This is Halloween. And on this night when ghosts and goblins scurry forth for confectionary treats, we’ll revisit two films named for the scariest night of the year!
Before Viewing: Comparing the trailers for Halloween (2007) vs Halloween (1978) they look pretty similar. Since the 1978 John Carpenter film is such a classic, I have never really seen any need to watch the 2007 Rob Zombie version. For the purposes of this final day in my 31 Days of Horror marathon, I will finally check it out and see how it compares to the original.
My expectations are it will just be a more current version, with more blood, mayhem and gore. I’m sure there will be some minor changes to the sequences and facts, but I fully expect it to be following the same story as the original: young Michael Myers kills his family, is committed to an asylum for a number of years, he escapes and returns to his house to terrorize the babysitter! Let’s roll ‘em!
Presented below are the Trailers for the two films.
After Viewing: John Carpenter’s original Halloween is a classic. There’s not much argument on that. With a simple plot, minimal gore, creative lighting and camera-work, Carpenter achieves a relatively strong 90 minutes of terror as we follow a killer (and sometimes are the killer, thanks to the first-person POV camera) as he returns home to murder a number of teens in his old home town.
I’m not exactly sure who thought it was necessary to give Rob Zombie a chance to remake the film. I can only assume that money and prestige were involved in some way. You can argue that the 2007 version of Halloween does bring something new to the table. You can also argue that it doesn’t. I’ve just watched both films together, back to back and have some thoughts about the remake.
“I heard that on Halloween night, the boogeyman comes out at night and attacks kids.” – Tommy (2007 version)
Zombie’s version of the film runs approximately 30 minutes longer than Carpenter’s. In the original we have an approximately 7 min prologue (which also includes the title credits) about the night that young Michael Myers killed just his sister, before moving into the present-day and seeing Michael’s killing spree on Halloween night. The remake decides that we need a 54 minute exploration of who Michael is, and how bad his home life is (it’s shitty!). We see his torment by bullies at school, and his predilection for killing pets, and his abusive step-father. Of course we sympathize with him. Why wouldn’t we kill these horrible people?
The “prologue” continues in the correctional facility as Dr Loomis (played by the awesome Malcolm McDowell) attempts to break through to young Michael and understand him. Honestly, I was bored with the “insight” we were getting into the character. For me the original version works splendidly and the lack of a backstory is not a hindrance to the terror Carpenter creates. Zombie’s version takes literally half the movie to setup a sympathetic version of this psychotic serial killer. Is that something we should be empathizing with?
Zombie’s present-day version of the story unfolds in a nearly similar way. We follow Laurie Strode and her friends home from school. They make their plans for babysitting (and sneaking out with boyfriends). All the while Michael follows them. This section of the remake is tight, and horrific. Some of the parts in the original that dragged a little, are excised for a more streamlined approach to the story. Of course, there’s also much more gore, nudity and language because it’s an R-rating, let’s use it!
The stories both wrap up similarly with Dr Loomis intervening and saving Laurie from Michael’s attack, but Zombie’s film then continues for an additional 10 minutes. That’s 10 additional minutes of Michael jumping back up to come after Laurie. I believe this extension was created so that Laurie could be the one to put Michael down once-and-for-all (haha, yeah right!). Zombie wants to make Laurie the stronger female character by putting the gun into her hand instead of Loomis getting the final save. It’s an interesting idea.
“It’s Halloween; everyone’s entitled to one good scare.” – Sheriff Brackett (1978 version)
Suffice it to say that I am not a fan of Rob Zombie’s work. Having seen House of 1000 Corpses earlier in the month and now his remake of Halloween I don’t believe he’s a good director. I’m sure there are fans of his out there, so I’ll qualify this statement. I don’t think that throwing gore and blood up on a movie screen is any substitute for creating a suspenseful atmosphere. The original achieves most of it’s scares through mood and tone with a minimal of blood. The remake on the other hand, heaps blood and violence on the viewer, drowning them in a sea of viscera, as an attempt to scare, or perhaps just upset.
I will give Zombie big props on his inclusion of classic horror film actors in supporting roles. These types of homages are always a favorite of mine. Some of the actors that appear in the remake of Halloween include a number of Rob Zombie’s favorite actors from his previous work including Sheri Moon Zombie, Tom Towles, Bill Moseley, & Sid Haig, and also Dee Wallace (Cujo, The Howling), Brad Dourif (Child’s Play, Exorcist III), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Til Dawn), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Sybil Danning (Howling II), Udo Kier (Blade, Shadow of the Vampire), Richard Lynch (Alligator II: The Mutation) and of course Malcolm McDowell (Vamps, Cat People). His inclusion of genre actors in bit parts reminds me of Joe Dante’s use of older actors and voice actors in his films, with the likes of Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo.
Less is more in the best horror films. Lighting, atmosphere, camerawork, as well as the script are what takes the schlock and turns it into something that can survive 40 years. This month I have experienced a variety of horror films, from classics to modern thrillers, and there are still filmmakers out there making tight and horrific films. There will always be exploitative horror films (or actually in any genre), but it’s up to the audience to demand better films through participation and patronage.
Thanks for tuning in. Now, turn off the lights and try to get a good night’s rest!