Aroooooo!!!

Once again, the Bureau presents its annual October countdown of Halloween movies: old and new, famous and infamous, over-marketed and undiscovered. And we’re starting with a re-vision of a classic film by the man who celebrates the season with his name.

In 2007, Rob Zombie remade one of the most influential horror movies of all time. He gets credit for adding one fresh idea to the mix, but….

Cast and Crew

Directed by Rob Zombie
Written by Rob Zombie,
John Carpenter and Debra Hill

Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Samuel Loomis
Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode
Tyler Mane as Michael Myers
Doug Faerch as Young Michael Myers
Danielle Harris as Annie Brackett
Brad Dourif as Sheriff Brackett
Kristina Klebe as Lynda
Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers
Skyler Gisondo as Tommy Doyle
William Forsythe as Ronnie White
Danny Trejo as Ishmael Cruz
Hanna Hall as Judith Myers

Full credits available at the Imdb

This film may be purchased at Amazon.

Premise:

We follow the childhood of Michael Myers and see the circumstances that help make him a serial killer. Years later, he escapes the asylum and returns to his home town of Haddonfield on Halloween—the anniversary of his original crimes.

High Points:

The first half concerns Michael Myers, before, during, and after the Haddonfield Massacre. By giving Michael a backstory, Zombie’s remake takes Halloween into new territory. It has potential—though it isn’t especially scary. Little Michael, already disturbed (he kills little animals), faces the pressures of his over-the-top trashy family and abusive stepfather. His stripper mother and overtly sexual big sister help explain the character’s repressed sexuality, I guess. It’s hardly subtle and nuanced, but it brings something not present in the original. The first half also establishes Michael’s mind as the point-of-view character. His initial victims are entirely unlikeable, and it is only after he escapes that the begins killing people we’re supposed to find sympathetic.

This very backstory, the film’s most original aspect, creates problems for the film’s second half.

Low Points:

In the original, we never learn much about Myers beyond the events of the Haddonfield Massacre. That’s the point. He’s a disturbing puzzle, bred in a comfortable, middle-class, mid-century family. After killing people for no apparent reason, he grows up into the boogeyman, a sinister shape, something no longer human. His seemingly supernatural resilience presents a mystery, but one the film doesn’t need to answer.

In the remake, Michael Myers is human—twisted, evil, disturbed, psychopathic, whatever—but human. As a consequence, his abilities in the second half raise real questions that deserve answers. How does he know where to find his sister? How does someone who spent the better part of fifteen years sitting in a near-catatonic state develop a bodybuilder’s physique and a superhero’s strength? Why can he survive multiple point-blank bullet shots and what should be a fatal stab-wounds?

His invulnerability (I’m imagining yet another bit of backstory, wherein the white-trash Myers find baby Michael in a rocket launched from Krypton—except that this Myers resembles more the Incredible Hulk) also prevents the multiple false endings from holding any suspense. What does it matter if Laurie reaches the discarded gun on time? We learn early on her target is bullet-proof.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The first half introduces some new elements to the story; the second repeats the original, badly, and without proper context. The film also offers a surfeit of justifications for the R rating.

Effects: 4/6

Story: 3/6 The film has a moderately clever first half, even if its characters are less believably human than the cast of Jersey Shore. For some idea of what Zombie’s idea of the Myers clan is like, examine the imdb’s list of charming quotations from Michael’s stepfather. The second half largely replays the best bits of the source material and its numerous hellish spawn. Zombie even shot in the same neighbourhood as Carpenter. We get more of an explanation for events—the remake connects the killer and the “Last Girl” in a memorable fashion (though one derived from the original’s first and most pointless sequel) but, ultimately, we have one more remake that has no reason to exist.

Acting: 4/6 It’s difficult to know how much, if any, of the Myers family has been intended as satire or parody.

Malcolm McDowell does passably well as Loomis, but I expected more from McDowell. Changes to the character only compound the problems. This revised Loomis is not as compelling as he should be.

Scout Taylor-Compton looks more convincingly like a teenager than Jamie Lee Curtis, and not just because she actually was a teen when she made the film. Her interactions with the little kids she babysits feel believable. Unfortunately, this Laurie is neither as interesting a character nor Taylor-Compton as good an actor, and this is what really matters. Many people will find her more difficult to root for than Jamie Lee’s Laurie. In focusing on the predator, Rob Zombie forgot what made the original frightening— it put us in the position of the prey.

Production: 5/6. Bonus: If you like looking for cameo appearances by cult actors, this film should entertain you.

Emotional Response: 3/6

You know what I feel? Bored.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Increasing the number of killings, the amount of nudity, and the degree of gore doesn’t make the movie scarier. It merely removes the opportunity to build atmosphere and suspense, which is exactly why the original Halloween succeeds, and where this one fails. I love the original. This one features some memorably twisted drama and a couple of strong performances, but never once did I feel fear or suspense.

The unrated edition also features a graphic rape scene that adds nothing to the film, except for a graphic rape scene. Hollywood seriously has to stop confusing “crude and graphic” with “suspenseful and scary.”

Overall: 3/6. Watch the original.

In total, Halloween receives 24/42.

Lingering Questions

The film raises several conundrums that beg explanation. How does this version of the Myers family afford to live in a large house in an expensive neighbourhood? Mommy’s a stripper and daddy’s unemployed.

When does this film take place? The era remains unclear—though I suppose this could have been a weird stylistic flourish. Halloween gives no dates, but the music, styles, dialogue, vehicles, and properties clearly indicate that the first half takes place in the late 1970s. Rob Zombie has said in interviews it occurs in 1978, the year Carpenter unleashed his original on the world. The second half takes place seventeen years later—which would be the mid 1990s. However, the visual elements—most notably, the cars and cell phones—suggest we’re in 2007.

Halloween Countdown 2010

October 2: Halloween (2007)
October 3: Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)

With the resurrection of Hammer Studios and the American adaptation of Lindqvist’s novel, we’ll be taking a look at both cinematic takes on Eli and Oskar/ Abby and Owen.

October 9: Let The Right One In (2008)
October 10: Let Me In (2010)

Next, Blaine takes a look at some comparatively recent independent horror films:

October 16: They Wait (2007)
October 17: Subhuman aka Shelf Life (2004)

Last year we looked at the birth of Hammer Horror; in the year it returns from the grave, I’ll be examining two of the more noteworthy films from its original dying days:

October 23: Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
October 24: The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Another attempt to forge a fearful balance, with Fiz looking at a Disney classic, and Alex celebrating the big day with one of the most notorious and celebrated horror movies of all time:

October 30: The Black Cauldron (1985)
October 31: The Exorcist (1973)