And pretty piss poor on the Trick, actually!
Well, it turns out that the answer is the big N-O on that one! Halloween sucks Egg Puree though a dirty straw. I've had more pleasurable hangovers. And yes, folks, I am a Rob Zombie fan, but damn!
There are a lot of things wrong with this film from opening to closing credits (not that this fact has hurt the box office numbers any). On the other hand I was surprised to find a few things that I liked here. To be clear, the movie was terrible, but Rob has a few tricks up his sleeve that manage to turn to treats for the hard core horror fan. There are a few nods to earlier features here, including, but hardly limited to the Halloween series. From the flicks playing on the background televisions throughout the film to the familiar John Carpenter-penned theme to even the glasses one of the characters wears, it's clear that Rob had his horrific heart in the right place. Another area of merit here is in the extras casting. There are more cameos here than in a San Diego Jewelry Shoppe. One more thing... Rob's no snob when it comes to the flicks that made him a fan and this one's got Grindhouse B-Movie stitched all over it. There's an unashamed load of blood, cheap thrills, frank profanity and beautiful nudity all over this movie.
And while all that is appreciated, it doesn't quite make up for the fact that this film deserves its spot on the bad horror remake shelf along with Black Christmas, The Wicker Man, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead, The Amityville Horror and worst of all that lame remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre! That's sad, because, as I said, Rob's got a good eye and you can definitely tell what he's going for here.
But that's part of the problem. It's easy to tell what Rob Zombie is TRYING to do here, to the point that his attempts are obvious and come off as an uninspired case of "trying-too-hard".
Credit should be given to Rob (as both director and screenwriter) for not resorting to a scene-for-scene approach to this remake. However, like many of the recent rash of horror remakes, Halloween strips away much of the mystery of the original in favor of an overlong prequel scene that focuses on the troubled childhood of one Michael Myers. Focusing on his home life at around age ten (played at that point by Daeg Faerch), we see how Michael deals with bullies, both in and outside his house and his methods of letting out frustrations. His mother Deborah (actually very well played by Sheri Moon Zombie, regardless of how she got the job) works nights as an exotic dancer, leaving the kid alone with her deadbeat (and incredibly lucky) live-in boyfriend Ronnie (William Forsythe), while his super hot sister Judith (Hanna Hall) makes the naked pretzel with sleazy guys upstairs. Michael takes pleasure in making and wearing masks (his constant wearing of a Kiss T-Shirt is a little obvious) and, we learn, torturing and killing animals.
This all leads up to the final snapping point we all well know is coming and we can all recognize what's coming next. After a Defeo-esque Halloween Night offing of the family (which takes forever) Michael slowly degenerates into the silent (and huge) psychopathic killer we all know and love to loathe in his tidy little cell. This is all in spite of the help he's given by Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) and a friendly staffer named Ismael (Danny Trejo). Now Michael's not the talkative little blonde douche, but a great big, lumbering douche, now played by Tyler Mane.
Shit hits the fan when Dr. Loomis quits his job. Then someone turns said proverbial fan on when the dumb asses in charge of the sanitarium decide to transfer him to another, more secure facility... on Halloween Night.
Way to go, Haddonfield, Illinois Mensa Chapter! Way to go! Do I have to tell you he escapes amid a series of derivative murder scenes? Probably not.
Let me tell you, though, folks... it takes us a good hour of screen time to get to this point. What was hinted at in flashback in the original takes almost an hour of wasted screen time to get through here and by the time we get to what was the opening sequence of the source material, we're about ready for our first bathroom break. That's not to say that the angle wasn't worth trying... sure, it was. This new version is part remake, part prequel, which is fine, but it feels like a disjointed and temporally indeterminate piece that points to a failed experiment.
