29 Aug

Reimagining, Remake. Tomato, ‘Tomahto’. Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

Posted by Bryan White | Wednesday August 29, 2007 | Reviews

Rob Zombie's HalloweenDepending on how you feel about remakes, the movie is either dreaded or anticipated this friday. Cinema Suicide got the rare opportunity to check in early and come back with the word, good or bad.

I’ve had it with remakes. I haven’t bothered to watch many of them and those that I have seen have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Remakes are glaring evidence of two things in Hollywood. The industry is out of ideas and the industry has a deep running contempt for the horror genre. One of their most successful genres is handled with such malice that the most they can toss us are some soggy, half eaten scraps from decades ago. I would have expected more from a guy like Rob Zombie who has gone on record again and again as one of us. The success of The Devil’s Rejects allowed him to write his own checks. He could have done anything he wanted after that movie and when they turned over the keys to the kingdom and asked, “What’s next?” Rob replied, “Halloween”.

I can’t blame the guy for loving the Carpenter original. It’s a classic in every sense of the word, an indie success story like few movies. Made on a budget equivalent to the average craft services budget of an A list picture, Halloween was a runaway success bringing kids into theaters like nothing else. It took proven elements from Italian giallo pictures and combined it with Hitchcockian suspense and then layered on a soundtrack as memorable as Jaws. Halloween was a uniquely American horror movie. It also set the ground rules for the exploitation clusterfuck that was to follow in years to come. No matter what, if they’re ripping it off (Friday the 13th) or spoofing it (Scream), the ripples the original made in 1978 are still being felt to this day. So what the fuck is the deal with a remake?

I’m sorry. I meant reimagining.

In Rob Zombie’s world, Michael Meyers was dealt a bad hand in life. At the age of ten he was held tightly in the grip of your classic toxic household. His mother meant well and did the best she could but her shithead lowlife boyfriend is doing nothing but trash talking her kids and drinking all her booze. Her oldest daughter Judith is the town jizz jar and she, Michael’s mother, makes ends meet by stripping. By this point, Laurie is no older than 12 months. Michael is also, for reasons unknown, obsessed with wearing masks. From the earliest news about this movie I suspected the worst and I was right for the most part. Rob Zombie has always sympathized with the villain. In House of 1000 Corpses, the victims were just bodies to be butchered, the real stars of the movie were the Firefly family. Only by this point, Zombie was still really rough around the edges in the storytelling department and the movie is a music video mish mash of ideas. A series of settings rather than plot points. By The Devil’s Rejects he had improved significantly and most of the problems of House were solved, but there was still the lingering problem of his protagonists. By asking us to root for the bad guys, Rob was trying to fill a tall order. Rejects is full of these character moments that are supposed to grab our sympathy for Baby, Otis and Captain Spaulding. Despite all the mayhem, they’re a family and blah blah blah. All I see is Otis cutting a man’s face off and forcing his wife to wear it. All I see is Otis raping Priscilla Barnes. Tutti fuckin’ fruity, my ass. William Forsythe, the intended villain, was a much more intense and cooler character. Now, in Halloween, Zombie is getting better, but rather than scattering some humanizing moments of Michael Meyers here and there, the entire first half of the movie is dedicated to drawing him as this tragic figure, a kid who had no other options.

Back to the movie. When Michael’s mom has to go strip on Halloween night, his sister Judith is instructed to take him out trick or treating but she instead blows him off in order to screw some long haired dirt bag. Michael, heartbroken, hits the streets of Haddonfield on his own and returns to find the place as he left it. Mom’s boyfriend passed out drunk and his sister getting plowed by a hippie. After some lonely reflection, he snaps, and gets to work murdering everyone in the house. The bloodshed that follows is both brutal and not entirely surprising. Also, keep an eye out for Zombie’s clever White Zombie reference. On one hand, my earliest gripes about slashers when I was a kid was that they were never as bloody as people told me they would be. If my parents were to be believed, Friday the 13th was a nonstop festival of disembowelment. From the opening seconds to the credit crawl, it was nothing but camp counselors being gutted by a man in a hockey mask. The original Halloween, like other indie horrors of the time, was a relatively bloodless movie. It’s not without a drop, but the graphic violence was never on the menu. People were stabbed, throats were cut, but you never saw gaping wounds and geysers of blood. Part of the original Halloween’s charm was the ability to avoid the splashy violence and still scare the fuck out of people. Rob Zombie will have none of that. His movies are the cinematic equivalent of Gallagher performance. The audience can’t help but get a little on them. Zombie’s inability to create an actual atmosphere of tension is instead replaced by the red stuff. Whatever. I’m willing to let him slide a little because I’m a gore hound but I’m going to keep one foot in the land of the rational because he’s remaking one of the untouchable holy cows of the horror genre. Despite completely missing the point, this is a messy, nasty horror movie. Take the viciousness of The Devil’s Rejects and put it in the familiar William Shatner mask.

