I watched it again recently (it was on TV but I do in fact, own it - ahhhh!) and I really got to thinking about why I actually tolerate the fact that Rob Zombie took one of my most treasured favorites and ripped it a new one. But that in fact, is my point.
While there were elements that were almost exactly the same as the 1978 original, Zombie chose to include some new plot points, in particular the entire beginning sequence.
While utterly crude and overdone with white-trash outbursts, it still lends a new light on just why Michael Myers may be so brutally unforgiving and ridiculously violent. Saying that a child is a product of their environment has never been so true as in this case. (Personally though, I find it ten times scarier in Carpenter's Halloween - the fact that Michael appears to come from a "normal" family and becomes such a nut-job.)
We are trained to think that people who have mothers who are degraded stripper/hookers and step-dads who use the words "choke the chicken and purge my snork" in an every-day sentences are just asking for a destructive attitude and vengeful existence. Can you recall a time that your own mother would have dropped the F-bomb while discussing your bad-ass attitude with the principal? Pity for you if that's true.
You realize Michael, in the RZ version, has serious issues right out of the box. The first few scenes are of him killing his pet rat (while KISS's God of Thunder blares in the background), you know - just to see what it's like. We later find out (in that lovely scene with Loomis, Ms.Myers, and the school principal) that Mikey has been slaying animals all over the neighborhood. In a normal situation, a parent should have been completely aghast and immediately pulled the child out of school and had him admitted for observation at the first nearby psych unit. But Deborah Myers does nothing of the sort. What does she do? She tells Michael she shouldn't allow him to go trick-or-treating for the "stunts" he's pulled. Is that what they are calling psychopathic tendencies now? Hmm...
So she hauls her tight ass off to work at the strip joint and leaves Michael under the care of her lazy, abominable boyfriend, her uncaring teenage sister and said sister's sleazy, 'help-yourself-to-my-fridge' suitor. Deborah's man can do nothing but berate and chastise the boy, and though Judith told her mother she would take him trick-or-treating she backs out on her way up the stairs to have naughty, unprotected sex.
So considering the set-up prior to this, in which Michael moves from killing local pets to bludgeoning to death a bullying classmate with a large tree branch, we should expect things to go south quick. And they do.
In the '78 version, we only get Michael stabbing his sister to death as she sits in her bedroom in the afterglow of a romp with a boy who never would have called her again. We aren't really privy to any rhyme or reason with the young whippersnapper, it just occurs. And just as in the original, Michael makes quick work of his slutty sister, stabbing her countless times. More gore here, but then again, it is a Rob Zombie film.
In the remake, we have several things to ponder.
Is Michael so pissed about Judith ignoring his pleas to trick-or-treat? Does he hate his mother's lug of a boyfriend that much? (Insert a 'yes' there for me) What on earth made him squash Judith's boyfriend's head in like a melon? Just 'cause he screwed her? Or perhaps because he was using the last of the bread to make a sandwich? Or was Michael ultimately punishing his mother for the life he has been dealt?
One lone factor remains. He doesn't kill his baby sister (in fact, Laurie). But when he returns fifteen years later he seems quite ready to finish the job. As it was in the first film as well. Why on earth is Michael so hell bent for leather? Talk about love/hate relationships.
But generally, there are no quiet shots in Zombie's re-imagining. It is full-on, balls-to-the-wall, wham bam thank you ma'am pretty much from the get-go. But I actually am a fan of the director's other work: the whacked-out, over-sized music video he calls House of 1000 Corpses and the seedy good time known as The Devil's Rejects. I enjoy the gritty, near-grindhouse feel in particular in Rejects. I love how he uses (and re-uses) some of the genre greats in his work, including William Forsythe, Dee Wallace, Brad Dourif, Ken Foree, Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, and Danny Trejo. I also think Zombie has a good feel for horror. He seems well-versed in the field and has a genuine love for the genre, which he attempts to translate into his work. I'm not saying it's entirely successful, but I truly feel he gives it his best, and he is obviously an avid fan.
