Sense of Wonder: Halloween sequel will not go Inside

Over at Arrow in the Head, Jared Pacheco writes this odd lament over the news (via that Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, the directing duo behind INSIDE, will not be helming the sequel to Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN. What’s odd about this is that Pacheco has never even seen INSIDE; his excitement over the directorial casting is based entirely on second-hand accounts of the film. “This thing has scored some very positive buzz wherever you go,” Pacheco claims, concluding from this that Maury and Bustillo are “obviously talented filmmakers.”
I think this says something about the negative impact that the Internet has had on the horror genre. The horror blogosphere is a hall of mirrors where a tiny handful of opinions are reflected back on each other unto infinity, creating an illusion of broad consensus where little if any actually exists. This consensus is magnified beyond its actual proportions until a perception is created that it represents the “horror audience” when what it really represents is the cult-gore-violence audience. Thus, last year, we had a situation wherein the horror blogosphere simply could not understand why GRINDHOUSE tanked at the box office; after all, everybody who was important loved the movie, so if it did bad, there must be something wrong with the audience, who just wouldn’t give the film a chance.
In the case of INSIDE, handful of people saw it on the festival circuit, and that handful was the sort who deliberately sought it out – in other words, not a representative sample but a group likely to be sympathetic to the film. On the basis of that, we are told that INSIDE has “positive buzz wherever you go,” ignoring our dissection of what’s wrong with the movie. Of course, if more people saw the film, there would be even more negative reaction, because it is a disappointing effort, pretty much designed to please only the gore fans. There is nothing wrong with appealing to a niche audience (not everything needs to be a bland blockbuster), but let’s not overpraise low ambitions. Maury and Bustillo are talented, but INSIDE fritters that talent away, turning what begins as an enigmatic thriller into a pointless bloodbath. This has earned accolades from a certain quarter, but it is funny to see this tiny bubble being inflated to such huge proportions that people who haven’t even seen the film are convinced of its greatness.
In effect, we have a new version of the same old problem that used to exist when a handful of snobby film critics like Bosley Crowthers were the Voice of Authority, and everyone had to either fall in line or admit they had no taste. The horror blogosphere would benefit from avoiding this group-think mode. Instead, of reflecting back the meagre consensus as if it were Established Wisdom, try challenging it with a little healthy debate.

Universal's Halloween Horror Sweepstakes

Halloween is just around the corner apparently. Sure, you may think it’s not till the end of October – over two months away – but Halloween superstores are already setting up, and the big-name attractions like Knott’s scary farms will open their tombs at the end of September.
So, it should be no surprise that Universal Studios is already sponsoring a contest to promote their 2008 Halloween Horror Nights. Follow this link to enter, for a chance to win a round-trip to Universal Studios Florida this Halloween.

