Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Halloween '07

With Halloween II coming out next week it seemed a good time to revisit Rob Zombie’s first trip to Haddenfield.

Now I’m not going to lie, when Halloween first came out I was pretty ecstatic. Go ahead and read my original review. That’s a review written by someone who’s goofy in love with what he’s just seen. And I stand by that review, to a certain extent, at the time that was my reaction one hundred percent.

Because let’s not kid ourselves of the big three franchises of the Slasher Period, Friday the 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, and Halloween, Halloween is the worst. No it really is. This is of course ironic given that of the three original films, the first Halloween stands head and shoulders over the other two. While Friday The 13th coasted comfortably at a level of agreeable six pack mediocrity, and Nightmare On Elm Street proved that even a blind squirrel finds a nut by having two sequels that where actually pretty intriguing. Halloween’s sequels all ran lemming like off the cliff that was the originals dizzying heights, only to end up twitching feebly at the bottom.

Sure every series has it’s low points, Freddy being resurrected by having a bulldog piss on his ashes, Jason spending a mere ten minutes in Manhattan. The difference is, the entirety of the Halloween franchise IS a low point. From the leaden first sequel, to the laudably experimental but frankly not very good Season Of The Witch, to the head scratchingly strange four five and six, which decided that what The Halloween series really needed was a back story more convoluted then Lord Of The Rings, to the punishingly dull Halloween H20, and finally the coup de grace which was Halloween Resurrection, in which we got to witness Busta Rhymes beating the shit out of Michael Myers with the power of his Kung Fu.

I don’t think that any Icon of horror has ever fallen quite so far. The monsters where treated with more respect in the old Abbot and Costello movies.

Because seriously say what you will about Rob Zombie's Halloweeen, but it takes Michael Myers seriously, which is something no one since John Carpenter has really bothered to do. That’s what caused that batshit crazy reaction the first night I saw it. The fact that someone bothered to care again. Watching it now the flaws are more evident, but the fact that he cared still shines through.

Michael’s family of inbred hicks, IS over the top. And it’s unsurprising that the first third which might as well be renamed “Rob Zombies Working Class Minstrely Good Time Hour”. Led by William Forsythe, who manages to be over the top here, even for William Forsythe. The opening manages to both be too reminiscent of the Rob Zombie playbook, and too pat of an answer to Zombie’s madness. Still I feel like Sheri Moon hasn’t gotten enough credit for her role as Michael’s desperate mother. It’s a truly believable, even touching performance from a woman who had previously only showcased her ability to giggle, act like a serial killer, and have a fantastic ass.

The second act, beginning with Michael’s “Well I’ve got nothing better to do” descent into serial killing, is pretty underrated. Malcolm McDowell’s Sam Loomis has been one of the most controversial things in the movie, but to me Zombie’s decision to revision him as an opportunistic huckster still genuinely trying to do the best he can, was a smart way to avoid Donald Pleasance and his increasingly drunk and surly performances. Michael’s slow slide into madness, is well portrayed, though Zombie’s insistence on reinserting the rape of the girl with down syndrome, after wisely cutting it for the theatrical release, is at the very least, icky.

Michael as a character isn’t tide to anyone actor the way that Robert Englund is with Freddy or Kane Hodder is with Jason. Michael Myers is in a lot of ways a lot more open to interpretation, and Tyler Mane does a fine job. Acting as a believably aggressive killer (Not hard for a man his size), and as the hollow giant in the mental hospital.

As for the final massacre, I maintain that it’s as well done and as frightening of a slasher film as any I’ve seen in the past ten years (true the competition isn’t strong). And while most loathed the recast Laurie and her crew, I found the performances energetic and likable. The whole Strode clan was a warm and believable family, proof positive that Zombie CAN write real people. As I wrote before, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to these people. So of course Zombie smashed their heads against a fireplace.

So yes, Zombie’s Halloween is a flawed movie, but it’s a nobly flawed one. One that has the courage to play with its source material while never sacrificing what made it great. As these shit remakes show no sign of stopping, that’s a surprisingly rare and valuable thing.

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