My stepfather knows that Mekaela and I like horror movies, so I think he’s using them to try to bond with us or something. Last family viewing: Rob Zombie’s Halloween.
We like our family moments with a little blood and death, please.
*Per usual, spoilers are towards the bottom of this review in the clearly marked Spoiler Section. Stay above that zone and you’re good.*
I’ll be honest: I don’t really care one way or the other about the original Halloween. I need to try it again–it’s been about a decade since the last time I saw it–but I’ve just never been able to muster up any real feelings towards the movie (except for the music, of course. The music is creepily awesome.) So when I heard a remake was being made . . . what the hell did I care, right? I’m not a Halloween purist. It couldn’t be any worse than the remake of Black Christmas. Besides, I actually heard some decent reviews for the film. I figured it would be pretty decent, that I’d like it well enough.
Boy, did I figure wrong.
Rob Zombie’s Halloween is kind of an unbalanced mess. The idea, I suppose, was to expand Michael Myers’s backstory, and in this, they certainly succeeded. The backstory was definitely expanded. In fact, backstory takes up about 45 minutes of the damn movie. Laurie Strode is almost insignificant in this particular retelling. This is all Michael Myers and his version of events.
The problem with this retelling? Michael Myers’s version of events is kind of boring.
The idea of seeing a horror movie through the killer’s perspective is kind of interesting, particularly when the killer is someone as iconic as Michael Fucking Myers. Unfortunately, Mikey M.’s just not an interesting enough character to drive a film. I mean, he’s the silent guy who strides around stabbing people. Tack on a white trash backstory, and . . . he’s still the silent guy striding around stabbing people. If you’re supposed to feel sympathy for him . . . well, it didn’t work. I mean, his family’s fucked up and he gets teased a lot. Boo hoo. That’s very sad.
I think what Zombie really wanted to do was retell the story with an emphasis on psychology, you know, M.M. as a sociopath rather than some obscure, vague version of evil in a creepy mask. I think he was looking to show the genesis of a killer. That’s . . . kind of cool, but again, M.M. is inherently not interesting enough for that. You need someone who talks, someone with a face. Michael Myers is scary because he’s a faceless, obscure, vague version of evil in a creepy mask. The 45 minutes of how Michael Myers became Michael Myers was just tedious and unnecessary and seriously dragged the fuck on. Worse, it really didn’t match up with the last 45 minutes or so, which were mostly (but not entirely) centered around Laurie Strode. Maybe if the first half of the film had scenes of Laurie growing up too, you know, a scene with Mikey in the asylum followed by a scene with Laurie in her new home . . . maybe that would have given the movie some balance. Maybe they could have even, oh, I don’t know, thrown in the scene where Laurie’s taken from her fucked up birth family in the first place, since that seems like an important enough moment to not be relegated into two lines of throwaway exposition, particularly when your film is 45 minutes of backstory. Maybe I would have liked the movie a little better if it had been paced this way. As it was . . . eh. Seriously eh.
Here are some notes about the kind of neat and seriously sucky apects of Halloween.
1. First, a disclaimer: I’ve only seen the original once, and it was about ten years ago, so I’m sure to miss all sorts of parallels between the two films. That doesn’t really concern me. I like when a film can pay homage to its original, but if a remake can’t stand on its own two legs, then it’s just not a very successful movie. I don’t think you have to know the original work to appreciate or dislike a later version of the same film. It may deepen your understanding of the remake, but that doesn’t necessarily make two viewings mandatory.
2. Now, on to some casting decisions:
Brad Douriff. I love Brad Douriff. I especially love Brad Douriff in Deadwood, where he is just the most awesome character this side of, oh, Bobby Singer. (Jim Beaver, coincidentally, is also in Deadwood.) When I saw his name on the DVD box, I excitedly hoped that he was playing Dr. Loomis. Mekaela noted that Malcolm McDowell was also in the movie. I was like, “Well, shit. Scratch that hope, then.”
I have to mention Brad Douriff for two reasons here: one, this is only the second time I’ve seen him play a good guy, like, EVER, and two, he is severely underused in this film. It’s sad, really. He could have made an interesting Dr. Loomis. Instead . . .