Michael spares his baby sister’s life and upon discovering the horror of the evening’s events Michael’s mother loses it completely and Michael is hauled off to a locked insane asylum. His doctor is the iconic Sam Loomis. Michael has blocked out the violent events of Halloween night and spends his time making rudimentary masks to wear on the unit. Dr. Loomis does his best to get through to Michael and his mother visits weekly, but nothing works. Michael, unaware of why he’s in the hospital, just wants to go home. After a couple of years, it begins to sink in that he’ll never go home. What little humanity is left in him is washed away when Loomis and Ms. Meyers leave Michael in the company of a bitchy nurse who makes a disparaging comment about Michael and then feels his wrath by way of a fork to the carotid artery. Having lost everything, Michael’s mom goes home and puts a bullet in her brain. Rob Zombie is on the verge of breaking through and doing something original, but for the moment he’s stuck in the same rut that keeps Quentin Tarantino from being anything other than a one trick pony in my eyes. He’s able to capture the elements of movies he liked as a kid and put them in his own movies and he loves to cast genre favorites. This movie is a who’s who of everyone you could want in a horror tribute. Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Ken Foree, Richard Lynch (who desperately needs to be in more movies), Clint Howard, Dee Wallace, Udo Kier and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m watching movies I’ve seen before. It’s as if I’m having a conversation with another horror fan and he rattles off his favorite scenes and actors. Incessant name dropping and heavily accented plot regurgitation worked on me for a while when it was novel and new, but by this point, I’m really looking for something new and exciting.

15 years pass and Michael is an adult. Dr. Loomis, unable to get Michael to speak for all this time, gives up and splits. Halloween is approaching and inevitably, Michael manages to overpower the guards and break out. Somehow, he has become a beast. For a guy who sits in a little room all day making masks, he’s huge. Later on, in one of the many cameo scenes, Michael murders Ken Foree on the can, steals his coveralls and then heads off to Haddonfield in time for Halloween where the movie shifts gears and plays out in familiar fashion. While Rob Zombie is making the kind of movie only he can make, and taking the legacy of one of the finest masked slashers of all time in a really strange, wrong direction, he gets things so right in the Loomis department. The late Donald Pleasance was Dr. Loomis. He owned that character like Anthony Hopkins owns Hannibal Lecter. There is no substitute, but if you had to find one, Malcolm McDowell is the guy you’d want to pick. He plays Loomis with the same heavy attitude, constantly reminding everyone that he told them so. Meyers is the devil and there is no stopping him! He’s a killing machine! It was a brilliant move to cast McDowell and it wins recovery points in a big way.

Laurie is a nice girl. Her friends are sluts. While at school, Michael lurks in the yard and on the way home he follows them, just a little off camera. Since Michael is now an adult, the surprising performance from kid-actor Daeg Faerch who really turns it in and shocks with the early scenes of violence, is replaced by pro-wrestler turned actor Tyler Mane. Mane has all the right moves as Michael. It’s not hard to be big and imposing, but in the same way that Kane Hodder gave Jason Voorhees a ton of nuance and menace, Tyler Mane sells Michael Meyers big time. By this point, Loomis is butting heads with the local sheriff, played by Brad Douriff, laying down the heavy Dr. Loomis dialog. Also, Laurie’s friends are drinking and fucking and reaping their wicked rewards at the hands of Michael until the inevitable stalker/slasher confrontation in the end.

