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Halloween

Halloween, 2007
IMDB Details Halloween (Rob Zombie)


Having been a child of the 70’s and a hopeless fan of horror films of the age, I was actually finally angry at Hollywood’s insistence on raiding their stock of old films to ‘update’, ‘modernize’ etc when I heard that John Carpenter’s brilliantly frightening Halloween was next on the chopping block. To add insult to that particular injury was the announcement that Rob Zombie would be taking the helm to steer the story of Michael Myers into whatever direction he thought it should take. I had immediate visions of his schlocky music videos and the general presentation of his work and felt my stomach sinking. To be fair, I like schlock and I like Zombie, but the pairing of Zombie and Halloween left me feeling a bit hesitant. Don’t get me wrong, Zombie is a capable director, in my opinion, for the right kind of film. In particular, The Devil’s Rejects, I felt, worked on a variety of levels and parts of it were so raw that even I found them difficult to watch (which is a good thing). The question at hand was whether or not this all out assault style of Zombie’s would really work on a subtler and more atmospheric film such as the original Halloween.

Up until Halloween 9 (Zombie’s film) the canon of the Michael Myers story line had followed a crooked path from his simply being evil for no reason to his being evil because of early involvement in the cult of Thorn which was an ancient druidic cult that gave him superhuman powers. Zombie, thankfully, chose to ignore canon beyond the first original film and shift the focus to Michael as the main character versus Laurie Strode as the main character. The biggest gap in the story line for fans of the original Halloween involved the character of Michael and what exactly caused him to become evil. American audiences in particular like to have resolution surrounding plot and outcome so I fear that many people dismissed the cinematic magic of the first film because it felt ‘silly’ that Michael was able to recover so quickly and continue with no explanation as to how he could do that.

Zombie’s choices, then, in remaking the film were multitude. He could have followed canon and gone off in any one of fifty directions but he chose to humanize Michael and to give him some human weaknesses that are common to us all. I particularly liked this approach though I did have a few issues with specifics which I’ll discuss later.

Halloween 2007 starts out by giving us some insight into the daily life of young Michael Myers who is played beautifully by Daeg Faerch. In sum, it’s a representative laundry list of things that are widely known to cause the onset of psychologically troubled behavior in pre-pubescent boys. To start, Michael is the product of a broken home. His father is dead and in place of him he has a physically and mentally abusive step father, played by William Forsythe, who seems to seize every available opportunity to belittle every member of the family (including the baby). In the opening scenes we see that there is very little peace in the home as family members argue, shout and generally cause mayhem as they get ready for their days. We learn that Michael Myers’ mother, Deborah, is a stripper and that his older sister, Judith is the town slut. All of this sexual energy, coupled with the violence of the step father makes for a potent cocktail for young Michael to imbibe on a daily basis. His anger shows very early on as he dismantles his pet rat with a pocket knife while suggesting to his mother that it had simply died on its own.

As the story progresses we learn that Michael’s issues are already known to the staff of his school that readily make matters worse by constantly summoning his mother to the office to discuss disciplinary problems. We also learn that Michael has trouble with bullies and resolves that trouble in what I feel is the most powerful scene in the film. In fact, I think that the beating of the bully is one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror film. The shot was brilliantly orchestrated and we get to witness first hand Michael changing from monster to little boy and back to monster in the span of a few minutes. I was stunned for quite some after watching that scene in the theater and when I purchased the DVD I re-watched the scene several times. The orange hues, the falling leaves and the overall lighting are truly beautiful. In the beginning of the scene we see Michael symbolically emerge from the shadows to deliver his first blow. At about the midpoint of his attack he pauses and the camera frames him with the sun behind him. He removes the mask he’s wearing and he looks almost angelic and thoughtful under the blue sky with the sun serving as a halo just above his head. I have no doubt that Daeg Faerch will one day be critically acclaimed as I believe that even at his age he understands the subtleties of facial expressions and their importance in the credibility of a performance. From angelic to frightening a shadow passes over Michael’s face whereupon he replaces the mask and resumes his dark deed. The resultant effect is that the viewer is left in a state of empathic horror because we can understand the desire to punish those who hurt us but what Michael does in this scene is the stuff that true horror fans dream of.

Moving forward into the story, we see more evidence of debauchery that only serves to twist Michael’s already fragile state of mind. We begin to see a pattern in how Michael behaves with the mask on and with it off and in my opinion this was also a brilliant treatment of the material on Zombie’s part. Michael becomes increasingly aggressive to the point that he loses himself while wearing his mask. Seemingly, the only immune parties are Michael’s mother who is good to him and his little sister, Laurie, who is an infant in the beginning of the film and becomes a major
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player later as fans of the original already know. It’s interesting to note that Michael did appear to love his pets very much but does not restrain himself from killing them. He is able to restrain himself, at first, from killing people that he loves though. Later on in the film he does kill someone who is good to him but who is not a blood relative. I did find myself wondering if this was intentional but, I digress.

