Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rob Zombie's Halloween

Left the house with every intention of going to Death Sentence, as suggested. I remain quite curious about it, and think you and the rest of the moviegoing public should be too.

Unfortunately, arrived late. Ended up succumbing to my baser instincts and seeing Rob Zombie's Halloween. Partly inspired, I suppose, by the wide variance in opinion out there.

Well, it's not good.

Mind you, it's not as horrible as some suggest, but it's not good.

My opinion is that making this a literal remake at all was a huge mistake. This movie stumbles the hardest when it tries to revisit the events of John Carpenter's Halloween. It would have been more controversial on the surface, but would have had more potential to stand the test of time, such as The Thing, if Zombie had simply told the origin of Michael Myers in a way that did not lead to familiar events.

A decent part of this is that after both House of 1000 Corpses and now this, it's quite clear that Rob Zombie is not the least bit interested in teenagers, at least as characters. This certainly isn't a bad thing. Far too much of what passes for horror these days focuses on teenagers... not to encourage too much harsh criticism of this, since Lakeside does as well.

As it goes, Kristina Klebe is stuck doing a rather pitiful imitation of P.J. Soles, while the others seem to have no character at all. Frankly, I submit that the perkier and more charismatic Danielle Harris would probably have worked better in that role.

But frankly, none of them, not even Laurie Strode, the central character of the original, is allowed to have anything like a character or personality. Zombie has said in interviews that he put a lot of effort into giving the actresses the freedom to create a basic realism in their characters. Unfortunately falling for the delusion of the age that Realistic = Good. Face it, Bugs Bunny is one of the best characters in the history of cinema and less than 24 hours later, I've already forgotten most of what the three girls in this movie did or said.

Mind you, I suspect Debra Hill is a key player in the unique voices of the teenage girls in the original, but regardless of how true that is, it's clear that Carpenter got their voices and allowed them to resonate in the movie. Zombie is unable to follow suit.

But ultimately, he's let himself loose to far in making a movie that feels entirely different from the original, while still tying himself to very specific characters, events and lines of dialogue.

The great Malcolm McDowell, for example, has been widely criticized for his performance, but I think the problem is much more a screenplay that creates an entirely new character, a looser, more modern character than the one Donald Pleasence played in the original, but then expects him to be able to sound credible when reading the stiff, old world lines we all expect.

With The Devil's Rejects, Zombie showed that he had potential as an original artist, after the amusing genre pastiche of House of 1000 Corpses, but this is a step backward. A remake that has no interest in repeating the beats of the original, but feeling too constrained by them to break loose and create something wholly new... or entirely interesting.


Jeremy Richey said...

Hey Neil,
I have been debating on posting my thoughts on Zombie's film or not. You pretty much mirror everything I thought here. I did think the first half (the prequel section) had some interesting scenes, specifically the murders in the house and the hospital sequences but everything fell apart during the remake section.
My biggest gripe with the film is the three girls. It almost felt like they had been forced into the film and they were totally out of place. Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode is one of my favorite film characters and one of the great things Curtis gave to her was intelligence. That was totally missing from this version, as was any soul. With P.J. Soles you had someone with a massive amount of character and heart but all of that is gone here.
One of my favorite things about Zombie is that he does like to work mostly with older actors and I agree I don't think he had any idea what to do with these three girls...
all that said, and yes this is very much a step down from "The Devils Rejects", I don't think this is a horrible piece of work. I have seen some describing it as the worst thing they have ever seen which I think is crazy...The first hour had some really inspired and disturbing moments and the whole thing could have been much worse.
I hope Zombie follows this up with a personal vision though as this is a set back (and I hope he gives Sheri Moon another substantial part because I feel she is getting better and better) and that he doesn't get stuck in a studio work...
thanks for your raections on the film...like I said we had really similar reactions. It was nice to read some honest and straight forward thoughts on it...

by the way, I thought "Death Sentence" was much more succesful and I did post on that one...logically very flawed but I found myself really enjoying it and greatly admired Wan's direction and Bacon's performance...

Becca said...

Hmm...interesting review. I was really interested in seeing this but it seems likes it's being universally panned. I really liked House and Adored Devils Rejects. I even have a bootleg copy of this great script he wrote for a proposed Crow sequel. I really hope he goes back to more original material with his next movie.

Thanks for the review!

Neil Sarver said...

Jeremy, thanks for your reply. I agree that there was a lot of interesting material in the prequel section... or stuff that was potentially interesting and could have fed into something very effective if he'd allowed himself, or his producers had allowed him, to take them where they went naturally rather than to an abridged retelling of the original.

And Death Sentence remains high on my list. I've read several reviews similar to yours. I continue to be interested in Wan as a director with a real future... at least if his movies ever start getting promoted!

Becca, thanks to you as well. As I suggested, I thought House was fun, as what it was. I had a great time at the theater that day, but aside from a single listen to the commentary have not been terribly interested in revisiting it. Devil's Rejects was much better and while I'm left a bit unsatisfied, it certainly seemed the work of someone who had something to say and do creatively. This was definitely the work of the latter moviemaker, struggling against a framework that seemed to work against him.

I've never read that Crow screenplay, but I've heard good things from a number of sources.

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