Movie News & Reviews

Zombie holds back in Halloween

Here is a secret about slasher movies: mostly, they're not very good.

You wouldn't think this would be much of a secret. There's what,seven "Nightmare on Elm Streets," not counting "Freddy vs. Jason."The "Friday the 13th" series has been going on for so long they arestill discovering new ones on the walls of caves in France. Surelymost everyone's seen at least one or twenty of them.

Which means most everyone knows they pretty much suck. Maybe thefirst one in a series was good, but then they usually head straightfor increasingly dull retreads, like the bulk of the Jason series, orbaffling course changes like in the Freddy series. You have to giveit up for the guys who're trying something new, but it's hard to handout much praise when a movie's as terrible as "Nightmare 2" (winner ofthe worst sequel ever award, non-"Highlander 2" division), let aloneunderstand how #3-7 got made.

But Rob Zombie directed the "Halloween" remake. Rob Zombie, whose"House of 1000 Corpses" had undeniable personality even if it wasn'tthat great, and whose "Devil's Rejects" added real artistry to themix. If someone's going to bring something interesting to a slasherflick, Zombie's a good bet to pull it off.

"Halloween" starts off in strange territory. Slasher movies tend tospeed through whatever terrible tragedy turned an ordinary man into abloodthirsty monster, or have someone explain the killer's legend oncethe Bad Stuff starts going down, but this remake spends a long timewith 10-year-old Michael Myers (creepily played by Daeg Faerch).

Myers lives with a well-meaning but absent mother, an indifferentolder sister, and a cruel father-figure who abuses them all withZombie's best dialogue, if "best" is the word for insults so foul youdon't know whether to laugh or shudder. When a school bully pushesMyers too far, he beats him to death in the woods, then turns hisnewfound bloodlust on his family in a series of murders that lands himin a sanitarium.

Psychologist Malcolm McDowell tries to reach him, but Myers retreatsfurther into himself, hiding behind masks, speaking less and less, andcontinuing to hurt those around him. 16 years later, the world'salmost forgotten him, and Myers escapes, leaving McDowell and localsheriff Brad Dourif to figure out where Myers is going before he killsagain.

From there on out, it's a pretty standard slasher movie. Big ol' badman Myers (played in adulthood by Tyler Mane, who doesn't have a line ofdialogue but intimidates the hell out of everything nonetheless) runs around chopping people while the peopletry to escape and some other people try to stop him. It's awell-executed slasher movie (get it? "Well-executed"?), but nevertries to reach for anything more than a few scares from a huge dudewith a butcher knife.

And that's a real bummer after the first part was filled with so muchnasty dialogue, weird close-ups, and violence so bloody you'llquestion whether you should be enjoying it (answer: always yes). Italso suggest there may have been a way to reach Myers, or at leastunderstand him, but any insight into the boy who became the murderergets lost once he stops talking altogether.

One of my friends suggested Zombie's respect for the source materialprevented him from taking "Halloween" in the interesting directionsset up by the first half. After burying that friend along the banksof the Snake River so he can't horn in on my action here, I agreedwith him: Zombie takes his horror really seriously, to the point hemight not have been willing in messing with a classic.

No doubt that respect for the genre is a big part of his success sofar. It's his personality, though, that let him make a movie as crazyand disturbing as "Devil's Rejects"--his grimy images and language,his gross but undeniably funny sense of humor, his perverse interestin horrible people. If he'd let all that loose in "Halloween," itcould well have been a good movie.

Instead, he's made one that's progressively less interesting thefurther along it goes. By the weak standards of slasher movies, it'snot at all bad, but Zombie might be the only one who thinks theoriginal "Halloween's" a better movie than what he's capable of on hisown.

Grade: B-