I don’t wanna be one of those old fuddy-duddies who complains about the state of culture these days or -- even worse -- the state of movies. But after checking out new the “take on” or “re-imagining” or “remake” of John Carpenter’s 1978 slasherpiece Halloween by auteur/rocker Rob Zombie (House Of 1000 Corpses (2003), The Devil’s Rejects (2005)) it’s time to start complaining.
Now, I won’t claim that horror flicks use to be GOOD and NOW they’re BAD. Generally most horror flicks sucked then and most suck now. Every once in a while a great horror flick appears, like The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. Or maybe one breaks the rules or reinvents the genre, like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Blair Witch Project. But in general most are quick-buck retreads of what worked for someone else: crap.
The original Halloween owed some debt to Hitchhock. It had some sprinklings of Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) and the tense stylings of more recent flicks from the works of Dario Argento (Deep Red 1975, Suspiria 1977, etc.) and Richard Fleischer’s See No Evil (1971) and Fred Walton’s When a Stranger Calls (1979). Of course it ended up spawning a gazillion sequels and imitations. No holiday was spared. Like the best in horror, Halloween was about what you didn’t know and what you don’t see (thank god that mechanical shark didn’t work while they were filming Jaws).
In reviewing Mr. Zombie’s sleazography, one notices his reoccurring stock. What “Bergman citing neurotic Manhattanites” are to Woody Allen, “sleazy, unbathed, cunt-calling hillbillies” are to Mr. Zombie.
The original Halloween started with a quick introduction -- young Michael Myers killing his sister -- and then jumped to fifteen years. The new version spends like the first forty minutes explaining what a icky environment young Myers lives in. And then he gingerly kills a school bully and then most of his family (what kid with William Forsythe as a perverted drunken stepfather wouldn’t go psycho?).
Jump to years later in a mental hospital. Myers has become Leatherface with the stoic dignity of The Cuckoos Nest’s Chief. He’s prompted back into his bad boy ways by some rapist yahoo orderlies straight out of Kill Bill. He makes his escape and creeps around town.
Then, for a little while the movie becomes a straight remake of the original. Myers stalks some teenage chicks trying to baby-sit some brats or bang their goony boyfriends. His shrink Doctor Loomis is hot on his trail (Malcolm McDowell in the Donald Pleasence role), with a lot of spit shooting from his mouth trying to convince the local cops that this “sweet charming little boy is .... Evil”.
In the original there was a lot of Pleasence emoting about good & evil and all that jazz, but Myers was still a mystery to us. Was he supernatural? What was he after? But the new version won’t shut-up. It just keeps spelling it out and explaining itself, as if it purposely wants to stop any suspense from building. Instead of the mystery of the man, it relishes the sadistic mess of the killings.
After a half hour of aping the original’s third act, only with more graphic violence, Zombie adds his own coda and we get a another half hour of a girl locked in some kinda basement/ pit/ torture room/ poorly lit set. The girl turns out to be Myers long-lost baby sister and it turns out Myers only wants to reconnect with her, but like that big galoot Lenny in Of Mice and Men he just doesn’t realized that his love kills.
I will point out I had hope when the movie opened with Kiss’s dark anthem “God of Thunder.” And Zombie does utilize the now-classic original “Halloween Theme “ that director Carpenter himself composed, on what sounded like a home Casio keyboard. (In another music homage, Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper” is briefly heard.) There is some eerie camera work in the opening act. Sun flares and hand-held, out-of-focus techniques does, at moments, give it the gritty docu feel of, say, the original Chainsaw. But by the middle of the film that style has vanished and it looks like any other serviceable straight to DVD horror flick.
I couldn’t tell if it was suppose to take place in the seventies or in some kind of retro-present, where barbershops and showers have been outlawed. The young Mike Myers does wear a Kiss T-shirt, the cool kind they sell at Target.
The cast is full of names you remember from yester-crap (Richard Lynch, Udo Kier, etc). A strange flick indeed when Brad Dourif comes off as the most likable and normal character.
The loving stripper white-trash Mother Myers is played by Sheri Moon Zombie, who seems to be the Giulietta Masina to Zombie’s Federico Fellini. I thought maybe it was his wife, until her strip club montage (to the tune of Journey’s “Love Hurts” spliced with the young Michael Myers deep in contemplation whether to trick or to treat). When she only strips down to her dirty undies, I assumed Mrs. Zombie is probably Rob’s big sister or something.
Okay, now I’m feeling terror “re-imagining” in my head -- say, Hostel’s Eli Roth tackling a remake of the oddball Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Imagine what the new cool bloody torture the Silver Shamrock could do to folks.