61 Days of Halloween- Halloween (2007)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween (2007)

Daeg Faerch in Halloween (Dimension)

Rob Zombie’s Halloween is one of the most confoundingly schizophrenic horror films in the history for the genre. Rarely, if ever do you see unabashed greatness and miscalculation fight so mightily with each other for screen time.

You have here such juxtaposition such that I’ve revisited the film several times. A great film is rarely as compelling and fascinating as one that squanders greatness somewhere along the way and this film does that perhaps in more spectacular fashion than almost any film.

The film follows Young Michael for 35 minutes. Most of those minutes are riveting, even when there are shortcomings it is still engaging because it is brand new material. The mistake in this film was to ever age Michael.

I am not arguing that Zombie needed to be beholden to the continuity of the original series. It would just have been a much more effective tale had you examined Michael further and left him right on the brink of what he was about to do on Halloween. There was a room for it. You could’ve witnessed the trial shown more of him being responsive to Loomis before he shuts down. He could create more havoc in the institution.

And conversely the sequel could be a condensed version of all that he and Laurie go through with a lot of the fat trimmed out. However, for what the film does decide to do there are still areas where execution could’ve been better.

The first 35 minutes of the film are the epitome of horror and here’s why it gets under your skin and makes you so terribly uncomfortable: A case in point would be Michael’s first kill. You sympathize completely with Michael due to the bullying Wesley subjects him to. However, when Michael gets his revenge his assault is so brutal it’s stomach-turning. So you’re left with this unease and ambivalence that is just jaw-droppingly horrific. The same can be said for his disposal of his family. It’s not necessarily that there is even sympathy for the victims so much that his killing is so brutally assured that it’s bone-chilling.

A lot of that is conveyed through the iconic performance by Daeg Faerch. Sadly, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened this way but I am quite certain that if Faerch hadn’t been around, this film ought not to have been made at all. Much like is Spielberg hadn’t seen Haley Joel Osment he would’ve delayed A.I. indefinitely. It’s that kind of performance a coupling of character and actor that works so well it’s rare and truly a sight to see. Think of the great antagonist horror performances of the last 25 years and this one is on par with if not better than they are.

Look at it this way, Michael is being given a face and voice in this film after nearly 30 years of silence. That is a massive undertaking for an actor. A hard role to live up to and much less excel in.

Now for me to say the wheels come off simply because the original started being rehashed would be unfair, it is a remake after all. It is how the rehash is executed that makes it not work.

Laurie Strode and her friends need a different tone. They didn’t talk and act all that much different than the Myers family. Half of which Michael killed and we wanted him too. There needs to be some added virtues to Laurie that make us want to root for her.

This is the alternate universe of a horror film where our baser instincts come to the surface. Michael is who we are most familiar with. He is the star, he will not die. There has to something special about a character to make us really want them to escape his clutches. If you’re just a foul-mouthed skank no different than the sister he killed except that you never met him why should I care?

Look at Laurie Strode in the original, yes, her friends talked frankly about sex and drug usage and things of that ilk but Laurie was honestly embarrassed by some of the talk. She kind of went along with her friends but she was not the fornicating-when-she-should-be-baysitting type. That’s why we identify with her. Not only is she an innocent but we like her better than her friends and if we want the friends to live it’s only for Laurie’s sake.

So the type of characters Laurie and her friends are is a problem. Unfortunately, so are the actors playing the parts. There is such a wild inconsistency in the quality of performance in this film that it makes it nearly impossible for it to succeed. You run the gamut from Daeg Faerch and Malcolm McDowell to Sheri Moon Zombie and Scout Taylor-Compton.

You also get small and at times distracting appearances by many actors who have made a splash in the history of horror films. Had this been a completely original tale that may have been less of an issue. Dealing with an iconic character and story it’s unwelcome.

Poor acting is forgivable to an extent in a horror film if the situation remains scary and interesting enough but quite frankly the film gets long in the tooth. It’s not necessarily that in a series you can really get pre-conditioned to a running time but frankly the Halloween films typically clock in a just over 90 minutes for a reason: that’s all you need. Whether the theatrical cut (109 minutes) or unrated (121) it’s too long, for the given story. It really makes me wonder what the edited Brazilian cut (83) plays like.

Then of course you have the ending. The open ending that isn’t quite open and has about five too many screams in the mix. It may be the greatest anti-climax of an ending that any film in the series has. Even the follow up has a better, more coherent and effective capper than this despite the fact that its even worse. After nearly two hours a screaming close-up is really not the taste I want left in my mouth. It literally could’ve been almost anything else and it would’ve been better.

5/10

61 Days of Halloween- Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (Dimension)

About the only thing that Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was not about to tackle was the whereabouts of Laurie Strode. In fact, that had been left rather open since the end of Part II. It was safe to assume that Michael was alive so why couldn’t she be?

With a name like Halloween: H20 you wouldn’t expect much but there are many pleasant surprises. The first of which is the return of the song “Mr. Sandman.” It’s a small touch but it’s such a great dichotomous use of source music it is welcome back and it’s acknowledged by Laurie for a good laugh.

The first kill in this movie is notable because it is a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who gets his face sliced open but what’s most notable in the casting of this movie is, of course, the return of Jamie Lee Curtis. She is great reprising the role of Laurie Strode many years on and having her as anchor makes up from some of the shortcomings the film does suffer from.

One of those shortcomings is that though the series has not been rebooted there is some confusion in chronology. The original established Michael as 6 when he killed his older sister and he was 21 when he broke out. This film seems to indicate he was 15. It’s little details like that which may drive you crazy.

It’s good to hear Donald Pleasence in voice over even though he cannot be there. While Jamie Lee being back is clearly the biggest casting storyline there is in this film one of the better casts the series has boasted and much of it due to good fortune. The next installment would attempt one-upsmanship by trying to name pick but this one had young stars before they had broken out.

The conflict between Laurie and her son (Josh Hartnett) was quite good as he was trying to move on with his life and trying to get her to move beyond Michael Myers. There is also a scene between Jamie Lee and her mom Janet Leigh, where strains from Psycho play underneath it. It is a rather funny scene because of it and well played by both.

Laurie’s psychological struggles are used to great effect in this film and create some surprising scenes where you think you can discern reality from hallucination.

Even the phony scare which becomes a staple of the series works very well here and perhaps there is the most effective cross-film trick conveyed in these two films not to give too much away.

This film though adding a new generation of actors and paying tribute to one past still stays very grounded in what this film is about. It knows that you can’t move the story to Southern California unless Michael is given a reason to go there. It doesn’t do things just to be hip or trendy but because they make sense and it actually works surprisingly well nine times out of ten.

This would’ve been the perfect place to leave the series off before thoughts of reboots entered anyone’s mind but alas it was not to be.

7/10