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Addressing the Geek Nation......
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Rob Zombie's Halloween (2007)

"Inside every one us, there exists a dark side. Most people rise above it, but some are consumed by it. Until there is nothing left, but pure evil." - Dr. Sam Loomis

Halloween movie poster

Sometimes, I get asked what my favourite horror movie of all time is. Oddly, since he early eighties that answer has never changed. Over the years, I’ve seen hundreds, literally. I have a DVD collection that spans close to 2500 titles. But the greatest horror movie ever?

Nothing I’ve seen to date ever came close to John Carpenter’s Halloween, which I first saw on TV in 1982. That’s everything a horror movie should be. It’s the epitome of the slasher movie genre. I love the Elm Street movies, I’m a huge fan of Friday the 13th - to the point of having a prop replica hockey mask mounted on my study wall, just above and behind me as I write... But Halloween caught me just right that February night it premiered on ITV here in the UK.

My regular viewings of the movie since then have done nothing but enhance my sheer fan delight in the movie - and upcoming, I have a look at the entire Halloween franchise scheduled. That’ll be here soon.

But a few years ago, I got some news that both got my heart beating a little bit faster, and kind of depressed me a bit. Halloween was going to be remade. Now, my belief is that if a film was made "right" the first time around, there’s no need for a remake. Remakes tend, by and large to be lesser in most respects than the originals, which have withstood the test of time and found a special place in our hearts. The originals fit just right, like a favourite pair of faded well worn jeans you’ve had for years - even if they are a bit frayed.

But the good news was that the remake was being handled by Rob Zombie. He of the House of 1000 Corpses it’s follow up The Devil’s Rejects and several hard core albums which I habitually play on a loop in the car. The thing about Zombie is that he has always come across as a film director and rock star second, firm fan of the genre first and foremost. Could there be a better qualified person to handle this?

But before the camera even shot a single frame, of course there was the ever present PR work to be done. I wasn’t the only one with mixed feelings about a remake of Halloween. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the highlights of my writing career was the opportunity to have a long chat with Zombie about his music and his movies. This is what he had to say about the fan reaction to the remake announcement:

RP: So, after reaching a huge level of success with "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil’s Rejects", what made you go the route of a remake for your third feature ? Particularly when you’d worked with original scripts which you’d written yourself.

RZ: It wasn’t the first thing I did. After "Rejects", I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a movie in mind, necessarily. A couple of other projects kind of came and went that I worked on for a little while and then just didn’t pan out to be what I wanted them to be.

The problem is, it’s really hard to get movies made at any level. Even big directors that have huge successes, they always have projects that they struggle to get made. "Halloween" was just one of those meetings that I took with Bob Weinstein.

You get these calls all the time about "having meetings" with people. You’re never even sure why you’re having them but you figure well, eventually one of these meetings has to lead to something. And at that point, I wanted to work with somebody different because I thought that truthfully as much as I loved the people I had made "Rejects" with at Lionsgate, I really thought that when it came to releasing the movie, they really fucked it up.

I was pretty bummed. The marketing department wanted to market it as though it was a "Saw" type movie - and it just wasn’t. Now, years later, people are always coming up to me saying "Oh my God, I loved that movie. I didn’t go and see it because I thought it was something else. Like...great (laughs)

I knew that was going to happen and that’s exactly what happened.

Even since, Lionsgate has apologised, saying "we fucked that movie up so bad". So I was looking to go somewhere else to do a movie and when I met with Bob Weinstein from Dimension, he started talking about "Halloween" and at first it didn’t interest me in the least. And then I kind of thought about it for a while, for a month or so, and then I started getting interested in the idea of it. And since they were letting me basically do whatever I wanted, that’s what sold it and sealed the deal.

RP: In any way they you can consider, it was a calculated risk for you because it’s such a treasured picture for horror fans. The film was slated by fans on internet message boards before you shot even a scene. Did that affect you in any way ? Did it piss you off ?

