Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween (2007)

Directed by Rob Zombie.
2007. Rated R, 111 minutes.
Malcolm McDowell
Daeg Faerch
Tyler Mane
Sheri Moon Zombie
William Forsythe
Scout Taylor-Compton
Hanna Hall
Danielle Harris
Danny Trejo

Brad Dourif 

John Carpenter’s Halloween is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made. It is undeniably one of the most influential and imitated movies of all time. Every slasher flick that followed owes it a huge debt of gratitude. Without it, there may not have been a Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. That it would be remade was inevitable. Musician turned director Rob Zombie tackles the task.

To Zombie’s credit, he’s not content with merely doing a spot-on remake with updated wardrobes. He truly tries to make it his own. He does this by taking us deep into the world of the iconic slaughterer of teens. We first meet Mikey (Faerch) when he is just a wee lad, albeit one with a penchant for killing small animals. Very tired of how people treat him, he graduates from animals to humans. Through a startingly realistic series of events, he kills four people who make the error in judgment of pissing him off. We then spend some time with him in a mental institution, both at the beginning and end of his stay. Eventually, we get to the point that serves as the starting point for the original, his escape from the institution and subsequent return home. This constitutes the first half of our feature and it is spectacular film-making. It’s much more brutal, unflinching character study than true horror. Since it revolves around a child committing some hellacious acts, all of which are graphically depicted, it’s all sorts of unsettling. The magic of it is that through the mayhem of his life, we feel bad for Mikey. Like we do about most children who come from adverse circumstances, we feel his life could’ve been different. It could’ve been better. We see points where small changes my have made a world of difference.

During Michael’s escape, something happens that eats away at the movie. His humanity is quickly and completely stripped away. All of the empathy the film had been working so hard to build up comes tumbling down due to his final encounter with the guard played by Danny Trejo. This is an occasion where predictable would’ve been a good thing. Had the expected thing happened, basically the opposite of what actually does, it would’ve maintained our feelings for him going forward. Instead, the director’s nihilism got the best of him. From this point on Michael Myers (Mane) is once again a faceless monster we’ve no attachment to.

This brings us to the second half. From here we get a mechanical but truncated remake of the original. Things keep happening at a rapid rate so we’re never bored. The problem is our emotional involvement has taken a nosedive. The reason for this is two-fold. I’ve already explained the first part of it. The other part is this shortened second act. We meet the people of present day Haddonfield that Michael will shortly terrorize. However, we don’t know them. We don’t care about them. They are merely the bodies in various stages of undress that our killer will mutilate. Like all the best movies in the franchise, the original isn’t about Michael Myers. It is about Laurie Strode, the Jamie Lee Curtis character now played by Scout Taylor-Compton and the terror he cast upon her. We felt for her. We were scared with her. This time around we couldn’t give a flip about her. It wouldn’t be an issue if we still cared about Michael but we don’t. In the blink of an eye he went from a scarred, misguided and dangerous child to a superhuman behemoth who’s only function is viciously killing anyone in his path.

Rob Zombie’s Halloween is a hard movie to judge. The first hlf alone makes it worth seeing. It contains some of the best storytelling of any American horror flick perhaps of the 21st century. The second half is stilly visually exciting, but leaves us flat as the boogeyman coldly moves from victim to victim. Murder is a gruesome but clinical and joyless task he must continuously perform for our morbid pleasure. The director gave us Mikey and created a soft spot in our hearts for a child who can’t seem to help but lash out in ways fatal to others when he’s angered. Then, Mikey was snatched away. In his place, we were given the machine known as Michael Myers.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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