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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The critic is back

Almost precisely 6 months ago was the last IMDB review that I wrote, for the Sentinel. During most of this time I spent working, studying, blogging, facebooking and youtubing. Now I am back and hopefully without any large break periods. I hope to write at least 1 review a week. Heres the comeback, hopefully better than Britney's.

Can Zombie do more than redneck chic?, 22 January 2008
Author: Kaiban from Hell's Kitchen, NYC

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

John Carpenter's 1978 classic is one of the first two movies I can remember seeing and being heavily influenced by (the other being the classic Conan the Barbarian). To prepare for this re-interpretation I decided to watch the original, for a competent comparison. Too bad there is very little to compare. After seeing Rob Zombie's previous films (which were heavily stylized and derivative, but enjoyably distracting), I could see sparks of potential. This movie makes me question those sparks of creativity and leaves me with only what Zombie seems to be able to do, which is redneck dis-functionality, and a burning sensation.

The first half of this movie is an origin story. The origin of Michael Meyers prior to and after the killing of his sister. Zombie attempts to fill in the gaps of the original; Michael's turning into the killer and the years in the institute before he escapes and how he escapes. Where John Carpenter used Michael Meyers as a metaphor of the dysfunction that can occur in middle class America and the suburbs (places that are considered safe), Zombie almost justifies the creation of Michael Meyers as probable and even sympathetic. His first kill isn't a sudden urge to kill his sister on Halloween night, but rather a progressive transition from animals, to classmates, to his sister and then his father. It is this first 20 minutes that although not in the spirit of Carpenter's "Shape" is actually quite graphic and made me quite uneasy(not since I saw Jesus Camp). This 20 minutes is the only good segment of the movie.

Zombie's Meyers isn't a faceless, person-less killing "Shape", but rather is an abused prototypical serial killer. His parents and sibling are "suburb rednecks" who do nothing but pick on him (obnoxious and despicable members of his family, unemployed, working as a stripper and whoring). Is this really what a typical American middle class, suburban family looks like to Zombie or is he deriving from his own experiences? He doesn't kill for no reason, he very clearly snaps. By showing us his face in the early minutes of the movie, Zombie shows us that there is a human being behind the mask. A goofy looking child. In and of itself this is not necessarily bad. When taken in the context of the second half of the movie is where the problem develops. If Zombie continued on his initial re-imaging, this would have been a graphic and watchable movie. It wouldn't be great but infinitely better than this MST3k reject.

Unfortunately, Zombie feels the need to re-shoot (almost scene for scene) the 2nd half of the movie exactly as Carpenter's "Shape". It just doesn't work. Meyers cannot be a "Shape" when you spent the first half of the moving turning him into a textbook serial killer. You spend the first half of the movie almost sympathizing with Meyers. The second half just ruins everything. It's almost as if Zombie didn't know what to do or how to finish what he had started, so he just defers to Carpenter. The second half just becomes a series of forgettable massacres. Thankfully I cannot remember any of it.

This movie is a series of contrasts. I did like all the masks Michael creates to hide behind, almost as a different mask for every emotion he is burying. At the same time his killer mask is a worn, gray and cracked mask. It just looks dirty. It doesn't emote as well as a bleached white and faceless Shatner mask (original). I also felt the inclusion of the other-sister angle (brought up in the lesser sequel Halloween 2, which never really worked for me nor was directed by Carpenter) seemed even more rushed and random in this movie. His mother (Zombie's wife Sheri Moon) further cements just how bad of a mother she is and how mediocre an actress Sheri is. The bard of Carpenter's original, Dr. Loomis, is played by a hippie Malcolm McDowell (very reminiscent of his over-the-top Caligula performance, very hammy). Adult Michael is also no longer average but brutishly gargantuan (played by X-Men's Sabertooth, Tyler Mane). He's become a caricature and not the kid-next-door turned faceless monster for no reason.

The movie should just start with a montage of people's faces, of various shapes, colors and sex, whom all say "I am Michael Meyers". Zombie shows us how the right circumstances of genes and environment can turn one into a serial killer. Hard to be terrified by the explainable. The Unrated DVD does nothing more than add gore to an already dysfunctional and bad movie. If you must watch this, just watch the first half. A better solution is just to go back to the original.


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