Halloween: Revised and Rebooted

Numerical ratings for each film are at the end.

We have already covered two eras of Halloween, but just a few short years after the failure of part six they decided to try and jumpstart the failing franchise with Halloween: Twenty Years Later or as it’s stupidly known: H20. While it was originally designed to be a direct continuation of the series, the producers decided to ignore the past three movies (at this point everyone has already decided to ignore part three) and have this be a sequel to Halloween II.

This time around we learn that Laurie Strode faked her death (this element was a holdover from earlier treatments, and was designed to retcon part 4) and is now grown up, has a son, and is working as a teacher in a private school. Life is going well, except that she has a phobia of Halloween and constantly worries that Michael will find and kill her. Her fear seems valid as the movie begins with Michael killing a trio of people and uncovering Laurie’s file and location. Michael shows up at the school and proceeds to lay waste. In the end Laurie realizes that she has to take control and finally, once and for all, kill Michael Myers. And she does.

H20 is pretty interesting. In our current age it’s not uncommon to reboot or retcon a series, but when this film was made people were not so aware of such things. It also featured some good talent amongst its ranks in both veteran actors and some up and comers who would become good. It was decently plotted and maintained a nice atmosphere. And of course it does a nice full circle by having Laurie step up in the hero role. I would easily say that it is the second best movie in the franchise. That said it does have a few problems. It’s too self referential, the mask is poorly done and not at all consistent, and they pull a camera trick that always pisses me off. I will explain, at one point Person-A gets shot because Person-B thought they were Michael Myers. The audience did too, because the shot showing ‘Person-A’ was in fact a shot of Michael Myers. An unreliable narrator is one thing, and can be well used, but blatant lying is an annoyance, it removes any clues we might enjoy noticing and simply makes us feel stupid by cheap means.

Whatever the case may be, since Myers is truly dead we of course got a sequel. In Halloween Resurrection we learn that Laurie did not kill Michael, and because she also learned this she has gone crazy. Myer’s then shows up and kills her. And then the movie begins. Busta Rhymes has started a reality show about teens trying to stay the night in the Myers house, but Michael doesn’t like that and kills them. There’s your movie. It blows, and is terrible, and I will waste no more words on it.

And that pretty much killed the franchise.

But then Rob Zombie stepped in and it was decided to reboot the entire series; some people were worried, others were excited, and likely some people didn’t care. Myself? I had hope, having enjoyed Devil’s Rejects I saw strong parallels with the final showdown and Michael Myers. I felt that Rob Zombie could possibly do the series justice. So now we have Rob Zombie’s Halloween, and it is important to realize that this is Rob Zombie’s version; it is a whole new take, that revisits concepts familiar to old viewers. It goes with the concept that Michael and Laurie were related, but it sticks with the notion that Michael is just a man, a big scary man, but just a man. However, whereas in the original Michael’s motives were unknown and it was just accepted that her was a psychopath, here his back story is fleshed out…a lot.

I feel this acts as a detriment to the movie, it complicates matters and fills the movie with a lot of dead space. Instead of Myer’s being a mentally ill boy who murders his sister he is instead the product of an abusive home life and ends up murdering his entire family except for his mother and baby sister. We then witness his time in a mental institution which is meant to bring us into his mindset but instead just makes us wish something interesting would happen. We have seen why he snaps, we know what he will become, and unless you are going to tell an engaging story there is no reason to show his time in the hospital. But all of this ends when he breaks free one night and goes on a rampage and then escapes to hunt down his baby sister.

This is where the movie gets pretty good. Zombie is no idiot, he knows film techniques and can set up shots and lighting quite well. He does a good job of updating Carpenter’s original vision, but giving it his own spin. Michael is less introspective in this version and more obsessive; In the original he moved slowly because he simply did not care, here he moves smoothly and with purpose. He is focused rage, he places no real speed on an attack but does so with forward surety and a sense of totality. One of the best additions Zombie made is a scene where Michael encounters Laurie’s adoptive parents, it manages to incorporate the aspects of both movies: the invasion of security from the original and Zombie’s purpose driven brutality. Zombie also manages to flesh out Laurie’s friends, and he enlarges the role that sheriff Brackett plays in things. And as much as I love Crazy Loomis, I do enjoy how in this film it has a father/son vibe to things, with Loomis trying to protect the people from his wayward child.

Unfortunately the section of the movie that covers the original story is tragically short, especially compared to the amount of time spent on Michael’s time in the hospital. Another problem comes from the major let down of the ending. It features no resolution, ambiguous subtext, and a major error on the workings of firearms. There is also the fact that the ending we scene was cut short due to an on set injury that prevented additional footage being shot. If this wasn’t enough, the DVD features an alternate ending that actually makes sense and gives us a resolution; in essence it does what an ending should.

