Reviewed by: Sara Bickley
|Featuring||Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Daeg Faerch, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Danielle Harris, Kristina Klebe, Udo Kier, Danny Trejo, Lew Temple, Skyler Gisondo, Jenny Gregg Stewart, Hanna R. Hall, Dee Wallace-Stone, Max Van Ville, Pat Skipper, Ken Foree|
|Director||Rob Zombie (‘The Devil’s Rejects,’ ‘House of 1000 Corpses’) / Screenwriters: Rob Zombie, John Carpenter, Debra Hill|
|Producer||Malek Akkad, Wilson Thomas Brown, John Carpenter, Andy Gould, Andrew G. La Marca, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Rob Zombie|
|Distributor||Dimension Films, MGM Distribution Company|
“Halloween” opens with a shot of ten-year-old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) in a clown mask, petting a rat named Elvis. “Pretty Elvis,” he says. A few minutes later, we see him in the bathroom, scrubbing blood off his hands. He comes downstairs and flatly tells his family that the rat has died.
The whole movie’s like that: numbed by its own horrors.
The first half details the events of one Halloween in the mid-nineties. It is a microcosm of Michael’s childhood. Over the course of the day, he is threatened and insulted by his vulgar stepfather, ignored by his promiscuous older sister, and bullied (the word almost seems too mild) by his foul-mouthed schoolmates. (This is a powerful portrayal of the kind of sick social milieu that can so easily destroy a child—but it is a mere portrayal, never quite rising to the level of condemnation.)
The only bright spots in Michael’s life are his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie)—who, despite her immoral lifestyle (she works as a stripper and, it is implied, a prostitute) and bad taste in men, genuinely loves him and tries to be a good mother—and his baby sister “Boo.”
The negative influences far outweigh the positive ones, and little Michael is a seriously disturbed child. When a school administrator discovers pictures of tortured animals in the boy’s backpack, he calls in Dr. Sam Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who urges Michael’s mother to seek psychiatric help for her son. Michael overhears the conversation, and, in some way that is not quite explained, it sets him off. He goes out and beats one of the schoolyard bullies to death. That evening, after trick-or-treating, he kills most of his family in gruesome ways.
Michael is convicted of the crimes and placed in Dr. Loomis’s care. For a while he seems to be recovering, but then, disturbed by looking at an old snapshot of himself and Boo, he commits another murder.
This sequence of events deserves the lengthy description I have given it. It is dramatic and fascinating, with hints at real psychological insight, and contains a few scenes capable of touching the emotions. Not so the rest of the film, a perfunctory rehash of the events of John Carpenter’s 1978 original: adult Michael (former wrestler Tyler Mane) escapes from an insane asylum and terrorizes his hometown, while Dr. Loomis pursues him. This mad-slasher Michael has little in common with the tragic child of the first half; perhaps we are meant to see that he has become dehumanized, but the abrupt transition feels false.
Even before the killings begin, there’s plenty of objectionable content. Obscene language permeates the film: the F-bombs are so numerous they might better be characterized as F-shrapnel, and explicit sexual descriptions are placed in the mouths of children. A pole-dancing scene, a fairly graphic sex scene, and flashes of nudity in the first half prefigure even heavier sexual content in the second. The violence is so bloody, brutal and pervasive that it does not bear description.
The most disturbing aspect of “Halloween,” though, is that it seems calculated to show humanity at its worst. The only consistently sympathetic characters are Mrs. Myers and Dr. Loomis, and both prove ineffectual. Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), the purported heroine of the second half, has nothing in common with Jamie Lee Curtis’s resourceful innocent in the original film. She is shallow and uninteresting, and survives through a combination of luck and unappealing brutality. Near the end, her bloodied, swollen face bears a vague resemblance to Michael’s white mask; I’m sure this was intentional.
The 1978 film ended on a note of chilling menace, but there was hope, too: the “good guys” had survived, had at least temporarily defeated the evil, and hadn’t destroyed themselves in the process. The new version has a more final ending, but still lacks a sense of closure; it is despairing and bleak, a visual wail.
The film is very well-done visually, with good compositions (albeit many of them centered on corpses) and a wise use of color. The fast cutting in the second half works on a visceral level, though it cheats the story. The music, integrating John Carpenter’s original theme with new compositions by Tyler Bates, effectively keeps the mood. Aside from a wildly inconsistent performance by Taylor-Compton, the acting is competent; Sheri Moon Zombie, in particular, shines. Yet all this polish and talent seems wasted on a flawed story with a dramatic message devoid of redemption, peace and hope.
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme