The time of year has come around once again when I have an excuse to praise a beloved favourite film of mine along with it’s interesting, flawed, remake.
Halloween – Everyone knows something about Halloween by now, the movie that brought horror icon Michael Myers to our screens and remains, arguably, John Carpenter’s finest hour (despite strong competition from the likes of The Thing, The Fog and Escape From New York).
Starting with a wonderful, apparently seamless (though it features a number of hidden cuts), sequence showing the young Michael Myers killing his sister we then move years into the future. The young boy is now a man. A bad man. And when he escapes from the institution he was holed up in for many years it’s only Doc Loomis (marvellously played by Donald Pleasence) who realises the true danger to everyone in his home town of Haddonfield. As the boogeyman begins his night of terror unsuspecting babysitter Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) sits, blissfully unaware that someone will end up determined to end her life.
While it’s not the first slasher movie some claim (people can argue over the likes of Black Christmas, Bay Of Blood and even Psycho) Halloween is my personal favourite of the subgenre, one of my very favourite movies of all time, and there are many reasons why.
It may be the solid cast featuring Pleasence, P.J. Soles and Jamie Lee. It may be Carpenter’s masterful use of the widescreen format, something he retained through every one of his movies, no matter how variable the quality of the final piece. That simplistic synth score helps immensely. Then there’s the fact that while creating a genuine, ghost-train ride of a film Carpenter also mixes in some potent scenes showing the ways of urban isolation and how successive generations no longer rush out to help someone in peril, instead hiding behind their locked doors.
Or maybe it’s simply a masterclass in how to create a slasher movie with perfect pacing, some genuinely tense moments, actually not much blood spilled and one of those classic “bodycount” endings with corpses turning up in all the most inconvenient places. Classic.
Halloween (2007) – It’s sometimes hard to separate certain factors when reviewing a movie (your mood at the time of viewing, associated memories or, as is the case here, your deep and unwavering love for an original that you are now seeing a remake of) but a second watch of this movie has finally allowed me to see things with a slightly clearer outlook.
Now, as stated just above, I LOVE Halloween. I have loved it ever since seeing it as a youngster and enjoying every single thrill-ride minute and it has been my favourite ever horror movie since so I knew that this remake was going to have to work hard to gain any respect from me. Luckily, I also enjoy the work of director Rob Zombie so I was pleased to hear that he was at the helm. But how the hell do you set about remaking such a genre classic? Obviously, I did not envy Zombie and I assume many others felt the same way.
Things start off uneasily with Zombie giving us a LOT more back-story on Michael Myers the young boy before eventually leading us to see Michael Myers the man/monster (now a pro wrestler, another problem). It’s easy to criticise the first half hour or so but the fact is that it’s a good way for Zombie to provide us with HIS version of the material, dragging us one step at a time into the mind of a monster with his unnerving, brutal style. Okay, the pacing suffers but the end result is worth it for the tone and unpleasant content. Then we have a load of scenes set in the mental hospital that becomes Myers’ prison before, eventually, the inevitable happens and we are all set for a night of carnage in unlucky Haddonfield. And this ends up being where the movie suffers most because Zombie cannot really top the original so the best he ends up doing is copying some scenes and trying his best to skew others. It’s an admirable attempt but the report card would read . . . “must try harder”.
Still, the movie is far from the disaster it could have been and nowhere near the level of some recent failed reworkings, despite what some fans shout in between their sniffles. Great music cues help, as does a genre-friendly cast including the likes of Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, Sheri Moon Zombie, Danny Trejo, Danielle Harris (especially good to see her if you’re a fan of the franchise) and more. In fact, the performances are all pretty good, especially for a “slasher” flick and Zombie has just managed to do enough to almost achieve the impossible. He fumbles here and there but kudos to him for even daring to take on this mighty franchise and adding his own vision.
DIRECTOR: JOHN CARPENTER/ ROB ZOMBIE
STARS: JAMIE LEE CURTIS, DONALD PLEASENCE, P.J. SOLES/ TYLER MANE, MALCOLM MCDOWELL, SCOUT TAYLOR-COMPTON, SHERI MOON ZOMBIE, BRAD DOURIF
RUNTIME: 91 MINS APPROX (101 MINS EXTENDED VERSION)/109 MINS (121 MINS UNRATED VERSION)