This movie came about from a rejected notion to make a prequel and Zombie’s idea to do a remake, unfortunately it feels exactly like these two concepts crammed shoddily together and shoved out the door. Zombie had some good ideas, and he has a lot of talent as a film maker but I really feel he needs somebody in his corner to help moderate his ideas. It’s something all creative people need, because without a focus and a filter we just keep creating, even to the detriment of the creation.

After making Halloween Rob Zombie said he had no interest in making a sequel. However after having a year to cool off and recover he decided to give it a go, and man is it a mess. We get more footage from Michael’s time in the hospital, this time introducing the element of a white horse and his mother as a ghost. We then pick up immediately after the last film and launch into a twenty-five minute long prologue/dream sequence that follows that breaks its own narrative structure. The movie also focuses on the gore and violence, even when the context is not necessary. Movies that ignore development and psychology in favor of pure blood and gore are the reasons that slasher films have the negative reputation they hold.

The rest of the film continues in this vein, attempting to get a deeper look into the psyche of the survivors but only manages to destroy any of the good things Zombie accomplished in the previous film. And I hate films that destroy that which came before them. Laurie begins to spiral into insanity and Loomis bounces into hammy territory until he magically rotates into the finale. And once again we get a stupid ending, this one featuring what is supposed to be a terrifying image that instead elicited only laughter from the audience. Even better, there is once again an alternate ending that functions much better than the one we received.

I’m going to go on a tangent here for a minute, but stay with me because I’m attempting a wrap up. I was at a party recently and witnessed something I found fascinating. A man was dressed as Michael Myers, he wasn’t the proper body type for it, and he had a cheap looking knife, but he stayed in character and elicited a suprising number of frights. I have seen people dressed as Jason and they usually elicite a chuckle; the guy dressed as Freddy is the one you joke around with. Both of these characters have had stronger elements in their series but Michael is the truly scary one, despite having only one great film and possibly two good ones.  

It’s sad to say but I think it’s time to put Myers to rest. He had a fantastic beginning, but subsequent entries have failed to capture that magic. Even when we get someone of real vision, and I’m not just talking about Zombie here, a mess is made of the resulting movie. Clearly Michael Myers is a strong figure capable of greatness, but no one seems to be capable of crafting a worthy movie for him to exist in.

Halloween the whole franchise: I am tempted to give it a higher score simply because the original was so great, but sadly it’s a 2/5

Halloween: Twenty Years Later: The closest in terms of the original, but with several minor flaws 3/5

Halloween Resurrection: Crap 1/5

Halloween (Remake): The good is really good, but the bad is so terrible 2/5

Halloween II (mess): more crap, but well done crap. 1/5

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3 thoughts on “Halloween: Revised and Rebooted

  1. What was the major firearm error?

    This is a franchise I know absolutely nothing about. I actually thought it was related to the actor in some way.

    I do enjoy the trend of having the damsel try to fight back against the evil monster. I just watched the original Friday the 13th, and that chick wasted a dozen opportunities to end it once and for all by simply not caving in the skull of the killer when she had the chance.

    I mean, a dozen times she knocks the killer over and runs, while they slowly stumble to their feet. They were completely incapacitated, yet all she does is lamely hide in a closet while making too much noise.

    I don’t know what to make of some horror movies, to be honest.

  2. To be honest, typical self defense strategy does teach ‘put assailant down, then get away’ which is sound advice in a real world scenario such as a drunk guy trying to start something. This logic typically aggravates guys like you and I who believe in ‘put guy down, make him stay there.’

    I would also suggest that in the first Friday movie the notion of a psycho serial killer is a new thing so the girl could be forgiven somewhat for not finishing things. However I would suggest that by the time the 7th movie rolls around they really should begin trying to actually stop the killer. And one day, i’ll make a movie like this.

    As for the gun mishap…there will be spoilers.
    Loomis carries a revolver, near the end of the movie he has fired a couple of times at Myers but is incapacitated and Laurie has to face Michael. She grabs Loomis’ gun and approaches the unconscious Myers putting the gun to his head and pulls the trigger. The gun clicks, she pulls the trigger again and a click. Finally the gun fires.
    It is meant to cause tension, but all I could think was “guns don’t work like that.” I imagine they figured “he shot twice, so there are empty chambers” but unless he just loaded it in a completely random manner, skipping random chambers, it would still fire the first time.
    Now if she had picked up the gun, opened the cylinder to check the ammo, and then shut it without realizing that there were two empty shells…well then I might have bought it somewhat. But she didn’t, and it’s just a crappy final point of a poorly done ending.

  3. There’s a whole horror subgenre dealing with victims murdering killers, with the most notable example being hack/slash.

    Of course, in that, “slashers” are a specific type of undead baddy that comes into being when a horrific serial killer is killed or put down. So it’s kind of playing with why it’s a good idea and why it also leads to unstoppable, evil killing machines anyway.

    Which, now that I think about it, might make it a pastiche of the Jason series.

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