It All Happens In The Dark

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All trick, no treat.

Halloween (2007)

I was foolishly excited when I heard that the Halloween remake would be directed by Rob Zombie. House of 1000 Corpses was retro kitsch fun and The Devil’s Rejects was pretty intense, albeit flawed filmmaking. The Halloween franchise, I felt, needed someone like Rob Zombie to mix it up and bring fresh blood and a new perspective to the way off course and stale series. Halloween: H20 gave me hope again, but Halloween: Resurrection effectively put that to rest. And once more, with this remake, my hopes were dashed. Halloween ’07 is a film made by someone who appears to be a fan of John Carpenter’s movie but beyond this seems to have no idea of why it worked and what made it so great.

The back story showing us Michael Myer’s childhood with all the ‘soon to be serial killer’ categories checked off is the biggest misstep the film makes. In John Carpenter’s incarnation, Michael Myers was a force of nature – he was fate – he was unstoppable – ‘immovable, like a mountain.’ He was everywhere and nowhere at once. He was the boogeyman for God’s sake! And the boogeyman doesn’t need a back story involving a mother who was is stripper, a sister who teases him, a stepfather who is a drunk, and a bunch of kids who bully him at school. Not knowing is what is frightening – the history that Zombie adds isn’t scary or illuminating, it is a drastic misunderstanding of the character and the original film. But I won’t let Carpenter off the hook so easily either – the 1981 sequel to the original film made the mistake of making Laurie Strode Michael’s sister, thus reducing him to basically just a crazy guy who kills his sisters and won’t die.

In the original, Michael’s family was not a group of foul mouthed constantly arguing white trash nincompoops (“Bitch, I will crawl over there and skull fuck the shit out of you” is a sample of the dialogue Zombie supplies these characters with). They were middle class “normal.” Your neighbors. It was shocking because it could be our community, it could be the family across the street. How much more frightening (though still quite unnecessary) would Zombie’s reinterpretation have been if the opening segment showed us Michael with a stable home life, the product of a loving and nurturing environment  – and then one Halloween night he just snaps and murders his sister? Even still, it wouldn’t have packed the punch that the original did, when the killer of Judith is unmasked and we see a six year old boy.

At school – guess which day it is… I’ll give you a hint… it is in October – Michael is being tormented in the bathroom and the principal breaks it up. Mama Myers (Sheri Moon Zombie) is called to the school, and so is a child psychologist, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) – this pains me – with hippie hair and aviator sunglasses. The principal has found snapshots of dead animals in Michael’s backpack and also, the corpse of a cat.

Mama Myers: Come on, big deal, he found a dead cat.

Um… and he decided to keep it? This is after he’s already killed one of his pet mice earlier in the morning.

Dr. Loomis tells mama that these are early warning signs. Michael is a very disturbed young man! Michael is sitting outside the principal’s office at this point and decides to skedaddle with his Kiss-shirted self.

Luckily school just happens to be letting out and Michael follows Bully # 1 into the woods and kills him. Gee, I guess Dr. Loomis was right.

I forgot how bad the first half of the movie is. I began to wonder if Zombie wasn’t making a comedy, but the elements of humor seem quite unintentional.

Now I’m thinking Rob Zombie’s remake did more to ruin this series than any of the awful sequels.

That night, Judith’s boyfriend comes over to the Myers house and instead of taking Michael trick or treating Judith gets all sweaty with him. The white mask comes courtesy of this dude, who whips it out during sex. I have to say Zombie did get this right – the mask in this film is probably the best one we have seen since the original.

Michael kills his step dad, kills Judith’s boyfriend, enters Judith’s room and finds the mask, puts it on, looks absolutely fucking ridiculous, kills Judith.

But who doesn’t he kill? Why the baby of the family, BOO. Yes. BOO. Little baby BOO. Who will become… who? Who? Laurie Strode, that’s who. Michael loves little baby BOO. Until she grows up to be annoying Scout Taylor Compton and then I cannot blame him for wanting to kill her.

So Mama Myers comes home and it is all “What a mess you made Michael! Blood everywhere!” and he is hauled off to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where Dr. Loomis is appointed as his psychologist.

Now comes the most boring portion of the film… Dr. Loomis tries to reach Michael, Michael cannot remember anything of THAT night, Sheri Moon Zombie visits a lot, Michael starts making masks out of papier mâché… an orderly played by Danny Trejo says to young Michael: “You can’t let the walls get you down, man! You got to look beyond the walls, man! Learn to live inside your head, man! Man! Man!”

Dr. Loomis feels that he is losing Michael and is all: “Michael is sliding into a hellish abyss – he’s become a ghost – a mere SHAPE of a human being – there’s nothing left…”

One day mama brings Michael a picture of himself and BOO. The very same day, Michael goes crazy and kills a nurse with a fork. Mama goes home and gets her sad on watching old family movies and kills herself.

