed at John (Bradford English). I actually prefer the theatrical for this one; not only is the idea of Danny being groomed to be a Myers replacement pretty stupid (especially in this series, as they've tried TWICE to move away from "Myers is the killer" only to chicken out**, so why should we believe this to be any different?), but without the Man in Black stuff leading up to it, his sudden would-be stabbing of his grandfather is actually a nice little "Whoa" moment.
That said, the breakfast scene has two other extensions that make it better than the theatrical incarnation. One is a better introduction for Tim, as he is seen making his shake (and explaining his connection to Barry Simms) prior to shifting focus to Kara and her mom - the theatrical cut starts with their conversation, which concerns Tim even though we haven't even met him yet. The other bit is an actual closeup of the cash the mom slips to Kara, something the theatrical version omits and renders John's subsequent blowup a bit baffling. "Yeah, just keep slipping her the cash!" he shouts when we've seen no cash. For all we know the mom was just passing Kara some butter.
6. In the theatrical cut, we briefly see Loomis and Wynn at the scene of Jamie's attack, but in the producer's cut it's much longer, as we meet the new town sheriff who tells Loomis that he's not welcome in the town. I'm all for this scene being kept out, as I don't get why the local police would be anti-Loomis. I think by now we can move past the "You let him OUUUUT!" thing and just accept that Loomis is on their side. Plus the cop is a moron; he's basically suggesting that if they're around Michael will follow, when (as Loomis points out via shouting) it's obvious he's already there. As it would be his only scene I believe, it's fine to leave it out. Point for theatrical!
7. Loomis' scene with Debra is much longer in the producer's cut, and thus is obviously better than the truncated theatrical one. However, in the theatrical version they re-arrange scenes a bit so that there's a bit with Tommy in between Loomis talking to Debra and Debra calling her husband. In the P-Cut, there is no break between these two scenes, making it a bit confusing - is Loomis still there when she calls John to tell him what she just learned? And in either cut, where the hell did Loomis go so quickly, since Michael was already on the scene? So the P-Cut gets the edge here, but the editing is actually superior in the theatrical version.
8 This isn't really a change, but it's something I found amusing - when Jamie's coma flashback shows Michael being led to her as she is strapped to a table, legs spread apart (the movie thankfully spares us a shot of Michael thrusting into his teenage niece), she shouts "Oh god, please forgive me!" but the subtitles mess up and offer "Please forget me!", which actually kind of works. "You know what God, I'm good. Just move on, I'll just see how I fare on my own. Thanks."
9. In the Producer's Cut, Tommy's info dump of what the Thorn is and how it connects to Michael goes on much longer. I'm torn on this one; again this stuff is all dumb to me anyway, so the less the better, right? Also one of the restored bits in the P-cut suggests that the Druids can also control the stars, saying that the constellation first appeared in 1963, then 1978, then 1988 and then 1989. The theatrical has him mention the idea without the specifics, so those in the audience who haven't memorized the release dates of the previous films can just assume it appears in regular intervals like every five years, whereas we die-hards sit there wondering how no one besides a weirdo in Haddonfield, Illinois, ever noticed THE ALIGNMENT OF THE GODDAMN STARS CHANGING AT RANDOM. BUT, as dumb as the answers may be, that is what we were promised, so rushing through it is no better. A toss up.
10. I just want to point out while I'm thinking of it that neither version explains how a newborn baby survived for 12 hours inside a train station restroom without shrieking so loud for food that it didn't alert every single person in the building and possibly those on the trains.
11. John's death is gorier in the theatrical cut (as are most of the deaths). Unlike Jamie, it's fine to see this asshole get viciously killed, even if it's a bit ridiculous (his head blows up from electrocution. Science!). But it's also not in the spirit of the series, which traditionally kept such gory mayhem to a minimum, so I'll side with the P-cut on this one.
12. The little girl singing "It's raining red" in the P-Cut is changed to her simply saying so in the Theatrical. I really wish I was a fly on the wall during THIS argument. Someone had to have actually had a note that the little girl should be talking instead of singing, but that her line should remain intact. Huh?
Oh, and neither version explains why Michael left the house to go kill Barry Simms at the fair, since he was already there killing John and then was back there to kill Tim and Beth. Guess he found Simms to be pretty annoying too.