I must admit I was taken aback when I heard of his plans to film a remake. In fact, I was effing pissed. I swore I wouldn't have anything to do with it and uttered many a four-letter word when discussing the repulsive idea. But I'll be damned if I didn't have a wee change of heart when I saw the trailer. Disturbing as it may have been to think of someone messing with "my movie", I was there on opening weekend. And lo and behold, I actually enjoyed it.
I do have some major gripes with it though. For instance, I assume Zombie hired Daeg Faerch (young Michael) because he was hands-down the ugliest kid he could find and wanted to make sure little Mikey didn't receive any sympathy, as in "Ohhhh, he's so cute! How could he murder fifteen people?"
But make no mistake, part of what made Michael in the '78 version so frightening is the fact that he looked like such a normal kid. Like he should be home playing with Star Wars figurines and eating Pop Rocks rather than plotting the murder of his teenage sister.
Zombie's Michael had delinquent written all over him. In the older film, I felt for Michael, wondered why he was so demented - wasn't there something someone could do?
I have that mentality about lost souls. Why do you think I have such a love affair with Norman Bates?
But this new Michael - I hated that kid. I didn't feel a bit sorry for him, even though he had the home life from hell and it was no wonder he was so fucked up.
But did living that horrific, slummy lifestyle make Michael the way he was? Or was he just doomed from birth? It raises the question of whether or not an evil child is born that way or made that way from triggers in his life? In the original, Michael seems to have been born that way. There is no indication from the small amount of time we spend with him that his home life sucks or that he is a bad kid who kills family pets and beats up bullies. Is that scarier? In fact I think it is.
It's said that Ted Bundy had a completely normal upbringing and there is no rationality as to why he became one of the world's most prolific serial killers. He was intelligent, attractive, and charismatic. He was not a walking zombie of evil. Demented, sure. But let's not forget, he lured his victims by being that charismatic.
Michael, as seen in the '07 version, has scenes in the sanitarium that we were not privy to in the original. (In fact there are cut-out scenes in a version of the '78 film that released for television, but they are not routinely shown most times.)
We see his interaction with Dr. Loomis, feigning no knowledge of what happened the night he killed his family.
Also included are scenes with his mother, as she realizes more and more that help for Michael is a moot point. The boy is gone. He asks how everyone is at home, wonders when he himself can get out of the institution and join them. The 'say what?' look in Deborah Myers' eyes is a tell-tale sign of acceptance. Michael is never getting out.
I enjoyed these scenes, though I really feel Faerch's performance borders on painful here. The kid isn't a bad actor, not really. I just hated him in the role. I liked the scenes best when he had on the masks. When I didn't have to see his face and the ridiculous looks on it.
Speaking of masks, Zombie's version really delves into the importance of the mask. In 2009's Friday the 13th re-make, the most rewarding part to me is when Jason finds the iconic hockey mask. These killers are identified by the masks that made them famous. So adding a bit of storyline here and there to flesh out the significance of Michael's famous white visage was a plus in my book. It's a telling factor in understanding why Michael is so somber yet volatile. He hides his face so he can be someone else. He always wears the mask when he kills. I liked seeing adult Mikey, in his "room" at the sanitarium, constructing mask after mask. They covered the walls and he was never seen without wearing one. Creepy shit, yet effective.
Nearly the entire second half of Zombie's film is a copy of the original. The chatting among Laurie and her friends moves into this century, but still the topics remain the same. The fact that Laurie and Annie are both babysitting, Tommy's fear of the boogeyman, the discussions between Loomis and Sheriff Brackett, the search for Judith's gravestone, most of the kills remain true to the original, hell - even Don't Fear the Reaper is heard several times throughout the last forty-five minutes. In all honesty, this is where I became somewhat bored. I'm sure it's because if you don't have anything new to bring to the table, I don't feel a remake is necessary.
