Written by: Daniel Farrands
Directed by: Joe Chappelle
Reviewed by: Dave Dunwoody
Many a genre fan was left in a state of confusion and suspense following the explosive ending of 1989’s Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. It would be another six years before a sequel appeared, promising to answer the questions raised by its predecessor: who was the stranger in black that turned Haddonfield PD to a slag pit? What did the tattoo on Michael’s wrist mean? And whatever became of Michael’s young niece, Jamie Lloyd?
The film that was released theatrically as Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers provided some answers. The man in black was some old doctor experimenting on Michael for unknown reasons; the tattoo essentially meant nothing; and Jamie was mulched by farm equipment about ten minutes after giving birth to a mystery baby. Oddly, this seemed to many Halloween fans like an unsatisfying resolution. In fact, some likened it to a “slap in the face” or “huge piece of shit”, and were willing to dismiss parts 4-6 altogether in favor of the slimmed-down timeline offered by 1998’s Halloween H20.
The story goes that cinematic prodigy Joe Chappelle looked at the workprint of the film – what would become the infamous “Producer’s Cut” – and saw elements missing that were essential to a Halloween movie. These elements included spastic editing, an exploding head and a randomly placed fetus. Admittedly, this came following some poor test screenings - and at the time, writer Farrands and others agreed that the movie did need more – but they were thinking along the lines of more suspense and more scares. Things that actually belonged in a Halloween film.
The Producer’s Cut, a much-praised and sought-after bootleg floating around the back alleys of the web, survives as a glimpse of what might have been: a loving fan’s largely-successful effort to weave the franchise’s inconsistent and incoherent plot threads together. Although Farrands’ early take, Halloween 666, provided an even simpler explanation of Michael Myers’ cult ties, the “P-Cut” offers up a pretty straightforward plot. Much of this film is actually the same as the “T-Cut” until the final fifteen or so minutes. Here, we have a completely different movie with a completely different resolution.
But before we get to that, what is different in the first part of the P-Cut? The biggest difference is Jamie’s fate. While she was brutally gored in the T-Cut’s prologue, the P-Cut gives her a bit more dignity, and uses her demise to move the “man in black” subplot forward. After being stabbed in the barn by Michael (not impaled on a thresher), Jamie winds up at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital. It is there that she dies – not by her uncle’s hand, but that of the man in black, who dispatches her with a silenced pistol. This scene, for me, makes Jamie’s death all the more tragic while heightening the mystery surrounding the stranger in black. It also reminds one of Halloween 5’s ending, in which the stranger was presented as a gun-toting badass who does his own share of the dirty work.
Another major difference in the first part of the P-Cut is the lack of flashy editing and more of a return to the slow-burn suspense of the original Halloween. With this direction and Farrands’ fanboy (“fanboy” being a major compliment here) attention to detail, this sequel easily stands up to winning predecessors like 2 and 4. It’s also not an incredibly gory film – case in point, John Strode’s exploding head, the most ridiculous kill in a series that features deaths by thumb to the forehead and camera tripod. Exploding head doesn’t happen in the P-Cut.
The conclusion of the T-Cut basically threw away all of the supernatural elements revealed throughout the film, with the Thorn cultists shedding their dark robes and revealing themselves to be secular doctors who are (my best guess) trying to isolate Michael’s evil on a genetic level. And though it’s never explicitly stated in this version, it would seem that Michael is the father of Jamie’s baby. It’s an utterly baffling turn of events, and Chappelle’s addition of hints like a madwoman dying post-abortion and a preserved fetus on a shelf don’t exactly make one forget the direction that the story was going up until this last segment. It feels exactly like what it is – a hastily tacked-on ending written by someone who’s not a writer.
The P-Cut’s conclusion is infinitely more satisfying. Kara, Danny and baby Stephen, who were just kinda sitting around in the sanitarium during the T-Cut finale, actually have a place in the story. With the sacrifices of Stephen and Kara, the curse of Thorn will pass from Michael into Danny, beginning a new cycle of bloodshed – all in the interest of appeasing the Thorn cult’s deities. And, rather than beating the shit out of Michael with a pipe (though I admit I did enjoy that until the green blood started coming out), Tommy Doyle in the P-Cut invokes the power of the runes he mentioned earlier in order to immobilize the Shape.
And then? Well, if you were left wondering whether or not Wynn, the man in black, died in the T-Cut, there’s no question here. Michael breaks Wynn’s control over him and switches clothes, escaping in the man in black costume (and making for a great final shot). I think this scene should appease those fans who criticize part 6 for putting Michael under the thumb of a curse. With Wynn left dying and Michael walking out of the sanitarium, we see that Myers’ evil goes far beyond whatever bad mojo the cult put on him. And we also get a brilliant fate for Loomis – that’s right, no off-screen cries here – as Wynn passes his own curse, that of Michael’s caretaker, onto the Shape’s nemesis.
A lot of fans will say that it wouldn’t have mattered if the P-Cut had been released theatrically; it probably still would have performed poorly, and the great Donald Pleasence would still have passed away. We most likely would have still been on the road to DTV until Jamie Lee Curtis came back for H20. I don’t dispute any of that – but for completists like myself, the P-Cut timeline fits much better with H20 than the T-Cut. I won’t spend another thousand words on that though – judge for yourself.
There are copies of the P-Cut floating around out there going for $40-$50, most with pretty poor audio and video quality. However, a superior DVD with cleaned-up bootleg footage (and pristine T-Cut footage used whenever possible) does exist. Produced and distributed by fan “Mikeymoves” before a cease-and-desist came down from on high, this is far and away the best P-Cut you’ll ever see - God bless the online petition crowd, but this flick’s never getting an official release. H20 was the final nail in that coffin, and Rob Zombie’s remake burned the old pine box to ash. So if you’re a die-hard Halloween fan, and you can find the bootleg, this one’s Essential!
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