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Established May 2010.


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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"Halloween" Retrospective: HALLOWEEN (2007)

HALLOWEEN (2007)
Director: Rob Zombie
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Sheri Moon Zombie, Daeg Faerch, Tyler Mane, Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace


Boy, the Myers family sure is dysfunctional. Ten year old Michael (Faerch) kills his pet mouse while his mom Deborah (Zombie) and her boyfriend Ronnie are having a massive fight in the kitchen. At school that day, Michael gets bullied in the bathroom and later gets his revenge by killing the boy in the park. The day doesn’t get any better for Michael. It is Halloween night and he has no one to go trick-or-treating with. His mother is at work at the strip club, the boyfriend is passed out on his chair, and his sister Judith is upstairs with her boyfriend. The body count for the day does not stop at the bully as he brutally kills Ronnie, Judith, and Judith’s boyfriend. His mother arrives home to find the massacre and that he spared the life of his baby sister “Boo.” Dr. Sam Loomis (McDowell) is appointed to his care as he spends time at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. He spends many years working with Michael who does not seem to be progressing. He remains silent and spends his time making masks.


Fifteen years pass and it is Halloween night in Haddonfield, and Laurie Strode is sent to drop something off at the old haunted Myers house for her father who is the realtor. What she doesn’t know is that Michael (Mane) has escaped after all these years and has returned home. Later that day after school, she and friends Annie (Harris) and Lynda discuss their plans for the evening which involve babysitting and screwing around. What they don’t know is that a bloodbath of epic proportions will change their lives forever.


What you will notice pretty quickly is that Zombie takes a VERY different approach to this story. For a horror remake, it takes what we know from the original contemporizes it, adds more back story, and retains the original story. The first hour is more of a prequel as we go back to see the psychological aspect behind Michael and how he became evil. The second half is the Laurie Strode story we all know and love. It is shocking, gruesome, edgy, and frightening in a very different way than the original. Zombie wanted each act to have very different camera shots, filmed with different styles and levels. When you watch it closely, you can watch the shifts in tone and feel the change between the acts.


Zombie tries to humanize Michael more than what we received in the original. His family life and time at Smith's Grove delve deeper into his psyche and his fascination with masks is explored. The secret behind why Michael is after Laurie is revealed in this one. Zombie probably didn’t anticipate he would go on to make a sequel so he probably felt the need to tell the whole story in this one movie. Zombie is smart enough to know he needs to keep certain lines of dialogue, actions, and camera shots the same as the original to appease the fans. Some of it is a bit more subtle and may only be noticed by people that know the original backwards and forwards like I do. Much of the original John Carpenter score is kept as well with some additional music by composer Tyler Bates. I would have been livid if Zombie ignored that masterful score for a brand new track.


The casting and take on these iconic characters is important. Danielle Harris and Kristina Klebe excel at taking the characters of Annie and Lynda in a different direction to fit the teenage girls of this setting and time period. I do not appreciate Scout Taylor-Compton’s take on Laurie. She is not wholesome and innocent enough. She could have still kept those qualities while fitting her into a modern day Laurie. I have also overheard her in interviews talk about her approach to the character and try to claim her Laurie Strode is better than Jamie Lee Curtis'. Tisk Tisk Tisk. How dare she try to upstage the original Scream Queen. The overall casting of the supporting characters is pretty great with Malcolm McDowell, Dee Wallace, and Brad Dourif who are all legends in the genre. Mane and Zombie attempt to bring back who Michael is as a person and as a villain to make him scary again. Throughout the series, Michael lost the humanity and frightening aspect of himself. Most of the time he has just been an actor in a mask walking around with a butcher knife.


Can a die-hard fan of the original like this new take with a Rob Zombie twist? Possibly. I must admit that the first time I watched it, I was appalled. I thought Zombie was ruining what was so special and haunting about the original. One of the scary elements was that you had no context for why a six-year-old would kill his sister. The filmmaking was done on a very low budget, so there were no gory special effects or unrealistic kills. The camera work and lighting were executed precisely, oftentimes done minimally, adding to the suspense. Zombie basically throws all of that out the window. The majority of the movie is very rough, graphic, vulgar, and in your face. I have seen it a few times now and with each time I try to view it on its own merit without trying to compare it to the original. Shockingly enough, I have come to appreciate it. I do not love it, nor is it perfect. The film is way too long with some unneeded scenes and an ending that goes on for far too long. It has received some very harsh criticism which I completely understand. It is not a movie that will appeal to the masses nor will it appeal to everyone who loves the horror genre.


In regards to the concept of horror remakes, I really do not think there is ever a need. Many of these horror films are classics for a reason, so why bother remaking them? So many of them are horrible retreads where they just feel like a paint by numbers approach. I give Zombie some credit for actually doing something different with the story, while honoring the original by keeping some vital moments, lines, and camera work in tact. After watching the whole franchise, I actually think this Halloween is better than some of the other sequels and entries in the franchise.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

My Ranking of the Franchise
1. HALLOWEEN (1978)
2. HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998)
3. HALLOWEEN II (1981)
4. HALLOWEEN (2007)
5. HALLOWEEN 5: THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1989)
6. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
7. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
8. HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)
9. HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995)

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