Movie review: Halloween

Thursday, September 6, 2007
Jackson resident Steve Turner discussed his plans to make a film in the Cape Girardeau area. (Fred Lynch)

So a few friends and I are taking in the afternoon sun in downtown Cape Girardeau when the topic of the new "Halloween" film comes up. We don't enter the obsessive "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" territory -- thank goodness -- but for horror fans, I come to find, John Carpenter's original "Halloween" is considered one of the top 10 horror films of all time. I quickly surmise that "Halloween" fans will fill the seats no matter what I have to say ... about this poorly executed, vulgar, stiffly acted, not very scary slasher film.

Rob Zombie, the writer and director, decided to take a stab (so to speak) at a remake of "Halloween" if he could be allowed to dig into the killer's background. He felt that if he could get inside the guy's head, he could give context to the violence. Zombie says that's what really scares him -- looking at the real-life scenario.

My question is then why didn't Zombie put it on screen? The formulaic and cliched scenes of the "horrible" childhood let us know, with a very heavy hand, why our killer turns out the way he does. (These scenes open the film and let you know immediately this one ain't for kids -- of any age. The unnecessary and forced vulgarity, even for a slasher film, is quite hard to take.) When the film moves to the mental hospital and we are given "glimpses" into the killer's mind, we are given nothing but the worst pop psychology shorthand I have ever seen in a large budget film such as this. Watching the doctor and our young killer wade through these early scenes was quite difficult.

In fact, all the early scenes are quite hard to watch: The actors seem adrift, as if they're searching for their characters, improvising their lines while trying to outdo one another with four letter words.

The wince factor does get a little better as the film goes on -- the string of brutal killings do not need as much subtlety.

Zombie finally hits his stride once the real killing starts. Obviously he's not a director and writer concerned with the subtler aspects of character development or plot dynamics; it's also clear he's not into thrillers or well-crafted scare tactics. He's into blood and straight up, no-frills killing. I have a feeling that Zombie considers realistic violence to be so scary that traditional thriller/horror techniques can be abandoned.

Zombie's "Halloween" remake will be quickly tossed out back with all the failed sequels to the original. Though what position it ranks among sequels, I'm sure, will drive many heated discussions among Carpenter's fans.

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