Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween (2007)

The Halloween franchise is officially dead due to the critical, fan and box office drubbing that Halloween: Resurrection received, and it was well deserved. It was one sequel too many in a series that was already highly uneven to begin with, with amazing highs and lower than lows. But that didn’t stop the suits at Dimension Films from rebooting the series five years later.

Musician/director Rob Zombie, hot off his one-two punch of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, was brought in to write and direct the new Halloween franchise, starting it over from scratch as he saw fit. He was given free reign to do whatever he wanted, and with John Carpenter’s blessing he created a modern day take on the original film. There’s only one problem with this… you don’t fuck with the original Halloween.
In Zombie’s retelling we are shown Michael Myers as a young boy (Daeg Faerch). He’s picked on by bullies, his stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) has an abusive live-in boyfriend (William Forsythe) and he has no friends. The only person he seems to care about is his infant sister, Laurie. It’s Halloween, and after being pushed too far after school by some bullies he goes insane and beats them to death. Once home he dresses in a clown costume and brutally murders everyone in the family (while wearing a Shatner mask that’s three sizes too big for his head) except his mother and baby sister. He is institutionalized and his therapist, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) fears that there is no returning Michael back to his previous self and that his mental state will continue to deteriorate until there is nothing left but anger and hatred. He was right. 16 years later on Halloween he escapes and hunts down his now teenaged sister (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her young friends (Danielle Harris & Kristina Klebe) while they babysit some neighborhood kids. Dr. Loomis follows in order to stop him before he kills anyone.

Off the bat I really despised this film because it completely ruins the mystery surrounding the Michael Myers mythos. In the original we see a young Michael kill his sister and that’s it. There’s no set-up, no backstory; it just happens. Over the course of that movie we are told by the Loomis character that he was nothing more than the embodiment of pure evil, which is something that can never be stopped. The reasons for this are never explained (until the later sequels) and that is what made The Shape a truly terrifying character. Seeing him in the reboot as a child being abused and emotionally beaten down does not make him sympathetic, or give him a reason to become an immortal killing machine. It dilutes the character now that we actually get to know him and I get the feeling that this approach was chosen because Zombie wanted the audience to root him on in his killing spree later in the film. As far as I’m concerned that is a completely contemptible attitude to have for this type of movie.
What makes matters worse is the writing for the girls Michael is stalking. In the original they all seemed sweet and a little sassy. Sure they smoked some reefer and partook in some pre-marital sex, but they came off a real people. Here they are presented as bitchy foul mouthed scheming sluts who are without any redeeming values other than the fact that they’re young. Zombie has never had a gift for writing dialogue, and that trend continues here in what are some of the worst lines I’ve ever heard spoken on screen. Check out the following dialogue exchanges:

Lynda: You know what that dried up fucking bitch did?
Laurie Strode: What?
Lynda: Calls my dad and tells him what I said. Yeah, that C-U-N-T needs to get laid!
Laurie Strode: Haha, what did your dad say?
Lynda: Oh who cares?

Annie Brackett: [about Michael Myers] Oh Please! It's probably just some pervert cruising school Poontang!
I mean seriously. No one talks like that. Ever. The only thing Zombie’s writing for these characters did for me was make me absolutely despise them and begin looking at my watch to see how much more time this turkey had left before I could return home. It doesn’t help that the actresses playing these characters are horrible in every conceivable way. Even the triumphant return of Danielle Harris (Jamie from Halloween 4 & 5) is ruined because, not only does she look 30 (which she was at the time of filming), but she shows none of the budding talent from her youth. Zombie does manage to convince her to get completely naked at one point, which I’m sure fans have been clamoring to see for years, but it feels dirty when it goes down and made me look away.

The writing for Dr. Loomis goes in the completely opposite direction. Where Donald Pleasence’s Loomis was a driven man determined to stop his patient at any cost, Malcolm McDowell’s Loomis is a self-centered fame whore who needs to get Michael back because he wants to write a novel about him. He also spouts off some of the most pretentious dialogue this side of a Terrence Malick film. McDowell tries his best to keep the character interesting, but there’s nothing you can do when you have nothing to work with.
Essentially, what Rob Zombie did here was take everything from the original film and do the exact opposite. There was no history of Michael shown in Carpenter’s film, so Zombie shows that here. The teenage characters came off as normal, everyday girls, so Zombie turns them into crass assholes. Loomis is trying to stop his patient from killing people, so Zombie makes him an opportunist taking advantage of the suffering going on around him. Annie dies in the original, so he lets her live here. Loomis lived in the original, so he dies here. It’s frustrating watching this because it’s not only shitting on the memory of Carpenter’s masterpiece, it seems to revel in doing it. And to put the cherry on top of the sundae… the movie just ends. Laurie unloads a six shooter into Michael’s face and CUT TO BLACK.

Ugh, I don’t know what was going on here. The thought processes behind the making of this movie just baffles me, and other than a few bright spots (Michael’s mask looks pretty rad this time around, some of the kills are brutal and Brad Dourif’s Sherriff Brackett is a well-rounded and awesomely performed character) it’s a complete failure as a movie and a remake. Zombie doesn’t understand one iota of what made Carpenter’s film work, and after watching this dreck I have taken him off my list of directors to watch. He seems more interested in pissing his audience off and cramming as many B-Movie actor cameos into his movie as he possibly can (Danny Trejo, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Richard Lynch, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Sybil Danning, Sid Haig and Mickey Dolenz?!) instead of crafting a scary and frightening new vision of this story. He failed on all counts.

1 out of 5

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