13. And finally, the two climaxes. Most of the film changes after Wynn outs himself as the Man in Black, though they are similar on a basic level - Kara is kidnapped and taken to Smith's Grove, with Tommy and Loomis in pursuit. Once they arrive they split up so Loomis can confront Wynn while Tommy saves Kara, and it ends with Loomis going back inside as the others drive away. But every single bit of it was reshot except for the scenes with Loomis, as Donald Pleasence had passed away a few months before the reshoots took place. Not only does this minimize his already reduced role in the movie (he's in it for maybe ten to fifteen minutes tops even in the P-Cut, only about half that in the theatrical), but it leads to some goofy plotting to use what they had. For example, in the P-Cut Kara and the kids are trying to escape when they come across a security door that locks in their faces, and are banging on it when Loomis arrives on the other side and shoots the lock so they can open it. In the theatrical, all of this stuff leading up to it is gone, but they still use Loomis saving them. But the way the scene plays in the theatrical, there is no reason whatsoever for Loomis to shoot the lock out - Kara and the kids aren't even there yet. He just steps off the elevator and starts firing some reason. Another odd side effect of his passing was trying to retain his responses to Wynn while changing all of the other man's dialogue, resulting in a nonsensical scene where it seems like Loomis isn't even listening to him (can't blame him, since Wynn's dialogue doesn't make a lick of sense). Neither version explains how Loomis knew where to go after being knocked out by Wynn, by the way.
Michael's "demise" is also much different. In the theatrical version, he chases the group to a lab, where he is first injected with some green liquid and then beaten to a pulp by Tommy. In the Producer's Cut, Tommy puts some rocks in a circle, cuts his hand open, and says "Samhain," which renders Michael powerless, I guess. Again, neither version is good, so I tend to prefer the theatrical because at least something visually exciting happens, and doesn't have ridiculous lines like "The power of the runes stopped him!" However, everything leading up to this showdown in the theatrical version is terrible, from Michael's out of nowhere, unexplained slaughter of the cult to the baffling moment where Myers - traditionally the slowest of the masked killers - actually RUNS down a hallway.
The final scene also changes. Theatrical: Loomis goes back inside and we just see Michael's mask on the ground as we hear Loomis screaming. Producer's Cut: Loomis finds Michael on the floor, and takes off his mask, only to reveal that it's Dr. Wynn. Wynn then transfers the thorn mark to Loomis (huh?) and he begins to scream as we see Michael, now dressed in the Man in Black's outfit, walking away. Both are terrible endings, and since H20 ignores this and the previous two entries anyway, I have given up trying to decide which one I like. I GUESS theatrical would be better in hindsight, as it suggests Loomis has been killed, which is sad but as Pleasence had passed away it'd be better to kill him off than replace him with another actor in order to use the P-cut ending in a followup film.
In short, the P-cut may be technically better, but not consistently so. If I had the time/patience I'd cut my own preferred version of the movie that makes more sense than the theatrical, but keeps out some of its cult-heavy diversions (wholly useless in retrospect since the storyline was abandoned). And I'd lift elements from both third acts to make the least frustrating one. Unlike Rob Zombie's two movies, where I have a definite preference (theatrical over director's cut for the first one, director's cut over the theatrical for the second), I can't really say which version is the one I'll always watch going forward. It's like 50/50 whether or not I prefer what the producer's cut offered over the theatrical, so either way I'd occasionally be wishing that I had chosen the other to watch. If I go with P-cut, I get more Loomis and more coherency, but if I go with theatrical, I get less cult gibberish and way more Brother Cane! I'm torn.
I wouldn't be surprised if this special edition saw solo release down the road someday, but for now it's probably worth at least 1/3 of the price of the boxed set to own (if not more; the limited edition of next month's Nightbreed release - another movie that was mangled by producers and is now finally being restored after fans have been asking for years - costs around 70 bucks; the Hallo-box can be found for about $110). Halloween fans are conditioned to rebuy these goddamn movies over and over anyway, and this time we get them all together in one nice box - plus additional extras for H20, a new commentary for H1, and a bunch of new interviews/retrospectives for parts 3-7. Curse is definitely the main draw, but they made the cost easier to swallow by peppering (most of) the other entries with new stuff, and retaining 99% of all existing bonus material, so unless you want to prove you bought them all there's no reason to hang on to those old ones. Just make that blurry bootleg of this one the first thing you toss.
*According to the commentary by Farrands, the paternity was supposed to be left vague. Also, some fans have theorized that the point of all the test tube fetuses seen near the end of the theatrical cut were meant to suggest Jamie's baby was created via science experiment, not a traditional fertilization.
** First with Halloween III, which left him out entirely, and then again in Halloween 4/5, where Jamie was set up to be the new killer at the end of 4 only for 5 to toss this concept out almost instantly. And as we learn on the H20 disc, the only way Akkad allowed them to use the beheading ending of that film was if they shot the explanation we see in Resurrection at the time. Yes, for all of the shit we give Resurrection for this moment (and other things), it was actually the H20 team that came up with it. Whoops!