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The first ten minutes go by and I'm laughing quite a bit. I thought to myself, is this supposed to be a comedy? Am I in the wrong theater? I figure maybe Rob Zombie made it funny at first as an odd way to hook the audience.
Suffice to say, I'm still waiting to be scared. This movie had no atmosphere and did not scare me in the least. Sure, some of the killings were gross but none were scary. And where was the 1970's style horror atmosphere? I thought Rob Zombie loved 1970's style horror movie making (as do I). Halloween is 1970's horror served up on a silver platter.
This isn't a bad movie overall, very average if you ask me, but it is a less than stellar Halloween remake or re-imagining. It just doesn't work as a different take on Halloween. It's almost as if Rob Zombie took an old story he created about a kid with a totally messed up family life who becomes a serial killer and said, "Hey. I'll just make this kid Michael Myers." His "explanation" of Michael Myers, while very well acted especially by the little boy, just didn't ring true to me. The boy becomes a serial killer because of a bad family life? Cliché and uninspiring to say the least. The footage of him in the asylum was even worse. Awful and boring are words I would use to describe the asylum footage. And the writing and acting for the Dr. Loomis character was laughably poor. It got to the point where I laughed every time he was in a scene.
*** Spoiler*** And the ending. The endearing quality of the original 1978 film is the ending. The imagery of seeing Dr. Loomis looking out the window at the spot where The Shape should be is the most compelling and powerful portion of the film. I literally was so scared I couldn't even move when I saw the original the first time. Fantastic imagery and a fantastic ending to the movie.
Rob Zombie chose to include the silly "Laurie Strode is my sister" add-on angle from Halloween II but chose an ending that is neither clever nor endearing. It's your average bloody girl somehow is lucky enough to survive and kill the knocked out bad guy. Folks, that's not what the original Halloween is all about.
I guess I assumed wrongly that Rob Zombie understood what Halloween was about originally. Or, maybe, he didn't have complete creative control as claimed. Either way, what I saw was a decent horror movie but a very poor take on the original Halloween.
Everyone already knows the tale of Michael Myers, the psychopath from Haddonfield, IL, who murdered his sister only to be committed to an institution he would later escape from with the intent of more killings back home years later. While that is the basis for Zombie's film, it is not a remake but more of a retelling, a reinvention of the same character.
Here we are offered young Michael and the household he grows up in that forms his life. Michael's mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a stripper, saddled with a new husband (William Forsythe) who is disabled and a ne'er do well more interested in yelling at the kids than in offering any sort of role model. Michael's sister is a trashy sleep with anyone teen who dresses provocatively and does little else. All of this is not lost on Michael who spends his time killing his pets and taking photos of them. What we are being offered is a textbook glimpse as to why a youngster becomes a serial killer. The nice middle class family shown in the original is tossed aside for this new group. And in this first portion of the film, the problems Zombie has are apparent.
Zombie has filled three films now with the same characters. Sure, they may have different names and different small time characteristics, but the fact remains that he focuses on the dysfunctional family and their housecleaning inabilities. Yes, it seems that all families in Zombie's world can't clean to save themselves. Not only that but they all have the same dingy look to their living quarters as well as references to pop culture. The house Michael grows up in could be a home that the Firefly family would feel comfortable in. It all looks the same and that detracts greatly from the viewing experience, unless of course you'd never seen another Rob Zombie film.
Comparisons to the original film are inevitable and this will most likely be the downfall of the film in the long run. Michael goes overboard with his murderous rampage as a child in this film unlike the original. Where no blood was seen in that film, it flows freely now. Perhaps this is due to the changing times, but it adds nothing to the scares of the film or the character. It does make him a more brutal killer, leaving him one without a touch of sympathy. But the mindless killer from the original is replaced by someone we feel absolutely nothing for now.
Once finished with the whole back story of young Michael, his family and the kindly Dr. Loomis (Michael McDowell) who takes care of him at the institution, we move forward 15 years to when Michael escapes and heads back home. The body count increases once more as he kills everyone he comes into contact with their, including a worker who had befriended him. Once out, the story becomes more familiar, almost a duplicate of the original shot from different angles, with different actors and focusing less on the character of Laurie Strode, the central character in John Carpenter's version.
Laurie and her friends are nothing more than meat to be slaughtered by Michael in this one. There is no development of character, no reason for us to think of them as more than teens in peril that we have seen in hundreds of other slasher flicks. While we cared about the original teens, this time around they seem less human and placed in our way for two reasons: to be killed by Michael and to offer more exposed flesh than the first.
By the film's end we are offered the traditional sliced and diced teens, gratuitous nudity and enough blood to make a special effects company weep for joy at the size of their bill. But we have gained nothing in the iconography that is Michael Myers. While we are given more background on him, we care less about him than we ever did.
