Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Halloween (2007)

Last week, I revisited Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan's 2005 reimagination of comics' famed Caped Crusader. The movie is a success by any measure, and I was a bit surprised to find that I enjoyed it far more than I initially had on its release, when I watched it with little more than a shrug. This time around, having also rewatched both of the Burton Batmans in the interim, it's clear this is far and away the best movie Dark Knight of them all.

But today, I hate Batman Begins. I curse the day it was ever invented. I spit on its DVD case. I crinkle the pages of its oh-so-cool mini graphic novel tie-in.

Why, you ask?

Because without a movie like Batman Begins I'd never have been subjected to a movie like Rob Zombie's new version of John Carpenter's Halloween, which takes Nolan's narrative structure — retelling the origin of an iconic pop culture creation with an eye toward the character's never-before-revealed psychological underpinnings — and applies it to the guy wearing the most famous William Shatner mask of all time. Only without providing a compelling story, genuine motivations, or (most importantly) offering a single preferrable variation on the original film's formulation. There probably wasn't reason to remake Halloween — Carpenter's rendition is a masterpiece, and its power hasn't dulled a bit since 1978 — but after seeing Zombie's abysmal attempt, there's probably enough reason to remake the remake.

Zombie's personal stamp on the Halloween mythos is to show Michael as a child (played by Daeg Faerch)and attempt to explore the forces and events that would create a monster like "The Shape" (as he was named in the credits of Carpenter's films). Nearly an hour of Zombie's film presents Lil' Mikey's horrific upbringing with his stripper mother. She's played Sherri Moon Zombie, the director's wife. I guess that sort of makes Zombie himself Michael Myers' biological father, who is never seen on screen.

Reasons for various elements of the Myers' mythos are given or suggested (i.e. his obsession with masks, his nonverbal behavior). But for every tidbit that Zombie explains away, he shows something else that defies logic or reason but is given no "motivation" within the story. If Michael Myers is just some abused child who spent most of his life locked away in solitary confinement in an asylum, how'd he grow from a chubby kid who gets picked on into an enormous hulking brute? If he's just a demented little psychopath, why is he also impossibly strong? Where'd he learn how to blend in to shadows? Why don't bullets or knives hurt him? And how does he instinctually know who his sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) is and where she lives even though he hasn't seen her since she was an infant?

Maybe Zombie's doing all of this to make a belabored point: that is, to suggest that true, horrific evil is unexplainable, and that no matter how hard a normal, rational person may try to understand how someone like Michael Myers might come to be, they never truly can. Okay, fine, but there has to be an easier way to make that point than wasting a freakin' hour getting to it.

I don't think Zombie is a hack; I'm quite fond of his last film, The Devil's Rejects. The thing I admire about his approach to horror in all of his films is the way in which he upends the traditional slasher movie style of making the "villain" the de facto hero. There is nothing "fun" about his horror movies and often the scariest aspects of his movies aren't the violent acts themselves but Zombie's unflinching portrayals of their aftermath. I read a few reviews of Halloween that mocked his repetition of the image of Michael Myers dragging a mutilated victim off camera to deliver a killing blow. But that's sort of the point: Myers' murders aren't supposed to be fun as they are in so many slasher movies. They're heinous. They're transgressive. You don't really get that until you see his victims pleading for their lives.

Still, Zombie's missed the boat here. By focusing so much on the demented family and in turning Michael Myers into a long-haired body builder, he's kind of transformed the character into Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He's sort of used the raw materials of Halloween to suit his own purpose and I can't entirely fault the guy for that — at least he didn't attempt a simple retread. At the same time, Halloween should be Halloween-y you know? And this movie isn't.

Also, has anyone else noticed that Zombie's Michael Myers looks a lot like the old wrestler Kane? Check it out:

And cue that Carpenter piano music.


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