Here we go again- Halloween (2007)
You want to know what this film is? No? Well, I don’t care, I’m telling you anyway. It’s cinematic necrophilia.
Resurrection had killed the series, again, but much like it’s protagonist it simply couldn’t stay dead. The concept still made money, so there was a desire to continue it in some way. Thankfully, Busta Rhymes v Myers was so piss poor that it killed the idea of a sequel in that continuity stone dead, but there’s one thing Halloween has always done: latch on to current trends. Sadly, the trend in the second half of the last decade was driven by Platinum Dunes and involved heinously awful plastic remakes of classics (or otherwise) of the genre. We’ve had Nightmare on Elm St, The Fog, Dawn of the Dead (obligatory fuck you Snyder), Day of the Dead, Prom Night, The Hitcher, Hills Have Eyes, The Crazies (arguably the best of the trend), The Omen, Black Christmas, My Bloody Valentine, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so on and so forth. What this dismal list has in common (aside from that a significant number of them were date based slashers spawned by the original Halloween), is that only The Crazies is a decent film, and most of them not only miss the point of the originals, but manage to be shiny, polished but ultimately entirely boring entries into the genre.
When it came to Halloween’s turn to ride the remake carousel, events took a bizarre twist towards the surreal. “Musician” Rob Zombie had been hard at work carving himself out a niche in redneck torture porn gross out horror with movies such as House of 1000 Corpses and the ridiculously overrated Devil’s Rejects. However, as much as I hold his previous work in disdain, there’s no doubt that he was/ is a comparatively original director (in comparison to the others) and that he certainly, at least, understands horror and knows how to make horror movies. Albeit a particularly sordid type of horror that I always feel like I need a shower after watching. This was not, let’s be honest, the man to entrust Halloween to- his earlier films suggested that he simply doesn’t have the sensibilities to produce a suspense based horror movie (which is what the original was). Yet he landed the gig.
Inevitably professing to be a huge fan of the original, and I actually believe him on this for reasons that I’ll come to later, Zombie went to seek advice from Carpenter. In my head, I have visions of an epic quest up a snow-blasted mountain range to learn at the feet of the master (sat on a sofa, smoking weed, and playing the x-box), but I have to concede that it probably wasn’t like this. Anyhoo, the advice Carpenter gave him was the somewhat gnomic and Yoda-like direction of be true to yourself, and “make it your own”. This tells me three things: firstly, Carpenter has smoked far too much weed and it has rotted his brain. Secondly, Carpenter never really understood why the original Halloween was so good (this is more confirmation, really, as his “additions” to the second film arguably ruined it), and thirdly that he’s never seen a Rob Zombie film. Because if you’d ever seen a Rob Zombie film, there’s no way in hell you’d tell him to draw Halloween into his world. It just doesn’t fit. Nevertheless, Zombie took Carpenter’s advice to heart and the result was….
Taking the series back to its roots, and then chopping the roots out and looking at the roots of some other series that he’s interested in, Halloween opens in the Myers household. However, instead of being a nice middle-class family, they’re now the worst type of trailer trash scum. Deborah Myers (Sherri Moon Zombie) is a stripper, and the house is a den of squalor. Her boyfriend (William Forsythe) is a colossal asshole and beats and berates young Michael (a horrible performance from Daeg Faerch- who lacks both the menace and any sense of sympathy as the young Myers. This very much is a kid you believe could be a serial killer in the making. But only if he strangled puppies or something, as he looks like he couldn’t fight his way out of a plastic bag), who shows worrying signs of being a sadist by torturing animals and having problems at school. His elder sister Judith (Hannah R. Hall) is a massive slag, quelle surprise, and little Laurie is merely a baby. Anyhoo, young Michael is being bullied at school and at home (and everywhere really), until one day he snaps and messily kills the school bully before turning the knife on the rest of his family, bar Deborah and Laurie. This is a close to a textbook Serial Killer upbringing as you could want to imagine.
Once incarcerated, he falls into the care of Loomis (Malcolm McDowell- outclassing everyone else in the film), and develops a fixation with masks. After an unfortunate incident with the fork based murder of a nurse, Deborah kills herself and young Michael never says another word, although he does grow into the hulking Tyler Mane. This “background” is, by the way, roughly 2/3 of the movie, and while Zombie’s intentions here were good, you know what they say the road to hell is paved with. Digression aside, he eventually busts out and returns to Haddonfield to stalk and kill the new cadre of babysitters- Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), Annie (Danielle Harris- about 10 years too old for the part, but I don’t care) and Lynda (Kristina Klebe). The rest of it plays out like the original movie.
