5.14.2008

Halloween (2007)

DIRECTED BY
Rob Zombie


STARRING
Tyler Mane - Michael Myers (adult)
Malcolm McDowell - Dr. Samuel Loomis
Scout Taylor-Compton - Laurie Strode
Daeg Faerch - Michael Myers (child)
Sheri Moon Zombie - Deborah Myers
Danielle Harris - Annie Brackett
Brad Dourif - Sheriff Lee Brackett
Kristina Klebe - Lynda Van Der Klok
Hanna R. Hall - Judith Myers

Year - 2007

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


In 1978, John Carpenter changed the look of the horror genre with his genius film, HALLOWEEN. Writing and directed a film about an escaped mental patient stalking and killing babysitters on Halloween Night frightened many who had seen the film, creating a phenomenon in the process. The popularity of HALLOWEEN inspired many other directors to make what was referred to as 'the slasher film'. FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, CHILD'S PLAY, PROM NIGHT, and countless others all tried to emulate the look and style of HALLOWEEN, all to varied levels of success. Unfortunately, the countless numbers of slasher films diluted the sub-genre, relying on gore more than mood and suspense [like the original HALLOWEEN]. Even the sequels to John Carpenter's classic fell into this mess, turning a simple story into a bumbling mess of cults, sibling rivalry, and meaningless deaths that got less scary after each film. And once important characters in the franchise either died behind the scenes or were murdered on-screen, as well as Michael Myers getting his butt kicked by a hip-hop artist no less, there was no choice but to reboot the franchise.


Now as one of the biggest HALLOWEEN fans [which has been pretty well documented], I loathed the idea of a remake to John Carpenter's masterpiece. I understood why it needed to be done from a business standpoint, but as a fan, nothing could be done to improve on the original. Many horror remakes have come and gone, and maybe 10 percent of them have been as good or better than the original source. So I was pretty upset. But then I heard that Rob Zombie was gonna direct. The rock star who directed the okay HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and the excellent THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was gonna write and direct the new HALLOWEEN. I can't say I wasn't excited. If there was anybody who could revive the dead franchise, it's Rob Zombie. Attempting to take the Michael Myers mythos into a more gritty and realistic direction by revealing his backstory before retelling the events of the original film was nothing short but brave. But I had faith he would do something with it. Even after hearing all the mixed reactions to the film, I came into that theater last night with decent expectations. I was not expecting the film to be better than the original. As long as it was better than all the sequels, I'd be satisfied. And guess what? I was more than satisfied. Was the film a great remake? It could have been a lot worse. But was it a good film on its own merits? Absolutely.

PLOT
On Halloween, mentally unstable 10-year-old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) is in a world of dysfunction. His loving mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a stripper, his step-father (William Forsythe) is an abusive drunk, and his older sister Judith (Hanna R. Hall) rather have sex with her boyfriend than taking Michael trick-or-treating. Besides his mother, Michael loves his younger sister "Boo", but hates everyone else. After showing an affinity for murdering animals and beating up bullies to death, Michael [feeling alone on Halloween night], decides to take out his anger on his step-father, Judith, and her boyfriend - murdering all of them in violent ways. Michael's mother finds him and "Boo" outside of the porch, terrified by the events inside. Michael is taken into custody for first-degree murder.

Eleven months later, Michael is committed to Smith's Grove Sanitarium where he's cared for by child psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Michael claims not to remember anything about the murders. With his mother now visiting him each week, Michael begins making masks to cover his face to hide his "ugliness" from the world and from himself. Soon enough, Michael becomes angry and wants out of his imprisonment. After his mother gives Michael a photo of him with "Boo" and leaves with Dr. Loomis, Michael attacks and murders a nurse. Realizing the viciousness of Michael, the people around him deal with it in different ways for better or worse.

