Film Review: HALLOWEEN

HALLOWEEN
HALLOWEEN

When a studio hypes a film long before it�s been completed, there is always the possibility that the said film will turn out poorly, receive bad word of mouth, or invariably not live up to the fans� expectations.  In this Internet world of instant gratification and almost instantaneous dissemination of rumors, facts, lies and news, the plot of a movie can be posted long before it ever unspools on the screen of a local multiplex � in the worst case, the HALLOWEEN itself is posted for digital download.  In a maneuver that appears to be one of putting the cart before the horse, a good number of the horror film conventions that have occurred of late have all been pushing films that have yet to open, which is a little frustrating as I like to speak with the creators of a particular film after I have seen the movie.

Last year�s BLACK CHRISTMAS drew the wrath of adherents of the brilliant 1974 original long before its December premiere date, and that remake turned out to be so egregious that I could not bring myself to fairly write about it.  It took everything that made Bob Clark�s film so original and so scary and left nothing to the imagination.

Rob Zombie�s �re-imagining� of John Carpenter�s phenomenally successful thriller HALLOWEEN has already bifurcated horror fans into two camps: those who inevitably think that it is terrible (remember that Carpenter�s version was initially panned, too), and those who think that it is the first real HALLOWEEN film since the original.  There are few of us who went to see ANIMAL HOUSE in 1978 in Southern California and were told by the theater managers to hang around and watch a free sneak preview of �a new movie,� which turned out to be John Carpenter�s HALLOWEEN.  I�ve read reports that the film had people screaming and shouting at the screen.

If you can momentarily put Carpenter�s film out of your mind (which is easier said than done, believe me), it is possible to view the new film as what it is: the story of an evil young boy who grows up to be an evil young man � and a rather tall one at 6�8�.  Zombie�s HALLOWEEN is an entertaining update of an already brilliant original, boasting terrific performances and succeeding in one major area where all the HALLOWEEN sequels failed: it makes Michael Myers frightening.  Whereas Carpenter�s film quite correctly relied on Donald Pleasance�s compelling performance to create a terrifying portrait of Michael Audrey Myers, Rob Zombie�s film changes the mix a little bit by introducing the audience to young Michael Myers and his awful family life.

The film opens strongly as we�re introduced to a DEVIL�S REJECTS-like cast of characters: his mother Debra (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a stripper at the Rabbit in Red Lounge; her boyfriend (William Forsythe) is a typical piece-of-shit lout with nothing to offer except invectives and belligerence; Michael�s sister Judith (Hanna Hall) is a twenty-something sexpot white trash hottie billowing out of her shorts and into bed with her boyfriend (who introduces the famed HALLOWEEN mask in a bit of kinky sex); and this leaves his infant baby sister, nicknamed �Boo,� as the only unoffending member of the Myers clan who sits innocently in her crib.

In addition to the abuse he is subjected to at home, Michael is also the victim of harassment and bullying at school.  While in the bathroom, he encounters two older kids who antagonize and gang up on him until the school principal (Richard Lynch) stops them on his behalf.  Interestingly, Michael lashes out verbally at his savior, and this is our first indication that he has a problem with just about everyone, a fact that should not be lost on the audience.  When Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) meets with Mrs. Myers and the principal in the school office, we see that Michael bears one of the classic trademark behaviors of a textbook killer: he kills animals and keeps their corpses.

In a scene that will be cheered by those who have been victims of school bullying, one of Michael�s tormentors takes a shortcut home through the woods.  Michael stops him in his tracks with a blow from a large stick, and pummels him to death even as he begs for mercy.  I half expected him to start crooning �Singing in the Rain�.

Returning home while his mother is working, Michael systematically kills her drunk and sleeping boyfriend in a most interesting way; he takes a baseball bat to Judith�s boyfriend�s skull; and in a scene of innocent sexual exploration that quickly turns horrific, he sneaks up on Judith with his new HALLOWEEN mask and stabs her in the stomach.  A shot of Judith wandering into the hallway with Michael behind her in his mask is the first time that Michael Myers has appeared frightening since the original film.

When Debra returns from work to find Michael sitting on the steps cradling his little baby sister �Boo,� she knows something is wrong, and screams in anguish after the bodies are found in the house.  Michael is found guilty of the murders and is sent to the famed Smith�s Grove Warren County sanitarium where he spends the next several months in the care of Dr. Loomis who spends hours talking with and befriending Michael.  His mother comes to visit him here, and when Michael asks about the rest of the family, she acts like everyone is fine.  We�re not sure if Michael is faking it, or if he�s putting on a conscious act.

Fifteen years later, Michael Myers (now in the form of hulking Tyler Mane) is being moved to another facility when he breaks loose of his chains.  Cruz (Danny Trejo), one of the prison guards who has looked out for Michael, meets a grisly end at Michael�s hands, and for reasons left to us to imagine it appears that Michael has been born evil.  His mother has since committed suicide due to an inability to cope with him and what he has done, and he is now on a mission to find his long lost sister, �Boo�.

The remainder of the film introduces the three female characters whom we all love: Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton), Annie (Danielle Harris), and Lynda (Kristina Klebe).  While Jamie Lee-Curtis, Nancy Loomis and PJ Soles respectively will forever be indelibly imprinted on our minds, the new characterizations are all fresh and contemporary.  Lynda�s anachronistic �Totally!� exclamations from the original appear only twice, and while Annie and Lynda both have sex on their minds, Laurie, while still a little nerdy and naturally curious about sex, is not the self-conscious and embarrassed �girl scout� of the original.  Laurie is eager to experience sex, and Annie confirms to her that a young guy she likes digs her.

The remainder of the film plays out very similarly to the original version: Lynda has her �Get me a beer!� moment; Laurie is broadsided when Michael attacks her out of the blue; Tommy and Lindsay engage in their usual shenanigans; and Dr. Loomis and Sherriff Bracket (Brad Dourif) race against time to find Michael.  In contrast to the original however, Zombie nicely moves the action to the abandoned Myers house, and Scout Taylor-Compton really pulls out all the stops emotionally while trying to avoid the killer.

The film isn�t perfect.  It raises a lot of questions; there are some glaring continuity errors; and the showdown between Laurie and Michael goes on a bit longer than necessary.  Despite all of this, HALLOWEEN is a must-see film experience in a packed theater with a crazy audience.  I�ve seen it twice so far, and I wanted Michael Myers to kill the audience members who brought their crying children to both screenings.

Maybe I can work something out with him when I go see it again next weekend�

 

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