Today, I'm proud to provide a guest piece from the owner of Why So Blu? himself, Brian White! He is the man I have dubbed "Blu-ray Jesus" as the man blesses us writers not only Blu-rays to review but stellar reviews and unboxings! Brian provides us a positive look at the effects and history of his personal adventure of loving both Carpenter's original vision of Halloween and Rob Zombie's.
When I was asked to write a piece on John Carpenter’s horror classic, Halloween, I really didn’t know what I was going to say. I wanted to write a love letter to one of my favorite slasher films of all-time, but there’s so much to take in and discuss in areas such as the film’s remarkably tiny budget, the cast, the cinematography, the horror, the suspense, the “monster” and so on and so on. How do you focus on just one aspect of it all? However you slice it, in my opinion, every horror aficionado owes a debt to the existence of the one known simply as Michael Myers. Without him, where would we be? Dracula as a serial killer? The Mummy in disguise? Maybe. But I should also mention that I’m of rare breed. Yes, I’m guilty of liking The Hangover Part II and even have a soft spot for the third entry, but that’s not what I‘m here today to get off my chest. I want to some how cumulatively show my love and respect to Carpenter’s vision and classic here while at the same time comparing and contrasting my affection toward the Halloween franchise and world that Rob Zombie has created as well. I know. Here come the eggs and tomatoes, but before you throw them may I remind you we have this thing that’s called freedom of speech and for the next few minutes on this October day you are going to learn not only what Halloween means to me, but also hopefully understand how its possible to have love and feelings for both worlds, Rob’s and John’s. This ladies and gentlemen is my opus and retrospective on four decades of Halloween, according to the gospel of Blu-ray Jesus.
I’m sure we all know the history of the 1978 independent classic. I don’t need to bore you with any history lessons of how much it was filmed for, how much it made to date and even what it’s all about. Instead I thought I would share my earliest memories as a child growing up in a suburban neighborhood in the 80’s. It was Halloween’s Michael Myers, not Freddy that gave me my first horror movie nightmares as a young lad. I fondly remember watching the old boob tube in the living room with the yellow latch hook carpeting, especially when my parents would doze off to sleep from sheer exhaustion in their respective chairs, probably as a result from raising a menace like me. It was then when I was free to watch what I wanted, Fall Guy, Dallas, you name it. One fateful night I stumbled upon an edited television network version of Halloween. Remember, we didn’t have premium cable back in those days. The house lights were off. The parents were snoring. Everyone was still, even my black poodle. There he was, Michael Myers, in all his white-faced masked glory. And he was stalking the Strode’s residence and tormenting poor Laurie, who was trying her best to keep herself together in front of the kids she was safekeeping. I had no idea why the masked man was doing what he was doing, but I didn’t care. I was scared shitless! And for weeks, I could not walk around the house if it was dark inside, every light needed to be turned on. That white face haunted my dreams, worse than Freddy ever could and I knew from that point on...I wanted more! More Michael! More Dr. Loomis! More boobies! More Halloween! More! More! More!
Thankfully, growing up, there were these things called video rental stores, namely Blockbusters in my respective area of Cleveland, OH. I was always the youngest of my friends so they always had to drive me everywhere. And when I didn’t have a ride, I had two feet, two legs and was able to peddle my way to the corner. That’s how I fell in love with watching horror movies, late at night, after everyone was asleep. And I always returned the movies on time and somehow to this day, I don’t think my parents ever realized all the R-rated titles I rented on their account...VHS of course. It was in that cold Parma, OH basement, my love for horror movies began and grew into an endearing relationship and passion for all things undead. Does that mean I’m a twisted individual, heck no? That means I’m cultured! And my cultural studies continued on as by 1995, while in high school, I was finally able to see my favorite serial killer (okay now that sounds sadistic saying that I admit) on the big screen in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Little did I know that three years later pretty much the entire Halloween 4-6 timeline would be completely ignored and undone by the very effective 1998 entry, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. However, the sheer brilliance of that film was later undone in 2002 by the stinker that tried to capitalize on the guerrilla filmmaking of The Blair Witch Project that went on in my opinion to tank the Halloween franchise, Halloween: Resurrection. Little did I realize what was brewing behind the scenes and coming just a mere five years later, on my birthday of all days.
You all knew this paragraph was coming, didn’t you? Well, suck it! I’ve been a huge Rob Zombie fan ever since I can remember. In my later college years, which I consider my formative years in the world of music, Rob’s band White Zombie introduced me to a sound I never heard before and best of all he mixed and infused his undying love for horror movies, women and cars with his music and instead of hearing Poison’s Brett Michaels belt out how much he wants to put on lipstick and get with a slut we were treated to songs about hardcore sex (complete with moans), strippers, post apocalyptic events, evil acts of mischief and demons and most important to me...muscle cars, notably “Black Sunshine.” Songs like the latter and “Thunder Kiss ’65” fundamentally shaped my love and affinity for Ford Mustangs and I knew without a doubt, I had to have one. And to this day, I still drive my very own version of Black Sunshine as I admitted to Rob in person many years ago.
