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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rob Zombie's Halloween: A Review

Straight away, the biggest problem with Rob Zombie's Halloween is that it is a remake of Halloween. That is, it has to deal with the expectations and entrenched beliefs of the preexisting fans. It is actually well made, a relatively high quality film, though fairly conventional, especially for Zombie. Also, Zombie knows what he is doing behind a camera, and clearly has tremendous respect for the material. Therefore, while an excellent effort, I think the Halloween remake falls a bit short. There is a spoiler alert for everyone who hasn't seen the movie, as the rest of this post is rife with information sure to spoil your surprise.

The new Halloween falls short because the main difference is the time spent adding flesh to the childhood of Michael Myers, and in that endeavor I think Zombie fails in his intent, which is to explain why Michael Myers does what he does and add to his story. In so doing, the family life in the Myer's home is revealed to be dysfunctional, yet inexplicable. The loser-drunk step dad somehow manages to keep the apparently loving mother of young Michael in his gravitational field while doing nothing but being a drunk slob and abusing her almost feminine blonde little boy.

Michael is about twice the age he was in Carpenter's original, old enough to beat a much older and larger bully to death with a stick and his sister's boyfriend with a bat, as well as able to duct tape down a grown man tight enough that he cannot move. Perhaps this is foreshadowing of his titanic physical attributes to come. Perhaps his rage is the dynamic force behind his strength, even at the age of ten.

But in humanizing Michael, Zombie has taken away the mystery, the abject horrific wonder of the original, where Michael was six, and apparently acted for no reason, killing his older sister out of nowhere. It is the lack of motive behind the opening scene in the original that sets the stage for the soulless stalking killer to follow. That he kills animals in the remake, and gets caught, makes Michael more normal, more of this Earth, less mysterious, a human being; a killer that we have already known and documented a million times. By making him a sympathetic character, some of the sting is taken out of Michael; the gutteral "Why?!?!" of the shocked voyeur is partly muted when the contents of the charnel house are discovered.

In the original, when the six year old kid inexplicable stabs his much older sister to death for no reason, it does not feel like much of a stretch for him to become the invincible stalking killer, at least in movie reality. Yet the transition from sorry little blonde abuse case to confused inmate into hulking, inhumanly powerful, I Can Snap Chains With A Flick Of My Wrist psychokiller feels uneven, abrupt, notwithstanding the bodycount he amasses in his tender years.

In short, as they have learned in the comic book business, if you have a mysterious origin to an important character, have a care when you reveal it, as it probably looked better on paper than it sounds out loud.

On the other hand, as said before, it is a better than average movie, and Zombie goes about his business well. The score is faithful, if not exact. Once the action sequences get going, they move at a quick pace. There are a few surprises, like when Michael only roughs up one of the young ladies committing the mortal sin of the horror flick, [having sex], instead of killing her. Also, the Dr. Loomis for the 21st Century does not choose his own fate [and is actually of less gravity than the original played to the hilt by Donald Pleasance].

And there are a few tasty tidbits here and there, like when Laurie's adoptive father muses that a rotting corporate monster is destroying their town [a little commentary about the movie and character, or Hollywood?], or when Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper is playing behind Michael's first kill in his old house.

And in the very end, there appears to be a bit of a twist, something I had to see it twice to confirm. After chasing long lost sister Laurie through more than a few walls, and doing his best to kill her, and even telling her why he is there [via a tattered photograph of her and his prior, blonder self], the brother and sister fall from a height, and she, face bloodied, ends up on top of him. Thinking quickly, she produces the revolver she retrieved from the corpse of Loomis, and attempts to shoot Michael in the face point blank. After trembling and flinching through the first 3 [or four] empty chambers, Michael comes to and grabs her wrist. At first this looks like he is struggling, but upon a closer review, it is more as if he is steadying her hand, so that the shot counts. Perhaps this was the surcease of pain Michael required - he stalked his sister so that either would force her to end his existence, and perhaps give him peace.

See the problem with humanizing your stalking psychokillers? They become so needy!

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[Be sure to visit RayRay's political blog, Non-Partisan Witch Hunt!]

7 comments:

Wings said...

Good commentary, and I agree with most of what you say. The mystery was a big part of why Michael was interesting for so long.

However, and this may be more of a personal preference, but I think the kills are too much, too. Too visual, too gory. What was left to your imagination to fill in with the original film is here shoved in your face in full-bloody gore. Ugh, not my choice.

Not looking forward to his 'part 2', at all.

Anonymous said...

Liked the Remake except last few scenes breaking thru walls was so damn dark couldnt see anything! Hopefully H2 Will be alot better and a little Brighter.

Planet of Terror said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Planet of Terror said...

Well said all around. Exhibit A on why remakes are all around a bad idea.

Ray Ray/B-Sol: have you guys seen Inside? Hands down, the best horror film I've seen in the last 10 years.

http://planetofterror.blogspot.com/2009/05/inside-aka-linterieur-2007.html

RayRay said...

Thanks for the compliments. I strive to give the best I can to B-Sol, and it is rewarding when the feedback tells me I am doing it right.

To Wings: I think the gore is to be expected from Zombie, as he is all about over-the-top. And while I really liked his other two, blood drenched films, I can see where you are coming from.

To Plant of Terror, no, haven't seen Inside yet, but that's why I subscribe to satellite tv.

chris zenga said...

Any time there is a re-make of a franchise so beloved as Halloween, fans are bound to get there backs up. For the most part I think this the reason, coupled with strong memories of the original is why it is impossible for these "purist" to enjoy a film like this, the inability to see the forest for the trees if you will.

I love classic horror, I have been eyeball deep in it since I was 5, but I am also open to new experiences, and remakes of those classic films. As much as we want to believe it, these films are not OUR films! they have a special part in our hearts because we can associate them with a smell, or a spooky basement, a moment in time, or a memory of that favorite Aunt or uncle who rented it for us at he local blockbuster. And as strong as those memories are, those are the ONLY things we have ownership of. Enjoy the classics for what they are but try to enjoy a new film and perhaps you will create some new memories.

Later days,

Chris

Tower Farm said...

There are way too many problems with this movie to even address on one website, if you ask me. It might take the entire information super-highway to list everything Rob Zombie f-ed up.

That said, seeing this movie in the theatre was absolutely hysterical -- my brother and I experienced the kind of gut-wrenching laughs that only come during the best film disasters.

Enjoyed the write-up!
-Billy

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