Fifteen years later…

Dr. Loomis tells Michael (who has grown into someone who looks like he should be living at the top of a beanstalk) that he considers Michael his best friend. And to prove what a good friend he is in return, Dr. Loomis is not going to see Michael again. He will be too busy promoting his big hokum novel The Devil’s Eyes (based on his experiences with Michael) to counsel his prize pony anymore.

Michael’s escape from the sanitarium lacks everything the original had. How creepy it was that the patients were wandering around on the lawn in the rain like extras from Night of the Living Dead. There are two versions to this break-out. The version shown in theaters involves Michael being transferred to another facility and he kills all the guards and escapes. In the version featured on the uncut edition – a truly repugnant scene – two guards decide to rape a young female patient on her first night in the sanitarium, and they think – Gee, wouldn’t it be a good idea to do this in Michael’s room?

Well, Michael doesn’t care much about what is going on until THEY TOUCH HIS MASKS. Literally, there are hundreds of his arts and crafts creations hanging all around his room. So he goes SNAP and kills a bunch of people – again – even Danny Trejo who as Michael drowns him shouts ‘Mikey, I was good to you!’ – and heads for the hills. Or rather Haddonfield. But first he must drop by a truck stop and procure some duds from Ken Foree in another repugnant scene.

Remember how in the original we saw almost no blood? Well, not this time, sports fans!

Dee Wallace plays Laurie’s mother and it is always nice to see her, but I wish I was seeing her in something better. And I’m sorry, but Scout Taylor Compton is no Jamie Lee Curtis – the fault here lies more in the way Laurie is rewritten and not with the actress herself. Our initial introduction to this Laurie is of her fingering a bagel.

Amazingly, this Laurie does all the things the other Laurie did. Drops off a key at the Myers house for her father, spots Michael outside while looking out a window at school, babysits for Tommy Doyle, is a good girl scout (ha) and tells Annie she will watch Lindsey Wallace so that Annie can get her groove on with her boyfriend Paul.

At the one hour and five minute mark a title card that says TRICK OR TREAT inexplicably fills the screen.

Michael is again resting his boots at his childhood home and when Lynda (Kristina Klebe) and her boyfriend show up for some partying, Michael supplies the shish kabob. Bob the shish kabob. Sorry. This movie did something to my brain. Aside from Dee Wallace and the children who play Tommy and Lindsey (they are great) one of the few performances I liked was from Kristina as Lynda. She’s natural, she’s authentic, I believed her as Lynda, whereas I never saw most of the other actors fitting in the roles they were playing. Sheri Moon Zombie does well too, as a mother at the end of her rope. (But why the hell would she keep a guy like Ronnie around?)

Loomis has headed to Haddonfield upon hearing about Michael’s escape and he tracks down Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and tries to warn him about the evil walking among them.

Brackett: “Doc, I may have been born, but I wasn’t born yesterday.”

The second half of the film – the straight up remake – went down easier. Probably because I was pretending it was just another of the lame-o Halloween sequels populated with interchangeable characters and not a bastardization of my beloved original. Though Scout did grow on me she is still no Laurie Strode.

And – why doesn’t Michael kill Annie?

I did find it kind of sad – after Michael had abducted “Laurie” and taken her back to the Myers house – when he drops the knife and produces the old photograph of his younger self and little BOO. He even carries it in his front pocket over his heart! He just wanna be loved.

One of the things I ♥ in the original is when Laurie pulls off Michael’s mask and we see that he is the most attractive male in the film – he doesn’t look like a monster, in fact he’s damn cute. That always really struck me. That is so not the case here – this Michael is a stringy-haired grubber.

AND ANOTHER THING – in the original at the end Laurie says to Dr. Loomis, “…was the boogeyman.” Here Laurie, dodo that she now is, whines, “Was that the boogeyman?”

So, obviously, I haven’t gone the route of not comparing the remake to the original. But who could? Really? Who could? You go ahead and watch this one and see for yourself if you don’t keep a mental tally of all the things that are different, all the things that are wrong, all the things that are neglected or done inferiorly.

I don’t really have anything else to add. Oh, wait, yes I do. It couldn’t get my ghost. C-

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One response to “All trick, no treat.

  1. nickofthyme September 24, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    “They were middle class “normal.” Your neighbors. It was shocking because it could be our community, it could be the family across the street. How much more frightening (though still quite unnecessary) would Zombie’s reinterpretation have been if the opening segment showed us Michael with a stable home life, the product of a loving and nurturing environment – and then one Halloween night he just snaps and murders his sister” PRECISELY! I thought I was the only one saying this! That would have been a more “approachable” way to film it. It’s what was implied in the original and would have been so much more terrifying.

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