Horror Filmmakers & Authors Pick Their Favorite Horror Movies

Last month, we ran a list of the American Film Institute’s nominees for the best Fantasy and Science-Fiction Films of all time. Many readers were angry over the exclusion of horror from the genres under consideration; some were unhappy about certain titles that made or did not make it onto the A.F.I.’s lists; a few were offended by our caustic comments about the more dubious inclusions.  Well, we all have our favorites. Neither the A.F.I. nor Cinefantastique Online is the sole arbiter of what constitutes the best of the best in movie magic. Therefore, we thought it would be a good idea to present a gallery of expert opinions from people working behind the scenes. What films rank as favorites among industry insiders who made your favorite films? What films frightened or amazed the directors, writers, actors, and authors who make a living in the genres of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror? What films stirred their sense of wonder or made them want to make movies? You’ll find a sample of their answers below
The horror films that I admire are ROSEMARY’S BABY, ALIEN, DIABOLIQUE, PSYCHO – that’s about it. I would say those are horror films, but they totally transcend the genre. They’re every bit as good as stories as horror films: the stories are believable; the characters are believable; the situations they’re put in, the style of performance, is believable. There’s also a Japanese film that I love called Onibaba, another wonderful film of fantasy and imagination, worked very carefully into a fairly realistic story. Whereas in something like Nightmare on Elm Street or Jason, it isn’t believable. There’s an automatic distance there—between what’s on the screen and the audience’s perception of real people in real situations.
I like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I applaud its ingenuity. It was something different, and it was pure to what it was—it did not break the focus. It was a documentary. When people set the camera down, all it showed you was shoes or sometimes nothing. I have to tell you, I sat there with my then fourteen-year-old son, and it scared the hell out of us. That picture scared me. I thought it was really good, because I love documentaries. I love that somebody took the horror genre, and did almost a pure documentary with it. I think Blair Witch is a helluva a film, a good film.
Creature from the Black LagoonThe thing I always worried about doing a monster movie—I was frightened that the monster wouldn’t be good, because they very rarely are. Probably the last great monster before that was the little girl in the bed in The Exorcist. But all you had to put on her was the voice—of Mercedes McCambridge—and that one trick was chilling. I decided to see THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, THEM and IT [THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE]—which actually were good fun at the time, used to scare the living daylights out of me as a kid, and now are kind of collector’s items. Funnily enough, as a child, I was always brought up not to see horror movies, because my parents classified them along with sex movies, so I wasn’t allowed to see them. I saw this poster in Piccadilly of this guy standing there with the face-mask on and the buzz saw, and I just decided not to see the film—that [The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ] was pretty tough stuff.
Martin is my all-time favorite. When you make films, it’s hard to decide which among them is your favorite. When and if you make a choice, there are many factors that go into it—the experience, memories of the people working with you. On that film I had my first chance to work with Tom Savini, John Amplas. The crew numbered fifteen, including the cast. We had no money. A handful of people made it possible for me to make the movie. We made it on spit and a prayer. I think it’s my most successful effort, in that it comes closer than anything I’ve done to what I intended when I wrote the script. It turned out almost exactly the way I originally envisioned it.
I read my share of Poe. I collected EC Comics, and I’m old enough to have seen FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA on the big screen—when they were re-released. I’m not that old! I saw THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD in its first run, also on the big screen The movie that made me want to make movies is—you’ll probably be surprised by this—is The Tales of Hoffman, an adaptation of Orfenbach’s opera. It’s sung in English, but the words don’t matter much; it’s the imagery that grabs you, and it never lets go. I was one of the few who saw this particular film when it played in a theatre on a big screen and in color. The film has action and adventure, and it was way serious to an eleven year old. It was released in the same year as The Thing from Another World—big competition—but this film made more of an impression than James Arness ever could. I love some of Dario Argento’s early ones, Deep Red and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Those were probably my favorites, and Suspiria—it’s operatic and beautiful—like The Tales of Hoffman. Repulsion is the most frightening film that I’ve ever seen. Lapsed Catholics—not practicing Catholics, but those who have strayed—like me—stained our jockeys when we first saw The Exorcist. As far as I’m concerned, that is the only film that dealt with Pure Evil and managed to pull it off.
My favorites of my own films are PAN’S LABYRINTH, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, and HELLBOY.
I started watching horror films without caring much about their origin. We got some Mario Bava films. Of course, we have the Mexican wrestler/masked avengers type of horror film. Then every Sunday there was a local channel that showed all the Universal monster movies: everything from the classics Frankenstein to Bride of Frankenstein and so forth. Then at the matinee, my mother took me to see the Hammer films: DRACULA, HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, all of them. So I really got every single thing on the spectrum fed into my brain at this very tender age.
I am influenced by lots of filmmakers and movies, so it’s hard to name everything. I like art films like Decalogue and big-budget Hollywood movies like SPIDER-MAN 2, but I fell asleep in SPIDER-MAN. Sorry, Sam! (referring to SPIDER-MAN director Sam Raimi, who produced THE GRUDGE)
