Sunday, October 27, 2013

Halloween: A Rob Zombie Film (2007)

Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon, Tyler Mane, Scout-Taylor Compton, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris, Danny Trejo, William Forsythe
Rated: R

Seriously though, on a scale from one to


More plus 11.

     ~Bob and Linda

Ah...onto one of cinema's greatest controversies.  Rob Zombie doing his take on Halloween.  Like George Lucas, he also gets absurd insensitive immature internet terms like "raped" and "abortion" thrown his way.  Many a Halloween fan was taken aback upon seeing this film back in 2007.  I remember it clearly.  I went on opening night to Grauman's Chinese Theater.  I left the film (which got a loud ovation) shocked and upset at what I had seen.  My favorite film had been remade by someone who didn't grasp at all what made the film work for almost 30 years.  I was truly angered and wanted nothing to do with it.  And to make matters worse, it was garnering acclaim and making big money.  I wasn't alone in despising it, but the internet fanboy comfort is nowhere near a majority.
But, you know what?  I gave it another shot when it came out on DVD (which I got free from Weinstein, after complaining to them about how much I hated the film.  I did work for them back then, and told them the sad thing is i was a fan and I'd likely spend my money on it to put in my collection.  They said, don't worry about it and sent me one).  Upon further look, the film wasn't as bad the second time around.  And every additional time I've seen it, I've warmed to it even more.  And the more I start seeing the inspirations and motivations behind THIS telling of the story, the more appreciation I've been able to find.  Plus, I do think think the overall photography of the film is quite gorgeous (even as bloody as this thing is).

The thing with Rob Zombie's Halloween, is that I and many others went in expecting John Carpenter's Halloween.  Its hard to do with remakes/reboots/reimaginings, but when you see them, you really must put what you've come to learn and leave it at the door.  Especially when an actual auteur is brought in.  Unlike remakes such as Texas Chainsaw or Friday the 13th, Zombie is a director with who has his own unique, style craft and vision.  Those movies equate pretty much to a plug and play director, so things can pretty much vibe and fall into what you may expect with a remake.
Like his films or not, you cannot deny Zombie as a wonderfully gifted visual storyteller.  He definitely is weaker in the screenwriting aspect, but his way of bringing things to life on screen is damn good.  Both his Halloween films are easily the best and most creative photographed work since the original.  After I had seen the film the first time, even hating it, I thought the cinematography was fantastic.  He's very much the Quentin Tarantino of horror, cribbing from many inspirations and making them his own take.  In his first rendition of Halloween, I can see a big sense of 70s cinema and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in play.  If you're not familiar with any of this stuff, or not a fan of 70s cinema, maybe you're not seeing this kind of thing and finding an appreciation.

One thing I really dig about Zombie's decision in this film is an indeterminate sense of time and space.  Rob Zombie's Haddonfield, IL could be taking place in the 70s, early 80s, 90s or it could be present day.  There's nothing to date this film and I think it will play greatly to its strength in years to come.  I know not every film can do this, but with all of Rob's oeuvre, this is very much the case.  Granted, everything does have a 70s grindhouse feel to it, that's moreso in the style of character and filming technique than it is actually taking place in that decade.
Rob Zombie chooses not to go for what Carpenter did in the first film, which is a decision that I think confuses fans and makes them readily put their dukes up.  What made Carpenter's Shape tick, isn't the same motivations or world for this Michael Myers.  Carpenter's film dealt in mystery, spookiness and suspense.  A real idea of having no motivations, being random and not understanding why this all happened.  Its a thing of myth and folklore. That scary story you tell kids.  The 2007 Halloween isn't that movie and never does it try to be.  If Carpenter's film was storybook legend, Zombie's was told as a firsthand account.  The horrors of this film aren't the same as Carpenter's.  Zombie violently intrudes into your privacy.  His horror is based on shock and being disturbed.  This horror unsettles and makes you feel icky.  Its not nice and never apologizes for its actions.  Its not a fun time, but this is horror...we're really not supposed to be having fun...our enjoyment is supposed to be of the happy variety...its of one that challenges us and makes us feel unpleasant.
I think many have trouble accepting the film because it feels a little bit too real.  Zombie's motivations for Michael, i agree are a bit too on the nose and obvious.  Broken home = serial killer.  But that's the choice made and its because he's trying to actually show the study of what many serial killers have had a childhood composed of.  We like the whole "trouble in suburbia" thing with Carpenter's version, but Zombie says "Well, what about this?"  In Carpenter's take, he's the boogie man, and eerie mysterious evil force.  Here, Michael is a serial killer through and through.  Its not bad, its just different.  An analogy I once heard and I really like regarding this is two artists with one model in front of them.  Painting the same thing with two different brushes.  You want the Carpenter version, go watch it.  Nobody is stopping you.  When you tune in for the Rob Zombie film, you should be tuning in to see THAT version, not someone else's.
The film isn't perfect and its got plenty of issues.  Zombie feels almost kneecapped into retelling Carpenter's original.  While managing to reimagine it, he does follow too often, the same beats as to please the fan or studio executive.  He feels more interested in telling the origin story and sanitarium things than this, but I do think the second half is quite well directed.  So, with including both and trying to give them ample time, both sides of the balance can feel a bit rushed.  However, as long as this movie is for a slasher film, it does move.  Another thing Zombie didn't want was to use the original score for the first film.  And I don't blame him.  All that does is FURTHER draw comparisons and remind people of the original.  It also seems forced and very off in many situations.  Zombie was right by doing this.  Its not Carpenter's Halloween, its Zombie's.
Another weird thing...why the hell dos every male in this movie have long hair?  Seriously, check it out.  All the guys in this movie have long hair or are all wearing obvious wigs.  Its really bizarre.  As is normal with Rob Zombie, there's a lot of white trash in this film.  But, if you're familiar with his filmography, this is to be expected.  "It has no place Halloween universe!"  Oh contraire, see the beloved Halloween 4.  Once again, this is Rob Zombie's Halloween, something I think people have a hard time putting their finger on with a lot of choices and storytelling motifs with this film.  If you saw The Devil's Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses prior to Halloween, you'd see this is just another extension of Rob's catalog.