This is a bad film, but worse than that it’s both horribly ill-advised and immensely misguided. Zombie felt, rightly, that Myers ranks up there with the likes of Jason Vorhees and Freddie Kruger in that overexposure has reduced the menace and terror of the character. His solution, therefore, was to attempt to reboot not just the series, but Myers himself, and to take it in a new direction. And this is his mistake. Carpenter’s original works because Myers is an unknown. He’s the boogeyman- a motiveless and unstoppable killing machine. Zombie, on the other hand, has gone to great lengths to explain absolutely everything about the character and it’s too much. Instead of creating a new monster; a Shape for the jaded 21st Century, what he has in fact done is totally eradicate what was left of the mystification of the character and rendered him both mundane and boring. Were this not a Halloween film, and the last third substantially different, then it could be quite an interesting Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer style look at what makes a monster. But it isn’t, it is a Halloween film, so is instead a colossal failure.
Secondly, there’s a hideous tonal jarring between the first “story” in the film and the retread of the second. The original killings are messy, gritty and incredibly nasty. They’re “Rob Zombie” murders. However, the killings in the Haddonfield sequence are comparatively clean and much closer to the stylised killings of Carpenter’s original.It could be my imagination, but I think the second half is shot differently as well- the first half feels immediate and close up, as if it was shot on a hand held (although this is pure supposition on my behalf, as I know fuck all about this sort of thing unless I’m getting motion sickness from the film), but many of the sequences in the second, notably the killing of Lynda’s douchebag boyfriend (straight from the original), are set back- there’s distance between the object and the camera. It’s weird, but the second half, and the way it is shot (especially that scene), makes me think that Zombie did, actually, understand the original, but felt a need to fit it into his own oeuvre, and as such effectively ignored his instincts and forced it to places that it doesn’t fit.
The film is full of “Halloween” touches, from the effective use of Carpenter’s seminal theme, to the “ghost with glasses” schtick, the disbelieving police force and the numerous shots of Myers lurking in the background (to which Laurie again proves to be the most observant by actually spotting him- a nice touch), this reeks of almost worship of the original. Zombie is clearly and obviously a fan, particularly given the way he films the murder of the douchebag which is almost beat for beat (with added profanity and nudity of the full frontal variety) the way Carpenter shot the original. Hell, even the soundtrack and background contain nods to the original with Don’t fear the Reaper featuring and the kids watching the original Thing from Another World.
The acting is variable. McDowell is on fire as Loomis- it’s a great performance combining a monstrous ego with an overwhelming desire to do the right thing. This is as pitch-perfect a 21st Century Loomis as you could possibly want. Tyler Mane is a massive, hulking physical presence and does the business in the Shatner Mask, much like Kane Hodder bought something extra to Jason, while Harris is as solid and professional (and gets them out as well) as a long-term genre veteran should be. Taylor-Compton is an odd, but not awful choice, and Mrs. Zombie is decent as the emotionally traumatised Deborah. However, the support is, frankly, crap, but not anywhere near as bad as Faerch as the young Michael. He’s not frightening, there’s no feeling of contained rage to him, and he’s not sympathetic either. What he comes across as is a petulant little turd who has thrown the destructive king of wobblies because his dad wouldn’t let him listen to Marilyn Manson anymore.
Overall, as a film, this is a mixed bag. The acting contains enough high points to warrant a mild recommendation, and the attempt to make a “realistic” Halloween film has some merit, sort of. So, in my usual spirit of using any means to avoid dishing out an Orangutan of Doom, I’d ordinarily be giving this one, possibly even one and a half, spooky Halloween pumpkins out of four. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to consider this as a film in its own right. It’s so heavily, intentionally, tied to the series, and is so beholden to the original that I have to think of it as a Halloween film, and as such it’s a monumentally wrong-headed, ill-conceived disaster; a gigantic misfire of almost epic proportions. The final demystification is now complete, and any menace or interest that Michael Myers held has now been totally diluted. As such, this is a nailed-on, bona fides platinum stinker, and I’ve no excuse but to dish out the monkey. Have one of these, Halloween remake:
And as to why it’s cinematic necrophilia? This is the final molestation of the corpse of the series. There is now literally nothing left that could be done to debase the original. If Rosenthal’s ironically named Resurrection killed the franchise, then Zombie’s remake, frankly, fucked the cold, dead, body. And fucked it hard.
Last film to go- the sequel to the remake. Then I’m finally free. FREE! I shall celebrate by getting drunk and setting fire to a William Shatner effigy.