Fifteen years pass, as Michael hasn't said a word since killing the nurse. Feeling like he failed, Loomis retires from being Michael's psychiatrist. That same night, Smith's Grove plans on sending Michael to a maximum security prison. Finally realizing that the time is finally right to make his move, Michael escapes Smith's Grove violently and returns home to Haddonfield, where he finds the iconic white mask and puts it on for more trick-or-treating. He soon encounters "Boo", who now is grown up as Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), stalking her and her friends on Halloween. What follows is a retelling of the original film, where Michael and Laurie confront each other during a family reunion gone bad as Loomis tries to stop Michael from hurting his younger sister.

REVIEW
I was very impressed with Rob Zombie's version of the classic HALLOWEEN. Was it perfect? Far from it, as I had issues with mainly the last half of the film. Felt the remake portion of the film was a bit too rushed for my tastes and we didn't get to know the characters as well as we did in John Carpenter's version. But besides that, I enjoyed the intensity and creepy realism of The Night HE Came Home. Michael Myers, while not The Boogeyman he was in the original, was still incredibly imitating as hell and it was nice to finally see him acting like a true evil bad ass again that many of the sequels lacked. While the original Myers was a shadow in the darkness that surrounded Haddonfield, this Myers is in your face and wants you to know that he's back home. I think alot of people had a problem with that, but this is how I feel: We're now in a society where what terrifies us is what we see. Terrorism on the news is scary because it's really happening. We're always on edge wondering if it's gonna strike near us. The fear Carpenter put in his film will probably not scare many people these days because it's pretty tame. The violent behavior that Zombie infused in Michael in this version is realistically scary because who know what will happen when we, or someone we know, just snaps and goes off the way this guy did. Is it frightening that it will give you nightmares? Not at all. But it leaves you on edge due to its brutality because something like this could really happen to one of us and we wouldn't even know when it's gonna come. So while 2007's HALLOWEEN isn't as scary as 1978's HALLOWEEN, the film does make you think that maybe, just maybe, there is a Michael Myers out there really to strike our town. And I appreciated Zombie for that.

I thought the first half of Zombie's story was really well-told. I still feel that not knowing why Michael Myers did what he did makes the guy scarier than knowing his motivations and descent into madness and murder. But Zombie really surprised me at how well of a backstory he gave Michael that actually made sense in context to the rest of the story. I actually felt bad for Michael [and his mother too, played wonderfully by Sheri Moon Zombie] and could actually understand why he would just go off and murder those around him. It's horrible and brutal, but it's real. The sanitarium scenes were also very interesting and I was honestly glad to learn more about Michael's childhood and what led to his return to Haddonfield after escaping Smith's Grove. This portion was less of a horror film and more of a character study of a young man who's only outlet to say how he feels was through murder. I didn't get any Thorn bullshit that tied his motivations to some cult. Zombie gave Michael Myers a credible beginning that was actually refreshing in a film like this. Why nobody thought of doing something as simple as this before is beyond me.

The remake portion of the film [the last half] was a bit flawed, but I did enjoy what Zombie did with it. He could have made it easier on himself and just rehashed the same film John Carpenter did years ago like Gus Van Sant did with the horrible PSYCHO remake. And while he kept the same key elements in his retelling, I did like the unpredictability of the twists and turns he took with many of the key scenes and characters. For example, one character who dies in the original is still alive in this film. The entire ending itself is totally different. I really had no idea what was gonna happen. I was very impressed that Zombie didn't make the same film twice. As the film grew more and more different from its source, the less I thought of the film as a remake. I just wish the characters were as developed in this section of the film as in the first section because besides Laurie, Loomis, and Michael, the rest of the characters were like extended cameos. Especially Annie and Lynda, who I didn't feel as much of a connection to in this film as I did in the original. And Sheriff Brackett didn't have much to do. And the fact that Zombie condensed the 90 minute original into 45-50 minutes made the remake section really rushed and not that well put together as it should have been. I honestly think Zombie held back with retelling the remake. I think he wanted it to be his own, but at the same time he wanted to please the fans of the original. So it was a bit disjointed in a way as I'm sure Zombie was torn with how to make a remake that would please not only himself, but everyone else. And while it was flawed, let's be serious: This is as good as it's gonna get for a HALLOWEEN remake. If it were anyone else but Zombie, this film would have been more 2006's BLACK X-MAS than 2004's DAWN OF THE DEAD. So I wasn't upset about it. I actually was entertained and on the edge of my seat the entire time.