Since the original Halloween is such a sparse picture, with not much background on the Michael Meyers character, Rob Zombie set out to fill in some blanks. I can understand why. Meyers is a fan favorite and it’s natural for people to want to know more. I was always happy with what John Carpenter gave us originally. I like the idea that there was no reason for Meyers. He was just wired wrong from the start. In the original, the Meyers family seems quite normal and his sister isn’t a slut. Still, he snapped. Slashers killing teens who enjoy a little vice has always been a convention of the genre, established by Halloween, but the motivations for that have never been clear. In Rob Zombie’s version of the movie, we gain that understanding.

I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting all over this movie. I realize that my tone has been pretty negative, but the truth is that it’s not a bad movie. When you’re remaking and reshaping one of horror’s finest characters and achievements, you have a lot riding against you. My biggest gripe is that The Devil’s Rejects was pretty good and Rob Zombie could have done anything, but he chose to dive into that arena that makes true horror fans cringe, the remake. There’s nothing wrong with this picture, though. While the original rode on suspense, that was 1978 and fans have come to expect a lot more in these trying times. As a director, Rob Zombie is coming along. You can see him getting better with each picture. He needs to work on his writing, but things are getting better. Even his wife, Sherri Moon, who plays Michael’s mom, is becoming a better actress. Where she is nearly intolerable as Baby in Zombie’s previous movies, here she plays it straight and as a desperate single mother doing the best she can, she’s actually quite believable. I still don’t feel bad for Michael Meyers because he spends a good deal of time killing people for no reason, but the circumstances that Rob Zombie has established are reasonable and well made.

Halloween as far as remakes go, falls into that same weird place that the Snyder remake of Dawn of the Dead did. It was much better than it had any right to be. Rob Zombie may have no ability to create any kind of suspense or atmosphere, but as a wet, splattery horror movie director, he’s turning out good movies. The Halloween remake shines in many places and is a genuinely entertaining movie but it lives under the black mark that it’s a remake of one of horror’s greatest movies.

Order Halloween – Unrated Director’s Cut (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)

17 Comments 

  1. August 29, 2007 9:15 am

    Retroman DC

    I’m checking Halloween out on Friday. yeah there’s no way it can get near the original but I’m interested in the the establishing back story to Michael and zombies revisioning. I actually quite enjoyed The Dawn of the Dead remake since it was such a radical direction change. much more high energy instead of the looming apocolyptica feel of the legendary original. I’ll let you know what I think about the Halloween remake.

  2. August 29, 2007 2:52 pm

    Me

    Bryan White, you misunderstood. The way Zombie is portraying the Firefly family and the way he portrays Micheal Myers is not for you to side with them, but for you to decide for yourself. It’s like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. I prefer movies to not be so straightforward, it makes for a more thought provoking experience. You stupid piece of shit.

  3. August 30, 2007 12:54 am

    MALACHE

    Damn… I was hoping that you wanted to go and see this saturday….

  4. August 30, 2007 5:14 am

    Bryan White

    That’s fine, Me. The Devil’s Rejects was definitely a thought provoking movie. Really made me think about the nature of morality. Thanks for coming by.

  5. August 30, 2007 6:04 am

    T. Rigney

    This film, sadly, was everything I feared it would be. Not being the biggest Zombie fan on the planet — I happen to believe the guy is one-note from start to finish — I had a sneaking suspicion that he’d turn Carpenter’s classic into yet another exercise in shock-riddled hillbilly horror.

    The screening I caught in town was met with an onslaught of boos at the film’s conclusion. Could this have been due to the aging hipster crowd which strangely attended the viewing? Perhaps. Or maybe people are just tired of lowly directors ruining classic movies.

  6. August 30, 2007 6:14 am

    Bryan White

    See, I really liked The Devil’s Rejects. I’m a shock fan and that movie really swung for the upper decks. The reason I think it worked out the way that it did was because it never set out to be anything more than a gleefully violent throwback and I was fine with that.

