Friday, August 31, 2007

Halloween is Good, But Just Misses Greatness!

With Rob Zombie's freshmen effort, "House of 1,000 Corpses," he showed a certain amount of potential, and a great amount of talent even if the film itself had a great deal of shortcomings. However, by the time he gets to "Devil's Rejects" he has fully arrived as a filmmaker; the film is damn close to perfection. Through Zombie's dialogue, shot selection and overall storytelling he creates a horrible, nasty, disgusting, smelly, beautiful film. As a result, I couldn't help but hold "Halloween" to this same measuring stick.

During this year's San Diego Comic-Con I heard Zombie make the comment that if Carpenter's original film were a short story, then his version was the novel. I wasn't quite sure what to make of that comment at first; was he backhandedly complimenting Carpenter? Upon seeing the film, I get it, but I'm still not fully settled. Carpenter's masterpiece sets you up on Halloween night, shows you the perspective of young Michael and then puts him behind that clown mask, gives us that great shot of killing his sister with our perspective through the mask, and only shows the innocence of Michael's face after the crimes have been committed. Flash forward to the fact that Michael Myers has escaped and is heading home.

Zombie's opening act takes much longer, and is what he means by being the novel. However, it is really only his first act that strays much from the heart and soul of the original, and it is this first act that I have problems with. The film spends a great deal of time exploring the family life of young Michael, and it's not sweet suburbia as depicted in the original film, but they seem to be, rather, the redneck, white trash neighbors living in sweet suburbia. This seemed too much to me like Zombie inserting the direction that he likes. When Myers comes back home, we're back in sweet suburbia, with no signs of any white trash element. In that, Zombie seemed heavy handed in that opening act. Add to it, a scene of Michael killing a classmate, long before he goes on a rampage killing nearly everyone in his house. The clown mask is present here, though, and it works nicely as an homage to Carpenter. I do have a problem with the introduction of the Michael Myers mask and the fact that it's not a mask of anything, but just sort of shows up.

We then spend another 20 minutes or so of Michael going to therapy with Dr. Loomis. And Michael speaks, sweet and innocent, but hides something behind his masks, which he seems to be obsessed with, making them out of papier-mache inside of his cell. Of course, if a young, disturbed murderer says that the masks hide his ugliness, and he ceases to speak over 15 years, never taking the mask off, one might think that the psychologist isn't doing his job. Sorry son, we're trying to help. No masks. And this is a glaring flaw to me, but there it sits because Zombie's novel needs to include backstory.

I don't think that the backstory of this young innocent child who claims to not remember the murders when he's sitting there after first being incarcerated, and not wearing a mask, jives with the supernatural killer who can be shot and stabbed and still get up, that we see depicted in the third act. The third act is amazing, though. Hell, the second act is pretty damn fun and really feels quite a lot like the original. The setup is the same, talk of the boogie man, babysitting, running between houses. It's all there, but feels rushed due to all of that backstory.

The moment in which Michael begins putting his costume together is fun, has a nice death scene with Ken Foree, and at this point we know Rob's getting somewhere good. And he does. The third act is lit very dark, but is brilliant. It feels scary, and the darkness aids the effect of Michael moving silently through the backgrounds. "Halloween" is shot very well. Zombie is becoming an auteur to be certain, and it is nice to see all of his usual suspects show up in Bill Mosely, Leslie Easterbrook, Sid Haig, William Forsythe, Tom Towles. It was a nice family reunion. In fact, as would be expected, Zombie gets amazing performances from his actors. Scout Taylor-Compton gives a great performance as Laurie Strode, and Malcolm McDowell is a nice addition as Dr. Loomis, even if he looks ridiculous in the first act with his dutch boy haircut. And one of the biggest surprises was seeing Brad Douriff show up as Sherriff Lee Brackett. After all, why wouldn't Chucky be in a Halloween movie?

While I did enjoy the film quite a bit by the time it kicked into gear, I felt like I was watching the map that Leslie Vernon draws for us in "Behind the Mask" unfold before our very eyes. I couldn't help but wonder how Michael was able to get his cardio workout while in jail, I sort of laughed now that the Boogieman's home was the party house where kids would go to have sex on the anniversary of the grisly murders. I was scared due to that lighting, and scared for Laurie as she enters the "birth canal," sliding her way into the wall to hide from Michael. And I loved the final showdown between our killer and our survivor girl. Watching "Halloween" really made me want to watch "Behind the Mask" again, and yet, I didn't feel that working in that framework cheapened the film, it all works as the classic slasher films worked, but deep down it's missing something. Wait, let me take that back, it's not missing something per se, as so much is given in backstory, rather, it misses greatness due to that which it is not missing. I enjoyed it as a film, found it entertaining, but can't help but wonder if the best film Zombie had in him was "Devil's Rejects." In the end, I want to give this film a 3 out of 4 stars, but it didn't really earn it, however it also doesn't need to wallow with the 2s, instead I want to give it a 2.85 stars, as a motivator to work harder next time.

1 comment:

Superfist said...

I don't know, I still don't trust it. The footage that was shown in San Diego really didn't do anything for me and Rob's obvious disdain for having to be there at all left me skeptical at best. I'll definitely check it out because of my love for his previous work, but I'm sure we'll argue about this later.

  • The MMS HQ
  • Caballero Oscuro's Cave
  • El Bicho's Hive
  • From a Fishbowl
  • Sombrero G's Movie Mesa
  • Review According to Mil
  • The MMS Bullpen
  • The MMS Store