RZ: I basically just ignored all of it because it was all pretty meaningless. I mean everyone has an opinion, but when you have an opinion based on something you haven’t seen, you sort of DON’T have an opinion. It sort of becomes meaningless.

RP: Do you remember that "Dirty Harry" line from "Sudden Impact" ? "Opinions are like assholes - everybody has one".

RZ: Yeah - that’s very true. And it’s even worse when someone’s asshole has an opinion of something they’ve never seen (laughs).

At first, I would respond to things because there was always a million rumours and then I just got fed up with it because I realised it was just ridiculous. And then - I just didn’t care and I don’t care. If that movie did anything for me at that point, it made me never care again what anyone thinks about anything (laughs). It gets beyond meaningless in its ridiculousness.

RP: And the naysayers will eventually fall by the wayside

RZ: Well the problem is, the naysayers are weird. The movie comes out and it’s....huge. And so they meant nothing (laughs). And then the dvd comes out over here and that’s huge too, so I’m like "well for a movie that everybody’s been slagging, they sure do want a piece of it.

So, there we are - words from Mr.Zombie himself. So, having withstood the negativity and made the movie, from my point of view as a fan, what’s the verdict?

Basically, it’s a very different movie from the original, despite tackling the same story. In Zombie’s version, we have the first quarter of the film showing Michale Myers as a child, living with a family who are, by any measure, a wretched bunch of miscreants. Abusive, loud, abrasive - it really is no wonder that Myers turned out to be the psycho serial killer he eventually became. He’s abused and bullied at school, he’s verbally abused and bullied at home by a lazy slob of a stepfather and his slut of an older sister. His only real allies are his baby sister and his mother (played by Sheri Moon Zombie.)

The main criticism of the film on its release was that all this exposition slowed the story down and made the audience feel sympathy for Myers. Well, in my opinion, it humanises him, but doesn’t weaken him. When he breaks out of the asylum killing the only guard who treated him decently (Danny Trejo) it actually has more of an impact, showing how emotionally shut down he has become during the years he’s spent there after killing his older sister and stepfather. Another benefit of this extra 25 minutes or so to the story is that more than anything, it showcases Sheri Moon Zombie’s talents as an actress. She’s a lady in her thirties, hopelessly beaten down by life, an unsuitable partner, callous, selfish children and in her only job as a lapdancer she’s the only earner and has to support the family.

This is a complete turnaround from her role as Baby, the carefree, flirtatious and giggly sadist of House of 1000 Corpses. Here, she’s a housewife stuck in a drudge of a rut that she knows she’ll never escape. (Well, not until young Michael snaps on Halloween and kills her partner and daughter, kind of liberating her in one way, but consigning her to a life of visiting her son in the asylum in another. Eventually, she succumbs to suicide and that also compounds her helplessness.)

So, as soon as adult Myers escapes the asylum, the film pretty much follows the same path as the original, with Malcolm McDowell in the role previously played by Donald Pleasance. Three baby sitters are targeted by Myers in his home town of Haddonfield on the night of Halloween. Naturally, the baby sitters are, by and large horny nymphomaniacs and the first rule of the slasher movie is strictly adhered to - screw and die, with only the "good" girl left alive at the end.

There are plenty of interesting cult horror movie cameos and casting choices here, with Dee Wallace, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Udo Keir, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris and Ken Foree to keep an eye out for. Also, thankfully, the film makes just enough occasional use of Carpenter’s original and iconic Halloween theme to send a shiver of recognition down the spine at just the right time.

Given a choice - personally, I prefer the original, but that’s not surprising. But this film doesn’t annoy me - I can enjoy this one as well, without it detracting from the original. My only criticism of Zombie’s version is that the final chase seems a bit too damn long, and at one point, actually seems to be rooted firmly in Roadrunner and Wyle E.Coyote mode. You can check it out yourself by clicking on this link to Amazon.

Next time - I’m back with a look at the original Halloween and all it’s sequels.


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