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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Halloween (2007)

"Evil has a destiny"

Plot

After going on a murdering rampage in his hometown, young boy Michael Myers is sentenced to incarceration at the Smith's Grove Sanitarium maximum-security mental facility. Here, he is treated by noted child behaviourist Dr. Loomis - the only person who can truly understand Michael's evil nature. Seventeen years later, Michael escapes and begins a murderous trek back to Haddonfield to finish what he had started years earlier.

 

Halloween is not only one of the best, if not the best, pure horror film, it's also one of my favourite films. Even after countless views, the film still packs a punch and holds up today as well as it's ever been. When I heard that they were remaking it, I nearly went on a killing spree myself. There are a handful of films that should never be remade simply because the originals are so good and Halloween was one of them. John Carpenter’s original is a stream-lined scare machine, devoid of filler and designed to scare with minimal fuss and maximum effect. It's such a simple set-up that there was really nowhere to go in developing it. However, I did rest a little more comfortably knowing that Rob Zombie would be directing. House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects weren't exactly my favourite films but they did show that Zombie had a love and respect for the horror genre (if his awesome music didn’t already tell you that) and that's what was needed - not some hot shot first-time director looking to make a name for himself direct from editing MTV music videos. Zombie is hardly the best thing to hit the genre but he had proven himself to be capable enough behind the camera for me to warrant giving him a chance. After watching his remake of Halloween, I only had one question on my lips: Rob Zombie, WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE? I can't believe how much he's butchered the legacy of the original with this shamelessly tacky rehash.



Zombie tried to portray this as a reimagining of the original but all he's really done is add an extra chunk onto the start of the film chronicling Michael's childhood before the present day killing starts. The first half of the film runs like you're watching a documentary about one of Zombie's favourite tropes - white trailer park trash Americans. Hang on a minute: didn't I watch this in The Devil's Rejects? Or House of 1,000 Corpses? Or pretty much every single one of his films? It seems like Zombie has forgotten which film he was remaking here. There's the stripper mom, the drunken abusive stepfather and the slutty sister. No wonder Michael goes ballistic on them with a knife. But here is the film's first major flaw - we now know what turns Michael into the killer later in the film. We sympathise with him. We feel for him. He's a failure of society to address the problems of his family and his situation. Giving him reasons to turn into a killer and getting into his mindset as we do just turns him into way more of a character than he should really be. Come later in the film when he's butchering innocent teenagers, we can't really hate him for doing it because we've seen why he's doing it. Zombie is clearly on the side of the villains, as he was in his other films, and serves up the unlikeable 'ordinary' people almost as if they deserve their fate. Unfortunately, he has one style and that's blatantly obvious from the handful of films he's made so far. I can understand his love and affection for the 60s and 70s grindhouse and exploitation films he grew up on, but not every one of his films needs to follow the same template. Between the way the characters talk to each other in crude, sexualised terms (not to mention the Tarantino-esque use of swearing), to adding in tasteless scenes such as a gang rape inside a hospital, you quickly realise that Halloween has more in common with The Devil's Rejects than the Halloween franchise itself.


Zombie sluggishly tells us in twenty minutes what Carpenter told us in a handful of minutes by establishing Myers' backstory. But once Myers' unnecessary back story part of the film has concluded, the action moves to the present day in Haddonfield where Zombie seems to abandon any fresh ideas and seems content to have Halloween play more like a very poor remake of the original. The director tries his best to imitate Carpenter, even down to some blatant scene-by-scene copying. But because he's too content with showing more and ramping up the violence, he just doesn't pull it off. He can't create suspense or atmosphere to save his life and has no concept of allowing the audience to use their imagination over what is happening - he's all about the full-on shock and horror tactics which sadly don't work. There are no scares to be had here. Michael isn't a bogeyman anymore, lurking in the shadows, but just a big brutish thug who uses his size and strength to overpower. There's no drawn out moments of pure terror and suspense. It's all loud and in your face - subtlety is something alien to this film.


Instead of trying to create his own style of filmmaking, Zombie seems content to throw out lots of gratuitous violence, swearing and more genre actors than a convention. Why did he feel the need to feature the following in bit parts: Ken Foree, Brad Dourif, Sid Haig, Sybil Danning, Leslie Easterbrook, Danny Trejo, Dee Wallace-Stone, Bill Moseley, Clint Howard....let me pause for breath.....Udo Kier, Richard Lynch and William Forsythe....not to mention his wife Sheri Moon Zombie. I can understand an odd one or two of them popping up for old time's sake but most of the roles are two minute cameos at best in pointless non-character roles. What's the point in casting them except for genre fans to say "oh look there's Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead" - it cheapens the film because he’s too busy throwing obvious winks to the fan boys with the sheer amount of unnecessary cameos.


Malcom McDowell is probably one of the best bits of the film, if not the best bit. He's never going to replace Donald Pleasance's portrayal of Dr Loomis. That character tried to help Michael but when he realised he couldn't, he made it his life to ensure that he could never harm anyone and became obsessed with protecting everyone from his evil. McDowell's Loomis seems to be trying to help Michael right until the last minute even after seeing the damage he can do first hand. McDowell's old hand certainly adds a sense of integrity and class to the proceedings which is sorely missing. That's not to say his portrayal of Loomis is any good - it's pretty terrible and instantly forgettable - but having a wise old head in a film like this just elevates the material.



In a nice little nod to the previous films, Danielle Harris is on hand as one of the teenage victims. She was the little girl that Michael Myers terrorised in some of the sequels, only this time she's old enough to do it semi-naked by becoming one of the throwaway teenage victims. Another worthy mention is to Tyler Mane as Michael Myers. The man behind the mask in these films is always important as it can really have an impact on the character. Mane is a huge, towering guy and his physically imposing presence is just what the older version of the character needs in the second half to shake off the sight of the angsty teen version of him from the prologue. It's not quite what you'd expect from Michael Myers but Mane's version is certainly an interesting take - more Jason Voorhees than anything. Michael does start doing more traditional stalking in the final third of the film but it's shoe-horned in and is in stark contrast to the thuggish brutality he has shown earlier in the film. Zombie knew he needed to be more Halloween-y and we have The Shape in token form for a bit. But it clashes badly with how things have been presented. And that, in a nutshell, is Halloween. It's almost like Zombie has made 2 different films and tried in vain to gel them together. He wanted to stamp his own mark on the franchise but at the same time he wanted to be able to do a paint-by-numbers rehash of the original. Neither work well on their own and they definitely don't work together.

 

Final Verdict

Despite the fact that the remake of Halloween is one of the worst remakes I've ever seen, my main problem and fear is that the younger audience will grow up thinking that this is the true Halloween. Or worse still, that the original is too timid and not gory or violent enough for them. Halloween is a totally pointless remake and even some of the lesser Halloween sequels were scarier and more entertaining than this drivel. Zombie was the wrong choice for a remake that was a wrong choice to begin with. This isn't Halloween and would have been better served going under another moniker.



 

Halloween


Director(s): Rob Zombie


Writer(s): Rob Zombie (screenplay), John Carpenter (1978 screenplay), Debra Hill (1978 screenplay)


Actor(s): Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, Daeg Faerch, Sheri Moon Zombie, Danielle Harris, Brad Dourif, William Forsythe


Duration: 109 mins




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