3. . . . we got Malcolm McDowell, who does the worst acting in the movie. Yeah, that includes Tyler Mane as Grown Up Michael Myers, not that he had to do anything but wear a mask and be tall. Still. I started giggling pretty hard at Loomis when he says, “He found her! My God!” Admittedly, “my god” and “oh god” are both hard sells in film, but seriously. The damn kids act circles around Malcolm McDowell.
4. Actually, the kids are easily the best parts about the movie, especially Tommy, who has the best lines in the film:
“She’s not my girlfriend! I hate girls! Why doesn’t anyone understand that?” (angrily stomps away)
(when Laurie wants to change subject) “No, the boogeyman! I need some closure on this subject!”
Oh, cute, precocious Tommy. I would totally babysit for you.
5. Although, not on Halloween. How desperate for cash do you have to be to babysit on Halloween? It’s the best holiday of the damn year!
6. Dee Wallace is in this movie, and she doesn’t annoy me? I must be dreaming. Well, that’s a little unfair. I totally love her in The Frighteners. And . . . well, no, that’s about all.
7. Another horror movie icon: Danny Trejo! Honest to God, I didn’t even recognize him at first. I mean, Ismael Cruz is not exactly Machete, okay? And while I always, always approve of adding Trejo to your film . . .look, it’s all well and good to relate to the crazy patients you help lock up, but I just don’t think that the proper reaction to meeting a kid who’s murdered four people is this: don’t let the walls get you down. Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY? You’ve decided to emotionally bond with the creepy killer child? Sure. That’s normal.
8. Actually, since we’re sort of talking about proper behavior for employees at mental hospital, let’s go over a few things:
A: Orderlies- Stop being psycho hillbilly rapist fuckwits. Seriously, isn’t there some kind of test these people have to take to make sure they possess a minimum amount of a soul? I’m just saying, eventually, the crazy patient you’re fucking with? He always, always escapes. Don’t you know that by now?
B- Nurses. Now, I can see how it might seem like a good idea to insult an unbound, psychopathic child who’s brutally murdered four people AND THEN TURN YOUR FUCKING BACK ON HIM TO READ YOUR PRECIOUS MAGAZINE . . . but I have a little suggestion for you: next time, shoot yourself in the head. It’s quicker.
9. A few more casting bits that amused me: Peter from the original Dawn of the Dead makes an (admittedly completely unnecessary) cameo and William Forsythe plays Michael’s asshole stepdad. Oh, Forsythe. Loved you in The Rock, buddy. Actually didn’t even recognize you here. Mek called that one.
10. As for some general filmmaking problems I had with this movie . . . this is my first Rob Zombie flick, and while I’m still interested in trying House of a 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, I hope these films aren’t as damn repetitive as Halloween is. Cause, okay: when Child Michael Myers is on a killing rampage, the song, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” plays; an old movie is playing on the television, and a character is stabbed and then tries to crawl away. When Grown Up Michael Myers goes on a killing rampage: ”Don’t Fear the Reaper” plays; the same old movie is on television, and two characters are stabbed and try to crawl away. There are parallels in film, and then there’s just tedious repetition.
11. Zombie also seems to like his music extremely on the nose. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is one example, of course. Another: “Love Hurts” as Stripper Mom dances on that pole.
12. Also: I’m not a parent. I know that somehow precludes me from giving parenting advice, but . . . look, I don’t take issue that you’re a stripper, Michael’s Mommy. Everyone needs money. You do what you can to take care of your kids and to survive. That being said, maybe when you find out that your child is killing animals and photographing them, maybe, just maybe, your last words of encouragement before going to work shouldn’t be: “Live it up tonight.”
13. Finally . . . black? It’s a fucking color, people. It says so right on the Crayola box. Take your absence of light bullshit and LEAVE ME ALONE.
If you’ve read this far and would like to continue into the Spoiler Zone, continue on. Otherwise stop reading and watch a better horror film. There are more to choose from than you’d think.
Sheesh. Where do I even begin?