So where am I going with all this? You know exactly where I am going with all of this. While I momentarily took a detour off the path of discussing the legacy and influence of John Carpenter’s Halloween in horror movies, there’s no way I cannot talk about the man who brought the franchise back to the silver screen in 2007. That man, yep you guessed it, is Mr. Zombie. Like it or not, Rob’s interpretation and homage to the original Halloween, aptly deciding to use the same name, was on display for all to see and judge. Now let’s talk about that word “judge” some more. That’s exactly what this was all about. Think about it for a minute. Put yourself in Rob’s shoes. Yes, you got a pretty hot wife, huh? Now seriously! Here’s how I see it. You tell me if you see it differently. By accepting this project, Rob Zombie put himself in one hell of a pickle, don’t you think? Step back and think about it more clearly. You can’t please everyone. You are going to have those purists and naysayers saying stay out of my sandbox for both sentimental and sacrilegious reasons. Then you are going to have those critics saying how dare you change anything about Michael Myers, whether it be his origin story or the brutal and over-the-top gore tactics Rob employs in the way he kills people in his films. And then you got the people who really rub me the wrong way, the ones say oh my God you basically did a remake of the classic film. Well duh! What the hell do you think a re-imagining of a flick is? Sometimes people just need to be happy, like me, and go gaga over the fact that hell yeah...Michael Myers lives and he’s back on the big screen!
Now if I was allowed to only make one critique of Zombie’s 2007 re-imagining, it would be the following. He took away the mystery from all of us and the mystique about who Michael Myers was, what traumatized him as a youngster and how/why did he snap. But my oh my did I ever have one hell of a grungy good old time learning his whole backstory in Zombie’s take. In my opinion, Zombie did things right. He did not bastardize and bring this re-imagining this world in a modern day environment. Oh no. Rob treaded carefully and with crafted expertise and precision in the way he paid homage to the original and set this bad boy up where it ought to be, back in the hard rocking 70’s. The only downfall of this was now that you have let’s say an hour of an origin story, how do you cram the rest of the events of the original classic into this without making it an excruciating 3-hour event? That’s a tough one and I guess it’s all a he says she says sort of deal, but I wish he would have been able to split this one up into two films, which I think was his original direction. While I love the origin story, the hour it took up caused Mr. Zombie to speed through the so called “remake” portion of the movie and while it wasn’t overly rushed, it did produce a couple of noticeable continuity errors. However, like they always say, you have to take the good with the bad. The good is our boy is back and the bad is...well again...you can’t please everyone. But most importantly...I still love you Michael Myers.
Now besides the graphic origin story that Zombie authored here, let’s talk about the beef most fans had that grew up loving the original...the excessive gore. Zombie stayed true to the original tone with the look, the feel and the teenage sexual encounters we all love, but he brought one thing into the fold the original did not convey strongly enough, the beastly brutality of Michael Myers. In the 1978 classic, many attempts and corners were cut to make the story as suspenseful and tension filled as possible. That’s what put Halloween on the maps, not the murders. It was the tension it exacerbated. Here, Rob forgoes the tension and just lays it out no holds barred with no apologies or excuses. Michael is a savage. Why hide that? He doesn’t want to stalk you. He wants to rip your intestines out and hang you out to dry in a closet and nothing, I mean nothing, will get in his way. If he wants you dead, he doesn’t have to will it. He doesn’t have to wait for you to come outside. He comes after you in brutal fashions as employed throughout Zombie’s earlier films such as House of 1,0000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects. Zombie doesn’t cut away or shy from the deadly blows. He makes you feel them. And whether you like this technique or not, Zombie wins. His use of profane language, graphic scenes depicting rape and torture and the deadly finishing moves that put Zombie on the map prior to this re-imagining are on display for all to see here. This is where I can see the dividing point in the old school horror fans versus the new ones of the modern world whom have grown numb to the violence of the Saw or Collector type films. I’m somewhere in between, but all I know is I love me some Zombie...unless we are talking Lords of Salem...that’s a whole other can of worms that I don’t have enough room in my iCloud to open and ramble on and on about.
So where were we? Oh yeah...the dividing line between the classic film and the re-imagining. I’m going to regret bringing this up, but what about Zombie’s take on Halloween II? This one’s a complete and drastic departure and from the Carpenter series (as I’m a huge fan of the 1981 film). One could say this is where Zombie really infuses his own style into the series (which ended here for him) and further divided the lovers and haters of the new a la style Zombie Halloween films, including myself. I’ll admit. Despite this being yet another perfect present to take in on my 32nd birthday, I wasn’t too crazy about it at fist. However, unlike Lords of Salem, I warmed up to this one a lot more after subsequent viewings. Like I said, I love me some Michael and I’ll take him however I can get him, hobo dressings and all. And here’s where all good things must come to an end. Frustrated by the fans, I mean who wouldn’t be, Zombie neglected to do a third, rushed Halloween 3D film. I applaud him for that. I mean, he can’t seem to please anyone with these films. People say the first film he did was nothing more than expanding the classic and so when he tried something different in his second outing and he got blasted for it being...d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t. Yes sir! I applaud you Rob for not taking the easy paycheck and bastardizing this franchise like the final Saw film did to itself. When the time is right and the reigns are ready to hand over to the next capable filmmaker party, let’s hope they carry on the hardcore approach that Zombie laid the framework for while maybe revisiting the reason why everyone jumped aboard the Halloween train back in the late 70’s...infuse some tension! You get these two ingredients right, and I feel you have an instant recipe for success. And like the “original” franchise did, I feel the time is right to check out and to end this retrospective with the magic number 8...eight paragraphs that is. Happy Halloween everyone! I’ll be seeing you soon, Michael.
You can find Brian's work at http://www.whysoblu.com