    I think Rob Zombie will one day turn something out that is both original and quality. He just needs to stop filling every frame of film with proof positive that he’s a horror movie fan. I get it. Every frame is filled with nods to his favorite actors and movies. If he can get over being a fan making movies and be a director, I think he’ll come around and start making some good movies. As a director he’s not bad. Halloween looked really nice. As a writer, he has a long way to go. Loomis’ reply to the Sherriffs question of what Michael’s goal in Haddonfield stands as one of the most groan worthy lines of the last five years.

  7. August 31, 2007 2:18 am

    Horror King

    You have to be kidding! I was with all the way until you actually said “There’s nothing wrong with this picture, though.”

    Yes there is plenty wrong and not enough time or space to write it all. The film sucks. Shaky camera is not a style dammit! Close ups and shaking. I could not tell what was happening half the time. The guy has no idea of the 180 degree rule of shooting a film. It is all over the place. Jarring and ridiculous. No style. It’s like amateur hour. How can a guy with a budget like this and union crew NOT have a film shot right? Where was the damned UNION camera people? Surely THEY know where to put a camera, right? It’s called a damned “Line of Action”, ROB, a damned “Director’s Line.” Learn it.

    The performances are clearly all over the map with Sherri Moon being horrible in a straight role. I have seen better Mom portrayals on the old Alice TV show. The mask is creepy and the new Michael is brutal, but it is just overdone, like most of this film. Overblown and dumb. STOP IT. Please someone slap the executives who keep doing this in the face.

    What hurts the most is that it really made me realize that in the Horror market of today, no one has a damned clue. There is not one new director who touches a hair on Carpenter’s head. Craven is a hack and proves it with each film, but Carpenter, though he has had a few misfires, knew how to make us care, how to scare us and how to keep us coming back. I liked House of 1000 Corpses, it was fun! I liked Devils Rejects for what it was. Kinda slow in parts, but OK. This one blows donkey ass and the scary thing is , you know it and so does everyone else, but the rest of the dreck coming out is such terrible, PG-13 crap that this actually looks good! Also, people are afraid to say that a movie sucks when the Publicity Machine is pushing it down our throats! People are afraid to say anything bad about a film cause they won’t get any more screeners or studio invites. Too bad. This film sucks John Carpenters ass.

    Sad days in Horror my friends. Sad Days.

  8. August 31, 2007 5:27 am

    Bryan White

    I stand by my review. It’s deeply flawed but not an entirely unenjoyable movie. If I had to rate it on the classic four star scale, it would get a 2 and if you need some validation, I’m not part of the publicity machine and I don’t get screeners. I’m just some guy.

    I’m with you on remakes all the way, but I don’t get up in arms about them anymore because for the most part, I don’t watch them. I know what to expect when a great old horror movie is remade for contemporary audiences and directed by someone who shot music videos or car commercials. To review Halloween, I was able to step outside of my own prejudices and realize that if I want to watch Halloween after this, I can pop in the original and find that nothing has changed and that despite Rob Zombie’s version, it’s still the all time classic that I’ve come to see it as. When George Romero was asked about remakes when Dawn of the Dead was in production he said he didn’t really care because it didn’t change anything about the original movie.

    The meathead losers who are going to be shitting their pants about this movie until it hits DVD are the most disappointing, unavoidable side effect of the remake engine. That part I can’t put aside. I’m already seeing IMDB reviews and mentions on the Dread Central forums that this version is better than the original. I’m not them, though, so they can have it.

  9. September 3, 2007 8:39 am

    anthony

    I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe the iconic Michael Myers is southern, redneck trailer trash. Rob, save that stereotype for your other movies (BTW, I loved Rejects). Speaking of that movie, I think everyone who played a role in that movie was also in this one. It was cool at first, but then it got really annoying. The guy who played Loomis really sucked, I heard he’s a really good actor, but just miscast for this role.

    My biggest complaint is the mindless violence. Not that I have anything against it. If this was a remake of Friday the 13th, I’d be ok with the violence b/c Jason is a big, stupid, killing machine. Myers was always the silent, stalking type. Here, he just kills for no reason (like Laurie’s parents).