Worst of all is the fact that Rob Zombie, a director that showed such great potential before, seems to be telling us after only three films that this is all he has to offer. Stories told from the same world, a world that blasts apart the whole "Father Knows Best" world we would all like it to be. In his world, there is no caring parent. And when they are caring, they are twisted in some revolting way.
I haven't given up on Zombie yet though. Having recently signed a two picture deal with the Weinstein's, perhaps he will show us he has more tricks up his sleeve than he let on. But if he returns to the carny soiled world he's offered in three films to date, then it looks as though he's a one note director. Let's hope he offers us more. It's in there somewhere.
If I was, I would keep in mind all the elements that made Halloween '78 so popular and leave them exactly how they were, such as prolonged steady-cam shots to give the sense that of The Shape's point of view, a minimal but chilling soundtrack to add to the tension, a brave heroine who isn't a helpless idiot, and keeping the antagonist off screen for at least the first half of the movie to build the tension. This was the formula for all the "great" horror and suspense movies, such as Psycho, The Exorcist, Jaws, and the first Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and I would keep true to it in my Halloween remake.
The only things I would fix in my retelling would be little things that my larger budget would certainly allow. I would make the sets of Haddonfield, Illinois in October look less like Southern California in April. My actresses portraying teen-agers would not be in their late 20s or early 30s, and I would eliminate small holes in the plot like the opening scene of Michael's sister making out with her boyfriend upstairs for only 40 seconds before he leaves, and the sheriff responding to a break-in at the hardware store during normal business hours (usually, burglar alarms don't sound during shoplifting.) I would also pick a year that my remake was supposed to take place and stick to it. I wouldn't confuse the audience by having people with sort of retro fashions and hairstyles driving pristine cars from the 60s and 70s and kids on stingray bikes that haven't been seen in 25 years, but at the same time modern police cars and cell phones.
I understand Rob Zombie's temptation to answer questions that all of us have had about Michael Myers, such as why is he so intent on killing people and why does he insist on wearing a mask? The problem is, in answering the questions and telling about Michael's background, Michael becomes more human and therefore less scary. Even Zombie's choice of explanation is suspect. The audience expects a tormented kid from a crappy home to turn out disturbed, but a bad kid from a seemingly normal home seems a lot scarier, since it could happen to anyone. (Halloween '78 got this part right as well.) Not everything in this movie is completely inferior to the original, hence my rating of 4 stars. The sets look thousands times better than the original. The actresses seem more believable as teenagers than in the original, and we get to see a lot more of them. The new scene of Michael ripping up floorboards in his old house to get his mask and knife was pretty cool, too.
As for the rest of the movie, it is an interesting study in what truly comes across as suspenseful on a screen. Is a powerful, 6'8" antagonist scarier than one who appears and vanishes into the shadows? (probably not.) Does gratuitous gore and language actually distract from the suspense? (yes.) Does the inclusion of well known rock-songs for more than 5 seconds at a time really kill the mood? (absolutely, and it also interferes with the classic soundtrack. This was also a problem in Halloween 2.) Are dizzying, quick, MTV jump cuts scarrier than long, steady shots? (see for yourself and decide.) In a way, Rob Zombie had an impossible task of making a sequel (even if it was called remake or retelling) when everyone already knew about Michael and what was going to happen, thereby removing almost all of the suspense. However, that doesn't excuse leaving out the opening title sequence with a simple black background, pulsating theme music, and the off center, poorly-carved Jack O Lantern giving a sense of foreboding. I am almost certain there was a fantastic, eerie version of the classic 5/8 theme played on an out-of-tune honky tonk piano that was played in a trailer for Halloween '07. It would have worked perfectly for such an opening sequence, but sadly, it was omitted for the actual movie.
Don't expect a lot from this movie (like being scared or entertained) but if you watch it to study what truly works in horror movies and what doesn't, it is worthwhile viewing. When it comes to horror, less is more, since nothing is more powerful than the viewer's imagination.
Remember that, Rob.
People say that this answers the question that had lurked in everyone's mind since the first 10 minutes of the original "Why is Michael the way he is." No it doesn't, at least not under the circumstances presented in the original. In that one, Michael has a nice and clean home with two well kept and fitting looking parents and a sister that seemed horny, but not a slut. In this one, the father is mysteriously dead and a filthy white trash piece of *beep* who has no respect for women, especially two very attractive ones, takes his place. The house is a decrepit place, the mother is a stripper, and it seems to be a white trash haven. Anyone can give a reason for Michael's rage in this way, just throw everything that was presented to the table in the original and put unoriginal stuff on it. The back-story itself is unoriginal and stupid.
