Sep 3, 2007

Movie Review: Halloween (2007)

A film review by Jason Morgan - Copyright © 2007

Halloween's Michael Myers has seen many incarnations during his 29-year reign of terror. While he hasn't yet seen the vastness of space (boldly not going where most horror franchises eventually go), he has met a similar fate -- the remake. Although the majority of horror moviegoers are just looking for the next gore-fest, true horror fans are as rabid as Christians looking to crucify the latest blasphemously-filmed story of Christ. Luckily, director Rob Zombie is a member of the horror genre cult and treats his Halloween remake with the utmost respect, while amping up the intensity for a post-Saw audience.

From the 90-minute Abercrombie and Fitch ad that was 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre to the abysmal The Hills Have Eyes in 2006, classic horror films have been turned into exploitive, empty filler for the benefit of the box office. Zombie, on the other hand, explores the mythology of the original Halloween by psychologically deconstructing Michael Myers, instead of exploiting the original idea of "The Shape" -- the personified evil of the original. Zombie's film opens with the Myers family; of course, this is a Zombie film, so they are a white trash, long haired clan whose cursing would put sailors to shame. In this Halloween outing, we see Myers' transformation into the infamous serial killer.

As Zombie constructs a working profile of young Myers as a serial killer to be -- mutilating animals and obsessed with masks -- the irony is that we already know that Michael will kill his sister and run amuck through Haddonfield 15 years later. The hiccup in Zombie's artistic liberties is that we don't quite make the leap that young Myers is the unfeeling killing machine we know he'll be later in the film. Compared to his white trash family, Michael's childhood rage is, at very least, understandable. We want him teach the school bully, his mom's deadbeat live-in drunk and heartless sister a lesson. It essentially turns him into the anti-hero of the films first half and destroys the original terror of an unexplained evil that somehow exists naturally.

While the first half of Halloween is largely Zombie's creation with a dash of references to the original (Michael's mother is a stripper at the Rabbit in Red Lounge), the second half of the film completely relies on your knowledge of the first film. The setup of a sex-filled night planned by three teen girls is so quickly put into place that it will leave your head spinning and your mind asking "who's that?" and "what's going on?" if you don't already know the story. Given the iconic first film, it's likely that most horror fans will be able to fill in the gaps and spend most of their time anticipating the appearance of Tommy Doyle or the mention of Ben Tramer.

For those not in the Halloween-know, Myers' brutality and energy are enough to hold your attention. This is Michael Myers at his most brutal, but the terror doesn't come from exploitive gore. Ex-pro wrestler Tyler Mane walks Myers with authority and nothing can stop him -- doors, windows, walls, fences, bullets -- nothing. While Mane is bashing through everything in his way, Zombie's aesthetics fail to truly capture on that energy. His camera is mostly shaky, sometimes out of focus and generally ineffective.

Though his style hasn't really grown since House of 1000 Corpses, his storytelling ability has, to some degree. He takes stabs at the influence of music on child violence by putting young Myers in a KISS t-shirt and slashes at corporate America as Mr. Strode blames a large conglomerate convenience store for putting Nicholas Hardware out of business. Like the rest of the film, his thematic jabs are uneven, as the subtle social commentary is overpowered by heavy-handed motifs such as Myers' self-made masks -- one of which emulates a jack-o-lantern. But Zombie's cinematic heart is in the right place. Instead of trampling over the original, he builds on it and creates an homage that should motivate the new generation of horror fans to seek out John Carpenter's original with the respect and excitement it still deserves.

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