Saturday, September 01, 2007


I watched Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween yesterday. And first of all, let me note what a bad idea it was to release it on August 31, rather than October 31, or its general vicinity. I know I for one would have been much more in the mood to see a Halloween-themed horror movie during the chill of October, rather than the 109-degree dog days of summer.

Overall, I liked it plenty, but I felt it was a bit of a letdown from Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, which I think is one of the best horror movies ever. Since I also think John Carpenter's Halloween is one of the best horror movies ever, perhaps a remake was bound to disappoint no matter who was behind it. But Zombie probably did the best with it that he could; certainly, it's head and shoulders above any other horror movie sequel or remake, ever. (Possibly that is a rash statement, and one easily disproved, but off the top of my head... no, wait. David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly was way, way better. And hell, Carpenter's remake of The Thing was better, too. Dammit. Never mind.)

My point is, I liked the film. It sustained a genuinely creepy, unsettling mood throughout. It had some good shocks. Several shots were thrilling in their creativity and effective creation of dread and horror.

But Zombie seems to have taken a step backward as a filmmaker. I didn't much care for his first film, House of 1000 Corpses. I thought it relied too heavily on the MTV school of quick cuts, blurry shots, and a general haphazard assault on the senses rather than a comprehensible presentation of the story. I felt Rejects was a quantum leap forward for Zombie, establishing him as a top-tier horror director in one fell swoop. Rather than leaning on cheap, music video camera tricks, he generated suspense and a visceral feeling of terror through character and story. And while there were still many creative directorial flourishes (slow motion, freeze frame, etc.), they served the film rather than distracting from it.

Halloween falls back on some of the MTV nonsense, which is a shame. A lot of quick cuts, a lot of whiplash camera movements that conceal and diminish the action, rather than revealing and enhancing. More often than not, Zombie avoids these pitfalls, but when he doesn't, it's very distracting.

More often than not, as I said, the direction works. There are moments, for example, when the camera shudders and vibrates in the middle of a scene, and it's a fine choice for the film because it channels Michael Myers' anger directly into the audience. It's as though his fury and evilness are feeding directly into the camera; the camera itself is shaking with Michael's unfettered rage, and the audience feels it, shares his violence while cringing from it simultaneously.

The film also lacks much of Rejects' sense of humor. There are moments of levity, but they're few, and not nearly as effective as in the earlier film, which was funny enough to be classified as a dark (very dark) comedy as much as a horror film. But a lot of pure joy is had just from the casting. Zombie film alumni Sid Haig, William Forsythe, Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Danny Trejo, Leslie Easterbrook, and Ken Foree all appear (Zombie is building himself quite the repertory company!). Horror film veterans Brad Dourif, Clint Howard, Dee Wallace, and Udo Kier also appear, as does the great Malcolm McDowell, assuming Donald Pleasence's role as Michael's nemesis, Dr. Loomis. It's fun just watching those people work, and chew into the script.

I was with the film much of the way, but I felt it ended a couple of plot threads too abruptly. The very ending of the film, especially, felt tremendously anticlimactic. But overall, it's a more than satisfying remake, and definitely in the credit rather than debit column of Zombie's filmography.

Let me note that this is a very graphic horror film. Lots of blood, and lots of sex and nudity, as well as the uncensored dialogue that frequently accompanies sex and nudity in reality, but rarely in movie reality. I say this because during the screening I attended, about ten minutes in, a father got up and walked out of the film with his three children in tow, ranging in age from 7 to 10, I would guess, and about five minutes after that, a woman left with her daughter, who was probably about 8. Oh no, the R-rated horror movie was filled with sex and violence! What a shocker!!!

Kindly do not be so fucking stupid as to bring your adolescent children to an adult horror movie. Ever. EVER. If you can't afford a babysitter, you can't afford a movie. Or, you should spare your brats years of nightmares and take them to go see something like Mr. Bean's Holiday or Daddy Day Camp instead, which are so clearly aimed at your intellectual level.

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