FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE...beware yon spoilers!

Sep 10, 2007

Film Club: Halloween (2007)

Yarrr...here there be spoilers.

Once upon a time, when I learned that Rob Zombie was making a film called House of 1000 Corpses, I was nothing but wide-eyed enthusiasm. Judging by his stage persona, his general aesthetic, and his famous love of the genre, I thought Here's the man who will save horror from the post-Scream tedium! If Rob Zombie can't make a scary movie, then who can? Then I went to see House of 1000 Corpses in the theatre, and I came out so very close to walking out. Simply put, I really hated it. The characters were irritating, the humor was decidedly frat-boy, the longer it went the less sense it made, and above all else, it sure as shit wasn't scary. I was hugely disappointed, so much so that the bad taste 1000 Corpses left in my mouth was still strong years later; strong enough that I stayed far away from The Devil's Rejects a couple of years later, despite the fact that it was generally getting decent reviews. Even people who loathed 1000 Corpses as much as I did. I held strong against it, but a few months back I gave in and gave the DVD a whirl. I steeled myself against the anticipated pain and...

...it was better than 1000 Corpses, but I still didn't like it. There was no character development in what could be considered a "road movie"- the characters were unceasingly irritating. Far too many scenes full of that frat-boy humor..."torture" scenes that were just dull...and again, it wasn't scary. The film does have its moments- Leslie Easterbrook and Priscilla Barnes rocked the fucking house, the first 10 minutes were great, and Bill Moseley was fantastic despite the fact that he had nothing to work with. Watching The Devil's Rejects was like having a 90-minute out-of-body experience; as the film progressed, I found myself outside of the action, thinking about the action: okay, I should be laughing here...alright, I'm supposed to find that horrifying...yes, I know that during this 15-minute "Free Bird"-flavored denouement I'm supposed to feel pathos and sympathy for the Firefly family, but I really, really don't. I like the look and feel of Rob Zombie's films- not his filmmaking style, necessarily, but the general package wrapping up the proceedings. However, there's always a serious emotional disconnect between me and said proceedings, and until that chasm is closed, chances are I'm not going to be making out with Rob Zombie's films.

So was I predisposed to disliking Halloween? Perhaps, but I don't think so. My hopes weren't high, certainly...but I had hopes. In fact, I desperately wanted to enjoy this film. I don't want to watch shitty horror movies, even if they're remakes of films I adore. If anything, I give remakes a shot- I was predisposed to disliking the Dawn of the Dead remake, and it ended up rocking my face off. I can say, however, that I came out of Halloween the way I came out of The Devil's Rejects: there were a couple of good performances, there were about 10 great minutes, and I felt a complete emotional disconnect from the characters and proceedings.

And it sure as shit wasn't scary.

Halloween is essentially divided into three major acts: a bit from Michael's childhood, leading up to the night he killed his sister Judith; Michael's years at Smith's Grove Sanitarium; and Michael's return to Haddonfield.

Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) suffers a terrible childhood. His older sister Judith (Hannah Hall) makes fun of him, his mom's boyfriend Ronny (William Forsythe) makes fun of him, his baby sister "Boo" coos when Michael kisses her, and his mom Deborah (Sheri Moon-Zombie) is a stripper who really loves him and tries really hard to be a good mother...I mean, it's no wonder that young Michael has taken to mutilating and killing animals, including his own pets! Honestly, Dawn "Wiener Dog" Wiener had more reason to turn psychopath than young Michael.

But turn psychopath Michael does. When a fellow student makes lewd comments about his stripper mom, Michael follows the boy into the woods and beats him to death with a large branch. Halloween arrives and poor Michael is forced to go trick-or-treating by himself when Judith and her boyfriend spend the night in bed. After pouting and inhaling candy corn to the strains of Nazareth's "Love Hurts", Michael dispatches Ronny, Judith, and Judith's boyfriend in short, bloody order.

