Wednesday, October 28, 2015

You Can't Kill The Boogeyman

Year: 2007
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Scout Taylor-Compton, Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane
Run Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Steady breathing helped me through Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. During Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, I bit the bullet so hard that I blew off my lower jaw. But if there’s a franchise film waiting for me that is somehow more unendurably agonizing than Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween, I’d rather slit my own throat with a steak knife like Kellan Lutz in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 than put it in my eyes.

I actually tried to approach this one with an open mind, considering that I knew it was inevitable in my marathon and that my opinion may have changed in the six years since I saw this film. Guess what? It didn’t. It makes me physically ill to think about the fact that I own this film, curse my completionist compulsions. Well, might as well get this review over with, so I never have to think about this film ever again.

Let the healing process begin.

Halloween tells the sordid tale of masked murderer Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) and his pursuit of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and her friends Annie (Danielle Harris, who played seven-year-old Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and 5) and Lynda (Kristina Klebe) one fateful Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois. Oh, but first let’s give that faceless cypher of pure evil a backstory – because we saw Halloween but didn’t actually understand it. Could it even be possible that Dr. Loomis didn’t monologue hard enough on that topic?

Cue 45 minutes of pointless shrieking and bloodshed, where young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) deals with his stripper mom, his abusive stepdad, his skanky sister, and school bullies while trying to care for his baby sister Laurie. Yep, of all the things to grab from the Halloween sequels, they picked that little nugget. Why not just throw in Paul Rudd and the Cult of Thorn for good measure? I could accept this meaningless diversion as a new, if unappealing, take on an iconic character except for the fact that, halfway through, the film abruptly slams into a Cliff’s Notes speedthrough of John Carpenter’s Halloween.

Laurie Strode’s greatest hits play out, careening from scene to scene with exact shot matching and dialogue quotations. This crude summation of the source material completely undermines the opening sequence. It’s difficult to imply that your serial killer has a dark backstory when you’re carbon copying a story that requires none at all. The film’s absurd sympathy for its central psychopath utterly obliterates the character of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who is yoked to the psychological damage perspective of the material yet forced to contort into the Donald Pleasance mold of frantic harbinger of doom. It’s an embarrassing mess too keen on paying grubby homage to the original to properly tend to its own machinations.

I guess it’s too much to ask that one of these marathons end on a high note.

To say that this film tarnishes the legacy of the original is to merely scratch the surface of its film-disintegrating flaws. Rob Zombie extends every sequence to a punishing length, attempting to drive his points home via sheer quantity. This is a relatively streamlined slasher tale that takes 110 grueling minutes to tell, all because Zombie can’t throttle his self-indulgent excess. Halloween is a monument to the director’s inflated ego, and I didn’t even watch the extended cut, many scenes of which are actually necessary to understand the chopped-up storyline, but which sours the pot with an unnecessary, ugly rape sequence. Also, it’s not like I’m champing at the bit to spend more time with this flick. It’s sweltering this far up Rob Zombie’s ass.

The experience of watching Halloween is just brutal. Not in a Last House on the Left “show me violence to abhor violence” way, but in a pointlessly mean attempt at shoving the series over the top. Michael’s relentless pounding (he traffics in Costco kills – you might only need one stab or head slam, but you’re gonna get twenty) pushes and pushes until it’s just a dull, monotonous roar that ceases to be unsettling or even recognizable as distinct action. Of course, this is a damn sight preferable to the actual roar of noise that accompanies the film, a ceaseless cacophony of demented shouting, sirens, screaming, screeching, and thumping that will takes twelve Advils and a lifetime of therapy to forget.

It’s – quite literally in some cases – overkill.

Of course, this all plays into Rob Zombie’s deranged redneck aesthetic. In his world, every human being is either a lewd, angry lowlife or a lewd, shrieking harpy. His M.O. seems to be “do exactly the same thing as before, only more vulgar.” We get a wholly arbitrary scene of Michael’s mom stripping, implied incest, a sweatily extended topless sequence of almost every female character (including Danielle Harris, who is definitely not seven years old anymore), and a heaping pile of F-bombs thrown at innocuous scenes – including the “grave is missing” and “get me a beer” sequences, inexplicably. 

Some lines seem to be constructed entirely by spinning  wheel of vulgarities, like the sublimely nonsensical [NSFW “That’s some deep-ass serious faggoty-ass shit.”] Even virginal Laurie is a shrill wretch who likes to joke about molestation and mock her babysittee Tommy Doyal (who is also a little turd, though his screen time is far shorter). They even manage to muck up offscreen sweetheart Ben Traemer. It’s heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, Zombie’s attempt to create a Tobe Hooper-esque atmosphere of cultural depravity merely fosters an environment where the evil of Michael Myers utterly fails to stand out. Among this leering, lecherous bunch, Michael is about as provocative as Mr. Bean. And with Laurie off pretending to bang Annie in front of some third graders, there’s no force of good to root for either. Halloween is completely rudderless.

