Monday, September 03, 2007
First of all, I can't say that I agree with the ire that this movie is apparently meeting among some of the online horror community. Obviously, people don't like their cherished icons messed with, and I can sympathize with this to a certain degree - from the sounds of things, J.J. Abrams's version of Star Trek is going to be D.O.A. as far as I'm concerned. But in a lot of ways, I think Rob Zombie is attempting to do exactly the right thing as far as Michael Myers is concerned. Attempting, mind you.
The major difference between John Carpenter's original film and this one is the focus. Carpenter's primary interest was in the character of Laurie Strode, a normal small-town girl who faces off with the physical embodiment of the Boogeyman one night. In this movie and all the rest, Michael Myers isn't a person, he's an unstoppable killing machine, the archetype of the slasher before Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger. Yes, Michael came after Black Christmas and Leatherface, but Carpenter perfected the icon - faceless, unemotional, relentless, all to the point of being essentially supernatural in his unstoppability.
Rob Zombie, meanwhile, is more interested in treating Michael Myers as a character, a real person, and to a certain extent in deconstructing the mythos of the unstoppable slasher. Somebody - I think it was Stephen King in Danse Macabre - wrote that as scary as Halloween's murders are, the scariest thing for him in the movie was the moment at the end where Laurie manages to peel off Michael's William Shatner mask for a second to reveal the slack, vacant, psychotic farmboy face underneath, before he pulls it back on again. Zombie's movie is an attempt to spread out that one moment into the entire first act of his movie, which is why we spend the first act getting to know a young pudgy kid with dirty blonde hair who wears a KISS t-shirt and gets bullied and lives in squalor. The first third of this movie is Rob Zombie at his best, bringing us close to this kid and the world he lives in and daring us to sympathize with him once he starts killing people.
The major flaw of the movie is that Zombie's interest in Michael's psychology all but disappears after the first act, from which point the movie becomes a condensed rehash of the original 1978 movie, almost point-for-point. I wish Zombie had stuck with what he was doing, but instead Michael reverts into form as a big, bad boogeyman. And since the film has less time to work with, we barely spend enough time with Laurie Strode to really get to know her, so that the final act of the movie becomes a battle between two characters we only halfway care about.
So on that level, the movie's something of a disappointment. Fortunately I still enjoyed it, because even if it's not rich in characterization, Zombie still delivers in a lot of ways. I love the textures of his movies; they tend to take place in a hyper-real universe of supreme white trashiness. Zombie is basically the cinematic heir to John Waters in this department, but with a more enveloping sense of place and detail and mood. I don't know any other director who can do as good of a job directing a scene of a lower-middle-class family arguing over a breakfast table about how much they all hate each other. The new version of Dr. Loomis, played by Malcolm McDowell, is also wonderfully sleazy, a hipster exploitationist more interested in celebrity than in saving the world from a serial killer.
On the whole a mixed bag but thumbs up. I'm curious now to revisit the scripts that have apparently been floating around or the older cuts to see how the Weinsteins altered this movie after they greenlit it (apparently producers not really understanding what they're doing at the greenlight stage is the cause of 95% of the problems in the editing room, as I'm currently learning).