Michael is sent to Smith's Grove, where he begins to develop a relationship with Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell). Michael spends his time at the sanitarium making masks and visiting with mom once a week. Eventually he decides to stop talking, and one fine afternoon he snaps and kills a nurse. Deborah is so distraught she goes home and kills herself.

Fifteen years later, chubby little Daeg Faerch has morphed into the hulking muscle-bound Tyler Mane. Michael Myers spends wordless days in his cell, surrounded by hundreds of his hand-made masks. Dr. Loomis has long since given up on Michael; he simply can't get through to him, despite the fact that upon his arrival, Michael was practically feeding Loomis "psycho-speak" from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Treating Sociopaths: "My masks hide my ugliness!". Loomis decides to write a book called (no, I'm not kidding) "The Devil's Eyes" and go on the lecture circuit, cashing in on the Myers family tragedies. During a routine patient transfer, Michael breaks free and heads back to Haddonfield in search of Boo.

Boo, however, was adopted long ago and she's now Laurie Strode. The last act of Rob Zombie's Halloween is essentially a compressed recreation of John Carpenter's Halloween, and we all know how that goes. Stalk, stab, evil.

Halloween is remarkable in that the violence is exceedingly brutal, yet it's not at all explicit. Zombie films the violence in such a way that I found myself shrinking down in my seat, but I thought I was seeing more than I actually was. The early scene where Michael kills his classmate, in particular, was exceedingly harrowing, and it was one of the film's highlights.

Unfortunately, Zombie can't marry this sort of...violent restraint and masterful touch to his dialogue, and this is where, in my opinion, Halloween was a total failure: the characters. Mr Zombie seems only to be able to write in caricature- Ronny is so over-the-top he's a joke...Laurie, Annie, and Lynda are indistinguishable from one another. Dr Loomis, in particular, is given the short end of the stick; Malcolm McDowell, one hopes, does the best he can, but his dialogue is simply dreadful. He never once comes across as actually being frightened by Michael, never mind obsessed with his subject.

The first half of the film seems to treat Michael like an ordinary, if murderous, young boy. He kisses his baby sister, he eats candy corn, he's excited about Halloween night. To then go on and insist that he's 'the boogeyman', the embodiment of pure evil, simply doesn't match up: why does Michael go back in search of Laurie? Why does Michael follow her friends around, murdering them? How does Michael know that "Boo" is now "Laurie Strode"? Despite the attempts to explain, we're left with more questions than we were in Carpenter's film, and what's worse, I couldn't care less.

That said, there were some things about the film I enjoyed, among them Ken Foree's scene-stealing turn as a truck driver, Dee Wallace and Pat Skipper as Laurie's parents, and, shockingly enough, Sheri Moon-Zombie's turn as Deborah Myers. The iconic Michael Myers mask was flat-out frightening and fantastic, undoubtedly the best one that's been on-screen since the original.

What I'd really like is to see Rob Zombie direct a film written by someone else. He can do violence, he can create intriguing aesthetics...but I'm not a fan of his writing. I've seen worse than Rob Zombie's Halloween, to be sure, but a week after watching it, I'm already forgetting it.

And honestly? The biggest travesty of this film, in my opinion, came in the credits: Halloween is dedicated to Moustapha Akkad, the late producer of every Halloween film save Zombie's...yet there's no mention at all of the late Debra Hill. She produced and co-wrote Halloween and Halloween 2...she co-created Michael fucking Myers and she's ignored in the credits? Poorly played, Mr Zombie.
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Film Club Coolies!
post your links in the comments, and add them here, I shall.

Look Back In Anger
Craig Moorhead
Light, Bright and Sparkling
Cinevistaramascope
Emma Blackwood
Cinema Fromage
Something Wicked...
Mermaid Heather
Queen Anthai
Divinely Wounded: Pierced By God
Nightmares and Midnight Wanderings
Evil on Two Legs

32 comments:

melizer said...

If you want to heighten your enjoyment of Rob Zombie's Halloween, just see Hatchet directly beforehand, like I did.