In cinema, you have to be crazy [to make an exorcism film] after THE EXORCIST. It’s my favorite horror film; I think it’s the best horror film ever made. You’re not going to make a better movie than that. People who tried to imitate that movie have pretty notoriously failed. It’s daunting.
ADAM GREEN (Writer-director of HATCHET, whose festival tag-line was: “It’s not a remake; it’s not a sequel; and it’s not based on a Japanese one.’)
In fact I like Japanese horror films, and some of my favorite films are remakes. John Carpenter’s THE THING is my Top Five of all time, and I love THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE [remake] –  as much as a lot of people would want to kill me for saying that. I wanted to hate that when I saw it, and I really liked it. Even the second time – because I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just Jessica Biel’s boobs,’ but it wasn’t; it was really that good.
HALLOWEEN to me is still [great] – nothing will ever touch that one. [Slasher films] created villains with great mythologies behind them that were very simple stories that you could easily explain to your friend while you’re lying on the floor in sleeping bags at night, having a sleepover. That was the real joy of these films for me. The villains were these anti-superheroes; they were just these total bad-asses. As much as you were afraid of them, you were kind of rooting for them because they were so cool.
The confrontation between Belau Lugosi (left) and Boris Karloff (right) is interrupted by the shadow of the titular BLACK CATOf recent ilk, one of my favorites was ALIEN, which is just a brilliant movie. I still love CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON: there’s something evocative about it that really works. I love things like THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and FRANKENSTEIN, which is a wonderful picture; the original still really holds up. MAD LOVE is a really cool movie, with Peter Lorre. And some other stuff has been overlooked like PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, the Mario Bava picture, which I think is a wonderful film. I was heavily influenced by THE BLACK CAT [1934], which is one of my favorite films. I love that movie. When I first met Geoffrey [Rush, whom Malone directed in House], he’d just gone to see THE BLACK CAT, and he talked about how much he loved it. It’s got this perversity, this weird, dark undertone. What’s great about it is that you can’t put your finger on it, except if you actually look at the plot of that movie, you could never do that today. It’s too twisted: the fact that Karloff kills Lugosi’s wife and then keeps her body preserved in the basement, and then marries her daughter! I’m a big fan of [director Edgar G.] Ulmer’s work.
I love American Beauty, Memento, Happiness. I have two films in my life: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE from Stanley Kubrick and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. I saw it when I was a teen, and I couldn’t eat or sleep for three days. My parents were, “What? What? Are you sick?” “No no, you can’t understand!”
The first GODZILLA (1954) … [is] a masterpiece, but KING KONG VS. GODZILLA is my favorite.
I saw Frankenstein and all the monster movies when I was four years old, but I became a huge horror fan when I was fourteen, when I really started watching horror films and seeing all the conventions and the clichés. All the really good horror films were – except when the studios decided to stay out of it, like THE EXORCSIT – they were not studio films. They were independent films: HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
LEONARD WOLF (Author of Dracula: A Connoisseurs Guide)
I am very drawn, curiously enough, to the silent film, NOSFERATU (1922). When Count Orlock comes to—her name is either Nina or Ellen, depending on the subtitles—they exchange looks across the areaway. It is so charged with complex implications. Clearly, he is now going to be in the role of the demon lover, making love to a woman who sends her husband away—it’s got elements of French comedy in it. At the same time it’s a ghoulish moment, when this guy who’s not really living shows up in her bedroom and crouches at the side of her bed. You never know what they’re doing, but whatever they’re doing is so silent and so horrible and so Christian and so appalling—I’ve said somewhere in my book that the silence is intensified. We know we’re in a silent film, but somehow that scene takes on a terror because it’s so utterly still.
SUZY MCKEE CHARNAS (Author of The Vampire Tapestry)
I think that one thing that happens when you are raised as a reader rather than a visual consumer is that when you do go to films, they’re really pretty overwhelming. I remember being really impressed by silly things like ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. It is wonderful, but it shouldn’t send you screaming! It did influence me, to put it mildly. For a very long time, the whole vampire thing was very tightly attached to the Hungarian actor whose name we all know. I still kind of balk when people get too far away from a basic sort of dignity. I don’t really go for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER-type of vampires, and the punk rocker ones really turn me off.
BARBARA STEEL (Star of BLACK SUNDAY, a.k.a. Mask of the Demon)
Barbara Steele as the revived witch in BLACK SUNDAYBlack Sunday is the best of the genre films I made—the final result was most perfected in terms of the whole film, but I don’t feel it was best for me as an actress. I never saw a completed script for BLACK SUNDAY. We were given the pages day to day. We had hardly any idea of what was ever going down on that film. We had no idea of the end or the beginning, either. I’m sure he [director Mario Bava] had, or maybe he hadn’t. He really geared it to play out all his cinematographic-visual fantasies, and I think that one of the strongest points of the movie is the look of it. It’s just fortuitous for an actress to find herself in something that well structured.
I’ve always loved [Tim Burton’s] movies. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is one of my favorite movies of all time. His movies are so different. His movies are so beautiful and really elegant. They’re also told with such an innocence and a goodness. People say his movies are dark, but they’re really about Good and Evil, and the Good is always so good and so strong—they’re actually really sweet stories.

