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I love the backlash that has been thrown about since this “re-envisioning” of John Carpenter’s horror classic Halloween was announced. At first I agreed with them, why remake a film that everyone loves? However, I am not the biggest fan of the original, I find it a tad boring, and I have been intrigued by Rob Zombie ever since he tossed aside his rock day job for director threads. I haven’t seen his previous two efforts, but I’ve been wanting to and now am even more anxious to see them. I say that because Zombie’s take on Halloween shows some real nice flair and inventive use of the camera, not to mention well-planned death scenes that show the gore, but don’t quite keep it on screen to disgust. It may be graphic, but it never becomes gratuitous. He moves the action along at a nice quick pace, not lingering on the blood, just showing it as it happens. With all that said, though, I do not recommend this film. On the whole, its parts do not make a masterpiece, but instead a jumbled mess that tries to cram too much story into what should be a genre film. Michael Myers works as a character because we know he is pure evil; don’t try and humanize him by showing that his upbringing created his malice, it takes away the fear and a bit of the cold-bloodedness that he embodies so well.

The beauty of 70’s era horror is that it was always substance over style. Nowadays, these Hollywood autuers want to show what can be done on a bigger budget. Unfortunately, it is not the blood and violence that makes those movies good, it is the subtle use of suspense creating a psychological reaction in the audience, not a visceral one. While Zombie’s style is prevalent, and exciting to watch, he appears to go overboard at times and at the risk of the story being told. Scenes like the freeze-frame post massacre where everything is paused except little Michael in the police car are beautifully orchestrated. It is a shame that he then needs to put in hamfisted cues like Blue Oyster Cult and an old horror flick on tv to draw comparisons later on in the film to moments that occurred earlier. These instances don’t show how smart and clever you are, they just prove you are talking down to your viewers. Just play Carpenter’s amazing score and we’ll know evil is coming, don’t force-feed us clues that are so blatant they bore us.

As far as the debate of this being a remake, I would say it isn’t. Maybe the last quarter of the film contains the incidents that occur in the original, everything else is new. Well, maybe not new as much as Zombie’s version of Myers’ backstory and creation as a psycho killer madman. I’m sure a lot could be common knowledge having seen the millions of films in this series already, but here we have the childhood and subsequent incarceration of the William Shatner mask-wearer, (the origin of that mask is somewhat amusing here, as well as the burning question of when Michael buried it to get it back 15 years later). It is all an interesting psychological study, yet it seems to take a bit away from the action, slowing down the pace ever so slightly. I actual liked the change because something other than Michael being killed and getting right back up was a welcome reprieve. Too bad this incarnation is hopped up on steroids and can deal with any pain imaginable as well. It would have been nice to see Zombie stay away from that crutch, but I guess what Halloween film can be complete with out it?

In the end, the aesthetic is cool and I wish Zombie would have kept with his creative juices and used it for something fresh. This story did not need to be retold and no matter how much new blood was infused here, it didn’t make it fresh. I do applaud the death toll, however. There was a few times when I was taken by surprise at people that were dying. He pulls no punches; everyone is expendable, and I like that. As far as the acting goes, I thought it was a waste getting genre people in this with such small roles. Kier, Howard, Dourif, and Trejo are all pretty much insignificant except to give the filmmakers a face in throwaway roles. The lone exception here is William Forsythe as Michael’s father, (a fantastic little gem that had me second guessing myself whether it was really him)…oh, and Malcolm McDowell’s hair trying to make him look younger—yeah, it didn’t. Sheri Moon Zombie was at times great casting and at others nepotism at its best. Rob, just because she is your wife, doesn’t mean she needs to be in all your movies, she is no Meryl Streep. All joking aside, though, our two “leads,” if you can call them that, are effective. Scout Taylor-Compton is cute and believable in her role, both as the bubbly teenager and as the horror stricken victim. Young Michael Myers truly steals this show, however. Daeg Faerch is amazing as the homicidal ten year-old. Either he really is a killer or his parents are very liberal at letting him go places no kid that age should have to go mentally. I for one would not want to see this kid walking down the street in my neighborhood.

Halloween 4/10

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photography:
[1] Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah Myers) and Daeg Faerch (Young Michael Myers) star in Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Photo by: Marsha Blackburn LaMarca/Dimension Films, 2007
[2] Kristina Klebe (Lynda Van Der Klok), Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett) and Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode) star in Rob Zombie’s Halloween. Photo by: Marsha Blackburn LaMarca/Dimension Films, 2007

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