Props to the casting & performances by Sheri Zombie, Malcolm McDowell, Danny Trejo, Ken Foree and Dee Wallace. I too felt virtually all the girls were oddly similar. But the All-Time Most Bizzare Casting Award has to go to Dakota Fanning as young ten-year old Michael.

All in all, it was interesting as a sort of side note to the original. I have to say I enjoyed it a heck of a lot more than Halloween 3,4, 5, etc. Unfortunately, I only got a scary thrill from Laurie falling into the empty swimming pool and the following "Was that the boogeyman?" scare.

Note: Debra Hill wasn't ignored in the credits. There was a credit something like "based on a screenplay written by John Carpenter & Debra Hill" and I believe it was presented both in beginning and ending credits, but I'm only working by memory, here.

melizer said...

Oh, and I think Skyler Gisondo did a pretty respectable job portraying little Tommy, the babysittee.

Stacie Ponder said...

Gah! I forgot to mention Danny Trejo. I liked him a lot.

I guess I meant Debra Hill being ignored in the dedication- I mean, Zombie can dedicate the film to whomever he wants...but I think her name should've been included, that's all. I feel her contributions to Halloween- and hell, all of Carpenter's early films- are largely ignored and/or underplayed, and her exclusion really emphasized that to me.

Undoubtedly, I thought this was better than 5, 6, and Resurrection.

Jay Amabile said...

I have to say that it's nowhere near as bad as you're making it out to be. I really think that it's one of these films that will make a bunch of money and reinvigorate the franchise of Halloween. Any film that will allow for more Halloween movies is good by me. Zombie did a great job modernizing this film. I know my Dad told me that parents used to think the Beatles were a threat to society when they hit the scene. Things change and even though Halloween is a mega classic...the rest weren't that good. Zombie could have done much worse considering he was up against such an iconic original.

John Barleycorn said...

I can't agree more about the dialogue on Zombie's films. He's got such a great eye for action and horror (not so much with the suspense -- the most suspenseful part of this film was when I waited eagerly for its end), but such bad taste in character and dialogue.

The duder who wrote Seven should give him a script. That'd be a neat collaboration.

DarkCarnie said...

I am sad women ! I really dug both the devils rejects and house of 1000 corpses . shame on you I am coing to get you lol j/p anyway I liked them they are what I expected from him so i was happy i have not got to see halloween yet but i am working on it :( soon

Gidaren-kun said...

My Halloween "review" is here:

http://gidaren-kun.blogspot.com/2007/09/rob-zombie-should-stick-to-not-making.html

Your website is awesome and makes me a pee a little at work. But please God can the next movie club pick be a cheesy horror flick? I love those.

Theron said...

I liked the first half of "House of 1000 Corpses," but it petered out right when it should've been ramping up.

I really liked "The Devil's Rejects," but I don't consider it a horror flick.

I think he did a commendable job with "Halloween." He made it new without falling into all the traps that usually accompany remakes. And I think Sheri Zombie finally gave a performance that she can be proud of (yes, Rob again showed us her ass - dammit). I enjoyed seeing what he did with the things he kept from the original. For what it's worth, my 14-year-old daughter told me she thinks the girls were more true to life than most movie teens.

Another thing the movie had going for it was allthe great casting. Any movie that gives me a chance to watch Ken Foree, Danny Trejo, Malcolm McDowell, Dee Wallace, William Forsythe, Leslie Easterbrook, Brad Dourif, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, Mickey Dolenz, Sybil Danning, and Adrienne Barbeau has to be somewhat entertaining.

I think Zombie's next film will be the one to watch to see what he's learned from his various experiences and what he can do...let's jusy hope he chooses his next project wisely.

melizer said...

Well, you're sure right about Debra Hill getting the general shaft. If it helps any, I had never heard of Debra Hill until Zombie's mentioning her in his credits, and now I've read your Pretyy-Scary tribute. Yay, girls!

And I didn't even see the dedication to Moustapha Akkad and hadn't heard of him either.