The first 5 minutes already answer the question to Michael's rage, it's not drawing us in. Imagine the back-story starts with two clean and nice parents who are loving and in a nice home. That would be better because the audience will be engrossed with all these questions; "Whoa, what the hell, his life seems pretty nice. I wonder what will happen to make him evil." That is original and gets the audience interested right away because Myer's life seems perfect, but then an event happens and so on. In the remake, it looks like someone watched a documentary on serial killers and threw it in the movie. It's not original or new; it's used and boring. I wanted something that really surprises the audience about Michael and answers the question on his rage under the same circumstances as in the original, but in an unsuspecting and surprising manner.
All right, now for my biggest complaint in character development; Loomis. I remember in the original Loomis was a take charge type of guy who showed no mercy when he tried to find Michael. He never hesitated or gave up a chance to kill Michael because he knew he was pure evil. Loomis in this one calls Michael his best friend and is sympathetic to him. Then the next scene he is calling him pure evil and the anti-Christ. WTF. If Loomis thinks Michael is pure evil, why does he try to negotiate with him, hesitates to shoot him, and is remorseful towards him. The original had Loomis never resting till he found his evil patient. This one, he wastes time talking about his book and other crap. Especially in this one, Loomis should be more eager than ever since Michael kills 5 people as opposed to 1 as a child. People will say this Loomis is so much more caring and polite. Lets think for a second.; Loomis has spent 15 years of his life trying to get through Michael. He soon realizes Michael is pure evil and tries to get him transferred; People think he's an idiot and what happens? Myers escapes and they blame the whole thing on him. Would you be *beep* polite after all that and now you have a murderer on the loose and only you know how he works? I sure hell as wouldn't. Loomis in the original was more realistic, knew what he was dealing with, and took every chance he had to kill Myers before he kills anyone else.
Now let's look at the slasher himself; Michael Myers. They took a true and pure evil villain who tortured and murdered his whole family and made him into a sympathetic anti-hero who only wants to be with his sister Laurie. Michael never tries to kill Laurie in this one, at least not in general circumstances. Instead, he tries to be with her. Michael used to be a villain who stabbed and tried to strangle his sister, but now he's just a loving, but murderous, brother. The only times where he appears to want to kill her are times when he's reacting in anger, not evil. Michael used to be the villain everyone was rooting for to be killed: I still love the scene where Loomis shoots the hell out of Michael in the original. This one, Michael is not evil at all, just some misguided fool. I can't watch this feeling sorry for the villain.
The movie itself is used and boring; the stuff used from the original is rushed and a cheap knockoff in this one. The murders are rushed and someone gets killed every 2 seconds. My favorite kill in the first one was when Michael strangled to girl with the phone line because it looked so painful when she was gasping for air. This one, he just grabs and her and 2 seconds later she's dead. The murders and stabbing sounds are fake looking and sounding and the gore is way too exaggerated. One person gets stabbed one and then there are oceans of blood.
This movie was not scary in any shape or form and it ruined the image of Myers. No longer is he pure evil, but a misguided and sympathetic fool who just wants love. By the end of the movie, I had to watch the original to chafe the bad taste in my stomach from this one.
I was really excited when I heard about this remake coming out! Did I like it? No! And here are the reasons:
1) It claims to be a remake, but it's a totally different story! 2) It ain't a whole new concept though, because the original Halloween plot is used (and in a pretty bad way).. 3) It's SO not scary.. It can hardly be called a horror movie! 4) The pr-story about Michaels childhood is SO cheese and naive (it could have been a good drama, but it's not, because of trashy dialogs and cheep storyline) 5) I got bored in the middle of the movie. 6) If you make a remake, you risk with everyone going to compare it with the original, and in this case the Carpenters movie is so much better!
So, it ain't a horror movie and it' ain't a drama! You can't even call it a thriller! Just a week film, Zombie made, 'cause we all know he loves horror classics (just as much as we all do)! House Of 1000 Corpses was really great (allthough it's much of TCM concept used in it), still it's amazingly fresh and creepy! Halloween was not! Sorry, Rob~ 3 out of 10!
In this remake, you don't know if your looking at scenes from the 70's, 80's or what, yet the guy who plays Donald Pleasant's character is carrying a very modern cell phone! Malcolm McDowell is a good actor and I am surprised that he went for this part, it was very weak and I feel sorry for him that he has had to add this to movies he has been involved with! On a side note, his character seem so self absorbed in the movie that honestly I am not surprised poor Michael Myers stopped talking, he was probably hoping the good doc would shut the hell up or eventually go away lol! I could see that maybe Rob Zombie was going for the more "real" Michael Myers, a screwed up kid and why he was that way. If left at that and nothing to do with Halloween, he could have had something really good IMHO, however the constant back and forth of making Michael Myers "real" as opposed to a remake of the old movie was just annoying and God awful! My advise, AVOID THIS MOVIE WITH A TEN FOOT BARGE POLE, as we say back in the old country lol! Or if you have to absolutely see this tragedy of a bastardization of a cult classic, don't even rent it, borrow it from some other poor sap that paid the rental fee!