But back to the second half of this same movie. Michael steals Ken Foree's coveralls while he's on the privy and wastes absolutely no time getting right on back to Haddonfield to put back on his now-infamous William Shatner Mask! That mask, by the way, was one of two he wore the night he hacked up his family, yet he had the foresight to hide that one (hoping he'd grow into it), along with the murder weapon. The Haddonfield Police also had the consideration to, apparently, not bother looking for either one of those items. He should send them a thank you letter.
And, of course, now that he's back, Captain Kirked-up and armed with sharpened steel, it's time for him to set his focus on one Laurie Strode (now played by Scout Taylor-Compton). This time out, it's easy to figure out just why she means so much to him. To Rob's credit, it is left a little ambiguous this time just what he intends to do about this.
From that point we get essentially a retelling of Carpenter and Hill's original from the babysitting job on Halloween Night to the Sex-before-death sequences that marked the genre for years to come. A big salute should be given to Laurie's beautiful (and very naked) friend Lynda (as played by Kristina Klebe). Further, in a very respectable casting choice, old-series regular Danielle Harris shows up as Laurie's other amiga Annie. She's all grown up now and she's all kinds of naked too.
The rest of the film... well, you've seen it, and I don't mean that in the sense that "this is a remake". Rob, sadly, pulls many pages from the horror cliché book and lays a lot of startle-scares on us. He also takes his time in a very "Video Nasty"-esque approach to gore when Michael goes to chop somebody up. While this should be horrifying and chilling, the execution of these execution scenes actually makes these feel rather boring somehow. One waits for the excitement to pay off, but there's not enough atmosphere to really make this one soar.
Bright spots in this dark cloud include the casting. I'm still thrilled by the presence of Harris, along with the long list of recognizable (if underused) cameo actors. On the downside here, so many familiar faces end up feeling like a gimmick, not a true casting call. The novelty of seeing Dee Wallace again playing somebody's mom is pretty cool, as is the walk on from Sid Haig and the quick hello by Sybil Danning. But are they there for their own merits, Rob's ego or to create talking points for the audience and critics?
Tyler Mane does manage to succeed in a few somewhat frightening movements to make his presence feel all the more ominous. Why Rob felt the need to cast such a big guy is hard to say, aside from the questionable need for him to seem imposing. The real fright here is in what the expressionless face of "The Shape" can succeed in conveying, not the size of his lats. As stated above, Sheri Moon Zombie's performance is very fine. I'm not calling for her Oscar or anything, but it's noteworthy to see how far she's come. And while it's hard to imagine anybody filling the shoes of ol' Jamie Lee, that girl named Scout isn't half bad, especially when the film starts rolling and she's called upon to play both scared and furious.
The worst minus signs in the acting category come when an actor has to deliver one of Rob's more inane lines, some of which are hard not to crack up about. This leads to the overall lack in the script (still credited as being based on the original by John Carpenter and Debra Hill). It's good that we have a writer/ director willing to experiment with a classic and try to put a new spin on it. It's a wonder why this was the angle that was taken. There's very little mystery left to figure out after Rob takes so long in the beginning to expose every corner of Mikey's brain. I'm all for character development, but come on, kids! Whereas the original Halloween was a tiny film on a tiny budget with tiny expectations that kick started an entire subgenre of horror, the remake is a heavily advertised film with a moderate budget (admittedly still small by Hollywood standards) with huge expectations that comes off as yet another entry in the retread hall of fame.
For the noteworthy successes in this film, it's hard to give Halloween an absolute Dog rating (hell, young Mikey'd probably kill the damned thing and stuff it in a plastic bag if I did). These successes may be little more than Easter Eggs to the Horror Fan, but being one myself, I appreciated them. Unfortunately, these good things don't outweigh the disjointed final result of this often incoherent film and it's hard to give Halloween more than Two Stars out of Five. Rob Zombie may have a good film in him as time goes on, but he's not quite there yet. That said, if his films keep breaking box office records (as this one did), what is his incentive for making a great film? After all, the kids are buying tickets, so who cares about pleasing critics, right? Right. See you in the next reel, Zombies, and I'll be wearing a brand new Mask when I do.
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