Bemis said...

My contribution is here:

http://cinevistaramascope.blogspot.com/2007/09/im-big-joe-grizzley.html

It seems we agree on a lot of the same points, though I liked it a bit more. And yeah, props to Ken Foree.

AE said...

I completely agree about the abject failure of this movie to be scary at all... not to mention the abject failure of Dr. Loomis to do his job. It felt like more of an exercise than a horror movie. My thoughts are here:

http://emmablackwood.blogspot.com/2007/09/devils-eyes.html

Anyone spot Adrienne Barbeau?

dave s said...

so... i thought zombie's remake of 'halloween' pretty much sucked.

i don't think it's ever worked once in a horror flick remake when the killer's back story is expanded (i.e. 'black xmas'), especially at the expense of reducing the audience's connection with the victims. the first 45 minutes of zombie's 'halloween' plays like an after school special for sociopaths. all of the serial killer 101 cliches were there in the new & improved (tm) back story --- rotten home life, being picked on at school, cruelty to animals, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

most of the acting was fine, although i got the feeling from time to time that zombie's direction to daeg faerch was "make this face", "now make this face". the cameos, though i enjoyed some of them, brought me out of the movie every time a familiar face appeared on screen for 3 or 4 seconds ("hey, wasn't that udo keir?!")

the whole white-trash thing worked for me in 'house of 1,000 corpses' and 'the devil's rejects', but they just seemed contrived and out of place here. same goes for the stilted and juvenile dialogue. p.u.

other than reducing laurie, lynda and annie to characters that there's no time to develop any connection with, i think zombie's single biggest miscalculation was to get rid of the cat and mouse suspense of the original. yeah, zombie amped up the violence, but one of the successes of the original is that michael plays with his victims (and the audience), and that creates suspense. but here michael is just a pro-wrestler in a comically dirty bathrobe who beats and stabs. who cares? glad he got a clean jumpsuit later, though.

now will someone please give the terrific dee wallace a role where she's a happy, well adjusted woman who doesn't get killed or traumatised. please...

Bill Walsh said...

the bad taste 1000 Corpses left in my mouth was still strong years later

If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times, Stacie, serial necrophagia is bad! And Scope isn't going to do it for that kind of funk.

Stacie Ponder said...

As far as I'm aware, Adrienne Barbeau's part was cut. Rob Zombie said it was a VERY brief shot, and Adrienne said it was cut altogether. I'm sure it'll appear on the DVD.

Dee Wallace was great, and WOW did she look fantastic. Her death scene really bothered me, but I'm not sure if that's because it was "disturbing" or because it was largely completely unnecessary.

My issue with Zombie's films comes down to the characters. They all feel like caricatures to me, and if I can't relate or they don't seem at all real, then I don't care. If I don't care, then I'm not completely invested and at least 50% of the tension is tossed right out the window.

I'd love to see Zombie direct something he didn't write, as I said, or write something a little more subtle, that's not all wrapped up in white trash ha-has and swear words, something where he could actually develop some real characters. I thought the most well-drawn character in Halloween was Deborah Strode, which allowed Sheri to actually act. I liked the her, I felt for her, she felt real, and her suicide actually had some impact.

I do admire, however, that zombie made his own film. Why the hell not? It's certainly not a mere watered-down version of the original, like The Fog.

John Barleycorn said...

I agree with you about Deborah Strode, except that when my little kid is busted with a dead cat in his bag and dozens of polaroids of other dead animals, I wouldn't say, "Go on out and have a good Halloween because after this you're grounded."

I'd be like, "You're demented, obviously disturbed, and gonna kill someone. Go to your room."

Casey C said...

I watched it without trying to compare it to the original. I know, it's probably a great sin in a lot of people's eyes, but in looking at it as it's own flick, I really really enjoyed it.

Here's my take on CF, feel free to add to your links!

http://www.cinemafromage.com/?p=511

AE said...