And while the story wasn't as good as THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, the direction was a lot better. Zombie seemed truly comfortable showing us visually the modern take of Michael Myers' descent into madness. The picture was beautiful, the editing was right on target, and his use of crazy camera angles and shaky-cam really enhanced the film’s intensity. A lot of people didn't like how the murders were shot with the camera shaking frantically, but it pulled me in more than it pushed me away. It was like the cameraman was trying to run away from the mayhem to save himself - like he was scared of Michael Myers. We felt what the characters were feeling and I appreciated that. And the video footage and the freeze frame part with the cops before they arrested the younger Michael was visually impressive. I also liked that lot of the kills were implied rather than seen, even though we do get some violent murders and gore. While Zombie didn't capture the mood of John Carpenter, the atmosphere was a lot thicker I thought. After three films, Zombie has really grown into a fine director. I honestly can't wait to see what he does next.

I also liked the music of the film as well. While not as good as the soundtrack from THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, the use of Kiss' "God of Thunder", Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper", and the repeated uses of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" were really cool. The "Love Hurts" section was a bit weird at first, but I kind of dug it as the scene unfolded. And the classic HALLOWEEN theme - beautiful and a great homage to John Carpenter by Zombie. I'm glad he didn't change it around into a rock theme or anything like that. When the theme played for the first time, you should have seen the smile on my face. Even the audience I was sitting with [and the theater was SOLD OUT!] cheered when the song played. Just a great moment and a great show of respect to the source material.

And since some people mentioned the ending, I guess I should say something about it. I won't spoil it and say exactly what happens, but while it does look final [and if it is, I'm completely happy with it], I'm not falling for it. I think what we saw was not what it seemed to be because we didn't actually see the aftermath. We just kind of think what happened did happen. So if a sequel is made from this [believe me, there will be a sequel whether Zombie's involved or not - this film's making $$$], it's pretty easy to pick up from this "open-ended" ending. Honestly, I hope there isn't another one because I felt the ending was truly fitting for this version of the Michael Myers character. But when money talks, bullshit walks. Remember HALLOWEEN II? HALLOWEEN 4? HALLOWEEN H20? Anyone?

The performances in the film were really good. Daeg Faerch as the 10-year-old Michael was probably one of the creepiest kids ever put in front of a camera. The boy just oozed intimidation. His scenes where he had to commit violent acts were so realistic that I actually believe he's a pro at doing stuff like this. And his emotional scenes of anger and frustration were fantastic as well. Not a child I want to fuck with, that's for sure. Love your children! LOVE THEM! Or they'll turn out like this little boy. Brrrrr. The older Michael Myers, Tyler Mane [who's better known as Sabretooth in the first X-MEN film], was also extremely intimidating with his height [6'8"] and huge build. This was a Michael Myers that demanded to be seen and boy, did we see him brutally attack like 15 people in a course of an hour? I also loved the head tilt after the Bob kill. Nice little homage. Mane was the best Michael Myers since Nick Castle, I thought. Just a true bad-ass killer that I had been waiting for a long time. I'm officially never living in that town of Haddonfield. Thank you Tyler Mane for scaring me away.

I also enjoyed Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode. She gave a pretty strong performance and boy can she scream! Wow. While not as charismatic as Jamie Lee Curtis, Taylor-Compton did justice to the Laurie role as she was pretty smart, intelligent, and never stupid as to drop the weapon. I also thought her friendships with Danielle Harris and Kristina Klebe were believable, as they talked like real girls. Yeah, they weren't really developed in the way Carpenter had done so, but I personally know girls like these three, so I understood who they were. And I loved the chase scenes with Tyler Mane. She handled action and fear very well. This young actress has something and I hope to see her in more roles.

