Thursday, March 5, 2009

5 Ways Rob Zombie Completely Missed The Point in Halloween

As a horror buff I've heard the debate/complaints of a great many horror fans in response to remakes. I, myself, have chimed in and although I have a differing view than most, in the end we agree that the remaking of horror films is completely out of hand. Films that are in no way dated, and in fact do well to stand the test of time, are being repackaged in a lame attempt to reap blood from a stone. That being said, it's working, and there appears to be no end coming.

That being said, there are, occasionally, good remakes. Filmmakers that have a love for the original film, and want to retell the tale with updated techniques for a new age can hit the spot and put out a nice piece of work. A few that always comes to mind are John Carpenter's The Thing, as well as Cronenberg's retelling of The Fly.

When most people heard that Rob Zombie had been given full control over re-imaging (God, I hate that term) of Halloween, and had even been given a blessing from John Carpenter himself, there were a great many people that felt that another good remake could be on the horizon. Oh, how wrong we were.

Here are just five of the ways that Zombie totally blew the mission when it comes to Halloween.

5. The Cameos
This one wasn't really something that should have been taken away from the original film. I mean, sure, there were no cameos in that movie, but still, having a few cameos shouldn't have hurt Zombie's version. That being said, the man went completely mad with involving the oddest cameos in his film, to the point where I wonder if there were even extras on the set.

Here's a quick list of the cameos that appeared in the film: Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, Leslie Easterbrook, Danny Trejo, Brad Dourif, Clint Howard, Udo Kier, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Sybil Danning, Micky Dolenz and Sig Haig. Hell, you could even argue that Sheri Moon Zombie and William Forsythe were cameos, due to the amount of time they were on screen and the fact that Zombie casts these people in every one of his films.

Most people would think that this is just a cast. The thing is, these people are often associated with horror films, and were brought in for the tiniest scenes. I think some weren't even in the theatrical cut, and Udo Kier only appeared for a brief moment that I can remember when I saw this film in theatre.

All we'd need are Tony Todd and Robert Englund and that really would've rounded out this cast nicely.

4. The Writing
I can't understand it, but Rob Zombie has a complete and utter fascination with redneck America. The man has three films to his credit right now. House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects being his first two, and being directly connected, I think a lot of people just thought it was a style that he brought to those two films. One is an odd horror film, dripping with tones of Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the other a very good movie that harkens back to the exploitation era of the late 70s, early 80s. When Zombie was finally revealed as the director of Halloween, I don't think anyone foresaw that dirty, redneck America was his schtick.

That being said, my dear God, what is wrong with this man? Halloween was a tale of an unknown monster. Something born from nothing, that attacked suburban, middle America. That was the point. Even in your nice houses, with all the creature comforts, there was nothing to protect you from this.

Instead, Zombie treats us to this filthy yokel family, that verbally and physically abuse a young boy, until he takes refuge in hurting small animals. I'll go more into this later, but what I'm getting at is that this can't be a person's thing. This style of film just can't be a style of film-making, can it? There are people out there that rave about Zombie's style of film and think anything he does is gold, but my God. If I wanted to see this sort of thing, I'd just go watch Cops.

3. The Music
As stark and well made as Halloween was, on a shoe-string budget that would shock most people, one of the things that made it as iconic as it was, was the score, written and composed by the director himself, John Carpenter. Known for his work with synthesizers, Carpenter sat down and made a simple progression, based on a drum beat he'd heard, and formed one of the most memorable theme songs to any film in the last 30 years.

Zombie gave us Nazareth and BTO.

He completely dropped the ball on this one. I mean, seriously. Love Hurts? I remember when that played in the film I thought, "Did that just happen?"

He continued to fill the film with the likes of Kiss and Rush, rounding out this whole fascination he as with those 70s rednecks. That isn't to say that the iconic theme Carpenter derived all those years ago didn't make an appearance. Composed by Tyler Bates, Zombie's version of the song played in the movie a few times. The first time, however, was when a young Michael (Daeg Faerch) is running away from his school, after being beat up by a bully.

What was he thinking!?

2. The Atmosphere
All of these things, one in particular that I'm saving for last, came together to completely ruin the feel of this film. Go watch Carpenter's Halloween; The Halloween. The combination of his creepy synths, a crisp, simple suburban backdrop, and all the old horror tricks of the trade, come together to make a film that you feel as much as you watch. The film is virtually bloodless, but damned scary.

