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Comics 101 for 09/06/2007
Movie Review - Rob Zombie's Halloween
I'm a huge fan of Rob Zombie's films and music. I enjoyed House of 1000 Corpses even though it was somewhat of a misfire and lacked consistency, especially with the last 15 minutes. But it harkened back to the days of classic 70's and 80's horror and I loved the rawness, humor, homages and left of center approach to the material.
I thought he definitely matured as a filmmaker with The Devil's Rejects, which isn't so much a horror film as it is a throwback to 70's Peckinpah fare. He gives his outlaws such colorful personalities in this film that he allows the audience to even empathize with them, tapping in to your inner dark side in the process and vicariously live through his villains' dastardly exploits.... and possibly question your own morals in the process. A good hallmark of any work of art, especially film, is when it makes you think and feel, even if it makes you feel dirty and uncomfortable in the process like this film does.
Unfortunately, Rob took the same approach with the main character in Halloween, choosing to focus on his monster in the story rather than the victims just like he did previously with Rejects and to a degree with his bad guys in Corpses. But this isn't Frankenstein, we're talking about Michael Myers here.
He spends the entire first half of his film venturing into new Halloween territory, explaining Myers origin in great detail and trying humanize a villain completely and utterly evil but betrays himself as a storyteller (and his audience) since by film's end he has created a more brutal, unhinged and menacing version of the character than what has ever come before. Also, by going this route he really demystifies an originally enigmatic and intriguing character who worked best previously in the original without too much backstory as just a cypher for evil incarnate.
So what you're left with is a movie without any likable characters (unfortunately, including Dr. Loomis, though I did like McDonnell's portrayal of him, still he was no Donald Pleasance), characters you should like as in the original material who are only glossed over as stereotypes here, and a spotlight on a whole lot of vicious killing for violence's sake. Even though his point isn't to glorify the violence, he just wants to shock you with it, I believe. You're really hit over the head with the brutality in this one, as in Rejects or Corpses, but without likable characters there's nothing to hang on to here. I enjoy vicious horror movies that go for the jugular, but usually only when they have characters I care about and want to root for and when the stories are told somewhat in a consistent manner.
With some fleeting moments of brilliance, inspired casting (lots of great horror cameos too), some decent performances, solid directing and editing, I do think Rob did the best he could with an impossible concept, especially for this particular genre of "remake horror". Some horror films can and even should be remade but remaking Carpenter's original masterpiece would be like remaking Star Wars for me. It's just completely, utterly unnecessary. The original works so well because of the genuine, believable performances of the main characters, Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance. It's also because Carpenter masterfully and skillfully made the most of what he had for an incredibly low budget and created the ultimate art house horror film with so much atmosphere and subtlety you can just feel the ominous sense of dread with every frame. Not to mention an incredibly effective and simplistic score that heightens the tension throughout, like making a seemingly normal and beautiful Fall day in a suburban neighborhood feel like one of the scariest places on Earth. There's not too much subtlety or atmosphere in this new version, I'm afraid.
Even though the first hour of Rob's film is entirely new backstory material (for the most part), it comes off more as a tribute or, at the most, a second rate cover version of your favorite song, rather than a true remake... for what it's worth.
I do give Mr. Zombie props for attempting to make something new of a tired franchise and make Mikey scary again. As a traditional serial killer/slasher horror movie it's actually pretty gritty and intense. But unfortunately, it's called Halloween and since half of it is a remake, it makes it impossible to avoid comparisons. I think Rob could have pulled off a successful movie with a different script, but, then again, his style of filmmaking may not have been a good fit for a remake of an original film known for it's subtlety, mystery and atmosphere.
At least it made 30 million opening weekend and he signed a two picture film deal with the Weinsteins at Dimension, so we definitely haven't seen the last movie from him. I'm hoping to see something original again from him soon.
I'll see you next time for another Comics 101 feature.
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