Halloween

Movie Review #885

ROB ZOMBIE HAS CRAFTED A SURPRISINGLY INTRIGUING “HALLOWEEN” REMAKE, DESPITE ITS TENDENCY TO GO (WAY) OVER THE TOP.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

halloween

Released August 31, 2007 (nationwide)
Horror
Unrated Version
Not Rated (contains material not included in the theatrical version)
121 minutes
Theatrical Version
Rated R (contains frequent graphic violence, frequent disturbing content, sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity)
109 minutes

Editor’s Note: This review regards the Unrated Version. At the time, I was not aware this was the version I was watching. It contains 12 minutes of additional carnage.

Those who haven’t seen the original “Halloween” might enjoy stereotyping it as the “father of the slasher genre,” and so might those who have seen it. But those who have seen it also understand that it’s not just a slasher. John Carpenter’s directorial technique makes all the difference in the movie: he turns it into a hybrid of slasher and psychological horror.

Rob Zombie wants to achieve the same thing with his reimagining of “Halloween”. Except the only psychological horror left in his technique is Carpenter’s score for the original movie, which was more than likely kept in this remake for the sake of tradition. The psychological horror is all in story here. Rather than a single opening sequence of Michael Myers’s first murder—his sister, on Halloween night—we are treated to thirty-eight minutes of backstory, wherein we watch the realization of Michael’s murderous abilities, followed by his time in a mental asylum when he grows obsessed with masks. This is all when he is ten years old.

There’s still horror formula. I’m not sure why, but titillation has become as expected a reaction to horror movies as cowering in fear. It’s kind of laughable how desperate Zombie’s “Halloween” remake is to arouse its audience. Michael’s mother is a stripper, and we are shown scenes of her gig at a strip club on Halloween night. Plus, there’s far more nudity during the sex scene that Michael’s sister enjoys right before her death, and the scene lasts several minutes, not seconds.

And of course there’s blood. Gallons and gallons of it. Rather than killing only his sister on Halloween night, Michael also kills his father and his sister’s boyfriend. Earlier in the day, before any of this has happened, he also bashes a bully’s brains out in the woods. Each death is extensive and elaborately played, though unrealistic and sickening. This accounts for half of the backstory in the film, and it makes the original snippet of backstory seem like “Bambi”.

By the time we flash forward 15 years later, when Michael escapes from the mental asylum, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” starts to more faithfully echo the 1978 film. Though as a result of all the back story (which I otherwise applaud), the character development becomes very flimsy. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) was a child psychologist at the mental hospital for the entire time that Michael was there, up to the time that he escaped. Now he’s a police officer. He’s also written a book about his experiences with Michael Myers called The Devil’s Eyes. He has to convince a police officer—one who didn’t believe a word of his book—to hunt down Michael Myers on Halloween night, the night he escapes from the asylum to wreak havoc, fifteen years after his first massacre. “I can feel it in my bones,” he warns them. “He’s going to look for his baby sister.” We are made aware during the back story sequences that Michael really doesn’t like the asylum. He could’ve escaped for millions of other reasons. But Loomis “feels it in his bones,” and that’s enough to convince a police officer who had strong doubts about his book.

Let’s not forget who the protagonist in the 1978 film was: Laurie Strode, the virginal, quiet teenager who was outgoing but stifled by her worries of a man who seemed to be stalking her on Halloween night. That character should never have been played by anyone other than Jamie Lee Curtis. Scout Taylor-Compton portrays the 17-year-old as a crude, mean, hyperactive teenager. Laurie still quite likable, especially considering how downright trashy her two best friends are, but her character is poorly delivered.

It’s a miracle Laurie survives the entire movie. The climax begins when she enters a house where one of her two best friends has just been offed. She freaks out and calls 9-1-1, leaning over the dead body. Though she doesn’t know it yet, Michael Myers is standing right behind her. He’s more interested in staring at the body of a dead girl than in killing Laurie Strode, the individual he escaped the mental asylum for the sole purpose of murdering. God is she lucky!

The art of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” was that the movie was incredibly violent, but we saw absolutely none of it. What was left to our imagination was absolutely terrifying. It’s not quite the opposite in this remake, as the music remains effectively chilling, but the music is practically a bonus considering that the film is edited like a music video and filmed rather standardly.

In “Halloween”, we are shown 17 (by my count) murders. (There’s also a suicide, but the act itself is offscreen.) Each killing is elaborately played, heavily prolonged and sustained. It’s hard to believe that this serial killer is actually a human being, and from the animalistic ways Sam Loomis describes him, I believe this is what Rob Zombie was going for in his script. Myers is a ruthless creature. He can’t merely stab his victims once or twice and then walk away, knowing that they’ll be dead any minute. His method always consists of taking the life out of his victims until they’re quite obviously dead. When we think about how much time Rob Zombie spends glossing over these murders, that there is a story—and that the story is well plotted out—is amazing.

We can see what Zombie was attempting with the movie: to bring us inside the mind of Michael Myers. A mind that bleeds so much evil that it’s a living aneurysm. Things can be very unpleasant. That word factors on many different levels. It’s extremely unpleasant watching person after person get slaughtered in vain. And as a fan of the original “Halloween”, it’s also rather unpleasant trying to wrap my mind around the fact that Laurie Strode doesn’t even appear until nearly an hour of the film has passed.

I’ll give the film credit for its slicing and dicing, though. It tends to strengthen the psychologically driven side of the story that wants to depict Michael’s killings as revenge, not bloodlust. Michael feels that his family has failed him, betrayed him, and destroyed him. Anyone who dares remind him of his family isn’t likely to to face very much joy in the five minutes that follow. Though it’s not in every instance that the carnage is actually presented in relation to the story. At one point, Michael Myers kills a man for occupying a bathroom stall. It’s not a matter of restrooms mattering in this story, but of Rob Zombie getting a bit carried away.

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6 thoughts on “Halloween

  1. I actually like this version. I thought all the backstory really added to Myers what the original and the rest of the franchise had been lacking. Overall, the original is a better movie, but I don’t think the gap is nearly as wide as most people precisely because I find Carpenter’s movie a little too bare, too minimalist. This might go too far in the other direction, but it was well done.

    • I wouldn’t exactly say that Carpenter’s version of Halloween was “too minimalist,” but I have trouble disagreeing with the minimalism in his movie. The fact that blood and gore are left to our imagination makes the film a lot spookier.

      I agree with you entirely on Rob Zombie’s version, though. The franchise needed some backstory, and what Zombie gave it was interesting, for lack of a better word. The downside is that the violence was way over the top.

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