You don't even have to have Michael on screen to have an eery feeling. Hell, there are even situations that in context are completely silly, but you watch in rapt attention. I mean, Michael driving around in a station wagon, stalking Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis - who beat the hell out of Scout Taylor Compton, I might add) should cause a slight chuckle. But I'll be damned if you ever laughed at that film.

Maybe it was just the time and the place. Maybe it was the combination of all these great things, infused into Carpenter's simple little film. Whatever it was, Zombie completely missed the boat, and here's the main reason why.

1. The Shape
Rob Zombie took The Shape out of Halloween.

If you don't know what I'm referring to, go to IMDb or grab your DVD/VHS copy of Halloween, and check the credits. Although Michael Myers is a character in the film, you will also see that "The Shape" is also a credited character.

Why? Carpenter realized that the dark monster he'd created (with writing partner, Debra Hill) was in itself, it's own entity. By making a killer that had no real reason for doing what he did; no defining psychological indications that could pinpoint exactly why he made, possibly, the perfect horror film icon.

We don't need to know why Michael Myers kills. The scariest part is not understanding him, not knowing what motivates his actions. He's like a shark, and for whatever reason, he's decided to wipe his family off the face of the earth.

The tried this sort of thing with the "Thorn" story line, created for Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, which was retcon that involved gaelic mysticism as an explanation for Michael's unstoppable ways. I enjoyed that a hell of a lot more than Zombie's take.

He explained too much. He essentially boiled Michael down to an everyday serial killer, created by his environment, and following the exact pattern that we see on A&E everyday. He made him a Dahmer or a Bundy, but far less interesting. He made him a tubby kid, with long blonde hair, that enjoyed killing animals and listening to Kiss. That was the single greatest downfall to this film.

Sure, he couldn't write teenage girls to save his life, and yeah he filled the film with tons of redundant horror film actors; he messed up the music and he took the edge off the film, but no matter what, he should never have tried to explain Michael Myers. That's not the point. What's worse, is that this is exactly what he wanted to do from moment one.

The film has two distinct parts. The background and a remake of Halloween. What's sad is that, even though this was the worst thing Zombie could have done, the first part is the better piece of film. The remake of Halloween is just annoying. The girls are all a bunch of sluts, twice removed from the white trash that Zombie loves so much, and his explanation of Michael in the previous piece leaves nothing to be desired in the film's climax.

In the end it all doesn't matter. As I've said many times before, we still have a Halloween. John Carpenter made it many moons ago, and it is just as well received now as it was then. You can always go back to it. It's not like all the copies were rounded up and burned upon Zombie's film's release. The only downside is that films like Halloween:H20 will, more than likely, never be seen again. The truth, however, is that H20 may have been a shot in the dark. The other sequels in this franchise were waning, and there really wasn't a future. It's unfortunate that young people everywhere are being subjected to Zombie's version, though, and not seeing the original film. They might grow up to think that Zombie's film is The Halloween, and they'll, also, have completely missed the point.


Cole D'Arc said...

this is a list you simply beat me to in writing. that said (haha), i probably couldn't have done a better job. but mine would have been angrier. the main problem with Zombie's Halloween (oh, how i cringe just typing that) is that he took out all the mystery, as you pontificated on. i'll just add one part of this you missed in regards to The Shape - he chose to make Michael a goddamn GIANT in some attempt to explain why he's physically imposing as well as psychologically so. wasn't it so much better when Michael was just of an average size and his strength, endurance and resistance to pain had no obvious source? rhetorical question, of course.

RyHo said...

Yeah, that's something I've mentioned in the past, but I didn't think to bring it up here. You're right on all counts, though. He made him into a giant monster.

The man needs to be stopped. H2 looks to be a cluster-fuck as well.

Shane said...

I'm not a huge fan of the original Halloween, but I like it, and I can recognize it for it's merits. A simplistic, but incredibly eerie film that is all the scarier because you're not shown everything.

Sounds like Zombie explained the scary away.

After House of 1000 Corpses, I told myself I wouldn't watch another Rob Zombie flick. But curiosity has gotten the better of me and I intend to see this debacle for myself.

Shane said...

Okay, saw the film a few days ago and ... you're pretty much dead on with everything.

Not ten minutes into the movie and I hated everyone. What a god awful family. I know that's the point, but it's no fun to watch at all.

Also, the first time we hear the Halloween theme in the movie, it's a slap in the face to anyone who loves horror films.

Well, actually the whole movie is.

Cole D'Arc said...