He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

September 10, 2007

Halloween: The Zombie Cut

It's been a while since we've left the house for anything other than work, school or errands, so in lieu of our anniversary, Husband and I decided to treat ourselves this weekend by actually going out to a movie. Anniversary or no, Husband was feeling the Timecrunch of a Thousand Deadlines, so he didn't want to stray too far from home. Being stuck with the smaller, more local theaters meant, of course, a smaller number of titles to choose from, the most watchable appearing to be Shoot 'Em Up, 3:10 to Yuma, or Halloween.

Now, Husband and I are both John Carpenter fans, and I have a particular fondness for the original Halloween. I watch it every year, at least once a year, and I never get tired of it. I've seen all of the crappy sequels, and I've seen about all of the knock-offs, and I continue to love this movie. So my hopes that Rob Zombie's version would do it justice were pretty much nil. And our alternatives included Clive Owen! And Christian Bale! And Alan Tudyk!

But it was a rainy day, and we were both eager with anticipation for October, and we were also both in a nostalgic state of mind. So we decided to go against our better judgment and give it a chance, anyway.

The verdict? Eh. It wasn't terrible. It works pretty well on the level of being a Rob Zombie movie, with the vulgar, foul-mouthed, white trash banter that he's so good at, and the glorification of the '70s that he's so fond of (to say nothing of the glorification of his wife's bare hinder, but we'll just let that go and move along), and there was plenty of the blood and gore and gratuitous, over-the-top cruelty that Zombie learned how to perfect with the Firefly family, where his Michael Myers would surely have felt right at home. It was fun spotting the usual cast of Rob Zombie Players in new roles, as well as all of the other winks, nods and inside casting jokes. So if you like Rob Zombie movies, this fits nicely into his repertoire.

As a remake of the original, though, not so much. It works more as an homage than a remake, with some nice nods here and there, but even some of his shoutouts to John Carpenter were so heavy-handed it was like he couldn't just put it in for the true fan and let it go. He had to highlight it, and then stand there next to it pointing and going "See? See what I did there? Isn't that awesome?"

Case in point: in the original, there's a neat little scene in which Laurie Strode and her best friend Annie, as played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Nancy Loomis, are driving down the street, unknowingly being followed by Michael in a stolen car, while Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" plays on the radio, in the background as they talk over it and you can barely hear it. Subtle and cool.

In Zombie's version (spoiler alert!), Judith Myers is listening it to it in her bedroom, with headphones, loudly, so that she doesn't hear while her little brother Michael beats her boyfriend to death with a baseball bat in the kitchen before sneaking into her bedroom to stab her seventeen times. At that point I thought, "Oh, heh, it's a shoutout to Carpenter using that song, that's kinda clever." But then when he used it AGAIN in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY when an adult Michael kills Linda's boyfriend and then approaches her dressed in her boyfriend's ghost costume... I can't say "overkill" here without sounding punny, can I?

My other big complaint is that none of the characters were likable. Michael's family were a dysfunctional band of reprobates, Dr. Loomis was a touchy-feely pop-psychologist out to cash in on his connection to Michael, and Laurie and her friends were so vapid and annoying that I just didn't care what happened to them. Michael the child psychopath was the most sympathetic character in this movie.

And that's my biggest issue with this telling of the story. It attempts to explain Michael Myers, to provide a reason for his unbound rage. And it explained it in about the most predictable and cliched manner possible--with a tragic childhood full of dysfunction at home and bullying from his peers. That's almost worse than that crappy sequel that tried to retcon Michael as being the product of a satanic cult who brainwashed and drugged him into being their own personal killing machine. At least that version got a little creative.

It remains the original version of Michael Myers that is the scariest--the inexplicable evil, the Bad Seed who came from and turned on his normal suburban family and became obsessed with wiping them out, along with anybody who got in his way, for no apparent reason whatsoever. To saddle him with an explanation for his behavior is to diminish what makes him such an effective and lasting icon of horror. You might as well take away his Shatner mask and his Big Effing Kitchen Knife while you're at it.

When all is said and done, I can definitely think of worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon, but I can also think of a better way: curling up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and a copy of the original.

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