Agreed that Dee Wallace's death was really disturbing. She was one character you should have been afraid for, but he didn't give you much time to get worried about her & her husband before they got pointlessly slaughtered.

I also really missed the horror trope of the final girl finding all the corpses - Laurie's parents get slaughtered and she never finds out about it? What was the point then? And does Annie die of her injuries or not? I am not sure what RZ is trying to accomplish by leaving that kind of thing out.

Heather Santrous said...

I also had a slightly different take on this film club choice. I agree with some of the points you made, and others made as well, but also disagree on some of the other points. That doesn't surprise me to much though. Everyone is different and everyone sees things in different ways as well. While I did like this remake, I didn't feel it was as good as the original was and still is. You can find my review here:

http://mermaidheather.blogspot.com/2007/09/film-club-day-part-six.html

Looking forward to the next club choice already!

Chris said...

I had a good time with it. My favorite part was the "Spot the Genre Actors" mini game.

My complete(!?) thoughts at:

http://somethingwickedblog.blogspot.com/

Chris said...

p.s. Stacie, I'm with you about the lack of recognition to Debra Hill. A tragic missed opportunity...

Chris said...

To be more specific:

http://somethingwickedblog.blogspot.com/2007/09/everybody-else-is-doing-it.html

Sorry, I'm new at this. I'll get it together eventually...

Queen Anthai said...

My take on it is on my LiveJournal. WARNING: SPOILERS.

I should add one thing to that review - something that bothered me was that, although pretty much every victim suffered during their murder, we were only really shown how much pain the WOMEN were in. Every slaughtered chick save Michael's mom was crawling toward us in obvious, drawn-out agony, bloodied and gasping. Was that really necessary?

Stacie Ponder said...

"Every slaughtered chick save Michael's mom was crawling toward us in obvious, drawn-out agony, bloodied and gasping. Was that really necessary?"

Well, sure! And just to drive the point home, Rob made sure to include Alice Cooper's "Only Women Bleed" in the soundtrack...

ARBOGAST said...

That works on so many levels!

melizer said...

"if I can't relate or they don't seem at all real, then I don't care. If I don't care, then I'm not completely invested and at least 50% of the tension is tossed right out the window"

Well, this is why I didn't care for The Descent! Who can't wait to spend their weekend spelunking?

Ash said...

piercedbygod.blogspot.com is where you will find my very long review of RZ's Halloween. Needless to say, I didn't care for it.

Corey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goose said...

Link to comment.
http://goosesgander.blogspot.com/2007/09/holloween.html

Corey said...

thx for the link. :)

the hair of halloween (2007) on evilontwolegs.com

darkerr said...

The best part is the firsts years of Michael Myers, then, results very disapointed...there`s nothing imaginative and the final of Myers is silly. Poor work of Zombie, at the end.

SikeChick said...

I reviewed Halloween for my friends on MySpace, but reposted it on Blogger here:
http://sikechick19.blogspot.com/

I did not enjoy this movie at all. I will admit to being predisposed to dislike it, but I think if it had been really good, I could have given it a chance. I mean, I didn't expect to like Vacancy and was pleasantly surprised. This movie was just bad and unpleasant.

As queen anthai mentioned, the deaths of the women (and the bully) in the film were just so brutal and sadistic. Rob might just have issues.

I am still waiting for Rob to impress me with his movie-making abilities. I will not be holding my breath.

TheHeretic said...

Gosh if I was in the same Country I would be wanting Final Gals phone number, but anyways on with the comments.

In exactly the same boat in regards "1000 Corpses" and "Rejects". Just about to go see "Halloween", yes we suck and get most movies a lot later than the blood splattered folk in the U.S

Anyways absolutely hated "1000 Corpses", Uwe Boll makes better movies than this. As for "Rejects" go catch Tobe Hooper's "TCM 2" and a movie called "Vanishing Point", Zombie pretty much simply recreates scenes from both movies.

What am I expecting from "Halloween", complete rubbish to be honest.