Sunday, April 4, 2010

Archive: "Halloween" (2007)

After hearing that Rob Zombie would be directing the remake of the 1978 slasher classic "Halloween," I knew it was going to be something. It wasn't going to be necessarily something good or something bad, but I knew it was going to be something twisted and something I wanted to witness. It's probably his best movie to date, but that's not saying much with looking at "House of 1,000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects." It's also a welcome remake because it's an attempt to bring life back into what made the original such a milestone in horror, even if this new vision is simply a faded echo of that.

The movie opens with an extended prologue that reveals more back story on Michael Myers life as a child. It's funny because this flashback takes place in the 90s instead of the 60s to make the current time this decade instead of the 70s. Michael comes from a corrupted home that ignites his own corruption, and it's here where Zombie's twisted sense of style and his creepy fascination with white trash really shows. Michael's mother, Deborah, tries to be caring but isn't an ideal parent as she makes a living by being a stripper, and her live-in boyfriend, Ronnie, is horribly abusive and openly hates everyone. Michael, though, isn't really any better with his fetish for masks and his fascination with hurting animals. On Halloween night, he really loses it. He beats a bully at school to death, then comes home and slits Ronnie's throat, bashes his sister's boyfriend with a baseball bat, then goes upstairs to shove a knife into her stomach. Michael is immediately confined to Smith's Grove Sanitarium under the care of Dr. Sam Loomis. The only two remaining after the massacre are Michael's mother, as she wasn't home at the time, and his baby sister.

And now we jump ahead fifteen years later. After years of trying to get through to Michael, Dr. Loomis realizes that his patient is retreating further and further into darkness, and therefore the doctor gives up all hope. Weekly visits from Michael's mother prove to be ineffective, and plagued with shame, she eventually kills herself. Michael has called the institution home for over a decade with his hatred of speaking and continued love for masks, but on yet another faithful Halloween night, a group of guards are given the doomed assignment of moving Michael to another location. He takes down the guards, escapes Smith's Grove, and with Dr. Loomis hot on his trail, he heads back home to Haddonfield in search of the only person he has left: his now teenage sister, Laurie Strode.

Laurie was adopted under a new name and is completely unaware of her family ties. She and the boy she babysits pass by the old Myers house down the street knowing that it's evil but don't at all realize that it's where Laurie lived as an infant. When Michael returns, he goes to his old home, and finds a convenient knife stashed in the floorboards along with the famed leather mask that he from then on wears. That's also when John Carpenter's theme kicks in, as well as in other spots; it's a haunting effect, and I just wish it was used even more. Laurie has two friends and on this Halloween night, one of the friends has a plan to get with her boyfriend while the other two cover for her. The evening doesn't go as planned, however, when Michael begins showing up everywhere these girls are and anybody else who's connected with Laurie. His ability to pop out of nowhere and easily get into people's homes is bizarre as he especially likes to sneak up on his victims while they're having sex.

The night of Halloween when Michael Myers returns home is actually less scary than it should be. Zombie seems to have gone a much more savage route when the real goal should have been a more atmospheric approach. All tension is stripped away, and the only thing left is to sit and wait for each victim to get picked off in increasingly grisly fashions. No matter how much gore you splatter on the screen, it still doesn't constitute for scares, and recent "torture porn" should have been enough to finalize that. There's also a psychological depth to the movie that is lacking from the original. When Dr. Loomis states that "death has come to your little town," the intentioned meaningful resonance is not there. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the final sequence when Michael Myers is chasing Laurie, which then leads up to their final confrontation. It contains the nerve-racking suspense that the rest of the movie nearly had. It's here that Zombie's style is in full-form as he closes with an ending that is shocking, fitting, and downright trenchant.

So, it all boils down to this: Is "Halloween" a success? From the reaction of the audience I had, I would say probably not. They were chuckling more than they were sitting in suspense. Having said that, though, I also think there are things to like. There's no denying Rob Zombie's sometimes twisted sense of style, including having the camera break into a seizure each time a kill is about to happen. Most of all, this is not a terrible film because I know for a fact that a worse job could've been done. This remake is especially better than what the franchise had previously evolved into after seven lousy sequels, and that's something significant on its own. It also got a bad time slot because October is reserved for another sequel to the new generation of supposed horror that everybody is waiting for, and that's "Saw IV." For me, "Halloween" is a good enough distraction from that crap soon to come, and it definitely had me nervously watching my back on the way home.

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