Malcolm McDowell was just okay for me as Dr. Loomis. It's hard because I don't think I can associate anyone other than Donald Pleasance in the role because he fit so well in Loomis' shoes. I felt McDowell was trying a bit too hard in some scenes to live up to that, as most of the stuff he would say sounded like he was reading from a cue card. And his monologues weren't as convincing to me as Pleasance's monologues were. I did appreciate the egotistical nature of the character and the deeper connection Zombie created between Loomis and Michael as McDowell played off really well with both actors, but there was something missing. I'm not sure what it was.

And the actor I was mostly surprised by was Sheri Moon Zombie as Deborah Myers. I enjoyed her in THE DEVIL'S REJECTS but I had no idea how good of an actress she was capable of being. She showed an unbelievable amount of depth and compassion in the role of Michael's mother. It seemed like the role was a natural fit for her, stripping or not. I really enjoyed her performance here and felt alot of sympathy for her character. I also predicted her fate too, which made her character that much sadder. I know Sheri Moon gets a lot of flack for being in these films because she's Rob Zombie's wife, but the woman is talented and I think she'll prove those naysayers wrong about her.

The other actors were good too. It was nice to see Danielle Harris back in Haddonfield, even if it was as another character. She may be 30 years old, but she still has that youthful appearance about her and used it well. I was also incredibly turned on by her dirty talk and her boobies too. You have no idea how long I've waited to see her naked in a film. Thank you Danielle for making this Wolf very very happy. Brad Dourif and Kristina Klebe did what they could with their short roles as Sheriff Brackett and Lynda respectively. I was happy to hear the word "totally" still associated with Lynda. Can't complain. And the Zombie regulars like Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, Danny Trejo, Leslie Easterbrook, Tom Towles, Ken Loree, and Sid Haig were a welcome presence. It was cool pointing out who was who. Zombie must be a real cool guy if they keep coming back to work for him. And I'm sure we'll see Clint Howard, Dee Wallace-Stone, and Udo Kier in more Zombie films in the future. They were nice to see too. Great cast for a remake.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WATCHING HALLOWEEN 2007

1) Killing rats makes you a potential serial killer. Killing cats makes you Asian.

2) If you want to make a truce with a bully, offer him an olive branch. Bashing him with a log doesn't work as well.

3) "Learn from your parents. Use birth control." If only Mr. and Mrs. Spears had learned that before giving birth to Britney.

4) Michael Myers is good with a bat. If he played for the New York Yankees, maybe they'd be in first place.

5) Black isn't a color. Yeah, just take away something else from the African-Americans, why don't you?

6) Leslie Easterbrook got her ass kicked by Michael Myers. Oh shit! Someone call Commandant Lassard! We need back up! [Credit: My cousin Tony and his love for anything POLICE ACADEMY]

7) Don't mess with a dude dressed up as a ghost. If he ain't Casper, he ain't friendly.

8) Dee Wallace-Stone was brutally attacked by Michael Myers. Maybe if she were still a werewolf, she'd have a fighting chance.

9) Michael Myers likes watching people have sex. Dude, ever heard of porn? Let people fuck in peace! Sheesh!

10) Since Michael busted through a wooden door, Laurie hides behind a glass one. It's apparently obvious that Laurie failed physics. Maybe her teacher was Miss Teen USA South Carolina...

THE FINAL HOWL

HALLOWEEN is definitely worth checking out if you can go in with an open mind. I'm one of the biggest 1978's HALLOWEEN fans EVER, and I still enjoyed myself with Rob Zombie's fresh new take. All I wanted was for it to be better than the sequels and it blew them all way. So I'm very happy and I respect Rob Zombie for having the balls to take on this project and giving this horror fan a film that's a lot better than I'd ever thought it would be. The audience [including these tough-looking HALLOWEEN fans in the front row] clapped for this film. HALLOWEEN wasn't the best remake in the history of film, but it's a lot better than most of them. Definitely the best HALLOWEEN film since the original.

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