Sunday, October 5, 2014

HALLOWEEN (2007)

When the subject of Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN comes up, I have a love hate relationship to the film. It's kinda crazy that I've seen 3 versions of this film. A workprint version, theatrical cut, and the director's cut. I love the workprint cut, it's my favorite of the three but sadly the copy I had is lost forever. My foggy memory of the theatrical cut tells me I liked it for the most part. I could buy a digital copy for $8.00 but don't really want to. And the most face palming version for me is the director's cut. One scene in particular is what ruins it for me. There are a few other issues I have with the cut but for the most part it's one scene.

The original JOHN CARPENTER'S HALLOWEEN is my favorite slasher/horror film. Heck, it's one of my favorite films of all time. So naturally my first instinct at the announcement of a remake was negative, how could they or better yet how dare they mess with a classic! Then Rob Zombie's name came up and suddenly I was intrigued.

Being a big fan of the style and look of his two previous films, HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS. I kinda knew what we the audience were in for. And after HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER and HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, the series was in some desperate need of a new direction.* I was ready for Rob Zombie to make Micheal Myers scary again.

If you don't know anything about the Halloween movie(s), here you go.

A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a group of teenage girls/babysitters all the while his doctor races to stop him before he kills again.

That the gist of it for the most part. In Carpenter's original film he made Micheal Myers a boogeyman, a force of evil that cannot be killed. And the night he comes home, he is just stalking a group of babysitters. The television version and it's sequel HALLOWEEN II expand on why Micheal Myers is stalking Laurie Strode, one of the babysitters. But I'll talk about that later this month.

The big difference in Rob Zombie's film is the addition of lots of gore and his movie focuses on Micheal Myers as a young boy and what made him become a psychotic “boogeyman”. This aspect is what separates the two films and I think that was Zombie's intent all along. But, it is a remake so the second half is almost a shot for shot kill list of the original.

I really like that this film wasn't a 100% shot for shot remake. There's enough stuff here that makes it it's own thing. Too bad it's a little to white-trash-Kentucky-fried for my taste. My gosh, the opening five minutes of the film are way over the top and clich├ęd as hell! Okay Rob Zombie, we get it, these characters are the quintessential broken home family. But once you can get past that, the rest is okay.

The story element and what I like most about Zombie's remake is that I see his take on Micheal Myers as more of a Frankenstein's monster than a boogeyman. He's a product of his upbringing and the possible failure of Dr. Loomis trying to get through to him. Oh, and let's not forget that all Micheal really wants is to see his baby sister again, that's all.

So I can end this review on a positive note, I'll talk about the things I hate most about the film. At the top of the list for me is the ending. Ultimately it's his film, his vision so I can't really say he botched it up, but Rob Zombie botched it up.

The best ending being the workprint ending had Dr. Loomis make a brief connection to Micheal seconds before the “Frankenstein's Monster” gets taken out by police gunfire. This fantastic ending was replaced by a overly long cat n' mouse chase between Laurie and Micheal. With a climax that has Micheal helping Laurie shoot him in the face. This ending is both in the theatrical and director's cut. It's not a bad ending, it's just not as awesome as the workprint cut.

Adding more confusion to the fire is what happens to the Loomis character. Is he alive or is he dead? And no this isn't a mystery to be solved in the sequel. No my friends, this is a sign of poor editing. Loomis lives in the workprint, dies in the theatrical cut (or at least he should have), and lives in the unrated director's cut. And if you've seen the film about as many times as I have, you can see snippets of all 3 versions in the unrated director's cut, which by the way is the definitive version according to Mr. Zombie.

A few more things then I promise to talk about what I like. All horror fans know that Carpenter's original had some iconic kill scenes. One of them being a guy getting impaled to a refrigerator with a big ass kitchen knife.

When Zombie's film becomes almost shot for shot remake, you'd expect the kills to start becoming verbatim to the original. Not so. Or so I thought? In the workprint Rob does something awesome. He sets up the scene close to the original, but at the last second he messes with your anticipation and kills the character off differently. The twist on the jump scare is that he gets killed in a van and not impaled to the refrigerator with a big ass knife.

Now either Mr. Zombie got cold feet and changed the scene to where the guy does get impaled by a kitchen knife, or the Brothers Weinstein told him to change it because this is a remake and people want to see the same stuff over and over again?

But the scene that always makes me question what am I doing with my life, is the rape scene. A scene that again, replaced a perfectly good scene from the workprint version. Or it might be from the theatrical, I don't remember? Bottom line, it is not in the director's cut nor treated as a deleted/alternate scene. Poor shame.

Smith's Grove has done all they can do to try and help Micheal (now an adult), so they are moving him to another institution. In this scene Micheal breaks free from Smith's Grove and it's awesome. Mainly because all the transport/security guards are cast members from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL'S REJECTS.

This scene works two ways, It's bad ass and it feels correct. Micheal has a purpose to break out of Smith's Grove. He wants to reunite with his baby sister. The rape scene never has worked for me. It makes his escape seem more coincidental. And plus I don't like rape scenes.

Okay. Now on to what I like about this film.

The thing I like most about Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN is the look of the movie. It has that late seventies early eighties feel to it. And it never feels like a gimmick, at least to me it doesn't. The original came out in 1978, so he may just be paying tribute to that. Regardless, I like his style. He's good at capturing the exploitation and grindhouse look.

The other thing that keeps me coming back to this remake is the cast. Scout Taylor-Compton did a good job as Laurie Strode. Her performance is better than you probably remember. It took me awhile to warm up to her, trying to fill the shoes of Jamie Lee Curtis.

Other standouts were Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell, and Brad Dourif.

Tyler Mane plays Micheal Myers and it's my favorite performance of the character since the original. The character hasn't been scary since the original, so kudos to Tyler and director Rob Zombie.

We all know Donald Pleasence is irreplaceable as the great Dr. Sam Loomis character. But, I really enjoyed seeing Malcolm McDowell's take on the role. Some of my favorite Loomis scenes were with him and Sheriff Brackett, played by Brad Dourif. I'm sure it was all on paper but I love what these two actors brought to their performances. Good stuff!

In conclusion, I feel that Rob Zombie made a decent remake of a horror classic. I'd rather watch this movie and it's sequel again, than ever watching any of the Texas Chain Saw, Friday the 13th, or Elm Street remakes ever again! This movie has it's problems for sure, but it's the strongest of the horror remake sub genre.

I can only recommend Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN to fans of the series. Hard core fans of the series. Which in all likelihood you've probably already checked it out if you're a fan. And if you've never seen one of the Halloween movies, do yourself a huge favor and watch the original.

* I kinda liked HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER but the fact that Laurie kills a security guard dressed like Micheal Myers is stupid and completely ruins the whole idea/plot of the film. Plus having a Creed song in your movie dates the hell out it. As for HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION? I enjoyed it for the most part, but the Brothers Weinstein thought the scenes with Busta Rhymes tested good and we all know how the fans felt about that.

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