Although I’ve seen some of the “Halloween” films, I haven’t seen them recently enough to remember them. So this watch/rewatch of the saga marks my first time thinking about them as a movie reviewer. Armed with categories suggested by “Halloween” superfan Michael (Olinger, not Myers), here’s my review of the ninth entry, Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” (2007).
Writer-director Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” wants to have its cake and eat it too – but I believe it succeeds at doing so. Some people say the first half of the film, where we learn Michael Myers’ (Daeg Faerch as a kid) backstory, is unnecessary. Others say the second half, a remake of the events of John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” is redundant. I feel that both halves are so gripping that the whole film works as thrilling drama.
Many remakes – especially of great films — are unnecessary, but Zombie’s “Halloween” has a reason to exist because it takes a totally new approach to the material, like crunchy-guitar cover of a vintage pop-group hit. It’s neat to see plot and character points that are so ingrained in our minds be slightly restructured into a movie with a horrific – rather than suspenseful — vibe. Zombie’s film makes us feel everything; there’s no escape of this being a fun little slasher movie where we laugh at the tension. This movie is merciless.
Michael Myers. Contrasting with John Carpenter’s original vision, where Myers is a “Shape,” Zombie does not allow us that safe distance. When Michael (Tyler Mane as an adult) starts picking off innocent people, we remember that we sympathized with him – and even rooted for him when he kills his nasty stepfather – earlier in the film. Zombie makes us complicit in this nightmare.
The Strode folks retreat to their house from their doorstep after the trick-or-treating has waned. It’s a long-distance shot suggesting that they are safe for the moment. Then Michael is suddenly there, attacking them with a burst of percussion, disrespecting filmic convention.
Throughout Michael’s beating and murder of sanitarium worker Ismael (Danny Trejo), the victim pleads “I was good to you, Mikey!,” and I was thinking the same thing, hoping that some shred of decency would keep Michael from killing this good man. Or at least give him some sort of easy death. Instead, it’s the film’s most violent killing – Michael nearly drowns Ismael in a sink, and ultimately smashes a TV over his head. It emphasizes how horribly wrong we are to think of Michael as having redeeming qualities.
A viewer’s default expression for this film is more likely to be wide-eyed-with-shock than a grin. That said, there is a nice old-school horror moment when Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) drops off a package at the Myers house, joking to Tommy about being grabbed through the mail slot. Little does she know, Michael is on the other side of the door.
THAT SEEMS FAMILIAR
The tactic of having a character (Michael’s stepdad here) be pure, unadulterated evil so that we enjoy – despite our better instincts — the protagonist getting revenge is also famously used in “Sling Blade” (1996). And when Michael beats the school bully to a pulp, it feels like a short-film answer to “Bully” (2001). We’ve hated the bully so far, then kind of hate ourselves for glorifying in the beating when the bully is reduced to raw terror and pleading.
Once Zombie’s film gets into the remake portion, everything is familiar, but it all has a darker twist, which I find compelling.
THAT DOESN’T AGE WELL
Although I think Zombie’s “Halloween” is outstanding, there’s no question that history has viewed it as – at best – an interesting side trip in the franchise. People rewatch Carpenter’s “Halloween” every October, not this one. While that may seem to be the expected outcome, keep in mind that some remakes overtake the originals in the zeitgeist, such as “The Fly” and Carpenter’s “The Thing.”
MOST SURPRISING ELEMENT
It’s a pleasant surprise to see Danielle Harris (Jamie in “H4” and “H5”) is back in the saga, playing the role of Laurie’s friend Annie here. Then it’s even more surprising that Annie doesn’t receive one of those “respectful” horror-film deaths reserved for characters or actors we love. Although she does apparently survive, Annie is stabbed multiple times and dragged across the room while topless. The sexualizing and violence involving an actress we love for her performance as a child is disturbing on many levels – which, honestly, is a trait of a good horror film.
It’s dirty and beat up, as it had been buried under the floorboards of the Myers house for 15 years. Zombie does the franchise’s best job of shooting the mask since “H5.” He’s able to get different expressions out of it using lighting and the emotion of specific scenes, similar to what the “Star Wars” films achieve with Darth Vader and C-3PO.
NEW REVELATIONS ABOUT MICHAEL
Michael is emotionally – and perhaps physically — abused as a child by his stepfather, Ronnie White (William Forsythe). But he also has abnormal brain chemistry all along, which allows him to kill small animals without remorse: vintage psychopathy. In a lecture for his book on Myers, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) says Michael is a perfect storm of “internal and external” factors.
So is he someone who started off human but gradually became “The Shape?” Well, not exactly: Zombie has another wrinkle for us in the film’s second half. Michael’s approach to his sister, Laurie, is different than to anyone else. At age 10, he kisses baby Laurie after murdering everyone else in the house. In present day, he sets aside his weapon twice while in her presence. He tackles her when jumping out the second-story window at the end. My impression is that he does intend to kill her, but only if he can kill himself at the same time.
As this is the first entry in this timeline, there aren’t any forgotten threads. Michael’s upbringing is explained thoroughly – which is, rather aggressively, the point of the film.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?
With the way a blood-soaked Laurie screams after shooting Michael in the head, killing him (as far as she knows), I wonder if that marks a snapping point for her. Soon after this, she will learn that her parents are among Michael’s victims. Her life has totally changed. And she has Myers and White DNA. She couldn’t ask for a more nurturing upbringing with the Strodes, but will nature take over now? I feel like Zombie’s next film might explore this. That said, I’m 99 percent sure Michael will return in the sequel; I’m guessing Laurie is a bad shot and the bullet grazed his skull.
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