Thursday, October 31, 2013
Welcome to Trash City, Michael: Halloween (2007)
Starring: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane
*Note: This review covers the Unrated Version of the movie
A comeback for Michael Myers in the new Millennium by Rob Zombie; obviously, I was excited being a fan of House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil's Rejects (2005), and Rob was in the height of his game when he made the latter. But remaking Halloween? A classic of the subgenre? Generally, skepticisms were met but being an open guy, I watched it any way and see if Rob's version of Halloween would meet my standards.
Opening in Haddonfield, Illinois fifteen years ago, a broken down mother of three, Deborah Myers, faces a heavy ordeal when her youngest, Michael Myers, is shown having psychopathic tendencies when the school principal found pictures of murdered animals in his locker. It soon shows that Michael is indeed not all up there when he heartlessly (but satisfyingly) murders a school bully, a death not noticed until after the fateful night he murders almost the entirety of his family that Halloween.
Massacring his eldest sister, her boyfriend, and his mother's foul-mouthed boyfriend, young Myers is then sent to Smith's Grove Warren County Sanitarium and placed under the care and supervision of his psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Loomis. For over the course of a single year, Michael claims no memory of the murders, barely interacting with anybody and focuses solely on his papermache masks. One day, however, Michael snaps into his homicidal nature again and kills a nurse, leading to Michael's mother losing hope and committing suicide and Loomis ending his case fifteen years later.
Now in the present, a full grown Michael manages to escape his cell and begins a trail of death as he makes his way back to Haddonfield, seemingly with a plan to murder what is left of his family: his baby sister, Laurie Strode, now adopted and seemingly unaware of her dark past and too what's coming in the night he comes home...
Mixed feelings were inevitable with this one but I have to say, Rob Zombie sure knows how to make a film "personal"; I'm not saying this is entirely a good thing, but must every one of Zombie's film has to have a taste of hicksploitation? This version of Halloween included? Almost every character in this movie are either rude or prude, drunken and dirty, and I find it hard to establish anything with these characters or care for them at all. This surprisingly includes our supposed final girl Laurie Strode, portrayed here by Scout Taylor-Compton as a typical teenager who's more likely to be in-between a conservative and a bit of a snooty mall rat. Yes, she is a girl with good intentions, but she seems to fit closer to the kind of slasher victims that gets killed half-way into the movie and I guess I'm just not used rooting for people like that.
So by the time Michael begins killing people, both as a kid and as a 7 foot tall juggernaut (yes, this is the biggest Michael Myers incarnation we'll ever have), I can't help but feel a strange mix of delight (since some victims really deserved it. Remember, this is the unrated cut; how Michael got out of his cell here had two victims deserving getting what's coming to them) and hollowness. (again, very little people to care about) Still, Rob was determined to create as many answers and twists as he can for his own take for the series' mythology, which is by far the most strenuous element for hardcore fans to accept: while Carpenter's original is a work of patience, slow-moving creepiness that befits the totality of the film's tone, Rob's version is a chaotic and very brutal mess that heightens the bodycount and gore. I'm a fan who appreciates blood so, personally, I think no ill will on this take on the story. The kills are torturous, overdone and very brutal, some giving a few nods to the original, while a few remains shocking and cringe-worthy.
As far as I can point out, the film still follows the same story and flow of the original when Michael finally got back to his home town after his escape. The only real difference here is that the mystery as to why Michael snapped so suddenly is gone, as the entire first third of the movie revolves around lil' Michael before his infamous Halloween night killing spree: with a strip dancer for a mother, an older sister who cares very little, and an alcoholic "father-figure" who throws homophobic insults at the boy, it's pretty obvious why the kid just decided to end it all. During the times he's being treated, it clearly shows how traumatizing this was all for him and how he is beyond saving. Still, the ambiguity to his actual goal once he returns is still present, questioning whether he there to murder his sister to finish the job he started years ago or he just love her that much that he wouldn't want her to go through the same shit he went through. This sort of just plainly labels his status as a maniac, albeit unnecessarily long and done multiple times before in so many other slasher titles, so I find it understandable why some would find this an unimaginative twist to The Shape's own persona.
Still, I find it unfair comparing both versions knowing how much effort was put into this; Rob Zombie's Halloween is a darker, grittier and messier take on a slasher classic and that's that. Michael is back, bigger and more menacing, he's realistically frightening, and out to thin down a town's population, one doomed teenager at a time. His get-up, especially his mask, looks interestingly workable with the chaotic tone of the film with all the cracks, grease and grime. (Although I personally prefer his pumpkin mask over his iconic Shatner mask. Not that the white, expressionless mask is outdated, but that the orange papermache pumpkin mask seems to be more in touch with the Holiday spirit. I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here...) His childhood self though, ironically, was more memorable with all the shock-worthy scenes he had as a grown psycho. I am aware that homicidal children isn't new to the slasher norm, but none of them were as violent as this kid and, with that said, expect blood gushing out like Niagara Falls, brutal beatings and a lot of stabbings, which happens awfully too often, meaning there's not much room for tension-builders. Just odd pacing problems, hence the near-two hour running time.
The count also depends on what version you've seen; the theatrical one had a cop-out escape where Michael kills almost every guard that stood in his way. There's also some other versions out there where some of the cast dies very differently, along with multitudes of alternate endings, all of them giving no clear indication of ever opening a sequel. (Then again, Michael was burnt, beaten repeatedly on the head with a steel pipe, and even once decapitated, and yet here he is again...)
Characters apart from Michael himself could use a little work. Or to be more precise, the script itself. I know this is supposed to be a labor of personal love by the director, but must everyone in his imagination have to be so profane? How this will garnish a crowd is beyond me, but I guess he was doing this for people like us, slasher fans who are out for blood and to see our star killer one last time, doing whatever mayhem that made him so loved. (That, or we could try to have some fun spotting a few familiar faces popping around then and there all through the movie. Keep an eye on cameos like Udo Kier, Bill Moseley and even Clint Howard, again depending on which print you'll see)
Perhaps this was the biggest element that tests our patience and open-mindedness for this entry; Can we disregard everything we knew about Michael Myers, Laurie Strode and every mythology the franchise had made, for a fresh and thematically different start? I have my position. and I grew in fondness for this black sheep, gore and profanity in all, but it's nowhere as great as the original classic, no matter how long of a time it was since that Night He Came Home.
1 male bludgeoned with tree branch
1 male duct taped to a chair and had his throat cut with knife
1 male brained to death with baseball bat
1 female knifed to death
1 female gets a fork to the throat
1 female shot herself in the mouth
1 male had his neck crushed against the wall
1 male had his head beaten against the wall
1 female found with throat cut
1 male found murdered
1 male found murdered
1 male had his head crushed with TV
1 male knifed on the gut
1 male pinned to the wall with a kitchen knife to the chest
1 female strangled
1 male had his eyes slashed with knife
1 female knifed, back broken
1 male knifed to the gut
1 male knifed on the back
1 male knifed to death