FilmSnork is on Twitter

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rob Zombie's "Halloween" - Tricked, No Treat (Retro-Review)

Let me start by saying this will be a very bias review I am a huge fan of the original "Halloween".  With that said, I stand behind every word, except the word timid - I should have used a thesaurus.
If you have not seen the original you may as well skip reading this until you do since I often reference the Carpenter version.

One of my all-time favorite films is the John Carpenter horror classic, "Halloween".  It gave birth to a horror film icon and did so with the use of  minimal blood, a simple story, a ton of suspense, a killer score and the unstoppable shape of evil personified - Michael Myers.  Upon hearing of Rob Zombie's planned remake I was hit with mixed feelings.   As a fan I wanted to see the Halloween franchise (which looked to be defunct at the time) continue, but was not sure if having musician Rob Zombie remake the classic film was the right way to go.  Actually, was there any reason to remake the film at all?

After seeing the first trailer I was relieved to see some familiar sights and sounds, mainly Dr. Loomis (the doctor that is obsessed with stopping Myers) and the haunting theme music.  My expectations were high - not only did I anticipate a pretty good horror movie, but possibly a great addition and a possible kick start to the Halloween franchise. Well, one out of two ain't too bad.

This film about a small town massacre on Halloween night, massacres the spirit of the original film. SPOILERS AHEAD (breaking my no spoiler rule already).  It took only a few minutes of viewing for me to come to terms with the fact that I never really wanted a remake of the film that shaped my nightmares as a child.  I am attached to the original, having seen it at least 30 times, subtle changes to the story or characters were going to noticed and frowned upon... then again, it is a remake I have to expect some minor changes.  Much to my dismay, there were not many subtle changes, instead it was a complete overhauls.

Below are some comparisons of the two versions of the film.

The original:  A brief, yet effective setup. Halloween night.  A young Michael Myers walks into his sister's room, still wearing his Halloween clown costume, and kills her.  He is found by his parents still holding the bloody knife with a blank stare on his face...his is pure evil.  Flash forward 20 years and introduce his shrink - Dr. Loomis.

The remake: A ONE HOUR setup. Michael Myers is a disturbed kid that wears a mask at all times. His parents are trashy, foul mouthed wretches.  His sister is simply a slut.  He kills animals, kills classmates and eventually is locked up. For the next forty minutes we watch Michael's stay at the institution - therapy sessions, mask making, etc. TOO MUCH INFO. Michael was creepy when he had unknown motives, unknown power - Zombie cheapened him, turned him into an everyday serial killer - no mystery at all.  The therapy sessions a overlong and at the same time revealing nothing interesting.  Eventually we flash forward twenty years and find out that Michael has a massive hulking figure, still making masks, still not talking, still not interesting.

The original: Shortly after fast forwarding to Michael as an adult we are introduced to all-American girl, Laurie Strode (played by a young Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends. We learn about them and connect with them. Michael appears and disappears sporadically inciting chills and setting and an all around creepy Halloween feel.   Loomis as played by Donal Pleasance, races against time begging for support to hunt Myers down and stop a tragedy.

The remake: Little screen time is given to Laurie and her friends, not enough to establish any interest in the characters. Loomis pops up here and there, babbling garbage and selling a book.  Really!?!? Believe it or not, Malcolm McDowell's version of Loomis is the most successful interpretation of the original.

The original: Michael systematically kills Laurie's friends as he works his way toward his final kill, his sister, Laurie. The scenes are simple kills, shot to scare the living shellac right out of you.

The remake: After taking out a number of additional cast member, the friends are killed off one at a time. The settings and timings of the kills are changed, instead of slow paced scary killings he works his way through his victims quickly.  This is what the prolonged build up leads to?

The original: Laurie and Michael have one last confrontation - one of the scariest sequences of all time. Minimalist scares techniques, huge results.

The remake: Some similarities, but the subtle (and extreme) changes destroy all of the classic shocks. Remember Laurie running across the street, hysterically trying to wake Tommy so he could open the door to evade Myers?  The unbearable moments of Laurie screaming for help as you see the silhouette of Myers coming up behind her?  Zombie found a way to deplete the intensity.   How do you ruin that scene?

The original: "It was the boogie man." "As a matter of fact it was." Followed by one last shot -- MICHAEL MYERS IS GONE. AMAZING!

The remake: "Was that the boogie man?" "As a matter of fact... I do believe that was."   Followed by 15 more minutes of film and a final confrontation in a swimming pool. Are you kidding me?  When I see the original ending I get the chills... the Zombie version, not so much.

There are some positive elements to Rob Zombie's version of Halloween, the sets are great, capturing the feel of the original. The characters are fairly well cast with a few important misses. The most successful, even though they alter the character way too much, is Malcolm McDowell as Loomis – a good choice. Unfortunately, he is overwritten and has too much compassion for Michael instead of fear and obsession needed. Annie is played by Danielle Harris, the star of Halloween 4 & 5, she fits the part although like all the “current Day” Haddonfield roles it is cut down to accommodate the overlong back story. Laurie Strode, the Jamie Lee Curtis role in the original, is played by an unknown, whom after this role will probably stay unknown – she brings nothing to the role, while removing Jamie Lee’s strong but timid approach. The casting of Michael as both child and adult are not very successful – the younger is pudgy and annoying, the older, as stated before, looks like a WWE wrestler rather than the average guy he should have been. I guess if you are going to remove the “supernatural” element you “need” to explain his strength.  One bit of odd casting was the return of Police Academy’s Callahan – thought she was dead years ago.  Welcome back?

As mentioned earlier, the film spends way too long creating a back story that alters Myers from a possible supernatural killing machine, into a disturbed serial killer found in so many films. The soul of the film has been removed, stripping away what made the original a classic and replacing it with heaps of gore and explicative language. As you wait and wait and wait for the introduction of Laurie and Co, you are delivered instead a prologue goes on so long I started to wonder if they had removed the entire storyline from the original. (Zombie, sometimes less is more.) By the time the film gets to the familiar setting of Haddonfield the damage had already been done; the film’s timing, themes and characters are all skewed. As a horror film, the movie does provide some scares and an all around uneasiness that feels like familiar territory, but this will not do for a Halloween film.

Supposedly Zombie loved the original film.  After viewing his version, I almost question if he is talking about the same film.

As a horror film – 4 stars out of ten
As a Halloween film – 3 stars out of ten

No comments:

Post a Comment