Okay, so there’s this idea in Halloween that kind of works for me, in concept if not in execution. Certain characters–Loomis, Trejo, Michael’s Mom–seem to think that they can connect with Michael, that they can heal him or understand him. Each and every one of them are let down. Deborah Myers actually visits the son who killed her daughter. She cares about him, tries to understand or something. I mean, I just don’t know that I could do it. I can’t even imagine, honestly. Anyway, Deborah commits suicide when she realizes Michael isn’t going to get better. Trejo treats Michael with respect (too much fucking respect, in my damn opinion) and gets viciously murdered for his trouble. And Loomis, well, Loomis tells Michael that, “In some strange way, you’ve become my best friend. I guess that shows you how fucked up my life is.” Loomis might care something about Michael (I suppose that’s debatable, with the book deal and all) but Michael sure as hell doesn’t care about him. The only person Michael cares about is Laurie, and Laurie’s the one who kills him.
That . . . that I kind of like. Kind of. My problem is that for this idea to really work, the attachments that these people form to Michael have to seem believable, at least on their side. It works for the mom. This is still her kid. I get the mom. But Trejo . . . bitch, please. The “connection” that Trejo supposedly feels is lame, thrown in, and really makes no sense. And Loomis’s connection might work . . . I actually like the idea that patient and therapist become something more simply due to the fact that they are each other’s main human contact in the world . . . but I never buy any of McDowell’s interactions with Michael Myers, child or adult. Personally, I blame this on McDowell. I think the idea’s there . . .the relationship should make for an interesting dynamic, at least on Loomis’s side . . . but it never does. And so I don’t care.
As far as the murderdeathkills go, Michael breaks out of the asylum to kill Laurie’s adopted parents, her slutty friend, and her slutty friend’s boyfriend. (Also, Peter from Dawn of the Dead. It really is a useless scene.) Michael also stabs the shit out of Laurie’s other friend, Annie (Danielle Harris, who’s actually Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and 5) but she doesn’t die. I wasn’t surprised by this, actually, because I vaguely remember trailers from the sequel, where she’s in a French maid’s outfit, I think? Anyway, she’s the only thing I remember about that trailer, so I just assumed that she was Laurie Strode. Imagine my surprise when I met the actual Laurie Strode (played by Scout Taylor-Compton, who’s pretty good in this role.) Of course, I couldn’t be surprised too long. After all, she was wearing glasses. That means she’s the “good girl.”
Anyway, Laurie finds Annie and calls 911, ignoring Annie frantically shrieking, “Laurie!” from the other room. She’s shrieking because Michael Myers is still in the house, of course, which leaves me to offer this bit of advice: admittedly, you’re not thinking all that clearly, what with the trying not to bleed out and die and whatnot, but when your attacker is still in the house, try screaming, “Bad guy! Bad guy! Bad guy!” You’ll notice it’s actually the same amount of syllables as repeating “Laurie” over and over again. No wasted breath.
Michael chases Laurie around for some time, knocking her out, chasing her when she escapes, trying to kill her repeatedly, blah, blah, blah. There’s one scene where he’s attacking the ceiling (she’s hiding in a duct above) and it should be tense and creepy and all, but it drags on for five fucking minutes, and there’s only so many times you can see a dude destroy a piece of wall. At some point, Loomis tries to talk Michael down. When that obviously fails, he tries to kill Michael. When THAT obviously fails, Michael seems to . . . gouge out Loomis’s eyes? In five minutes, Loomis’s eyes looks totally normal, so hell if I know. Anyway, eventually, Loomis is down, and in the last shot, Laurie shoots Michael up close in self-defense. Blood gets all over her; she freaks the fuck out; and that’s where the movie ends.
To be fair to the movie, I do love that last shot. (Which is funny, because I just found out that the version I watched isn’t exactly the same as the version everyone else watched. In other cuts of the film, the police kill Michael Myers. Lame. Total lamesauce, I’m telling you.) There are some decent shots in here, a good amount of gore . . . the death of William Forsythe Stepdaddy is particularly mean and awesome. But, mostly, I was bored during this movie, and I just wanted it to end. There are some neat concepts buried in this film, but mostly . . . blah. I could have had a V8.
Tentative Grade: C
Moral: Let your kids/younger siblings trick or treat on Halloween. Also, don’t be a bully. Or a slut. Or a poor white person.