after a very long, stress-filled day at work i rushed to the cineplex in the mall a couple of blocks from the office to catch the 5:20 p.m. showing of rob zombie's interpretation of carpenter's masterpiece halloween. by the time i found my seat my heart was palpitating, not in anticipation of the film. frankly, i dislike remakes all together, so i wasn't expecting much from zombie. i was all stretched nerves because my day was fucked up.
so then what did i expect from zombie's revision of halloween? i've a tremendous respect for the filmmaker/musician. zombie is a few years older than me. he grew up in the '70s and became obsessed with the same films i did as a kid. plus the 1970s really did have a scungy, creepy vibe [e.g. compare the movie last house on the left with a more recent turn of horror movies: torture porn - see the saw or hostel movies - and despite their blood-letting and imaginative torture devices you'll find that house is the sleazier of them all] so zombie's vision of horror is deeply influenced by the horror and exploitation movies of the period. in addition, zombie loves halloween paraphernalia. every frame in this film and his first effort is rich in halloween details.
if i could i'd decorate our house with things halloween. luckily, anna won't dare let me. so our house is free from weirding out visitors and neighbors. friends and family all know my obsessions and are good-natured about humoring my predilections. still, '70s sleaze and halloween imagery cannot carry a film alone. brutality possibly can tho. and zombie layers the violence as if it were salsa on a taco.
from a distance bloody gore and salsa do look similar. at any rate, the first 3rd of the film is given over to the young michael myer's abusive home life. we also learn he's a psycho already. i won't give out any spoilers here. despite my misgivings of the movie [which i've yet to air] i like how zombie puts a film together. much like an adored poet who has a bad book, zombie's movie is worth the effort if only because it was made with his eyes, heart and ears.
the second 3rd of the film is given over to his life in a maximum security psychiatric ward. the less said about it the better since for me this is the weaker part of the movie.
but by the last 3rd the grue is amped and despite a few holes in the plot it crashes and screams with a gut-rending satisfaction. it's not the same movie as carpenter's but there are a few scenes and lines directly lifted from the original. those scenes and lines lifted me right out the story and wondering why the fuck zombie would bother with them at all. they are anachronisms and if releasing a revision of a classic movie is not enough for direct comparisons - and zombie should be well aware that his film dims when regarding it versus the original - lifting pieces of the classic movie into the revision is not like postmodern pastiche but feels rather like a betrayal of imagination.
there was something about the tone of the flick as well. the 1st 3rd was gritty and raw like zombie's second feature the devil's rejects. but by the end the movie shifts and looks a bit more like the baroque gaudiness of his 1st feature house of a 1000 corpses. there are also a few other problems with the script that i won't say because it would give away too much about the plot.
the movie shifts from sympathetic portrayal of michael myers to presenting him as pure evil. i like my evil straight please, no chaser. carpenter did not have a back story for his myers and thus myers acts of violence are scarier since they are something that can not be named. they are the products of evil that is faceless, soulless and without meaning. and that is the most frightening thing of all: horror vacui. meaninglessness. zombie, by making myers more sympathetic undercuts the terror because human beings are many things, including evil, but they do things for a reason. take away that reason and you've lost all hope. that is terror.
i had a bad day. by the end of the movie i was feeling pretty damn good. the walk home was filled with that very, very early autumn dusky light. the sun was just down but there was enough light to illuminate the buildings which glowed orange and gold. it is friday night and the street was thick with people at the shops, bars and restaurants. i had just seen a movie of unrelenting brutality which in spite of my criticisms i liked because i liked how the director puts movies together. and a lot of people died in the film very grisly deaths. that made me feel better too. for a fuller explanation on that here's u.k. critic stephen thrower on the dark pleasures of the slasher film:
An average day is awash with unwanted humanity. Seeing the likes of Camp Crystal Lake's holiday-making ass-holes get butchered is a pleasure that doesn't need to be pressed through the filter of psychoanalysis to yield enlightenment. Watching everyone die is therapy enough [. . .] The raison-de-etre of the slasher film is to show the horrible (yet pleasing) death agonies of a busload of idiots.
["Pre-Postmodern Slasher Seeks Ironic Teen For 'Meaningful' Termination" pp. 8-9; Flesh and Blood Compendium ed. by Harvey Fenton; FAB Press, 2003]
if i have just a little bit of advice to give to rob zombie it is this: please stay away from franchise horror and sequels of other filmmaker's work and develop original work. yr vision requires it. you got the eye and the ear. and you've got the intestinal fortitude for some really good violence. find a project worthy of yr talents. at least the blame would solely be on you.