So I'd have to give this redo high scores for originality in the first half of the film, but would grade it slightly less courteously in the wrap-up. In fact, the entire chase sequence was a major wet blanket. All that bumbling around the house and then running out on the street. The relentlessly long amount of time spent in that empty in-ground swimming pool? Not a fan. I'm not sure how it could have actually been better, but it could definitely have been shorter.
Zombie could have cut a good fifteen minutes out of the end-game and still had a satisfying ending.
Well, to do that it would have had to be a satisfying ending. And the ending was tolerable enough - that is until they announced a sequel. I was like, whaaa?? Laurie shot him in the face at the end of the movie. How does someone come back from that, mask or no mask?
So, while suspending belief at the ability to live after a close-range gunshot wound to the face, and the marvelous holding skills of the Ginsu knife, I'll also mention quickly that it's utterly hard to imagine Annie living in the '07 version. But knowing they no doubt wanted to cast Danielle Harris again in the second film, she somehow escaped Michael's wrath. Whatever. I missed Harris singing "Oh, Paul...I give you...my all" as Nancy Loomis did in the original.
Ultimately, what my rambling on and on is trying to say is that though I found a remake of John Carpenter's Halloween completely unnecessary, I have set aside my animosity at the thought and experienced the 2007 version as a stand-alone film. And while it has plenty of faults, I think there are some good points to it.
I can appreciate the detailed explanation into Michael's background, giving us reasons that he ended up the way he did. While vulgar and at times repulsive, it sought to shed some new light on the troubled youth, instead of just having his daddy lift the mask and say "Michael?", acting completely shocked that the boy had went off his rocker.
A few notes about casting: I can see why Zombie always casts his wife in pivotal roles in his film (um, yeah - she's hot), and I don't think she was too awful as Michael's mom. It was an interesting take on his home-life, and unfortunately probably a better indicator of the violence that troubles today's youth and sets them off on the wrong path. To delve into some stressors and make the audience aware of Michael's violent proclivities was a step in the right direction.
And I thought Malcolm McDowell was a good choice for Sam Loomis. To me, Donald Pleasence will always be Loomis. But McDowell lent his own charm (for lack of a better word) to the role. Also forever pleasing is Brad Dourif (Sheriff Brackett). I don't think I need to say much about him, he's always the man.
Tyler Mane as adult Michael was just scary. He's one big dude and when he took out Danny Trejo, I knew no one stood a chance.
Quite honestly, any young girl in Hollywood could have played Laurie Strode. It wouldn't matter, because Jamie Lee Curtis is a tough act to follow and let's face it, no one has the capability to make people forget about the original scream queen. That being said, I have never been so glad for a movie to be over so Scout Taylor-Compton could stop fucking screaming. Wow.
So there it is. My scattered ramblings about Halloween (2007).
I'm not a horror purist - nor do I pretend to be one. Nothing annoys me more than someone who won't even give a film a chance because they are SO SURE it will suck. Claiming that certain films are sacred is dangerous.
Am I a big fan of remakes? No. But I will give them a chance. Sometimes you're going to get another "The Thing", sometimes you'll suffer through another "Psycho (1998)". (Okay, I will get extremely defensive about Psycho. That awful shot-by-shot remake was completely pointless, brought nothing new, and let's face it people - didn't have Anthony Perkins. I rest my case. We can bury that one.)
But to lash out in anger before giving something a fair shot - yeah, that irritates me a bit. If you'll recall, I did just that - mentioning before seeing this film that it was a sacrilege to fuck with Carpenter's original. But I've learned to keep my mouth shut and pass judgment after the fact. To prove that point, no one is more psyched than I to see the remake of The Woman In Black. I simply can't wait to see what they do with it, the original 1989 version is one of the creepiest films I have ever seen.
(But rest assured, I will flip my lid if someone remakes Jaws. Just sayin'.)
I digress. Anyway, there seems to be no lack of opinion about this film, and I'm sure I'm bound to get some grief for this post, but I think I was fair in listing its decent qualities as well as its shortcomings. And I think that's all I have to say on the subject.
(But if you want to hear some serious ranting about the 2009 sequel to this film, go here.)