At this point, Michael is briefly back to angelic, endures some more punishment at the hands of his malcontented step father and slips the mask on for yet another truly chilling sequence. At one point, Michael is eating candy and playing innocently in the kitchen. With almost no warning or indication he suddenly dons the mask, retrieves a butcher knife and sets out to dispatch his family. I won’t spoil the details but I do have to say that the combination of the weird disjointed noises in the soundtrack (which were masterfully done), the sheer violence and the strange high pitched grunting noises from the strain of effort that young Michael puts forth in his tasks are absolutely blood curdling. I can’t praise Daeg Faerch enough for his portrayal of young Michael Myers in this film. Some of the material that he had to work with was cumbersome and over the top but this kid was masterful in his own right. He was absolutely the best choice for the role.

In one other mask scene Michael has just committed yet another heinous deed while wearing a mask. At this point he is in custody and serving a life sentence in a sanitarium, though still a child. The result of this deed leaves a nurse dead and his mother who was exiting the building bounding back to see what the commotion was about. As she arrives and sees the carnage she turns to Michael and in a mass of noise and confusion pulls off his mask. As soon as she does this a snarling and feral Michael launches himself at her,
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teeth bared, reminiscent of a horrifying jack-in-the-box. To me this little vignette was almost as powerful as the bully scene thanks, in no small part, to Sherri Moon Zombie’s performance as Deborah Myers. The look of horror and fear on her face completely sells the scene and for the third time in the film I found myself genuinely frightened by a ten year old boy.

From this point, about midway through the film, things begin to take a sharp downturn. Time passes, Michael grows up, and skipping by his teen years we find Michael as an adult. An absolutely ridiculous turn of events frees Michael from his bonds and sets him back on the path to Haddonfield with no clear motive in mind. It’s Halloween, Michael returns home, many, many people find themselves at the wrong end of a butcher knife and the result is basically a non cohesive mess.

The only redeeming factor of the second half of the film is Tyler Mane’s performance as Michael. I know you’re thinking, as I was, how hard can the part be? The guy is in a mask and he stalks around killing people. I think Tyler was actually pretty excited to play the part and his actions on camera reflected that in a somewhat different Michael Myers than we’re used to. Mane is an actor and has had some real time in front of the camera versus the guys who played Michael in the originals who were all stuntmen between jobs. Tyler Mane’s Michael was very menacing in body language and in the way that he moved while in pursuit of a victim. His sheer size, all 6’-9” of him exploding violently
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and quickly was very unsettling to watch. In the original the Michael character moved very slowly, so much so that I remember laughing about it and saying that the victim would have time to call a cab to get out of harm’s way. Not so in this release. Michael Myers as an adult was genuinely frightening again and to the benefit of all, was sans supernatural healing ability.

For all of his effort to explain the story of Michael Myers I think Zombie fell short in a few aspects. For me, personally, the trite pre-packaged serial killer upbringing complete with 24 ‘F’ bombs per sentence failed to explain away evil of this magnitude which I think it really was trying to do. If I had my way, I’d have had Michael hail from a Leave it to Beaver idyllic upbringing because it’s much scarier for us humans to believe that evil can stem from within us even when there’s absolutely nothing external to blame. Also, Zombie never explains in his script precisely how Michael finds out who his sister is. When he returns to Haddonfield he goes back to his old house and is soon visited by his sister (unbeknownst to her) who slides some mail into the mail slot. Michael picks up the mail and smells the envelope and I think Zombie’s intent was to suggest that he recognized her scent from the envelope. If this is the case, it’s dumb. That’s all I have to say about it, it’s just dumb. Also, on the never explained list is precisely why Michael wants to contact his sister. In the film it’s hinted at that he wants a reunion but to what end we never know. All of that said I did like the ending which basically left the viewer wondering whether Michael’s little sister was as crazy as he was.

Quite the wordy review, yes? I apologize for that. I am a hopelessly enamored horror fan and have always loved a good scare. All in all Halloween Rob Zombie style was pretty decent fare considering the current state of the genre. As I said, there were some brilliant performances particularly by Daeg Faerch, Sherri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane and so far I’ve neglected to mention Malcolm McDowell’s portrayal of Dr. Sam Loomis. The role did nothing to showcase McDowell’s talents but he did turn in a solid performance as one would expect.

If you’re a horror fan you’ve probably seen the film and can relate to what I’ve said here. If you haven’t seen it I think you should consider it as it’s probably better than you think it is and serves as a tame but better introduction to Zombie’s style than his own films which are decidedly and intentionally over the top.