Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Rules Review: Halloween (2007)

It always looks to me like there's a huge dichotomy amongst horror fans when it comes to Rob Zombie. Maybe some of the dissenters were okay with him when he was doing his own stuff with House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects; but when he took on the remake of one of the biggest horror classics of all time? Understandably, there was much scrutiny involved. As a general fan of Zombie's feature work, my opinion of the Halloween remake has always been favorable, with only the tiniest bit of nitpicks.

Zombie's movie follows the basic storyline that Carpenter's gave us, with the young Michael Myers murdering his sister on Halloween night and being sent to an institution under the care of Dr. Loomis. He escapes many years later, again on Halloween, in pursuit of his now teenaged sister Laurie and her friends.

What Zombie adds to the story is an attempt at an explanation for Michael's actions, mostly stemming the possibility that he was a just a born sociopath, exacerbated by a dysfunctional home life and his time at Smith's Grove. The audience is given a look at just what this life was like with a stripper mother, a bitchy older sister, and a disgusting stepfather. This is the part where Zombie loses me just a little bit - I'm not particularly fond of the overly crude language in the first scenes of the film. And I don't mean that in a snooty or prudish way, either. The original Halloween has retained a certain level of respect and dignity over the years, and what Zombie did to the story is admittedly quite jarring at first. Eventually, you learn to get used to it and accept it - really, you have to, because it doesn't go away for the rest of the movie.

Where Zombie gets the biggest points from me is his artistic style. I saw it and loved it in The Devil's Rejects and was glad that he brought it back for Halloween. I'm very fond of his handheld work, and the way he frames his shots - putting the camera in strange angles and often shooting through objects in the frame. He's not afraid of using close-ups, and lots of them, to bring the action and violence right to the audience's face. He has an eye for what looks beautiful and cinematic, not static and boring like some other films. The use of color is perfect for the fall setting, which gradually becomes darker and more bluish in tone as the film approaches its violent climax. Most appreciated is how Halloween's theme music is used at just the right spots throughout the film to keep the spirit alive.

Watching the film again, I always forget just how long it takes to move on to the main plot of the original Halloween. Laurie Strode and company do not show up until the 54 minute mark - at least in the director's cut version, which is the one I own and the one I know the best. But is too much time spent on Michael's backstory? Did fans really want a backstory in the first place? Would people have complained more if it was just another pointless shot-for-shot remake? The story works either way for me, even though I don't think the Michael that Carpenter created had the backstory that Zombie created. The little bits that Zombie did with how Michael requisitioned the mask, knife, and coveralls was different from the original but made more sense to me.

Of course there's a whole slew of cast members to talk about with Halloween - both from the two main sets of characters and several cameo or one-scene appearances. Some of them seem like they are only there because they were in previous Zombie films (Sid Haig and Ken Foree), but some of them are brilliant casting decisions. Malcolm McDowell taking on the role of Dr. Samuel Loomis was the best of these, as I think he has the same distinctive look, voice, and acting style that Donald Pleasance gave. Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode was an interesting choice because she was relatively unknown at the time, but she's great. While she plays the coy and innocent side of Laurie well, she also gave her more life and spunk so that she's not so dull and unrelatable.

The Laurie-Lynda-Annie friendship in the original always bothered me a bit, frankly because of how bitchy Annie and Lynda were towards Laurie. Compton, Kristina Klebe, and Danielle Harris play their respective versions of these characters more believably to me. They're all different people with distinctive personalities, but they could all easily be good friends also. I loved that Laurie's (adoptive) parents also made it into this story not only because I love Dee Wallace, but also because it added more heart and more sympathy to Laurie's character. Brad Dourif is always a good choice in my book for pretty much anything, and here he is just perfect as Sheriff Brackett.

The truth is, it's really hard for me to fault Zombie at all about Halloween because I know that it means just as much to him as it does to the fans. The references he has made in his music career have more than proven himself as a big fan of the horror genre, so he obviously meant no disrespect. Zombie just has his own style, and was even told by John Carpenter to "make it [his] own" movie. He did just that and more, combining and adding in some of the most important parts of the story into this one movie. I love it and support it... although I definitely cannot say the same for Halloween II.



  1. I'll admit I'm actually in a small minority of people in that I honestly did not like Carpenter's Halloween. I'm a huge fan of his work and he's one of my favorite directors and so far one of two big-name auteurs I've met in person and yet I've stated multiple times that the one everyone else seems to almost universally agree to be his best film is actually his worst. I don't know about you but I've always felt The Thing was a far superior horror film and more deserving of that title.

    That said, it does sound like Rob Zombie is addressing some of the issues that bothered me with Carpenter's film, so it could be interesting to see if I get the chance. Maybe if I find it on Netflix or something and I end up in one of my fits where I can't decide what to watch (something that happens a lot these days) it would be worth trying. It certainly wouldn't be the first time I've preferred an often-criticized remake over the almost universally-beloved original.

    1. I'm actually with you there, John. I do like Carpenter's Halloween, a lot but, if given the choice, would much rather watch something like The Thing or Assault on Precinct 13. As for The Thing being a more superior film... probably! Then again, it does have the advantage of more money and little bit more of a seasoned director, so maybe that's not entirely fair! Halloween helped introduce his talent, and The Thing is the result of more experience and budget.

      You still haven't seen the remake yet?! Well, I think it's definitely worth a watch, maybe moreso especially because you're not such a fan of the original. Could be that this version is more your speed.

  2. I have no objection to Zombie's version of Halloween. My favorite film by him will always be Devil's Rejects, but I think his version of Halloween was fun. I have mixed feelings about his 2nd Halloween film, but this movie was just fun.