“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time” is a series that focuses on movies that either have a bad critical reputation, bombed in the box office or serve as guilty pleasures. It will largely focus on genre movies, though I will venture outside of that area.
A good part of the triumph of John Carpenter’s “Halloween” is the fact that not only was the fact that it helped create the template for the slasher genre and unique, terrifiying masked villain is the fact that, even outside of it’s genre, it’s a brilliant piece of film making. The triumph for Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake is that he couldn’t even make a halfway passable cover song of it.
At the time, Mr. Zombie had a bit of a reputation in the horror genre. Starting out as the frontman for Groove Metal icons White Zombie, he then ventured into a solo career that turned out to be just as successful. However, he always wanted to be a filmmaker. In interviews, he would talk about how his music career was pretty much “a happy accident.” He was originally supposed to direct a sequel to “The Crow”, but that fell through the wayside once “Crow: City of Angels” bombed and “The Crow: Salvation” only played in one theater.
Undeterred, he went on to direct “House of 1000 Corpses”, a throwback to the 70’s-80’s era of grimy horror that was undone by poor acting and terrible direction and editing. The sequel “The Devil’s Rejects” corrected all of this. With a better script, much better acting and direction, and a tone that mixed “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Last House on the Left” with “Bonnie and Clyde” and the films of Sam Peckinpah, he managed to make people say “Hey, this guy who legally changed his last name to Zombie is on to something.” Nonetheless, when it was announced that his next film would be a remake of “Halloween”, many were uneasy. Whilst “Rejects” was a solid horror film, nothing about it screamed subtle or suspenseful. It was a down and nasty film whilst “Halloween” was anything but.
The clash begins from the get go. In Zombie’s remake of “Halloween”, a young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) is a troubled boy living with a white trash family-a verbally abusive father (William Forsythe, in a performance the screams “You’re supposed to hate me!” with the subtly of a “Steve Wilkos Show” guest), bitchy sister (Hannah Hall) and a sympathetic stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie, who actually delivers a pretty good performance.) After he gets in a fight at school and kills a bully (Daryl Sabara), he reaches his deep end, killing his sister and father on Halloween night. This lends him to incarceration in a mental ward, where he is studied by Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell.)
In his adult years, Michael hasn’t changed. He makes masks to hide his face (one of the few neat touches added here.) In fact, much of Michael’s life in incarceration is the sole highpoint of the film. In my opinion, this would have been good if Zombie dropped the white trash family aspect and instead made a prequel about Michael’s life in the ward. However, this is a Rob Zombie movie, so we aren’t going to get that. Instead, we get a female inmate getting raped by two orderlies (I saw the director’s cut for this) and Mikey killing them and the only person who was ever nice to him (Danny Trejo) before escaping. As he escapes, he kills a trucker (Ken Foree-for God’s sake Rob, you don’t need to cast everyone from your local horror convention) whilst the man is taking a shit, and steals his outfit. You know, I forgot that the original “Halloween” needed rape and defecation, so it’s nice to see somebody thought ahead.
Loomis finds out about this, and knows that he’s headed to Haddonfield for some unfinished business. He’s also written a book about his time with Michael and has gotten rich off of it as well. Meanwhile, Laurie Strode (Scout-Taylor Compton) is going to spend Halloween night babysitting whilst her friends (including “Halloween 4 & 5’s” Danielle Harris) are off to have fun. Michael however, has plans of his own. Plans that involve murder and a reunion with Laurie, whose actually his baby sister from long ago.
Oh, the problems this version of “Halloween” wields. Nobody except Trejo and Sheri Moon Zombie is sympathetic or particularly good. Here, Loomis has been reduced to a opportunistic asshole instead of a regular doctor dealing with the devil incarnate. Michael’s father is a degenerate creep who makes lascivious comments about his daughter and spews forth homophobic insults. Laurie is a foul mouthed brat that fingerbangs a bagel in front of her mother. Nearly everyone here has been robbed of any sort of humanity, and instead are a bunch of terrible people in an unforgiving world.
The tone of the film is also jarring. The original was hardly all gumdrops and sunshine, but there was a sense of pulpy fun to it. Carpenter wanted you to be scared, but he also wanted you to enjoy yourself. This could also be said for Zombie’s prior movie. In spite of all the nihilistic violence and ugliness on display, there were moments of humor to let you know that hey, you can have a little fun too. There’s nothing like that here. Instead, it’s just sombre and depressing instead of scary and suspenseful. Zombie doesn’t seem to be interested in his audience actually enjoying any of this. He just wants to show you the world through the eyes of a psychopath.
Which leads me to the film’s biggest flaw-the treatment of Michael Myers. The thing that made Myers scary in the original (and it’s sequel) was the fact that he was beyond any form of psychoanalysis. He was a monster with no real rhyme or reason as to why. He’s just evil. He’s the boogieman. You can’t explain the boogieman, as he just is. Here, Zombie tries to do just that, and in the process robs the character of anything that made him terrifying in the first place. What was once the most iconic villain in slasher movie history has been reduced to nothing more than a generic serial killer with family issues. That’s not scary at all. It’s just boring and unpleasant.
At the end of the day, the movie was a big enough hit, and a sequel was made, but it’s reputation has been set in stone. I’m sure executive producers the Weinstein company would tell me “It made money, so why do you care?” To that, I say “Well, audiences-not just horror fans, but audiences of all stripes-deserve better than this.” In remaking a classic and trying to make it bleaker, Zombie did make “Halloween.” It’s just that movie imagined by the world’s worst psychologist and that weird teenage boy that drew mutilated bodies in his notebook during science class.
Photo Credit: Evan Prodromou