It’s downright repugnant, but worst of all, it’s graceless. I could handle a nasty flick with dirty intentions, but the thing isn’t even made particularly well at most levels. The script is a bludgeoning tool, slamming the audience with exposition like Laurie telling Tommy, “I’m your babysitter.” The documentary-like shooting style only surfaces when it will most wrench you out of the movie (sometimes obscuring entire scenes behind irrelevant foreground objects). And it has the sheer gall to drag Carpenter’s score into this mess, lifting entire tracks in a futile attempt to polish the turd. 

The film’s wretched devotion to the original even forces the young actresses to use corded phones, which are about as foreign to 2007 as the cotton gin. I don’t know which is worse, the blatant copying or the tactless additions. Every second you watch this movie without turning it off, the devil’s fist grips your soul a little tighter.

They even disembowel “Mr. Sandman” when you least expect it. RIP.

OK, now’s the time where my shriveled heart grows three sizes and I scrape up some reluctant praise. Occasionally, Zombie will compose a shot that doesn’t repel the eye – including my favorite, a frozen-in-time shot of the paramedics arriving at the Myers house. Though of course it is deflated by a finale that sees young Michael turn directly to the camera like he’s Kevin Spacey in House of Cards. And I must admit there’s some pretty decent acting going on. 

Taylor-Compton has enough charisma to garner a modicum of sympathy for her plight (though she isn’t even in the same dimension as Jamie Lee Curtis), Danielle Harris throws herself full tilt into the physicality of her role so well that she earned an unscripted survival for her character, and Malcolm McDowell does what he can to keep the Loomis character from totally splitting in two, and delivers one of the film’s funniest lines with an excellent, off-the-cuff earnestness. Of course, he butchers the iconic Boogeyman line. Though let it be know that I blame absolutely none of the actors for any deficiencies in bringing this putrid, inhuman script to life.

OK, I’m calming down. The one unequivocally good element of the film is Michael Myers’ design and stature. Tyler Mane is a staggering hulk of a man and his sheer size provides intimidation that the scrip can only reach in its wet dreams. Honestly, the scariest thing about the film is that Mane is actually that size in real life. 

I’d hate to have been on his high school basketball team. 

And the mask itself is a pretty slick design, with an edgy decayed look that actually helps me understand what Rob Zombie was attempting to accomplish when he set out on his project. Then there's the rest of the film, which just makes me want to rage vomit. 

So there you have it, Michael Myers has been pulled into the modern age, however unsuccessfully it may be. I’d be celebrating the end of another successful marathon, but of course this puddle of donkey milk was so lucrative, they went ahead and asked Rob Zombie to shoot a sequel.

Scratch what I said. Pure evil is real.

Killer: Michael Myers (Tyler Mane)
Final Girl: Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton)
Best Kill: About five seconds in, the spirit of John Carpenter’s Halloween is eviscerated.
Sign of the Times: Awful remakes were pretty much the cinematic currency of the mid to late 2000’s.
Scariest Moment: Right when it seems to end, you realize there’s 20 minutes left.
Weirdest Moment: Michael performs his first murder in a KISS T-shirt.
Champion Dialogue: “I got a Taco Deluxe Supreme talkin’ back at me, so I’m gonna be a while.”
Body Count: (Before reading this number, remember that high body counts are usually a sign of desperation and that the original Halloween boasts a measly 5) 21, not including 2 bloody attempted murders.
  1. Wesley is beaten to death with a tree branch.
  2. Ronnie gets his throat slit.
  3. Steven is beaten to death with a bat.
  4. Judith is stabbed in the gut and slashed to death.
  5. Nurse has her throat slashed.
  6. Mrs. Myers shoots herself.
  7. Security Guard #1 is smashed with a chain.
  8. Security Guard #2 is smashed with a chain.
  9. Security Guard #3 has his head smashed into a wall.
  10. Security Guard #4 is shot.
  11. Security Guard #5 has her throat slit.
  12. Gloria has her throat slit.
  13. Ismael is downed and has a TV slammed onto his head.
  14. Joe Grizzly is stabbed in the gut.
  15. Bob is pinned to a wall through the chest.
  16. Lynda is strangled.
  17. Mr. Strode is punched in the face with a knife.
  18. Mrs. Strode has her neck snapped.
  19. Paul is stabbed to death.
  20. Cop #1 is stabbed in the back.
  21. Cop #2 is stabbed to death.
TL;DR: Halloween is a vicious, inept film that destroys every last bit of goodwill the franchise had left, which wasn't much to begin with.
Rating: 2/10
Word Count: 1818
Reviews In This Series
Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981)
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Wallace, 1982)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (Little, 1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Othenin-Girard, 1989)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (Chappelle, 1995)
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (Miner, 1998)
Halloween: Resurrection (Rosenthal, 2002)
Halloween (Zombie, 2007)
Halloween II (Zombie, 2009)

3 comments:

  1. Now, don't hold me to this, because I watched it eight years ago (i.e., in theaters), but I remember somewhat liking it. I can't totally remember why, since I hate miserablism and hillbilliness, not to mention cinema verite style. I think it must have been Tyler Mane--as you point out, there is a sheer, visceral mass the man brought to the screen that genuinely freaked me out.

    Plus I like high body counts, as you know. The more the merrier!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm not an opponent of high body counts, but it's certainly to the detriment of this film thanks to Zombie's crass brutalism.

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  2. I couldn't agree more than Brennan. The unrated cut is especially despicable.

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