Friday, August 31, 2007
If "Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, and Halloween" was offered up as a clue on "Jeopardy", the answer, phrased as a question, would be: "What John Carpenter films have been disgracefully remade into substandard thrillers?" Ding! Ding!Ding!
The original Halloween, released in the late seventies, filmed on a shoestring and starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance is still a major work in horror; it remains an icon of unrelenting suspense. Success, of course, brings imitation, and what followed were the 'stalk and slash' imitators, such as the "Friday The 13th" series, that confused the tension and style of the Carpenter's original with soft core porn and snuff film sensibilities.
Enter Rob Zombie.
Why anyone would want to remake this brilliant work of horror is astonishing to me. In one interview, Zombie claimed he wouldn't even touch the project if he didn't feel that he had a fresh and worthwhile approach to the material. Well, Mr. Zombie, I've seen the film and I'm still wondering what happened to all that worthwhile freshness.
Zombie has made a film without a protagonist. The film takes away the mystery and horror of the boogie man to instead give us an unbelievable sociopath created from an unbelievable home environment crafted of trailerpark cliches. Given what we see Michael is subjected to, he is almost made a sympathetic figure. Let me say that again. Michael Meyers. Sympathetic.
We get to watch him deteriorate in the mental hospital (of which he seems the only occupant). We watch him abandoned and dehumanized. Note to future film makers. Mental hospitals don't allow patients to engage in unhealthy behaviors. They don't let patients make creepy masks and wear them all day long. Not therapeutic.
With all the time spent on Michael and his gorefest, Zombie chose to minimize the character of Laurie Strode. Unfortunately, if the audience doesn't identify with and care about Laurie, the audience doesn't feel the horror of her predicament. We don't grip our popcorn boxes, urging her not to go across the street. We don't lean forward and hiss under our breath: "Run, Laurie..oh god..run."
Zombie has removed the elements of supernatural horror that made the original such a rush. He has abandoned characterization (at least for the supposed protagonists) in favor of one clumsy gore shot after another. As mentioned earlier, Zombie confuses character development with unbelievable stereotypes. He doesn't understand the word subtlety or nuance.
Strangely, there is a parade of familiar and unlikely faces throughout the film. Clint Howard (Clint Howard???!!! Ron's younger, rather quirky looking brother?), Dee Wallace (E.T.'s Mom), Brad Dourif (the voice of Chucky), Mickey Dolenz (Circus Boy and former drummer for the Monkees), Udo Kier (Andy Warhol's Dracula) Sybil Danning (Howling II and a multitude of bad exploitation films during the seventies). Wait...did I mention Mickey Dolenz?
I usually don't see films that do not allow critics access before release. I usually don't see films that come out toward the end of August or the beginning of September. It takes a film like Halloween to remind me why. Don't see this motion picture. Do yourself a favor and rent the original. But wait for late October, when you can run it as a double bill on your DVD player, along with the likes of Night of the Living Dead.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 8/31/2007