So last night I went out to see Rob Zombie's reimagining of the John Carpenter horror classic Halloween. It was at the dollar theater here in Ames and even though the name is a misnomer, it is still exceptionally cheap at $1.50. I went with my friend Matt who is fast becoming my horror-movie-watching buddy of choice as we both have wives who do not do the whole horror movie thing. He was great fun to see a movie with - especially one that had the potential to be as bad as this one.
Let me start by saying this: Halloween, like Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator before it, was the beneficiary of exceedingly low expectations. I was pretty much expecting the movie to be awful, since it had only gotten a 25% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But surprisingly, it was very passable entertainment - certainly worth a buck and a half, but actually, worth more than that when you get right down to it.
In Rob Zombie's vision of Halloween, much more time is spent developing the back story behind the events that would take place in Haddonfield, Illinois. While some stories composed almost entirely of back story are not so good - i.e. the Star Wars prequels, Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince - I actually liked seeing the story behind the madman, so to speak. I loved the significance of the mask and how he came to be wearing the clothes that he was the night of his escape from the mental hospital and subsequent murderous rampage. The portrayal of Myers by Tyler Mane (who is 6'8") was very effective, even though the adult Myers never uttered a single word. His physical presence was impressive and menacing - just what the role needed. Zombie really made Michael Myers unredeemable save one moment toward the end of the film- as if he were remotely redeemable in the original run of movies - but it was almost as if he were evil incarnate.
So the back story took about half the movie's run time, which left approximately an hour to tell the story that we all know - of Laurie Strode and her horny high school friends, and the murder and mayhem that ensues on that Halloween night. I thought this part of the movie was strange - mostly because it kind of had a 70s feel to it, even though it was clearly set in the present day. I thought that the shots of the town were much better than in the original - mostly because they actually looked like Illinois, rather than southern California filling in for the Midwest. And most of the scenes defined "autumnal" which I suppose is appropriate, but I really liked that. I also thought the mood was set rather well considering the filmmakers had significantly less set up time, having spent all that time developing Michael Myers' back story.
The girl who played Laurie Strode (the role originated by Jamie Lee Curtis) was a cute, spunky, Sarah Michelle Gellar type who overall did a good job. I had one huge problem with her performance though - and I know that Matt had a similar complaint. Once Michael was on the rampage and chasing her through various set pieces, she simply would. not. stop. screaming. Ever. In the original Halloween, Laurie Strode is actually quite capable and does not degenerate into a screaming meemie. Not until Halloween II does Laurie become a scream queen. The Laurie in this movie is a screaming meemie times 100.
The movie also fell prey to the common horror movie trap where the end just went on entirely too long. You can only take so much of the killer chasing the girl and getting up after being shot with the "blow its head off" gun (as opposed to the "piss it off" model - a great line from the movie.) I would have preferred it to have a better ending than it did - a tidier one. There was a spot where it could have ended rather effectively, only to insert a Carrie-like "gotcha!" (which, admittedly, I fell for) and then went on for another 20 minutes.
So overall, this movie was a whole hell of a lot better than it had any right to be, especially when it was essentially a remake of a horror classic. It was MUCH gorier than the original, and I was pleased to see that it had a healthy respect for its source material - much like the recent "reimagining" of Dawn of the Dead did. Despite that it was familiar, it managed to deliver a couple of genuine scares which is a couple more than I thought I would get.
Lessons learned from Halloween: lower your expectations, and enjoy the ride. Oh, and teen sex ALWAYS ends in bloodshed. No matter what.