Joe’s Blog

Halloween (2007)… spoilers abound

February 23, 2009 6:49 am

halloween header

Doctor Wynn: … For God’s sake. He can’t even drive a car!

Doctor Loomis: Well he was doing very well LAST NIGHT!

With that exchange of dialogue, John Carpenter probably best explains his motives with the superlative Halloween. Logic is so far out the window that it’s on the next train to Glasgow. It doesn’t matter how Michael Myers, locked up in an institution for 15 years, knows how to drive a car; it doesn’t matter why he’s killing people; it doesn’t matter why he fixates upon young Laurie Strode.  It’s almost as if the attitude is “If you’re asking too many questions, you probably shouldn’t be watching these kind of movies”.

Unfortunately these brazen tactics are completely ignored by Rob Zombie’s remake (from hereonin my reviews will ONLY refer to films like these as ‘remakes’… terms such as reboot, re-imagining, revision, and herefore banned).

In my remakes rant post last week I, rather foolishly suggested that Halloween 2007 had some redeeming features without actually having seen it. This is not a mistake I shall repeat, as what follows is going to make me look a little foolish.

Now, I love Halloween. Ever since I saw it as an impressionable 11 year old, right through film-studies-wank adolesence, right up to genre-hugging adulthood, it has always retained it’s place in my affections as the Citizen Kane of horror films. It’s just so well constructed and executed (pun intended) that the only thing that fades its gloss slightly is the fact that it led, indirectly, to a slew of sewage for which it is always blamed.

With this in mind, I did try (REALLY try) to be objective about Halloween 2007, and, to be fair, it’s not a complete and utter abortion of a movie. Just mostly.

I like Rob Zombie. I was a passing fan of his music for a while, and whilst his films leave me cold, I can appreciate his craft. He’s an extremely hands-on director which means everything in his films meet his desired vision. All his films so far have this wonderfully scuzzy 70s look to them, not seen since the days of Last House on the Left (remake on the way… joy!)and I Spit on Your Grave. I think it would have been great to have let him loose on Grindhouse with more than just a spoof trailer (Death Proof would certainly have been more entertaining with him behind the camera).

Having said that though, I find his films an ordeal. Exploitation horror, no matter how grim, should still be watchable, and I find that isn’t the case with his films, especially the Devil’s Rejects, which assaults the viewer with one uncomfortable scenario after another. Maybe that’s the point and I’m missing it. But it’s not my cup of tea.

So, it’s a strange combination to have a sleek, professional machine like Halloween turned over to a man who prefers his movies dipped in mud, bleached in the sun, and run through a combine harvester before they hit a screen near you.

It’s taken me 18 months to get round to watching Halloween 2007. Two of my objections were thusly: we get a Michael Myers backstory, and it’s revealed Laurie is Michael’s sister. Both are bad ideas for different reasons.

Firstly, Michael doesn’t NEED a backstory, let alone one that takes up half the running time of a film about a man killing people on Halloween. Michael is just evil. Isn’t that enough? And then having taken this route they then decide NOT to tell us why he stops talking to people. he’s quite a chatty young man when he first murders his family (save mum and baby sister) and a school bully. After a year in an asylum he just shuts up and no-one can get a word from him.

He then kills a nurse for no reason. Then nothing for fifteen years.

I really struggled to work out what was going on here. If you go to all the trouble of inventing an entirely new backstory for a character, why then introduce such random events seemingly only to tie him into the futrue incarnation of said character that the public is familiar with? It’s a bit like writing the Star Wars prequels with Ben Kenobi as a dwarf and Yoda as a giant, then half way through Revenge of the Sith they suddenly revert to their familiar appearance.

After this seemingly endless first act, Michael finally arrives home and we’re into more traditional remake territory: dialogue is lifted word-for-word, scenes are replicated shot-for-shot, and, perhaps most annoying of all, characters are cast (and dressed) to look exactly like their 1978 counterparts (namely Tommy Doyle, and the ill-fated Bob). This appears to be done simply to throw the audience off course for some cheap scares, which is a dirty and nasty trick played so often when the last one occurs you wish Michael would turn around and start hunting the man behind the camera rather than those in front of it.

So some scenes are retained, others are re-jigged, and other new ones are introduced. If you’ve never seen Halloween (shame on you) the scenes repeated from the original are the ones with no blood whatsoever. If there’s blood (and there’s plenty of it) it’s a new scene.

So what’s Michael up to? Well, he’s looking for his baby sister he hasn’t seen since she was in nappies. “What, what, what? That wasn’t in Halloween!” I hear you cry before the fanboy’s jump on me and tell me that “It was introduced in the sequel and is therefore valid”. Well, guess what? It’s fucking not, cos John Carpenter says so!

Yes, Carpenter wrote the script for H2, where it was revealed that Laurie had been adopted by another family after her (and Michael’s) parents died. But Carpenter also regretted doing it. So there.

This ‘twist’ results in a very tiresome climax that goes on for about fifteen minutes longer than it needs to, and an ending closer in spirit to Texas Chainsaw than Halloween. In fact watching this I couldn’t help but think how much better TCM 2003 would have been if Zombie had directed it.

I said it’s not all bad. The opening half is actually very engaging, mainly because it’s not aping anything we know. It’s mostly all new. Forget the film is called Halloween and the opening half hour (up until the first murders, yes, it takes that long) is very good. Another advantage for freaks like me, is almost every supporting character is played by someone who’s made their name in horror films. We’re not talking horror legends, more exploitation legends like Sybil Danning, Ken Foree and Mickey Dolenz (!) .

The stunt casting goes a little too far, casting 29 year old Danielle Harris and one of Laurie’s pals. Harris played Michael’s neice in the original cycle’s parts 4 and 5.

Malcolm McDowell is, however, excellent, as as fine a replacement for Donald Pleasance as we could have hoped for, mainly because, for once, he plays down.

It was always going to take something special to top Carpenter’s original vision of ‘movie as a ghost train’, simply designed to go”Boo!”.

Zombie’s movie only says “Boo!” once, and it’s one of the best moments. It prefers to stand in the open shaking a knife at you and asking “Well, are you scared? Come on, I haven’t got all day!”

I’m all for Zombie making his own vision, that’s fine, but it’s so completely incompatible with Carpenter’s it’s like a child trying to build a dolls house using a combination of Lego and Sticklebricks: they just don’t fit together. I would have been willing to accept Zombie’s vision if that’s what we’d been given. Instead we’re handed two movies welded together, with far too much post-modern sprinkles to sweeten it up for the fanboys.

Well, this fanboy found the whole thing a little nauseating. And as with most of the current rash of remakes (in fact those stretching back over the past decade) it just makes me want to go back and watch the original. In fact, I’d rather watch any of the sequels over this. OK, apart from Ressurection. And Curse (Pleasance’s last film, fact fans!). No, actually this is worse than Curse

 Oh, and what do you know… H2 is heading our way this year. For fuck sake!

No Responses to “Halloween (2007)… spoilers abound”

Care to comment?