You just can’t get a more stunning film. My darling wife and my friends sat there watching it like that [grips the armrest of his chair and forms his mouth into a silent scream to demonstrate]. It’s a wonderful, wonderful film. Now all my other films— THE CREATURE WASN’T NICE, LOBSTER MAN FROM MARS —I have been in more movies of that type. I’m not saying we weren’t good in them, but they were movies you never see again, hopefully. When Dennis Bartok [of American Cinematheque] said, ‘We’re going to do a retrospective of your movies,’ I said, ‘Which one? There’s only one worth seeing, and this is it!’
There are too many monster movies for me to pick. I spent a misspent youth watching monster movies, and then I spent a misspent adulthood making them. So I would refer you to any list of decent monster movies, and I’m sure my favorites will be on there.

October Shadows: A Celebration of Halloween in Art

October Shadows is a fantastic exhibition of Halloween-themed art, on display at Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker’s Cinovation studio in Glendale. We attended the opening night reception on Friday, October 13. Check out our video report below.

The exhibit last through Halloween, but you better hurry – several of the works on display in the video have already been purchased. Viewings are by appointment only. Get more information at Creature Features.
In case you can’t make it, a gallery of orignal work and prints will eventually be posted at Creature Features.

Halloween (2007)

It was with a certain trepidation that I attended an advance screening of Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN in Hollywood last night (“advance” being a relative term – the film opened in the theatre at midnight). The charm of John Carpenter’s original 1978 film mostly eludes me, and there is little about Zombie’s career that would have led me to think he could do anything interesting with the subject. Still, hope springs eternal, so I went to check it out.
To pump up the already eager fans in the audience, Tyler Mane – the new Michael Myers – put in a pre-show appearance, autographing posters from the film. Then radio DJ Leon Quinones (who hosts something called “The Film Freak Show” on 97.1 FM) took the microphone and conducted a brief interview, during which we learned.

  • No one from the original HALLOWEEN was involved with the remake.
  • The film would be filled with “buckets of blood.”
  • Tyler Mane’s children would not be allowed to see the film “for a very long time.”
  •  Mane is getting married this weekend (“although I don’t know who the hell would want to marry Michael Myers!”).

Throughout this exchange, Quinones indulged in a stream of rabble rousing, dropping names (“Rob Zombie personally told me…”), promising that the film would terrify viewers (even though he had not seen it yet), and announcing several times, “Fuck the critics – this is for fans!” He exhorted the crowd to text message all their friends immediately after the film, recommending that they see it. By the time the lights finally went down, one couldn’t help wondering why everyone was so desperate to drum up excitement – where they afraid the film itself couldn’t do it on its own?
Once the film started, it immediately became apparent why there might be concern. For reasons best known to himself, Zombie opted to turn the first part of his remake into “The Origin of Michael Myers” – an unnecessarily lengthy section that takes the brief prologue from the original and expands it into an entire first act. Rather like Peter Jackson when remaking KING KONG, Zombie seems to have thought long and hard about everything he did not see in 1978, and he seems determined to put all those thoughts up on the screen, regardless of how tedious.

