Monday, September 7, 2009

Halloween 1 and 2

There is nothing more controversial in the internet horror community than Rob Zombie's Halloween remakes.

Some people think the are vicious, uncompromising, take-no-prisoners masterpieces of modern horror. Others think they're a travesty of John Carpenter's original work, soaking the eerie horror of Michael Myers in Zombie's white-trash aesthetic. Either way, ever since the "hobo Myers" images released some months back, the boards at Bloody-Disgusting have been essentially one big screaming match. Because of that, I can't really write this essay in a vacuum.

I didn't like Zombie's Halloween remake much. I do think humanizing Michael Myers removes a lot of the mystique of the character, Zombie's shock-offensive dialogue sounded ugly and unnatural coming out of the mouths of innocent teenagers, and the jump in focus from Myers to Laurie Strode resulted in a movie that felt like it was missing its center. Despite all this, I can't seem to stop myself from watching the movie every few months or so. Underneath the problems I have with Halloween, it was clearly made with an enthusiasm that makes the experience infectious.

That pretty much describes my feelings toward this new one.

I was kinda optimistic, despite all the hobo/maskless Myers stuff. The trailers hinted at a supernatural angle, which I really missed in the original. The trailers emphasized a supernatural element, something I felt was missing in the original. Michael Myers's life, crimes, and death were all pitifully human. It made him a psycho, but it really didn't make him a monster. This one appeared to have Michael Myers' mother commanding him to kill Laurie and reunite the family in death. Sure, that doesn't really jibe with his mother's nicer incarnation in the earlier movie, but at least he's got some of his old mojo back.

I think Zombie has a lot of potential. The Devil's Rejects was a helluva movie and I like directors who take their horror seriously. Having said that, the dude does have a white trash aesthetic that doesn't necessarily jibe with the subject matter. When he's writing a bunch of outlaw banditos the dialogue works, but when he's writing teenagers in a small suburban community he completely misses. This is where I get all "but it's not the Halloween I rememmmmmberrrrr..." but I always remembered Haddonfield as a boring suburb, not a rotted meth-lab town. I don't remember Laurie Strode talking like an angry metalhead trying to shock her parents. This is kind of a goofy thing to say about a horror movie, but it's all meaner and uglier than I want it to be.

One of the core problems of the remakes is Zombie puts too much focus on too many characters. The movie would have been better served with following Laurie bouncing between her, Myers, and Dr. Loomis. The iconic Dr. Loomis really gets the short end of the stick here, as he spends the movie being unpleasant until he dies for no reason.

Speaking of unpleasant...

I do have to give credit to Rob Zombie and Scout Taylor Compton for making Laurie Strode's damaged mental state believable. The best final girls, from the original Laurie Strode to Scream's Sydney Prescott are all traumatized by their experiences. They become isolated, suspicious, and destructive, and their vulnerabilities become as much of a challenge as the maniacs that stalk them. Zombie's Laurie Strode is a very honest portrayal of how a terrified young woman would behave. She fluctuates from chaotic to destroyed, and it's a really good portrayal. Unfortunately, she's not particularly likable. I liked her room mate/friend Annie Brackett better.

I gotta get this out of the way: I have a HUGE crush on Danielle Harris, the actress who played Annie Brackett. I keep meaning to write a big I HEART DH article on her, but the long and the short is I think she's more adorable than a basket of bunnies, even Professor Demon Bunny.

But Annie comes off as a much more sympathetic and likable character than Laurie. She's much more composed, much more confident, and much more capable than Laurie, even though she was arguably put through far worse in the first film. I thought it was interesting that she lived with and took care of Laurie, but was not in her social circle anymore. She even occasionally seemed exasperated with Laurie's behavior, which wouldn't have been out of line given that Laurie seemed to go gutter-punk chic.

So having Michael Myers rape and butcher her was a little bit much.

We all knew she was going to die. The trailer shows her running away from Myers. But Myers goes a step further and rapes her. It's not entirely out of character, as Zombie's Myers is a much angrier and more vicious creature, but raping Annie took the character and the story into a much uglier direction.

Horror creators have a symbiotic relationship to their creations. Brian Pulido looked very similar to his Evil Ernie and Michaeal Myers looks kinda like Rob Zombie on steroids. I do kinda wonder what compelled Zombie to include such a scene.

Beyond that, quibbles. Why did Myers show up to the party, zero in on Laurie's one friend, and disappear after murdering her? Why is Mrs. Myers such an evil bitch now after being such a nice person in the original? What exactly was Dr. Loomis thinking when he entered that shack in the end? What was with all the goddamn close-ups?

Whatever. Despite all the grips, I'm still gonna see it again and I'm probably gonna own the DVD. Unkle Lancifer at Kindertrauma wrote an amazing article defending the movie. Also, here's a Rob Zombie interview. Finally, here's the cream-of-the-crop of the horror blogadoo world weighing in on Old vs. New Myers. Enjoy!

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