Saturday, October 22, 2016

Halloween (2007)

If Rob Zombie had dropped trou on Hollywood Boulevard and plopped a steaming load on the negative of the original HALLOWEEN, it would not be less respectable of John Carpenter’s horror classic than this ersatz remake. It isn’t just that Zombie is poorly suited to the kind of white-knuckle terror the original film represents. It’s that he doesn’t understand HALLOWEEN or why it works. Zombie’s brand of horror is based in freak shows and trailer parks and crude language and being outrageous and explaining everything. Which can be a legitimate path to a good horror film, but it ain’t HALLOWEEN.

Of the many bad decisions writer/director Zombie makes, the most egregious is creating a backstory for Michael Myers. Instead of a little boy who inexplicably stabs his sister to death and is sent away to a mental hospital, from which he escapes and begins a killing spree, Zombie’s Michael Myers (played as a boy by Daeg Faerch) is the product of a white trash family with a stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie), an abusive stepfather (William Forsythe), and a disrespectful sexpot sister (Hanna Hall). What Zombie doesn’t understand is that the unknown is always more frightening than the known. By changing Michael from a bogeyman — a supernatural personification of evil — to a bullied kid from a lower-class family, Zombie has missed the point.

After an interminable first half, in which Zombie goes so far as to explain why Michael Myers wears a mask, Michael finally escapes custody and heads back to Haddonfield, where he (6’9” Tyler Mane) stalks Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her friends Lynda (Kristina Klebe) and Annie (Danielle Harris, the star of HALLOWEEN 4 and 5), the daughter of local sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif). Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), Michael’s shrink, follows. Strangely, much of this section plays as a shot-by-shot remake of the Carpenter film.

As a director, Zombie has few saving graces. One is an arresting visual style, which manifests in some scary shots of Michael in background stalking his prey. Another is a love of old character actors, which results in welcome cameos by Sid Haig (SPIDER BABY) and Dee Wallace (THE HOWLING) and Sybil Danning (BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS) and Clint Howard (APOLLO 13) and Micky Dolenz (HEAD) and juicy supporting roles for McDowell (A CLOCKWORK ORANGE) and Dourif (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST). They don’t prevent HALLOWEEN from tasting unpleasant, but they help make it easier to swallow.

6 comments:

englishteacherx said...

I happened to see a copy of the original "workprint" copy, which got illegally released to torrents about 6 months before release. It was a little different than even the Director's Cut, and it was actually easier to see what Rob Zombie was trying to do in it -- he wanted Michael to be something like a Universal horror monster, Frankenstein's Monster, misunderstood and afraid, killing only people who crossed him or mocked him. For example, he escapes from the asylum after some guards try to rape an inmate in his room, and Lori Strode's friends make fun of him when they see him on the street. At the end it seems he's just been trying to protect his sister Lori, and Dr. Loomis arrives and gives a speech about how society was to blame, but the cops arrive and Michael dies tragically in a hail of bullets.

But I guess somewhere along the line someone pointed out to him that "Uh .. . hey, wasn't the original scary because Michael was an unexplained, unexplianable evil force?"

englishteacherx said...

I happened to see a copy of the original "workprint" copy, which got illegally released to torrents about 6 months before release. It was a little different than even the Director's Cut, and it was actually easier to see what Rob Zombie was trying to do in it -- he wanted Michael to be something like a Universal horror monster, Frankenstein's Monster, misunderstood and afraid, killing only people who crossed him or mocked him. For example, he escapes from the asylum after some guards try to rape an inmate in his room, and Lori Strode's friends make fun of him when they see him on the street. At the end it seems he's just been trying to protect his sister Lori, and Dr. Loomis arrives and gives a speech about how society was to blame, but the cops arrive and Michael dies tragically in a hail of bullets.

But I guess somewhere along the line someone pointed out to him that "Uh .. . hey, wasn't the original scary because Michael was an unexplained, unexplianable evil force?"

David Hanson said...

That sounds interesting. I may have ask my "friend" who knows about such quasi-legal things, which of course I myself am ignorant of, if such a thing-a "turret", you said?-is still available on the intertubes.

englishteacherx said...

The Unrated Director's Cut has some, but not all of the scenes from the workprint, like the guards trying to rape the girl in Michael's cell and Sybil Danning making a snide comment to Michael before he kills her. The workprint did not have the pin-the-guy-to-the-wall 1978 homage murder, also, that guy got killed in the van grabbing a beer. This suggests to me someone demanded that he make it more like the original Halloween somewhere along the line. A few more brutal murders were tossed in, also, like Dee Wallace Stone.

Hope you'll do a write-up on Zombie's Halloween 2, Marty. Notice you gave it 0.5.

http://www.ohmb.net/showthread.php?12297-The-Workprint-Edition

Marty McKee said...

Wrote about it over at Letterboxd. That film is fucking garbage.

englishteacherx said...

You know, I've now watched it several times just because it's so WTF, and it's actually going into my perennial Halloween rotation of movies. It was obviously a middle finger by Rob Zombie to the response to his first movie, with a bearded Michael bearing a strong resemblance to the director, and the completely gratuitous inclusion of Sherri Moon Zombie and another version of Love Hurts.

ON the plus side, it looks cool, the images of Michael tromping through lonely countryside, especially, and the final demise of Danielle Harris actually really sells the tragedy of senseless death in a way I have not felt in many horror movies.

(Perhaps only the death of Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th Part IV compares.)