This time of year is my absolute favorite; the aesthetic of fall in Wisconsin is one that I simply cannot get enough of. From the golden and red leaves dancing about in the breeze and framing the countryscape, to the cobwebs and jack o’ lanterns that adorns neighborhood houses, autumn is a time of season where I can finally chill out and take out all that life has to offer. Plus, I can bust out all the horror films and not be slandered as a freak. And whenever I’m asked what my favorite horror flick is the answer is always John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher masterpiece: Halloween.
But why Halloween? It’s old, it’s kind of slow, and kind of clichéd. While there may be some truth to that, Halloween always has and always will work far more than it doesn’t. The atmosphere, the characters, and of course the villain are all masterfully written and are what bookmark it as one of the most suspenseful horror films of the 20th century. It spawned a wave of copycats (Friday the 13th, anyone?) and warranted a slew of sequels, each one regressing in quality. So, what do you do when a franchise is dead on its feet? Revamp it with a tight new remake to bring in a new generation of fans.
And sadly these movies are just never as good.
To be fair, hard rocker Rob Zombie did create one of the better horror movie remakes when he took the helm as director/writer for 2007’s Halloween. The movie raked in a pile of cash, got people talking, and got a Zombie made sequel in 2009. However, that doesn’t stop these films from getting a lot of bad press from fans and critics alike. So now that time has passed and the hype is long gone, I feel like it’s time we give Zombie’s Halloween movies a second look and see what works about them and what doesn’t.
The biggest difference between Zombie’s reimagining and Carpenter’s original is that we learn all about the killer’s (Michael Myers) origin. We see his home and school life and his eventual detainment in a sanitarium after his infamous Halloween murder spree. The things that work about this idea is that it gives the movie an opportunity to be its own entity and not totally piggy back off the ideas the original film presented. The scenes in the sanitarium are paced well and can be thoroughly disturbing and heart wrenching. However, the concept of Michael’s origin is thoroughly uninteresting. Just make our killer grow up in a broken household and have him bullied and school and, BAM. Serial killer. It’s not new and it’s not creative.
What works the most about Zombie’s Halloween is the drastic style change. It is a completely different vision that lets you know it isn’t a carbon copy of Carpenter’s original, with frantic editing and horrific violence. It’s in no way as subtle or effective as the original, with its crass language, graphic nudity, and gratuitous bloodshed, but that’s what makes it an entertaining movie in its own right. Inject it with a superb performance by veteran actor Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) and revitalize it with modern believable teenaged girls, and you have a surprisingly solid modern slasher flick. It’s definitely worth giving a second chance.
Too bad Zombie had to go and ruin it with Halloween II.
The only positive thing I can really say about the film is that the atmosphere and vision still makes me feel like I’m in the smalltown autumn chill. The party and dream sequences make it feel like Halloween. However, the aesthetic is so lifeless. The color in most scenes are so desaturated that everything just feels grey and boring. How fun is it to watch a color movie when the colors are flat?
Where Halloween 2007 took some creative writing choices, Halloween II has some interesting ideas that inevitably fall flat on their ass. The film is injected with convoluted elements of the supernatural and leaves me with that feeling that some of the ideas are screaming to be put into a better movie. Adding in characters that are so utterly unlikable it leaves us rooting for virtually no one, a senselessly brutal Michael Myers, a plot with more holes than Swiss cheese, and two endings (theatrical and director’s cut) that are so mind blowingly inane, and you have all the makings of a bad horror movie sequel/remake. It is very rare when I can find something absolutely devoid of redeeming qualities, but Zombie’s Halloween II comes dangerously close.
So, is Rob Zombie’s Halloween series worth another shot? Well, I would say his first entry is at least, as it has enough creative energy and new ideas to make it an entertaining feature. But you don’t have to take my word for it, as Rob Zombie fans herald Halloween 2007 as a masterpiece, and treat Halloween II with even more respect. While I find that concept hard to grasp, I say more power to those people because they’ve experienced what Zombie intended those films to be: scary little tricks you can treat yourself to during this wonderful season.
(Title image via).