    The bottom line is that I’m spoiled by the original. When he killed his sister in the original, he looked like a normal kid. We’re all thinking how could he have done this? The mystery made it so cool. The back story here gave us TOO much of a background and in the end, Michael Myers became humanized and lost his aura of “the boogeyman”.

  10. November 7, 2007 1:18 pm

    Is Rob Zombie remaking CHUD? |

    […] last time I bagged on old Rob in my review of his dismal Halloween remake, I got, like, five thousand angry emails from people who not much else to say than “d00d u r […]

  11. March 9, 2008 9:32 pm

    Paul

    “The guy who played Loomis really sucked, I heard he’s a really good actor, but just miscast for this role. ”

    A really good actor? That’s friggin’ Malcolm McDowell, one of the most brilliant and charismatic British actors of the past half century. Sadly, however, he has appeared in a steady stream of crap for the past twenty or more years and, in the process, somewhat damaged his reputation, IMO. the same might be said for the equally brilliant Brad Dourif. Unfortunately, neither of these great actors has much to go on in this poorly written remake.

  12. August 11, 2008 11:58 pm

    zombiwolf

    Halloween 1-4 are all that I’ve seen and that’s plenty. Halloween 3 is the most underrated movie of all time. Imagine if people had actually seen it and John Carpenter’s ploy for the Halloween series actually worked. We would be a whole lot happier. And the remake sucks.

  13. September 28, 2008 7:52 am

    sam

    this remake is the worst kind of shit i have ever seen zombie wants to be ashamed of himself egomaniacl wanker i cant type fast enough to say what i want so ill leave it at this
    remake worst i have ever seen zombies direction sucks ass and anyone who likes this piece of tat auto be ashamed of theirself
    burn in hell zombie you wanker

  14. January 31, 2009 5:21 pm

    Jeremy Couturier

    Wow…this really was a steaming turd of a film. I’m getting a bit tired of Mr. Zombie and his hamfisted vision of horror. Yes you and Eli Roth have watched every horror movie that has ever been produced but hey so have many other people, including a few on this site. Does that mean you are qualified to make horror movies? To remake legendary horror movies? I think not!!
    While the original film was filled with creepy unsettling moments,memorable characters, and a choice to let the viewer use their imagination here we get none of that. Filled with scummy,unsympathetic characters it wastes the talents of what seems like a cast full of good actors. Mike Myers was always at his best being a boogeyman, who could be hiding in the shadows at any moment. Here Zombie put a spotlight on him full blast and keeps it on him the whole time. It’s just all overkill, all the time. There is something to be said about the fear of the unknown. Since we all know the original film so well, why would Zombie make it worse?
    Really should we be cheering Myers…what the point and where’s the suspense. It was like when Freddy turned the corner and was played for laughs. John Carpenter really showed an affinity for filmmaking and obviously was inspired by some talented people like Argento and Hitchcock who inspired Argento. Maybe he meant well but cmon you got to learn something and bring it to the table. Honor your influences,don’t cheapen them with this mess.

  15. January 31, 2009 5:26 pm

    Jeremy Couturier

    BTW i don’t include Zack Snyder in the convo because Dawn of the Dead held its own pretty well and he seems like a guy who “gets” it and is trying to do his own thing. Watchmen looks very impressive….

  16. February 27, 2009 1:48 pm

    Horgh!

    Anthony and Jeremy hit the nail on the head: It’s the *mystery* of Michael Myers that makes his character so compelling. Is he insane? Is he even human? What’s doin’ under that mask? Hell, in the movie credits he’s referred to as “the shape”. Perfect!

    By providing too much back story, RZ diffuses the mystery of Michael Myers, and that leaves us with just another Zombie joint. Entertaining, but disappointing.

    Oh, and Zombiwolf: agree! H3 is one heck of a good (creepy) film that is worth seeing.

  17. May 30, 2011 2:14 pm

    destiny

    this movie is very bloody i was kinda scared at first but it was allright i mean why did the cops shoot him at the end when they saw him put the knife down and stopped well know he is dead i am a fan of mr.zombie. and the killers real name.


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