Zombie loves to wallow in white trash tawdriness, as if that will somehow explain why Michael Myers became the fearsome serial killer icon. We learn that his step-father was a drunken bum; his sister was a slut; kids beat him up at school; and his mother was a stripper (although, ironically, Sheri Moon Zombie, who plays the part, is one of the few actresses who does not have to expose her nipples – it pays to be close to the director). Later, Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) will declare to a lecture audience that this background was the psychological equivalent of a “perfect storm” that led to homicidal madness, but what we see is more annoying than horrifying, and we suspect the most dire result would probably be growing up to become Marilyn Manson, not a monster.
When Michael finally blows his stack, the effect is less horror than relief – at last the movie is going to stop treading water and get moving. As if to pay back the audience for the lengthy build-up, Zombie stages what amounts to a massacre, but the effect is somewhat undermined by the fact that Daeg Faerch (who plays Michael as a ten-year-old) looks too small and weak to be an effective killing machine (and his blank-faced non-expression, meant to convey psychopathic evil, is simply a blank-faced non-expression).  By the time the whole thing is over, you’re starting to feel as if you have sat through an entire movie, and you’re wondering what’s left to fill up the rest of the running time. The answer: not much.
We get to see Michael in therapy with Dr. Loomis,  receiving weekly visits from his mom, who eventually blows her brains out after seeing her son stab a nurse to death. (This is one of those dim-bulb movies where mental health care professionals are naive morons treating the mass-murdering Michael as if he were merely a mildly troubled youth. In what is clearly a sop to the hardcore horror hounds in the audience, the nurse turns her back on Michael for no other reason than to give him an opportunity to kill her.)
Flashing forward to Halloween night fifteen years later, Michael escapes from the mental asylum in a none-too-convincingly staged scene. (Zombie relies on shakey camera angles and jagged editing to hide the fact that he cannot come up with a credible way for Michael to overpower his guards.) After killing a trucker in a restroom (DAWN OF THE DEAD’s Ken Foree), Michael steals his clothes and heads back to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, and Zombie finally – finally – catches up with Carpenter, who covered the same territory in a few minutes.
From this point on, the remake more or less parallels the original (in highly condensed form), and the familiar situations do generate a reasonable amount of suspense, but the effect is muted by our over-familiarity with the masked killer. The weakness of Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN was that Michael was supposed to be an incarnation of evil – literally the Boogeyman – but we knew he was just a crazy guy in a William Shatner mask. The film might have been better off if we had not known Michael at all, but at least he was mysterious enough so that viewers could set aside their awareness of him as a person and accept him as the unkillable “Shape” (as he was listed in the credits). Zombie has compounded the problem, turning Michael pretty much into a pathetic freak who would probably spend his days locked in his room (or his cell), jerking off to splatter movies; we never believe this pudgy kid could grow up to become Tyler Mane, let alone a near-supernatural force (who is likened at one point to the Anti-Christ).
Michael Myers, up to the same old tricksUnable (or unwilling) to imbue a sense of the uncanny into Michael, Zombie opts for portraying him as a human tank who can easily smash through doors and walls. He comes across less like the Boogeyman and more like a brutal killing machine; in effect, he is much closer to Jason Voorhees than the old Michael Myers, and the overall aesthetic of this HALLOWEEN is a new-millennium update of FRIDAY THE 13TH splatter-horror.
The result is monotonous and repetitious. The first act is almost an overture that establishes the themes and motifs, but Zombie hasn’t the skill to develop them; he just repeats them with a bigger, older Michael. Perhaps this is meant to convey a ritualistic aspect to Michael, who apparently likes his victims to die painfully slow deaths, but it comes across like a lack of directorial imagination, with the same kind of action shown over and over again. (On at least three separate occasions, Michael stabs/bludgeons/beats a victim, who is then allowed to crawl slowly away while bleeding all over the floor – before Michael bothers to catch up and deliver the coup de grace.)
And boy, those death blows are a long time coming.  Like his on-screen serial killer, Zombie doesn’t want the violence to end too soon. He refuses to build a scene to a climax and move on; over and over again, long after he has reached a point where he can hit the audience with a shock and then cut away, Zombie extends the death scenes with extra blows, extra stabbings, extra everything. In a demented way, HALLOWEEN starts to feel like a musical, wherein the story stops at regular intervals for another song-and-dance routine; unfortunately, the choreogrpahy here is too limited to justify the copious screentime. Editing in five more whacks with a blunt instrument does not make the scene scarier; it simply dulls the shock past the point where it ceases to be scary.
Fortunately, there is a break in the monotony when Michael finally sets his sights on Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton). We don’t particularly care what happens to her or really identify with her as the film’s protagonist, because, in truth, Michael is the film’s real protagonist – the evil anti-hero whose antics are the sole draw. No, the only thing Laurie has going for her is that, because she is the “final girl,” Michael cannot simply kill her and move on; there has to be an extended cat-and-mouse game, which adds a badly needed change of pace to the movie’s otherwise mechanical rhythms.
To justify Michael’s focus on Laurie, the script utilizes an element that was introduced not in HALLOWEEN but in the first sequel HALLOWEEN II: Laurie is Michael’s baby sister. We’re not supposed to wonder how he recognizes her as a young adult or tracks her down since she has been adopted, under a new family name. We’re also not supposed to ask why, if she is his real target, he wastes time killing so many others, instead of going after her directly. (There is just a trace of a hint that Michael uses the wounded Annie Brackett [Danielle Harris] as bait to lure Laurie to him, but such a subtle tactic seems out of character for someone whose standard operating procedure is to jump up out of nowhere and start stabbing.)