This movie features a lot of fun people popping up and is one of the better acted films in entire series.  First, we get Danielle Harris back as Annie!  That's a pretty awesome nod to the original series and also some good penance for her not getting to do Halloween 6.  Malcolm McDowell is the perfect choice for Dr. Loomis that was a very big "Oh yeahhhhh!" when he was cast.  People are gonna dog me, but I thought Sheri Moon was really convincing in this movie.  I really bought her as the oblivious trashy mom that has a hard time seeing anything awful within her own family.  A woman really trying in life, but too ditzy to realize she's never going to make it happen.  Scout Taylor-Compton works pretty good here too.  She's not Jamie Lee, but here's the thing again...this is a different Laurie.  This set and events are the same, but we have a different life being breathed into it.
Love it or hate it, Rob Zombie made Michael Myers scary again.  This time, a brute, imposing unstoppable and relentless force.  Zombie certainly knows how to film this gigantic rendition.  By making him huge, it leaves you not really questioning how this guy could take a beating and absorb some gunshots in the process.  He's not supernatural anymore.  The size is a bit of a leap, that one you just need to go with as it makes so much of the second half of the film work better.  The scene by the pool at the end is a massive achievement in this film of making creepy and shooting Michael.  It looks absolutely gorgeous and its simplicity is one of the great moments of terror in the series.
The first time seeing Rob Zombie's Halloween is a very polarizing experience.  Zombie's vision is a tough swallow for Halloween fans at first.  It immediately makes you want to hate it purely based on the fact its not John Carpenter's original.  But, upon further review, no its not Carpenter's film and its better that it isn't.  This is purely another universe.  One that starts fresh, gives you the same outline, but recreates and makes it own rules and is its own beast.  Its not spitting on, tarnishing or destroying what came before, its setting itself apart and doing its best to be its own entity.  If you want to watch John Carpenter's Halloween, watch John Carpenter's Halloween.  And as we've seen, not doing what Rob Zombie has done here is what makes most remakes fail or become easily forgotten.  After going through the gamut of remakes and now being 6 years removed from this film, I think its fair to say this is one of the best remakes out there of popular horror franchises.  And that's because its been well crafted and does its best to sit on its own.  Its not perfect and there's times where its not a very good film, but overall the movie is effective.  There is a whole generation that has preferred this look compared to the original.  This film HAS in fact disturbed and chilled audiences.  You really don't see much of this kind of reaction for the other remakes.  Michael Myers, who was a complete joke in his last outing was now being taken seriously again.  Rob Zombie's Halloween is the kind of film horror was to me when I was growing up, the one that you really want to see because you're not supposed to be seeing.  Its a hard R and there's terrible things going on within.  This is a young generation's movie of that stature.

All righty hater fanboys...come on out...lets use highly derogatory exaggerative terms and sling them at this movie.  I never thought back in 2007 that I would one day be writing a positive piece on this film, but alas...i did what you refuse to do...give it a chance and take it as its own thing :)

Next Time:  We come to the last film in the retrospective that also happens to be maybe the most misunderstood as well.

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