Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
September 2007

Grave-robbing and -rolling

Rob Zombie's take on Michael Myers is a crime in and of itself

Dimension Films
Director: Rob Zombie
Screenplay: Rob Zombie, based on a 1978 screenplay by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daeg Faerch, Danny Trejo and Tyler Mane
Rated R / 1 hour, 49 minutes
Opened August 31, 2007
(out of four)

Has Rob Zombie ever even seen John Carpenter's original Halloween?

Did he hate it?

While making his "re-imagining," did he purposely go out of his way to do the exact opposite of everything that made the original so successful?

I have no answer for the first two rhetoricals. The answer for the third is more clear. Despite having story, characters and a handful of individual scenes in common with the 1978 classic, the new Halloween is more like the anti-Halloween. Everything it does only reinforces everything that made the first one so good.

To make major changes and alterations from the source material is the correct approach - there's no point in simply copying an already established classic. (Gus Van Sant, Alfred Hitchcock is still angry with you.)

But Zombie doesn't simply change things in his version - it's like he took everything that worked about the original and decided to do exactly the opposite. But . . . well, why would you want to do the opposite of something that worked so well in the first place?

The nuance and mystery behind Michael Myers has been replaced with a tedious and terribly cliched backstory - of the already-overused white-trash variety, no less. The suspense has been replaced by meaningless carnage. The dark comedy and satirical edge underneath the story has been replaced by an ultra-serious dramatic tone.

In other words, it falls into the traps of every other bad horror movie of the last few years, and learns none of the lessons from Carpenter's original that good horror movies have taken to heart.

It's like Zombie is telling us, "I want to make a movie that is the opposite of good." That's the best way to describe this movie: the exact opposite of a good horror movie.

Moreover, in a time when Carpenter's influence has been felt all over the horror genre and taken to every extreme, why would Zombie simply want to fit in and do what everyone else is doing? If you're going to "re-imagine" a movie, why not use a little, um, imagination?

The film hits the wrong note from the very beginning, as it opens with an extended introductory story that takes up nearly half the film. He has a drunk redneck father that abuses him. His mom's a stripper. They're your typical low, white-trash family from a thousand different movies. Only even less convincing than usual. In the middle of this family is troubled young Michael, an alienated, long-haired kid with a penchant for killing animals and wearing masks to "hide [his] ugliness."

On Halloween night, when his mother is working, he systematically (and creatively, for a kid his age) kills his dad, his sister and his sister's horny boyfriend. He spares his baby sister and his mother, whom he loves. He is sent to a sanatarium, where he is studied, monitored and sort-of befriended by Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) for 17 years.

On the night before Halloween, he bloodily kills his way out of prison and, of course, returns to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois to kill a lot more people.

We finally get our first introduction to our supposed heroine, Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton, in the role that Jamie Lee Curtis made famous), who is the ultimate target of Myers' return home. A point to her importance is made (those who have seen the Halloween sequels won't consider it a twist, but I'll leave it out just in case). So she's not just the heroic would-be victim that fights back; she's meant to be more than that. But the way Michael's pursuit of Laurie is handled so awkwardly that one feels sorry for the actors.

We know what the objective is, we know the connection between the characters that is being established, but Zombie has no idea what exactly he should be accomplishing with any of it.

Think of a courtroom scene. Now imagine if the prosecuting attorney went up to a witness and just stood there, said nothing, walked in a circle, did jumping jacks and tried to start a thumb-war with the defendant. Doesn't make sense? Then yeah, it's kind of like that.

I can find no reason to recommend this movie. Basically the entire movie consists of the excruciatingly uninteresting backstory, and an endless series of killings. That's par for the course in this genre, but in this movie at least, it's just boring. Really boring. It is never scary, it is never horrifying, it is never suspenseful. It isn't even funny.

No one can stop people from remaking movies, even great ones. And apparently, someone has decided to get all of John Carpenter's movies out of the way early. I just hope that, 20 years from now, when people talk about that great old movie Halloween, no one mistakenly thinks we're talking about this one.

If anything can be salvaged from this, it's that we can all be reminded to go back and re-visit the '78 classic.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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