Rather like the ending of HALLOWEEN H20, the film has a brief moment of Michael trying to generate a little family feeling with his sibling, but the effort goes again unrewarded. This time, Laurie merely stabs him instead of cutting off his head, thus allowing the confrontation to go on for another ten or fifteen minutes. By the time the film does finally wind down, it has pretty much run out of climaxes; rather than a triumphant crescendo, it fades out, with the heroine’s final screams covering the lack of any screaming from the audience.
Giving the devil his due, Zombie does manage to make HALLOWEEN grimly effective at times. Tyler Mane cuts an imposing figure as Michael Myers, and we do live in dread of the next time he will pop up and slice another victim. Zombie’s constant use of long lenses, close-ups, and rapid-fire editing are crude attempts to jack up action that is not staged particularly well, but combination of bloody violence and trashy sex (with lots of T&A) captures the old grindhouse vibe much more than GRINDHOUSE (to which Zombie contributed a faux trailer, WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE S.S.).
This approach to horror is too blunt to warrant much attention, but there are moments when it strikes a nerve, even if accidentally. Probably the film’s most disturbing sequence involves the brutalization of Danielle Harris’ character, but the effect has little to do with the on-screen drama. Rather, it’s strange to contemplate that the cute little girl from HALLOWEEN 4 and 5 is now old enough to be treated like typical fodder for a slasher film, stripped to the waist and beaten bloody so that we can see lovely rivers of blood coursing between her naked breasts. Yeah, you’ve come a long way, baby!
Occasionally, something like an idea floats briefly across the screen even if they are not developed (during a lecture, Dr. Loomis raves on about the eyes of evil – meaning Michael – while the camera focuses on Loomis’ eyes, implying that his words are more self-revalatory than he realizes, but it’s a one-shot moment, introduced and then dropped). There is also an occasional flash of humor (among the films the characters watch on television, is WHITE ZOMBIE with Bela Lugosi, which inspired the name for Zombie’s old rock group).
The new cast is a mixed bag. The high school girls are generic, and Compton’s characterization seems almost deliberately crafted to be bland without turning her into the archetype that Jamie Lee Curtis became in the original. It’s fun to see familiar genre faces like Richard Lynch, Udo Kier, Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, and many others walking on screen for a few moments (although all of them deserve better). Best of all is Danny Trejo, who inspired the best line heard in the theatre last night – unfortunately, not on the soundtrack: When he meets his fate at the hands of Michael, someone in the audience shouted, “You can’t kill Machete!” (a reference to Trejo’s appearance as the titular character in the faux trailer at the beginning of GRINDHOUSE).
Malcolm McDowell as Dr. LoomisMalcolm McDowell almost makes something out of the Loomis character (who was more or less just a mouthpiece in the original, raving unconvincingly about “evil”). In a nice touch, Loomis actually looks better after fifteen years have passed, having abandoned his long hair and casual attire (which suggested a man trying – and failing – to look young) for a more dignified, scholarly demeanor. Unlike Donald Pleasence, McDowell conveys a continued concern for Michael and a sense of regret at having failed him (although it’s hard to imagine any sense in which Loomis “failed”). In a film that has little higher aspiration beyond providing a body count, he almost becomes a tragic character, and his fate is treated in an atypically discrete manner, suggesting that someone, somewhere realized it might not be too much fun watching something horrible happen to someone you like.
Even more than the 1978 version (which was conceived under the title “The Baby Sitter Murders” and tossed in Halloween as an afterthought), Zombie’s remake fails to live up to its title. The holiday barely registers: it provides little in the way of spooky atmosphere, and it does not seem particularly crucial to the Michael psychology (he likes wearing masks all year round anyway). By focusing on Michael – in effect, making the film his life story – Zombie strays even further away from the Halloween ambience, and one suspects he would have been more happy had the film been titled “Michael Myers – The Devil’s Ultimate Reject.”
In any case, the primed and eager Hollywood audience sat through the film mostly in silence, seldom screaming – although there were occasional whispers of “Nice!’ over particularly brutal moments. At the end, they awarded the film with a big round of applause, and several were eager to wax enthusiastically for the guy taking a survey in the lobby. What – if any – lesson to draw from this, I’m not sure. The new HALLOWEEN has little to recommend it on its own terms. It’s a bit like hearing a recording artist cover a familiar tune; it doesn’t replace the original, but you’re curious to hear what the new guy did with the standard classic. In this case, the reinterpretation consists mostly of pumping up the volume of the percussion as loud as possible in order to cover the off-key singing. Little or nothing has been done to reach the ears of an audience not pre-disposed to like the film. The theory here seems to be that success as an artist is not a matter of honing your craft or having something new and interesting to say; it’s just a matter of finding an audience that wants to listen to you, no matter what. Personally, I think it’s a bloody shame that this film is getting national distribution, while Adam Green’s far superior, far scarier HATCHET is doomed to a limited platform release on its way to home video.
HALLOWEEN (Dimension, 2007). Written and directed by Rob Zombie, based on the film written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. Cast: Malcolm McDowell, Brad Dourif, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe, Richard Lynch, Udo Kier, Clint Howard, Danny Trejo, Bill Moseley, Scout Taylor-Compton, Danielle Harris, Kristina Klebe, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Sybil Danning. Mickey Dolenz, Sid Haig.

Halloween Hypocrisy?

We all owe a good laugh to Final Girl for digging up this quote from Rob Zombie:

Q: How do you feel about big budget remakes of Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre?
Zombie: I feel it’s the worst thing any filmmaker can do. I actually got a call from my agent and they asked me if I wanted to be involved with the remake of Chain Saw. I said no fucking way! Those movies are perfect- you’re only going to make yourself look like an asshole by remaking them. Go remake something that’s a piece of shit and make it good. Like with my movie (House of 1000 Corpses) I have elements of Chain Saw in it because I love that movie so much, but I wouldn’t dare want to “remake” it. It’s like a band trying to be another band. You can sound like The Beatles, but you can’t be The Beatles.

Sense of Wonder: Can Halloween save Horror?

While posting some new pics from Rob Zombie’s upcoming HALLOWEEN remake, Lucius Gore at E-Splatter.Com opines that the future of the horror genre is riding on the box office performance of the film when it opens on August 31. Lucius points to the poor performance of HOSTEL PART II, 28 WEEKS LATER, and GRINDHOUSE as evidence that, if HALLOWEEN likewise bombs, horror will descend into “the moribund direct-to-video-only mess that it was in throughout the first half of the 1990s.”
Though I have no doubt that a certain weight of expectations is riding on the shoulders of HALLOWEEN, I think Lucius is a bit off the mark with this analysis, which is premised on the idea that these are all really good films that tanked for mysterious reasons, perhaps a “paradigm shift” in our culture.
GRINDHOUSE was, frankly, a dud whose box office failure was not only utterly deserved but also, at least in retrospect, completely predictable. It was a rehash of movies that were never terribly popular to begin with. HOSTEL PART II and 28 WEEKS LATER are both sequels to movies that were successes only in terms relative to their costs. HALLOWEEN is a remake of a film that launched a franchise that long since wore out its welcome.

In short, they’re rehashed horror at best; even if well done, it’s just the same old stuff we’ve seen before. Is this really the best the genre has to offer? And if the answer is yes, should we despair if the box office kills off the current trend?
Truly, there is little mystery as to why audiences would not turn out in droves for these movies – these are films that were not necessarily designed to appeal to audiences. They were made by and for hardcore gore-hounds. They’re the equivalent of an initiation-hazing ceremony: you’re not supposed to be entertained; you’re supposed to be proud that you could stand the acid test while those around you were chickening out and hiding their eyes.
Consequently, it seems a bit of a stretch to blame the audience, not the films themselves for the poor box office results. If HALLOWEEN and/or SAW IV bombs like the rest of the recent horror films, it will not be the death of the genre; it will merely be the death of the current “splat-pack” style – which could make it one of the briefest trends in the history of cinema, on par with the brief 1953 craze for 3D.
Fortunately, “horror” and “splat-pack” are not interchangeable terms. The later is a sub-set of the former. If the splat-pack kids have to be sent home for failing to entertain audiences, there will be others waiting in the wings to send the genre in some new direction. In a sense, the failure of HALLOWEEN might even be a good thing: if reliable gambits like remakes and sequels no longer work; Hollywood might be forced to try some creativity.
Out with the old, in with the new, I always say.